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Amid the grief, questions linger

Wednesday, 17th December, 2014

 As tributes pile up and grief sets in for victims of the Sydney cafe siege, attention is turning to how a lone gunman with an extensive criminal history was free on bail to commit a shocking act of terror.

 Sydneysiders are delivering bouquets of flowers to an ever-growing makeshift shrine on Martin Place not far from the Lindt cafe where barrister Katrina Dawson and shop manager Tori Johnson lost their lives in a violent end to a 16-hour siege early yesterday morning.

 Grief-stricken families and colleagues have expressed heartbreak at their loss.

 “We are so proud of our beautiful boy Tori, gone from this earth but forever in our memories as the most amazing life partner, son and brother we could ever wish for,” said the family of 34-year-old Mr Johnson who had reportedly tackled the gunman.

 Ms Dawson, 38, was the mother of three young children as well as a talented commercial lawyer.

 She was remembered as “one of our best and brightest” by NSW Bar Association president Jane Needham.

 Her former school, the prestigious Ascham in Sydney’s east, said Katrina was much-loved and affectionately remembered.

 “Our hearts go out to Katrina’s entire family, including her husband Paul, and her children, Chloe, Sasha, and Oliver,” Head of School Andrew Powell said.

 The gunman who held Ms Dawson and Mr Johnson hostage along with 15 others was Man Haron Monis - a 50-year-old self-styled Islamic cleric well known to police who arrived in Australia as a refugee from Iran in 1996.

 Monis was already on bail after being charged with being an accessory to the murder of his ex-wife in 2013 and his bail was continued when dozens of indecent and sexual assault allegations were brought against him earlier this year.

 He had previously been convicted of sending offensive letters to the families of dead Australian soldiers and was sentenced to community service.

 NSW Attorney-General Brad Hazzard said there were questions to be answered.

 “We are asking state agencies and federal agencies to look very closely at how this offender slipped through the cracks,” he told reporters.

 “How did this offender not come to the attention of state and federal agencies for more urgent action?”

 Ten hostages rescued from the cafe were recovering from their ordeal, including three women and a police officer who were treated in hospital for gunshot wounds.

 The police officer suffered minor facial injuries from shotgun pellets and has been discharged.

 Some details of rescued hostages have emerged, including 43-year-old Marcia Mikhael, who is awaiting surgery for a gunshot wound to the leg.

 NSW Deputy Police Commissioner Catherine Burn said police are still looking into why Monis took over the cafe.

 “This is a man who had a serious history of criminal offences and a history of violence,” she said.

 Detectives from the homicide squad are leading the independent investigation with oversight from Professional Standards Command and the cafe site remains closed as investigators continue their work.

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