Sydney gunman ‘slipped through the cracks’

Prime Minister Tony Abbott described the gunman as a “deeply disturbed individual”, with a “long history of crime, a long history of mental instability, and [an] infatuation with extremism”.

SYDNEY // Australian authorities have admitted that the gunman who lay siege to a Sydney cafe “slipped through the cracks,” despite serious allegations and bizarre behaviour that should have raised the alarm.

One year before taking 17 people hostage in the Lindt Cafe on Martin Place, Man Haron Monis was released on bail after being accused of involvement in his wife’s murder.

The 50-year-old self-proclaimed cleric already had a string of sex charges behind him.

His 30-year-old wife Noleen Hayson Pal was the victim of a gruesome murder in April 2013, in which she was stabbed 18 times and set alight.

Monis, who arrived in Australia as a refugee from Iran in 1996, was charged as an accessory along with his then girlfriend.

Yet a magistrate said the prosecution case was weak and granted them bail, even though Monis was already facing dozens of sexual and indecent assault charges stemming from his time as a “spiritual healer”.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott described the gunman as a “deeply disturbed individual”, with a “long history of crime, a long history of mental instability, and [an] infatuation with extremism”.

The long charge sheet has raised questions about why Monis was free to mount the 16-hour siege that left him and two hostages dead.

“We are asking state agencies and federal agencies to look very closely at how this offender slipped through the cracks,” New South Wales state Attorney-General Brad Hazzard said on Tuesday.

State Premier Mike Baird added: “We are all outraged that this guy was on the street.”

Monis first became known to Australian authorities when he was convicted of sending offensive letters to the families of dead soldiers seven years ago. He was placed on a two-year good behaviour bond in 2013 but last week lost his final bid to overturn the conviction.

Monis - who called himself Sheikh Haron - had railed for years against perceived injustices against him by writing letters and challenging court judgements.

On a personal website, Monis said his own children were “taken away by the Australian government” and that he was not allowed to contact them.

He counted astrology, numerology, meditation and black magic among his expertise.

The gunman’s extremist beliefs were also under scrutiny after he made hostages hold up a black flag bearing the Shahada, or profession of faith in Islam. Similar flags have been used by extremist groups.

The SITE Intel Group said Monis had requently tweeted on news and issues related to ISIL.

A lawyer who represented Monis in the hate mail case said he was an “extreme ideologue” but that his rampage was not the work of an organised group.

* Agence France-Presse with additional reporting by Bloomberg

Published: December 16, 2014 04:00 AM

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