Belfast Telegraph

Home News UK

PM told: No talk with Sydney gunman

Australian prime minister Tony Abbott has revealed he did not speak to the gunman in the Sydney cafe siege on police advice, as he announced an urgent review into the self-styled cleric's handling by security services.

In a press conference this morning, Mr Abbott told reporters he wanted answers to why hostage-taker Man Horan Monis had been released on bail, had dropped off a terrorism watch list five years ago and had a gun licence.

Questions have raged in Australia over the gunman's background since the bloody hostage crisis at the Lindt Chocolat Cafe in Sydney's busy financial and legal district which saw three people killed, including Monis himself.

Cafe manager Tori Johnson, 34, was reported to have been killed trying to wrestle the gun from the 50-year-old Iranian, while lawyer and mother-of-three Katrina Dawson, 38, was said to have died while trying to protect a pregnant friend.

Mr Abbott said: "I do want answers to some obvious questions that have been raised in the wake of this terrorist incident. We do need to know why the perpetrator of this horrible outrage got permanent residence.

"We do need to know how he'd been on welfare for so many years. We do need to know what this individual was doing with a gun licence.

"We particularly need to know how someone with such a long record of violence, such a long record of mental instability was out on bail after his involvement in a particularly horrific crime and we do need to know why he seems to have fallen off our security agency's watchlist back in 2009."

Mr Abbott said he hoped the review would conclude by the end of January.

He also said the country's security committee was "incredulous" when it found out about Monis' "record and his life in this country".

And he revealed he was prepared to speak to Monis, who had demanded a phone conversation with Abbott during the 16-hour siege, but did not after police advised him not to.

"No I didn't (speak to him). I said to my office when I became aware of this request that obviously I was prepared to do whatever the police advised was best in these circumstances and the advice we got from police was to have not contact with him," he added.

The siege, in which 17 people were held hostage, ended when armed police burst into the cafe upon hearing gunfire. Several people were injured in the final moments.

A 75-year-old woman who was shot in the shoulder and a 52-year-old woman who was shot in the foot remain in a stable condition.

Also in a stable condition is a 43-year-old woman, believed to be Westpac bank worker Marcia Mikhael, who was shot in the leg.

Monis, a self-styled Muslim cleric, rose to notoriety in Australia after he was convicted of writing offensive letters to the families of soldiers killed in action.

He pleaded guilty but subsequently fought the charges, even mounting a high court challenge claiming the government was infringing on a constitutionally-implied right to "freedom of communication on political and governmental matters".

That challenge was rejected by Australia's chief justice Robert French just three days before the siege began.

Monis was granted bail in the New South Wales local court by magistrate William Pierce almost a year to the day before he picked up a gun, walked into the cafe and unfurled a black flag bearing an Islamic affirmation of faith.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister David Cameron warned the threat faced by the UK included the possibility of "quite random attacks that could happen at any moment".

Your Comments

COMMENT RULES: Comments that are judged to be defamatory, abusive or in bad taste are not acceptable and contributors who consistently fall below certain criteria will be permanently blacklisted. The moderator will not enter into debate with individual contributors and the moderator’s decision is final. It is Belfast Telegraph policy to close comments on court cases, tribunals and active legal investigations. We may also close comments on articles which are being targeted for abuse. Problems with commenting? customercare@belfasttelegraph.co.uk

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph