Katrina Dawson told she could leave Lindt cafe: siege inquest

Katrina Dawson was a few steps from freedom, having been told by Man Haron Monis that she could leave the Lindt Cafe just as the siege was beginning.

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The respected barrister then stopped to ask if her friend and colleague Stefan Balafoutis could also leave. Some 16 hours later, Ms Dawson was killed when hit by shrapnel from police bullets as they stormed the cafe.

Mr Balafoutis – one of the first of two hostages to escape – has recounted that Monis, shortly after pulling out his shotgun and announcing Australia was under attack by Islamic State, told Ms Dawson and hostage Julie Taylor they could both leave.

Balafoutis says Monis initially agreed to release him & fellow lawyers Katrina Dawson & Julie Taylor from #Lindtcafe @SBSNews #sydneysiege

— Alyshia Gates (@alyshiagates) March 31, 2016

Mr Balafoutis, a barrister, had been meeting at the cafe with Ms Dawson and Ms Taylor.

“I heard the person I now know to be Monis say something about a bomb,” he said on Thursday in testimony before the inquest into the December 2014 siege in Martin Place.

Along with the other hostages, Mr Balafoutis was then asked to place his identification on a table in front of him.

“A very short time after that I heard Monis say, ‘you two can go’ and it appeared that he was talking to Katrina and Julie,” he said.

“And Katrina responded and … I think she pointed at me and said ‘can he come with us’.

“And Monis said `yes, you can all go’ or perhaps he just said ‘yes’.”

He said the three friends then stood up and started walking towards the main doors of the cafe.

“I don’t at this point remember precisely what Monis said but I do remember that we all stopped in different places.”

83yrold hostage John O’Brien says he was terrified Monis would “blow us all away”.He was one of 1st hostages to escape @SBSNews #sydneysiege

— Alyshia Gates (@alyshiagates) March 31, 2016

Mr Balafoutis was one of the first to escape the cafe, running out the main doors at 3.45pm with John O’Brien.

Ms Dawson was killed when the siege reached its tragic conclusion, along with cafe manager Tori Johnson and Monis.

Mr Balafoutis also told the hearing that early exchanges between himself and Monis convinced him that he would be one of the first hostages targeted if the situation deteriorated further.

“One view I formed was I was very unlikely to be a hostage who was released by Monis,” he told the inquest.

“The second view I’d formed was that given that I had been referred to (in an aggressive way) I felt that in the event that Monis was to shoot somebody because he was panicked with the police there was a high chance it would be me.”

“In the event that Monis was to shoot somebody because he was panicked by the police there was a high chance it would be me.”: Balafoutis

— Alyshia Gates (@alyshiagates) March 31, 2016Siege hostage breaks down

Lindt Cafe hostage Fiona Ma has broken down during an inquest into the Sydney siege after being asked to relive her final terrifying moments inside the cafe.

The former cafe employee was with gunman Man Haron Monis and fellow hostage Selina Win Pe in another part of the Martin Place building when six hostages, led by Jarrod Morton-Hoffman, seized on the opportunity to make a run for it.

As Ms Ma stacked boxes against a door under orders from Monis, she heard the sound of glass shattering and recalled thinking the others were making their escape.

“He was periodically normal & periodically aggressive…he was increasingly paranoid”: hostage Fiona Ma on Monis’s behaviour @SBSNews

— Alyshia Gates (@alyshiagates) March 30, 2016

Then, as the gunman chased after six fleeing hostages, Ms Ma hid in the cafe office before deciding it was time to make her escape.

She could not see Monis, or any of the other hostages.

“He fired the gun and then he was reloading,” said Ms Ma, who is the second hostage to give evidence at the inquest into the December 2014 siege.

“I thought if he’s reloading, I can run out now.”

Asked by counsel assisting the coroner, Jeremy Gormly SC, whether it was possible she feared that she and Ms Win Pe would be left alone in the cafe with Monis, Ms Ma responded: “Yes.”

“And you didn’t want that to be the case?” Mr Gormly asked.

“No,” Ms Ma replied, as she wept on the stand before the inquest was adjourned for about 20 minutes.

Hostages John O’Brien and Stefan Balafoutis also are expected to be called to give evidence on Thursday.

Fiona Ma says Monis touched her with his gun, as he twice used her as a human shield to move around the #Lindtcafe @SBSNews #sydneysiege

— Alyshia Gates (@alyshiagates) March 30, 2016

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