Australia’s prime minister has said the deadly Sydney café siege may have been preventable, as the chorus of critics demanding to know why the gunman was free on bail despite a string of violent charges grew louder.
Iranian-born, self-styled cleric Man Haron Monis, who had a lengthy criminal history, burst into the city centre café on Monday wielding a shotgun, taking 17 people inside hostage. The siege ended 16 hours later when police stormed the Lindt café to free the captives, two of whom were killed in a barrage of gunfire, along with Monis.
“This has been a horrific wake-up call,” prime minister Tony Abbott told Macquarie Radio. “This was an atrocity – it may well have been a preventable atrocity, and that’s why this swift and thorough review is so important.”
Mr Abbott has ordered a sweeping government 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 the country’s tough gun laws.
Court documents detail Monis’s long history with the law. In 2011, Noleen Hayson Pal – his ex-partner and mother of their two sons – went to the police after she said Monis threatened her life. He was subsequently charged with stalking and intimidation intending to cause fear of physical or mental harm.
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 she feared he would carry through on his threat, noting that he once told her he had a gun licence. She said he grew increasingly paranoid when “he started getting more into his Islamic activities”, insisting on drawing the blinds and shutting all the doors when he visited her house. She also accused him of slapping their eldest son in the face.
“He’s always saying to me that people are watching, people are hearing our conversations,” she said. Monis was ultimately found not guilty of the charge.