SYDNEY (AFP) - Survivors of a 16-hour siege in a Sydney cafe on Sunday told of their terror during the deadly standoff, as a gunman threatened to kill people "one by one".
Iranian-born, self-styled cleric Man Haron Monis, 50, held 17 people hostage at the Lindt chocolate cafe in the heart of the city's financial district on the morning of December 15 before being killed when police stormed the building in the early hours of the next day.
In emotional interviews, some of the surviving hostages told Channels Seven and Nine of how Monis forced them to call emergency services to tell them his demands, and how the gunman became more frustrated as night fell.
"I literally thought he was going to shoot us so that everybody can see through the window," survivor Harriette Denny told commercial broadcaster Channel Nine.
"You lose hope, thinking about your family outside, thinking there's nothing you can do to get yourself out and it's very hard," said the 30-year-old, who was pregnant at the time of the hostage crisis.
The siege horrified Australia and prompted a mass outpouring of grief that saw thousands of flowers laid near the cafe in the city's Martin Place.
Survivor John O'Brien, 82, said Monis was "ranting and raving" about Prime Minister Tony Abbott and threatened to kill everyone in the cafe.
"Tony Abbott wouldn't come to the phone, he said Tony Abbott will have all your blood on his hands when I kill you all, one by one," O'Brien told Channel Seven.
The interviews, for which channels Seven and Nine reportedly paid hundreds of thousands of dollars, came just over a week after an inquest opened into the siege.
Cafe manager Tori Johnson, 34, and barrister and mother-of-three Katrina Dawson, 38, were killed during the standoff, and the New South Wales coroner had been told in graphic detail how Johnson was made to kneel down and shot in the back of the head after a group of hostages escaped.
Dawson was killed after six fragments of a police bullet, or bullets, ricocheted from hard surfaces and struck her body.
Louisa Hope, 52, who suffers from multiple sclerosis and needs a walking stick to move around, was one of the hostages that failed to get away and described to Channel Nine how she saw Johnson die.
"When the noise of the gun, and then Tori fell forward... He hasn't just died, his life has been taken," she said.
Hostage Marcia Mikhael said Monis, who had a history of violence and extremism, told her he had a "plan" to die in the standoff.
"I knew he didn't want to get out of there alive and because of that, I was very scared about how it was going to end," the 43-year-old told Channel Seven, struggling to hold back tears.
Mikhael said she was beside Dawson as police charged into the cafe, shortly after Johnson was killed.
"There were just so many shots. I could smell the gunpower, I could feel the heat... It was so bright, everyone was just lit up as if it was New Year's Eve," she said.
"And then all of a sudden it stopped... and I could see police officers wearing the black uniform," Mikhael added.
"She wasn't moving. She was just lying down with her head facing me, looking at me."
A separate report into the siege commissioned by the federal and NSW state governments has been completed and is expected to be published this month.