Sydney siege: Heroism of dead hostages Tori Johnson and Katrina Dawson revealed as Australia wakes to pay tribute

Katrina Dawson and Tori Johnson named locally as victims

Kunal Dutta,Adam Withnall
Tuesday 16 December 2014 01:56
People lay flowers at a floral memorial at the scene of Sydney's siege
People lay flowers at a floral memorial at the scene of Sydney's siege

As Australia began to digest the events of Monday's deadly attack on a Sydney cafe, the two hostages who died have been hailed as heroes for the roles they played in ending the siege.

The 17-hour ordeal marked the country’s first terrorist attack on home soil resulting in the loss of three lives, including that of gunman and self-styled cleric Man Haron Monis.

Katrina Dawson, a 38-year-old barrister and mother-of-two who worked in Sydney's central business district was named locally as one of the victims, alongside Tori Johnson, a 34-year-old café manager.

Social media users celebrated Mr Johnson as a hero after he was reportedly shot when trying to wrestle a gun from hostage-taker Monis as he appeared to fall asleep.

Katrina Dawson, a 38-year-old barrister and mother-of-two who worked in Sydney's central business district was named locally as one of the victims

Ms Dawson was killed after trying to defend her pregnant colleague, Julie Taylor, according to Australia's

Deputy Police Commissioner Catherine Burn told The Age newspaper on Tuesday that he would not comment on claims Mr Johnson's bravery had allowed the other hostages to escape.

Ms Burn said police were themselves yet to piece together what had transpired in the cafe, and that any investigation could take many months

In a statement released via the journalist Ben Fordham, Mr Johnson's parents said: "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.

"We feel heartfelt sorrow for the family of Katrina Dawson.

"We'd like to thank not only our friends and loved ones for their support, but the people of Sydney; Australia and those around the world for reaching out with their thoughts and prayers.

Both the hostages died of their wounds after armed officers stormed the Lindt Café in the heart of Sydney’s business district, fearful that the prospect of doing nothing could have resulted in more loss of life.

“They made the call because they believed that at that time, if they didn’t enter, there would have been many more lives lost,” Andrew Scipione, commissioner of New South Wales police, said.

He confirmed that the decision to act, which caught many off-guard, was triggered after the apparent escape of five hostages was followed by gunshots.

Monis, the 50-year-old Iranian refugee and "lone gunman" driving the hostage crisis, was also pronounced dead in hospital.

Even before his death it emerged Monis was anything but a so-called "cleanskin". His history with authorities dated back years, having once been prosecuted for sending offensive letters to families of Australian troops killed in Afghanistan. He was also banned in 2010 from sending "letters of condolence" to the families of British soldiers killed in Afghanistan.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott said Monis had "a long history of violent crime, infatuation with extremism and mental instability."

As dawn rose over Sydney on Tuesday, tributes to the victims started to pour in. "Katrina was one of our best and brightest barristers who will be greatly missed by her colleagues and friends" Jane Needham, president of the New South Wales Bar Association, said in a statement.

More are expected later today once the victims are officially named.

In the meantime flags were lowered to half-staff on Sydney Harbour Bridge, an act copied around the country, while the state’s premier expressed disbelief that the attack could happen in Australia — a place he dubbed "a peaceful, harmonious society which is the envy of the world."

So far 17 hostages have been accounted for, including at least five others who were released or escaped on Monday. The area near the cafe remains cordoned off, while bystanders and passing office workers left flowers under police tape.

Muslim leaders urged calm and asked that the event, which will almost certainly have ramifications on national security policy, was not seen as indicative of anything other than one ideologically warped gunman acting alone .

The Australian National Imams Council condemned "this criminal act unequivocally" in a joint statement with the Grand Mufti of Australia.

Meanwhile leaders from around the world had expressed their concern over the siege, including Stephen Harper, the prime minister of Canada, which suffered an attack on its parliament by a suspected jihadist sympathizer in October.

For its part, executives at Lindt, the decadent Swiss chocolate brand which saw its café transform from a scene of morning coffees into the battleground of one of the most terrifying episodes of Australian history, issued a statement saying it was "profoundly saddened and deeply affected about the death of innocent people." "Our thoughts and feelings are with the victims and their families who have been through an incredible ordeal, and we want to pay tribute to their courage and bravery," a statement from the Swiss company Lindt & Sprugli said.

Time will tell how Australia responds to a tragedy of this magnitude. But yesterday fear and grief were already hardening into a sense of stoicism. "In the past 24 hours, this city has been shaken by a tragedy that none of us could have ever imagined," Australia’s Premier Mike Baird said. "The values we held dear yesterday we hold dear today.

“They are the values of freedom, democracy, and harmony. These defined us yesterday, they will define us today, they will define us tomorrow."

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