THE man who took 17 people hostage in a café in Sydney was carrying an illegal firearm rather than a licensed weapon, police in Australia have said.
Iranian-born, self-styled cleric Man Haron Monis, who had a lengthy criminal history, burst into the city-centre Lindt café on Monday brandishing a shotgun. The siege ended 16 hours later when police stormed the café to free the captives, two of whom were killed in a barrage of gunfire, along with Monis.
Australian police said it had since “confirmed that there is no record of Mr Monis ever having held a firearms licence”, and that initial, inaccurate information was based on one manual entry in a police reference database.
Prime minister Tony Abbott has ordered a review of the siege and the events leading up to it, including why Monis, 50, was on bail and how he obtained a shotgun despite Australia’s tough gun laws.
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Mr Abbott said: “This has been a horrific wake-up call. This was an atrocity – it may well have been a preventable atrocity, and that’s why this swift and thorough review is so important.”
Court documents detail Monis’s history with the law. In 2011, Noleen Hayson Pal – his former partner and mother of his two sons – told police Monis had threatened her life. He was subsequently charged with stalking and intimidation.
Ms Pal said in January 2012 that Monis told her: “If I don’t get to see the boys more than I am seeing them now, I’ll make sure you pay for it – even if it means I have to shoot you.”
She said he once told her he had a gun licence and that he was increasingly paranoid after “he started getting more into his Islamic activities”, insisting on drawing the blinds and shutting all the doors when he visited her house. “He’s always saying to me that people are watching, people are hearing our conversations,” she said.
She also accused him of slapping their eldest son in the face.
Monis was ultimately found not guilty. A year later, Ms Pal was stabbed to death and set on fire. Monis’s then-partner, Amirah Droudis, was charged with Ms Pal’s murder, and Monis was accused of being an accessory. Both were on bail when Monis attacked the cafe. He was also facing dozens of charges of sexual assault dating to 2002, and had been granted bail on those charges as well.
Monis was convicted and sentenced last year to 300 hours’ community service for sending “grossly offensive” letters to families of soldiers killed in Afghanistan between 2007 and 2009.
Just three days before he began his siege, Australia’s highest court refused to hear his appeal against the convictions for sending the letters. On the next business day, Monis walked into the café, which is only a short stroll from the court.
New South Wales attorney-general Brad Hazzard has asked the director of public prosecutions to review all cases where bail has been granted and where there are any similarities to Monis’s case.
“We have always believed that in this case, with this offender, he should have always been ‘bail refused’,” state police commissioner Andrew Scipione said.
Australia’s attorney-general, George Brandis, said it appeared the type of gun Monis used was banned in Australia, though this was yet to be confirmed
It is not yet known whether Katrina Dawson, a 38-year-old lawyer, and Tori Johnson, 34, the café manager, were killed by Monis or were caught in crossfire as police stormed in.
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