SYDNEY • Hundreds of people gathered amid floral tributes yesterday in Sydney's Martin Place as Australia marked the cafe siege a year ago when gunman and self-described sheikh Man Haron Monis took 18 staff and customers hostage.
The incident ended in a bloody gun battle with the police special operations unit 16 hours later. Barrister Katrina Dawson was killed by a ricochet from the spray of bullets as police stormed the cafe, following Monis' execution of manager Tori Johnson that ended the siege.
Monis was killed in the exchange of fire with police.
A year ago, the windows of the Lindt Cafe were beamed across the world showing the terrified faces of the hostages inside.
Yesterday, the same windows were adorned in Christmas banners as smiling staff served chocolate treats to the tune of jazz music.
Outside the cafe, New South Wales State Premier Mike Baird reflected on the day terror was brought "right here in the heart of our wonderful city".
"I think all of us thought these sorts of events didn't happen here and, as we stand here in Martin Place, the tragedy is, it did," Mr Baird told reporters.
"We will not be stared down by those who want to bring evil to this city, those that want to divide us. We stand in hope," he said.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and his wife Lucy were among the state and federal politicians and emergency services representatives also in attendance.
Mr Turnbull said the memorial served as a reminder that love was greater than hate. "A whole city grieved. A whole city woke in shock," he said.
He added: "A whole nation resolved to answer hatred with love, to answer those who seek to divide us with solidarity, to extend our love, our sympathy, our passionate commitment to be united to the families of Tori and Katrina."
Ms Dawson's family said the public's support is helping them cope on the first anniversary of the tragic event, The Australian newspaper reported.
"The warmth of those many voices of support has helped us enormously on the darkest of days. Today is one such day," they said in a statement.
While the nation reflects, an official investigation into the circumstances that led to the deaths of the two victims and Monis is continuing. It has been revealed that Monis had been out on bail for a string of offences, including being an accessory to the murder of his former wife, and 40 counts of sexual and indecent assault against six other women at his spiritual healing practice that were laid two months before the siege.