Dad’s ‘shock’ after teen’s alleged attack

Chris Minns said there is a “combustible situation” in Sydney after twin alleged knife attacks.
Chris Minns said there is a “combustible situation” in Sydney after twin alleged knife attacks.

The father of a teenager arrested after a Christian leader was stabbed while giving a livestreamed service at a southwest Sydney church has reportedly revealed his “total shock” at news of the alleged attack.

Bishop Mar Mari Emmanuel was delivering a service at the Christ The Good Shepherd Church in Wakeley on Monday when a figure was seen on video approaching and allegedly attacking the 55-year-old preacher.

Police arrived at the scene and arrested a 16-year-old boy but not before a violent confrontation began between specialist officers and a large mob who church leaders said ignored their pleas to disperse.

Following the alleged attack, the teen’s father spent the night shocked and guilt ridden after seeking support from the Lebanese Muslim Association, The Australian newspaper reported on Wednesday afternoon.

The organisation’s secretary, Gamel Kheir, told the paper that the boy’s father never suspected anything other than his child being a rebellious teen.

Bishop Mar Mari Emmanuel was allegedly stabbed multiple times on Monday night. Picture: Supplied
Bishop Mar Mari Emmanuel was allegedly stabbed multiple times on Monday night. Picture: Supplied

“He (the father) was literally in shock, he needed some comforting, he was too scared to go home. It’s hard to put into perspective … he was guilt ridden, we needed to reassure him,” Mr Kheir said.

Speaking with The Australian, Mr Keir described the father as “one of the most humble people” and said the association would undertake an investigation into online radicalisation and how to stop it.

The imam of Lakemba Mosque – the nation’s largest Muslim religious site – Sheik Yahya Safi, condemned the attack on Bishop Emmanuel in a video speech posted on Tuesday while overseas in Lebanon.

“This is against our religion. We don’t accept it in anyway. It is a childish act and we refuse it completely. We call upon all Muslims in Australia to stay calm, to control their behaviour,” he said.

For his part, parish priest and Bishop Emmanuel’s secretary Father Daniel Kochou said many of the “thousands of locals who came to support the bishop” had defied police and officers took “necessary steps”.

The church leader went on to state the church called on “all Christian faithful, followers and admirers of Bishop Mar Mari Emmanuel, to keep the peace with and (an)other and your neighbour”.

“The church denounces retaliation of any kind; the church categorises this attack as isolated and await police findings into the motive of the attacker,” Father Kochou said in the statement, shared on Instagram.

Christ The Good Shepherd Church in Wakeley. Picture: NCA NewsWire / David Swift

He went on to add: “Our church also does not condone the behaviour of the non-compliant and asks the public to respect civil orders while keeping the peace which has been sanctioned by God.

“Finally, we ask all church members, faithful, and followers both local and international to be cautious of the material surrounding the event that is shared online, including social media posts.”

NSW Police Minister Yasmin Catley earlier told Sky News that while police remained at the hospital with the 16-year-old, who lost a finger in the alleged melee, “conversations had not yet taken place”.

Ms Catley said counter-terrorism police were at the hospital to interview the teenager once he was released by medical staff, as per standard procedure, with the lengthy process to lead to charges being laid.

The 16-year-old boy, details about whose identity and religion have not been released by police, had undergone surgery in relation to the severed finger and could require further operations, according to Ms Catley.

An audio message widely reported to have been circulated among the Muslim community on WhatsApp claimed the teenager had been “poisoned by a monster” with the mentality of ISIS.

“Sadly, sadly that (alleged attacker) prayed today (with us) … These kids have been poisoned by a monster who has the radical daesh mentality,” the audio message reportedly said, referring to group’s Arabic name.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - NCA NewsWire - 17 APRIL, 2024: The scene at the church on Wednesday morning. A small selection of flowers out front of a property across the road. Bishop Mar Mari Emmanuel was attacked on Monday night at Christ the Good Church in Wakeley. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Rohan Kelly
Flowers outside a home opposite the Christ the Good Church on Wednesday. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Rohan Kelly

‘Combustible situation’ after knife horror

The reveal comes as Premier Chris Minns reveals he is “not prepared to say” he has full confidence in the state’s multibillion-dollar mental health network after Sydney was rocked by two horrific alleged knife attacks.

Six people were killed at the Bondi Junction Westfield on Saturday after Queensland man Joel Cauchi attacked shoppers with a knife before the second separate alleged attack at the Sydney church on Monday.

Asked if there needed to be a rethink around the handling of mental health issues, Mr Minns told Sunrise on Wednesday morning that “change may be needed and we’re certainly open to that”.

