TWO staff members of a Sydney café have revealed how they plotted to stab a gunman who held them hostage during a 16-hour siege in December, while two others described how they escaped the ordeal.
Joel Herat, 21, and Jarrod Morton-Hoffman, 19, have revealed that they armed themselves with box cutters after gunman Man Horan Monis took them and 16 other people hostage in the Lindt Café in downtown Sydney.
“I’ve got this knife in my pocket and I know Joel has a knife in his pocket and we are so close, we can do this,” Mr Morton-Hoffman said.
Mr Morton-Hoffman said if someone had jumped Monis and pinned his arms, “I would stab him in the jugular” artery in his neck.
“But he had his gun. He had it on his knee and I could see that it was pointed directly at Julie Taylor,” a pregnant hostage, he said.
Mr Herat said he contemplated stabbing Monis as he was forced to stand holding an Islamic flag against a café window.
“He was right below me sitting on the lounge and [I thought] do I stab him? What if I miss? What are the consequences of that, you know, who’s he going to shoot?” Mr Herat said.
Meanwhile, café staffers Bae Jie-un, 20, who was on her first day back at work after a vacation when the siege began, and Elly Chen, 22, who had been employed for less than a week, explained how they quietly unbolted an internal door to enable both to escape the café without Monis noticing.
“I would have felt guilty if I ran out by myself with someone right next to me,” Ms Jie-un said of Ms Chen. “I had to get her out there with me. I told her it’s a now-or-never type of situation.”
Ms Jie-un said she found it difficult to look at the iconic images of her clutching the arm of a police officer as she ran from the café with Ms Chen behind her.
“I really don’t like this photo,” she said when shown the image. “I just look terrified.”
The café’s 34-year-old manager, Tori Johnson, was killed after Monis forced him to kneel on the floor and then fired a cartridge to the back of his head with a sawn-off shotgun after a second group of hostages escaped, a coroner’s court was told last month.
Police then stormed the café, fatally shooting Monis and accidentally killing Katrina Dawson, a 38-year-old lawyer, with bullet fragments that had ricocheted.
Morton-Hoffman said Monis warned the hostages that if they escaped, they would be responsible for the deaths of other hostages he would kill in retaliation.
Monis, a 50-year-old Iranian-born, self-styled cleric with a long criminal history, took the customers and workers captive and forced them to outline his demands in a series of online videos – including that he be permitted to speak to Australia’s prime minister and be delivered a flag of the Islamic State group, the coroner was told.
The coroner’s inquest is looking into how police managed the crisis, including whether snipers should have taken a shot at Monis through the café’s windows.
Separately, Prime Minister Tony Abbott last week received a report on a sweeping government review of the siege and the events leading up to it. The review, expected to be released in a month, examined why Monis was free on bail despite facing a string of violent charges, including 40 counts of sexual assault and accessory to murder in the killing of his ex-wife.
The review will also address how Monis – who didn’t have a gun licence – obtained a pump-action shotgun despite Australia’s strict gun laws.