Sydney siege gunman Man Haron Monis had been charged with accessory to murder and 43 charges of sexual assault, but was free on bail when he committed the shocking crime that ended in two innocent lives being lost and many more damaged.
NSW Coroner Michael Barnes will begin on Monday the task of finding an answer to the question so many have asked: why was a man with Monis’s history, someone facing such serious charges, free to commit his terrible act?
The inquest into the December 15, 2014 Lindt Cafe siege enters a new chapter with the inquiry into the question of Monis’s bail.
Since beginning public hearings in May, Mr Barnes has examined Monis’s background in search for clues of what led him down his dark path.
The inquest has heard testimony from dozens of witnesses who have some knowledge of the Iranian refugee’s chaotic 18 years in Australia.
The picture they painted is of a manipulative and deluded outsider: a self-described “peace activist” who wrote offensive letters to the families of dead Australian soldiers; a wannabe biker who was rejected by Rebels bikies (who took his motorbike); and a self-appointed Islamic sheik who at times courted women, drank alcohol and drove prestige cars despite having no obvious source of wealth.
A lawyer who briefly represented Monis described him as “a very evil smart guy”.
The question of Monis’s bail is a contentious one.
The NSW Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) has fought – against the wishes of the victims’ families – to keep confidential numerous communications between police and prosecutors who examined a potential appeal against Monis’s bail.
Monis was arrested on a charge of accessory to murder in December 2013 and released on bail. An email exchange between senior homicide detectives, revealed as the DPP sought confidentiality over bail-related documents in court last week, shows the depth of police anger at his release.
“Boss, it’s a disappointing decision, that’s for sure”, the head of the NSW Homicide Squad, Detective Superintendent Michael Willing, said in an email to his superior, Assistant Commissioner Mark Jenkins.
“Dicko (a reference to homicide Detective Inspector Jason Dickinson) advises me that the DPP solicitor was terrible and clearly not across the brief.”
In October 2014, eight weeks before the siege, Monis was charged with 37 sexual assault charges, which were in addition to charges he already faced, and his bail was continued.
Mr Barnes agreed with the DPP last week that many of the documents, including police statements and emails, were covered by legal privilege and should remain secret.
The question he will now try to answer is whether prosecuting authorities responded appropriately to the granting of Monis’s bail.
Following the evidence on bail issues, the inquest will turn its attention to terrorism, guns and Monis’s relationships with community and cultural groups.
Later stages of the inquest will examine the conduct of the siege itself and will hear evidence from survivors.