Sydney siege inquest: Police radios cut out as command given to storm cafe
4th July 2016
Police radios failed as the critical call was made to storm Sydney’s Lindt cafe after gunman Man Haron Monis executed hostage Tori Johnson, an inquest has heard.
As soon as snipers reported Mr Johnson had been shot dead, with the words “hostage down” ringing out over the airwaves, the commander of the crack Tactical Operations Unit attempted to activate the emergency action trigger required for his men to enter the building.
“Echo Alpha this is Tango Charlie – commit the EA,” he broadcast over the police radio network.
There was no movement at the front line nor confirmation over the airwaves.
As he tried to broadcast the message again, seconds later, his deputy, who was standing beside him at the forward command post, intervened.
“I stopped him and said, ‘No, let me’ in case his radio wasn’t working a second time … I took the initiative to make the call,” the former senior Tactical Operations Unit member told the inquest into the stand-off.
Because there had already been a delay, he shortened the command and also fast-tracked the authorisation process.
“All teams commit the EA,” he broadcast, before repeating the code word three times.
Heavily armed officers then stormed the cafe and shot Monis dead, more than 17 hours after the siege began.
Another hostage, Katrina Dawson, was also killed after being hit by police bullet fragments.
Key information missed due to radio failures
The former officer confirmed problems with the radio system prevented anyone from receiving reports that Monis had fired a second shot at 2:09am.
Monis fired the first shot at 2:03am as six hostages escaped, shattering the glass above their heads and rupturing what looked like a sprinkler or fire extinguisher.
The forward command post was never told Mr Johnson had been seen on his knees at 2:06am because of the radio issues.
The former officer told the inquest police snipers should have kept trying to broadcast their reports using radios and mobile phones.
Police could go days without encountering any radio problems but when the network did falter, it would break down two or three times in one day, the former senior tactical officer said.
“Murphy’s Law is that it always happens at a critical time,” he said.
The inquest continues in Sydney.