NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller has conceded armed officers at the 2014 Sydney siege should have been sent in earlier to rescue the hostages and not waited until Tori Johnson was shot and killed.
The stunning concession came after an 18-month inquest into the siege.
Coroner Michael Barnes has announced the findings from the long inquest, saying police waited too long to go into the cafe at 2:03am.
“We certainly should have gone in earlier,” Commissioner Fuller told Four Corners.
“We need to have gone in at a time when there was some sense of control, rather than us going in having no idea where he possibly was, no idea where the other hostages were — it would’ve been one of the most dangerous times to go in.”
During the siege inquest, some police commanders defended the decision not to enter the Lindt Cafe when the situation inside deteriorated, especially as gunman Man Haron Monis had repeatedly claimed he had a bomb in his backpack.
Just after 2:00am, Tori Johnson was forced to his knees by hostage-taker Man Haron Monis, who fired his sawn-off shotgun over Mr Johnson’s head.
Commissioner Fuller said police should have gone in after the first shot: “The answer for that is a very difficult one for me, other than we got that wrong.”
“There’s an expectation from the community, and I think it’s a fair one, that we will show force in those situations in future,” he said.
“The challenge in that of course is that that doesn’t guarantee there won’t be a loss of life.”
The commander of the tactical unit on the day of the siege was pushing his superiors for approval of a pre-emptive plan to rescue the hostages.
It was refused.
Mark Jenkins was the overall police commander at the end of the siege.
He told the inquest: “At that stage we thought that it was highly likely that this person was wearing an IED on their back, so any plan to make a forced entry into the cafe, whether it be an emergency action plan or a deliberate action plan, we thought it was highly likely to result in some loss of life. That’s why we pursued a contain and negotiate strategy.”
The forward commander in charge in the final minutes of the siege also said he did not order an emergency action to send in police for fear of a bomb.
“I was sending those police into die. I fully expected that bomb to go off at that time. I was going to lose all the tactical police … I was going to lose all of the hostages,” he told the inquest.
Monis shot and killed Mr Johnson at 2:13am.