It must be a hell of a thing, somehow winding up in the unthinkable position of being in a hostage situation.
The brave survivors of the Lindt Cafe Siege are currently reliving their nightmare all over again, thanks to the ongoing inquest into the horrific incident in December 2014, in which a lone gunman took hostages inside the Lindt Cafe in Sydney’s Martin Place, in a stand-off that lasted seventeen hours and resulted in the deaths of three people, including the gunman himself.
The response from police and the circumstances that allowed the gunman to freely move about in public despite a lengthy and very dangerous prior record are being put under the microscope by the inquest. Siege survivor Marcia Mikhael was one of those who gave testimony today.
Among the revelations that Mikhail, a former Westpac project manager, told the court about her experience inside the cafe, was her initial feeling that the whole thing was some sort of horrible prank.
“I thought Channel 7 was going to come out of the kitchen and say it’s a prank.”
When it became quickly apparent that the situation was far more sinister, Mikhael was simply “frozen with fear.”
“He was forcing people to stand near doors and windows. He told us if we escaped someone would die.”
But it was the delicate negotiation process between the gunman and police negotiators that Mikhael felt the most let down by, citing a singular incident in which the gunman forced her to phone police with his demands.
Mikhael called police and informed them that the gunman demanded to speak with then-Prime Minister Tony Abbott, with the conversation to take place live on TV.
Whilst it’s fair to suggest that this conversation was never going to happen, it was the police’s apparent choice of language that put off Mikhael, with negotiators reportedly stating that Abbott was a “very busy man.”
“You don’t tell someone who has a gun pointed at their head that.”
“I guess when you are under pressure and you are about to die everything counts. I thought he would harm or kill us if provoked.”
Mikhael was among the group of hostages who remained inside the cafe until the very end, when the gunman murdered cafe manager Tori Johnson at point blank range. Mikhael was injured in the ensuing police raid that resulted in the death of Katrina Dawson.
The inquest continues.
Source: ABC News.
Photo: Joosep Martinson/Getty.