A hostage who died during the siege of a local café in Sydney’s Martin Place last month was killed by the ricochet of gunfire from a police officer's gun, a lawyer told an inquest on Thursday. Police stormed the Lindt Café after a nearly 16-hour standoff with a gunman who had taken 18 people hostage on Dec. 16.
Katrina Dawson, 38, died after she was hit by six fragments of a police bullet, or bullets, one of which struck a major blood vessel, Jeremy Gormly, the lawyer assisting the state coroner reportedly told the Glebe Coroner's Court. Another hostage, Tori Johnson, was killed by gunman Man Haron Monis who ordered the 34-year-old café manager to kneel before fatally shooting him in the head at close range, Gormly reportedly said.
Details of the deaths of Dawson and Johnson came on the opening day of the coroner's inquest in Sydney, aimed at seeking to establish how the two hostages and the gunman died and whether their deaths could have been prevented. Authorities had previously refused to disclose whether the hostages were killed by Monis or were caught in police crossfire.
"Rarely have such horrifying events unfolded so publicly," Coroner Michael Barnes told the court, according to The Associated Press. "Overlaying the intense personal suffering on display were fearsome themes which called up wider and more far-reaching threats that understandably terrified many, even among those who only saw it from afar."
Two police officers fired 22 shots as they stormed the cafe after Johnson was shot. At least two police bullets or fragments reportedly hit Monis in the head and 11 others struck his body.
"Questions concerning the use of police marksmen, whether to wait or act immediately and other options have been discussed in public; I anticipate evidence on all those matters," Gormly reportedly said.
Monis, a 50-year-old, self-described Muslim cleric, had ordered and consumed a chocolate cake and tea before moving to another table near the door, and later brandished his shotgun and claimed that he had a bomb in his backpack. He later forced several hostages to hold up a black flag with a declaration of faith to Allah and the Prophet Muhammad. Monis later made statements to a camera in front of the black flag and demanded that a flag of the Islamic State group be delivered to him.
However, Gormly reportedly said that it did not appear that Monis had any contact with ISIS before the siege.