Sydney siege gunman was complex and secretive man: Inquiry

Television crews (right) film people entering the building in Sydney on May 25, 2015, where an inquest into the deaths arising from the Lindt Café siege is being held. -- PHOTO: AFP 
Television crews (right) film people entering the building in Sydney on May 25, 2015, where an inquest into the deaths arising from the Lindt Café siege is being held. -- PHOTO: AFP 

SYDNEY (BLOOMBERG) - The gunman who took hostages in a Sydney cafe in December after pledging allegiance to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) was a "complex and secretive man" and his mental health may never fully explain his actions, an inquiry heard on Monday.

Examining Man Haron Monis's state of mind will be important as the inquest looks at why he carried out the hostage-taking that left him and two of his captives dead, Jeremy Gormly, counsel assisting the coroner, told the hearing.

"Mental illness may not provide a full answer to questions about the reasons for the siege," Gormly said.

Authorities are probing why Monis, a self-proclaimed Islamic cleric from Iran, was free on bail and not on a watchlist, despite his history of violence and extremist sympathies. He died, along with 38-year-old barrister Katrina Dawson and Lindt cafe manager Tori Johnson, 34, in the early hours of Dec 16 when the siege ended in a police raid.

Dawson was hit by six ricocheting police bullets or fragments, while Johnson was shot in the back of the head by Monis after being ordered to his knees, the inquest heard in January.

Eleven bullets or bullet fragments struck Monis's body and two hit him in the head.

Monis had been bailed after being charged last year with sexual offences dating back a decade and had been convicted for sending offensive letters to families of soldiers killed in Afghanistan. He lost a bid to get the High Court to review the latter case three days before the attack, according to court documents.

Monis claimed that he had converted to the persecuted Muslim Ahmadi movement when he applied for a protection visa in 1996, Gormly told the inquest. His conversion was "almost certainly a fiction," he said.

The hearing was shown copies of Monis' school and university papers confirming that he was probably right in describing himself as a "relatively intelligent and seemingly well-educated man," Gormly said.

Other self-descriptions were "grandiose," he said. Video was shown of him attaining the rank of hujjat al-Islam, a status in Shia Islam. But this only made him a "middle ranking cleric" in the Shia hierarchy, rather than the equivalent of a Christian bishop as he later claimed, Gormly said.