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Families of Sydney siege victims slam police tactics

"Every day we thought: 'This can't get worse', and every day it got worse — what was coming out in evidence," Tori Johnson's mum said.
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Two and a half years on from the Sydney siege, the families of Tori Johnson and Katrina Dawson have slammed the police’s tactics on the day the pair died.

They told Four Corners of their devastation to learn during the inquest that police had only intended to enter the Lindt Café if Man Haron Monis killed or seriously injured a hostage.

“I can’t forgive people for that trigger,” said Rosie Connellan, Tori’s mother.

“I’ll never be able understand how you can make a calculated decision that you wait for someone to die. It’s just beyond me.”

Police only stormed the café after Tori had been shot and killed by Monis – minutes after the shooter forced Tori to kneel in front of him at gunpoint.

Connellan told the program that before the inquest, she didn’t question the police’s role in the day, believing it to be relatively uncomplicated.

Katrina Dawson and Tori Johnson.

“We thought that Monis had killed Tori and, you know, it was relatively simple: the police had done everything possible and that was it,” she said.

But as the inquest progressed, the evidence shocked the families.

“As it unfolded it was just, it was horrific. Every day we thought: ‘This can’t get worse’, and every day it got worse — what was coming out in evidence,” Connellan said.

“Every time they reached that last 10 minutes, I had the same physical reactions and I just, you know, I was just so aware of the fact that Tori was still alive at that moment — it was almost like I was stepping back in time to that night every single day of the inquest listening to that,” she said.

Tori’s partner of 14 years, Thomas Zinn, echoed Connellan’s loss of faith in the police.

“I have no trust because of the great level of incompetence that has been revealed,” Zinn said.

Katrina Dawson’s parents also attended the inquest in the hope they would understand how their daughter died.

“What I said in the beginning was that we weren’t after retribution. But what we did want desperately was for them to have the courage to tell the truth,” Mrs Dawson said.

“To admit the mistakes and then talk about what they would do to rectify those mistakes,” Katrina’s father Sandy Dawson said.

“But we never saw anything like that.”

Flowers left at Sydney siege memorial.

Katrina’s brother hopes the coroner’s report will shine more light on the situation.

“I want to see the coroner have the courage to really challenge an alternative view of what could have happened and to make sure the lessons are being learnt and that it honours the remarkable memories of Katrina and of Tori,” Angus Dawson said.

Four Corners showed that both families have a wary distrust of police in the wake of the inquest.

“If there is no recognition in the authorities that mistakes were made and that these failures have happened, then this learning will never occur and this culture will not change,” Zinn said.

“I think we all had this feeling that the police are there to protect us all and that they know what they’re doing — that’s one of the worst things about this is that we feel very let down,” Mrs Dawson said.

To ensure Katrina is never forgotten, the NSW bar is giving an annual $12,000 prize to a female lawyer with excellent academic scores and strong leadership skills in her name.

“Katrina Dawson will not be forgotten by the NSW bar,” Bar Association president Arthur Moses, SC, said on Sunday.

“Katrina spent a considerable amount of time mentoring young women barristers and contributing to the collegiality of the bar.

“The award is part of a number of measures the bar is implementing to encourage more women to consider a career at the NSW bar.”

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