On May 24 2017 the NSW Coroner Michael Barnes handed down his report into the 2014 Sydney Lindt cafe siege, in which cafe manager Tori Johnson and Sydney barrister and mother-of-three Katrina Dawson lost their lives. A subsequent ABC Four Corners program made for painful viewing, as it revealed many systemic and procedural failures had occurred.
Following the inquest, Better Reading spoke to siege survivor Louisa Hope, who endured the siege from start-to-finish with her 73-year-old mother. In this exclusive podcast with Cheryl Akle, Louisa takes us back to the day more than two years ago when her life, and the lives of many, changed forever.
Louisa, who suffers from multiple sclerosis, was used as a human shield during the siege and was shot in the foot when it ended in violence. According to Louisa, she ‘shouldn’t have been there that day’, but she was with her mother to see a lawyer, who happened to be in the same building. She takes us hour-by-hour through the horror, beginning when Man Monis, a man convicted of multiple sexual assaults and on bail for accessory to murder, entered the cafe wielding a gun and announced he had a bomb.
Louisa tells us how Monis was in many ways ordinary – one minute a man threatening to kill them, the next offering toilet breaks and wanting to know about their lives – and his increasing agitation as the 16-hour siege wore on. She recalls how those in the café quickly formed a community with natural leaders emerging, such as Tori Johnson, Jarrod Morton Hoffman and Fiona Ma , until the devastating moments when she and her mother stood either side of Monis as he executed Johnson.
After attending the NSW coronial inquest, Louisa raises questions about the police handling of the siege that came under intense scrutiny with so many failures identified, such as the shift changeover by police negotiators which meant that calls from distraught hostages went unanswered.
‘Our police have lots of operational things to address. That’s a fact, the inquest has borne witness to it,’ says Louisa. ‘One can choose to fall in a heap and become bitter and angry about those circumstances or you can pursue a line of determination that I will follow, work with, do whatever it takes, to encourage, to help, to cajole our police force to address those matters.’
As Australians, Louisa says, we think we have best practice in all areas, but perhaps that’s not always the case. She asks the all-important question: ‘In this age of terror, how are we going to do this now?’
Visit the Louisa Hope Foundation for Nurses that Louisa established following her treatment at the Prince of Wales Hospital Sydney