By Jayne Margetts
The woman who was shot when police stormed the Lindt cafe at the end of a 17-hour siege was told by the gunman she could leave as the ordeal began to unfold, an inquest has heard.
A survivor of the Sydney siege, Barrister Stefan Balafoutis has told a coronial inquest that he, Katrina Dawson and a third hostage were initially told by Man Haron Monis they could leave.
Mr Balafoutis told the inquest he had spoken to Katrina Dawson on the phone and had arranged to meet her and another friend, Julie Taylor, at the Lindt Cafe on the day of the siege.
He said shortly after they arrived: “I heard the person I now know to be Monis say something about a bomb”.
Mr Balafoutis said they were told to take out their identification and place them on the table.
Moments later the gunman told them they could go.
“It appeared he was talking to Katrina and Julie, and she said, ‘can he go with us?’ And he said ‘Yes’,” Mr Balafoutis said.
He said the three of them stood up and started walking to the main doors.
“I do remember that we all stopped at different places … I assume that he must have told us to stop in those locations,” he said.
The court heard cafe manager Tori Johnson told them to hit the green button.
“I was just waiting for something to happen. But it simply never happened, ” said Mr Balafoutis.
The witness told the inquest Man Haron Monis then began asking the hostages to call the media.
Mr Balafoutis said Monis refused to called him by name, but instead referred to him as “white shirt”.
He said he formed the view that he was unlikely to be one of the hostages who was released.
“If Monis was to shoot someone there was a high chance it would be me,” he said.
Mr Balafoutis said on several occasions Monis told him he had lost points because he opened his eyes.
He told the inquest that Monis said, “I told you not to open your eyes. You have lost points. You can gain points or you can lose points. You have lost points.”
Mr Balafoutis said he decided to escape when he saw another, hostage, 83-year-old John O’Brien, hit the green button.
“The doors opened and at that point I ran, ” he said.
Gunman used hostage ‘as a shield’
Earlier, another survivor of the Sydney siege recounted her ordeal, telling the inquest that the gunman used her to shield himself as he moved around the Lindt cafe.