“The government spends about $2.7bn on mental health programs across the state every year. I have to be confident the money spent is going to the right areas and being deployed in the right ways,” he said.

“I’m not prepared to say this morning that we have full confidence that that is happening, but we are prepared to, of course, work with the experts. If changes need to be made, that’s exactly what we will do.”

A coronial inquest has been announced following Saturday’s deadly knife attack at Bondi that left six people dead, including two mothers, a security guard, and millionaire John Singleton’s daughter, Dawn.

A subsequent and unrelated alleged knife attack at an Assyrian Christian church in southwest Sydney on Monday, labelled as a “terrorist-related” incident, has also sparked an increased police presence.

Joel Cauchi, 40, was shot and killed by NSW Police Inspector Amy Scott. Picture: Twitter
Joel Cauchi, 40, was shot and killed by NSW Police Inspector Amy Scott. Picture: Twitter

Mr Minns told Sunrise on Wednesday that NSW Police would be conducting “enhanced patrols” targeting religious institutions throughout the week and into the weekend, especially in Western Sydney.

Speaking later to the Today show’s Karl Stefanovic, Mr Minns confirmed the AFP, ASIO, and NSW Police would investigate whether any “red flags should have been obvious to law enforcement agencies”.

“I understand there’s real community concern about this event, and it’s a combustible situation in Sydney at the moment. But, we’ve got very senior, experienced people looking at it right now,” he said.

“We are united in the face of what’s been a terrible week, and there will be no tolerance for anybody that commits a violent act, whether it’s a retaliatory act or it’s an act of terrorism. It’s a difficult situation.”

The Premier rebuffed concerns, including from MP Dai Le, that labelling Monday night’s alleged attack as a terror-related event would only inflame tensions, telling the Today show it was “necessary”.

“It’s not a performative gesture. We’re not interested in labelling one crime higher than another. That designation needed to happen to unlock powers for NSW Police to investigate this crime,” he said.

We need to look at radicalisation. We need to look at this young man’s history prior to these offences. The commissioner deemed it necessary to have access to those powers, and that was supported by the AFP.

Assignment Freelance Picture Faraz Ahmed Tahir, Ashlee Good, Jade Young and Dawn Singleton have\n been identified, as at 4pm April 14, as four of the six people killed at the\n Bondi Junction Westfield attack.
Faraz Ahmed Tahir, Ashlee Good, Jade Young and Dawn Singleton were four of the six people killed at Bondi Junction Westfield. Picture: Supplied

“It was co-signed off by the Police Minister … It’s my judgment that the absolute right decision was made, and I just hope people don’t second guess the police. They’ve got a big job ahead of them.”

Bishop Mari Mari Emmanuel was allegedly stabbed multiple times during a livestreamed service at the Christ The Good Shepherd Church in Wakeley in Sydney’s west on Monday and remains in hospital.

Chaos erupts

Chaos erupted after the attack, with rioters swarming the church and the surrounding streets.

Police cars were smashed and police officers suffered injuries.

Footage from the night shows a giant crowd surrounding the church chanting: “Bring him out.”

Paramedics rushing to help the injured also confronted a hostile crowd and faced direct threats.

At one point, some paramedics were unable to leave the church for three-and-a-half hours, with paramedics describing the scenes as terrifying and extremely violent.

Police Commissioner Karen Webb vowed to find and arrest the persons responsible for the riot, launching Strike Force Dribbs.

“It might not be today. It might not be tomorrow. But we’ll find you and we’ll come and arrest you,” she said.

The first arrest happened on Wednesday at 5.40pm at a home on Powers Rd, in Doonside.

Police arrested a 19-year-old man, who has been taken to Blacktown Police Station.

The investigation is continuing.

The bishop’s recovery

NSW Health officials have remained tight-lipped on the bishop’s condition, with the church issuing a statement to Instagram on Tuesday requesting privacy and urging “anyone at Liverpool Hospital to vacate”.

A 16-year-old who was reportedly known to police was arrested at the scene, though no charges have been laid. The incident kicked off a violent riot involving a large number of police outside the church.

Speaking to Today on Monday, Fairfield Mayor Frank Carbone revealed the teen was “not from Fairfield” as he called on police and the government to be transparent in its investigation of the matter.

“Today it’s Fairfield, tomorrow it could be any town or city across Australia. Keeping people safe is a priority of the NSW government, and we need to make sure that that continues to happen,” he said.

“We’ve seen youth crime spiralling out of control … We want more resources to make sure people are kept safe. We can’t have people going into shopping centres or places of worship and allegedly stabbing people.

He later added: “I am 100 per cent behind the police, because we need to give them all the resources that they need to keep us safe, but we need to be as it was previously said, there needs to be transparency.”