"It was apocalyptic": The moment the siege began

Host of The Morning Show Kylie Gillies describes the moment she was in the middle of presenting the live television when an alleged gunman took control of a Lindt cafe in Martin Place across the road.

A buzz among our floor crew was the first inkling we had that anything was wrong.

Marlisa, the teenage winner of the X factor, was performing her hit single live in our studio and we were engrossed.

But some of our crew were drawn to the floor-to-ceiling windows fronting Martin Place with a clear view of the plaza.

Mid-song and not on camera, I went to see what was unfolding.

“The Lindt Cafe has just been robbed,” said one of our guys.

There were armed police running around. A real sense of urgency was apparent.

And then I saw them.

Inside the cafe stood a man and a woman. Their arms were raised in the air, faces pressed to the glass of the cafe.

I couldn’t quite take it in. A first I thought; it could be a movie?

Sometimes that happens in the city and we’ve seen it before.

I called [my co-host] Larry Emdur over to the window. Through the jumble of TV cables and props and screens that scatter a TV studio he joined me and we could see that this was not the work of Hollywood.

The cops and the guns they had drawn were real.

Marlisa was still singing and due to finish any second.

We quickly spoke to our producer Tim Artlett. He communicated with us through our earpieces and the decision was made to cover this unfolding drama live.

It crossed my mind whether this was something we should be showing, but with social media so prevalent and wild speculation set to override fact, at least what we could do is offer a clear view of what was happening.

We talked The Morning Show viewers through what we could see.

Two hostages inside the Lindt Cafe. Image: 7News.
Two hostages inside the Lindt Cafe. Image: 7News.

Police swarmed, both in uniform and plain clothes.

The traffic that usually buzzes past our studio in Elizabeth street had ground to a halt. The police tape was up. Crowds that had gathered were forced back. The heavily armoured police vans rolled in.

Every minute speaking live on air felt like ten minutes.

We were getting no information from police, so the information given was not speculative but factual and kept to what we could see.

Siege situation in Martin Place. Image: 7News
Siege situation in Martin Place. Image: 7News

And that included a black flag with a white Islamic inscription being raised in the Cafe window by some scared, very scared, hostages.

Larry and I were live, continuously for around half an hour.

My thoughts were of the families of the people inside. They must have been watching on in horror.

As we acknowledged them on air, our producers told us we had to move away from the glass windows. It was getting dangerous to keep reporting.

The Lindt Cafe is well known to Channel Seven workers because it’s a 20-second walk away from our studio.

It’s all marble and gold and I could picture what the scene may have been like inside.

Armed police are seen outside the Lindt Cafe, Martin Place on December 15, 2014 in Sydney, Australia. Photo: Getty
Armed police are seen outside the Lindt Cafe, Martin Place on December 15, 2014 in Sydney, Australia. Photo: Getty

Our senior correspondent Chris Reason entered the studio and joined us on air live; but it was short-lived.

Police had entered the Channel Seven building and were evacuating staff. The very visible and exposed newsroom on Level 1 was one of the first floors to leave.

I didn’t realise it at the time but there was an officer in the Control Room and he was telling our crew it was time to go.

We handed over live to our Melbourne Newsroom to continue the coverage. No one was left in our Martin Place studio to continue putting the show to air.

In single file, about 30 of us, including our executive producer Sarah Stinson and senior producers, were escorted to the 35th floor of the Colonial Centre building to a vacant office space, where we remained for around 45 minutes.

I called my husband then my Mum and my sister.

My phone had filled with text messages from friends. We had a clear view down to the cafe.

Martin Place was deserted.

I’ve never seen it like that before. It was eerie.

The word ‘explosives’ was being whispered. The bomb squad had been quite visible down on the ground. Over an intercom, the word then came to get out.

Back down in single file we spilled onto the street and away from Martin Place.

The siege ended in the early hours of this morning with scenes like this; a person being taken out of Lindt cafe on a stretcher. Photo: Getty
The siege ended in the early hours of this morning with scenes like this; a person being taken out of Lindt cafe on a stretcher. Photo: Getty

It felt apocalyptic. Displaced office workers milling around, all clutching mobile phones, calling home.

My thoughts were of my kids too. They were out of school and at the beach on a school excursion. I wished they were back safe in their classrooms.

With our cars stuck in the underground car park at the Channel Seven building, we roamed the streets looking for a taxi. Larry put me in one and I headed home.

It had been such a beautiful morning until then - sunny and bright after a recent bout of lousy weather.

The city was sparkling, and the mood felt festive and full of Christmas cheer. Work was buoyant, we’d already had lots of laughs.

That all changed at 9.44am.

For general information about the siege at Martin place – call the Public Information and Inquiry Centre: 1800 227 228

To report any suspicious activities – call the National Security Hotline: 1800 1234 00

For transport updates – call: 131 500

For emergencies – call: 000