Sydney siege: 'Why wasn't the army called in?'

Sydney siege hostage Marcia Mikhael has been the first to publically criticise the police operation and says the army should have been called in to stop the siege much sooner.

Mrs Mikhael, 43, a project manager for Westpac, told Seven’s siege special: The Untold Story: "If this is not serious enough for them to get the army involved, what is?"

"I know there are a lot of officers who risked their lives to be there and I thank them from the bottom of my heart. Don't get me wrong, I'm not being ungrateful to them, but I just think the army would have been a better - more appropriate to be handling this situation," she said.

Mikhael said she thought the police should have been proactive rather than just waiting.

She was also furious over the police response when she phoned with the gunman's demands.

Gunman Man Monis took over the Lindt Cafe in Martin Place around 8.30am and the siege ordeal went on for 17 hours on December 15.

Today experts have said that the Army would've ended the siege earlier - because that's what they're trained to do.

That’s the view is from a retired commando who fears the approach by police commanders encourages terrorists to become bolder.

Retired Sergeant Paul Cale served for twenty five years in the Army and he told 7News reporter Chris Reason: "It's better to have an organisation where that is a fairly simple task, rather than an organisation where that is an extraordinary event."

Mr Cale, who served 20 years as a Commando, added: “This is the bread and butter of what I did.”

Extraordinary footage was also released of the Army's anti-terror squad called the Tactical Assault Group East taking part in a terrorism exercise in Martin Place outside the Lindt Cafe in 2013.

Experts are questioning why they weren't used at the siege.

Mr Cale praised the work of operational police that night but says their commanders should have handed control to the Army.

"Those guys were a much better fit.”

Senior police were quick to hit back at Mrs Mikhael comments.

Frank Mennilli, Police Assistant Commissioner said: "Police are going out there, at the end of the day, putting their lives to protect the community, so I'm not concerned about those comments."

“I think we had the best people doing the job.”

Mr Cale is famous in military circles, because he was forced to strangle a Taliban commander to death in Afghanistan.

We took him to 7's sniper position which he described as a hard shot, but not impossible.

He explained while at ground level, an assault team would have quickly taken down the gunman.

Chris Reason said: "Paul Cale says his biggest fear now is that other potential terrorists will have looked at what happened with the Lindt siege and decided Sydney is an easy target.

The Prime Minister today insisted authorities are determined to learn from what happened at the Lindt cafe on that dreadful day.

A pledge made as Parliament honoured all 18 hostages.

Marcia's story

Marcia is a world champion body builder and a mother to three boys. The morning of the siege she trained for over an hour before getting ready to go to work.

Marcia Mikhael with her family. Photo: 7News
Marcia Mikhael with her family. Photo: 7News

A project manager for Westpac, Marcia divided her time between two offices - one at Martin Place and one across town at Kent Street.

She was deciding which one to go to when a colleague sent her a text.

“He goes, 'Are you coming to Martin Place? Do you want to do coffee?'," she said.

"I texted back and said, 'Yes, I'm coming to Martin Place but I don't want to have coffee at Lindt I'm trying to be good today... no chocolate, no cakes we can go somewhere else."

Hostage Marcia Mikhael during her interview with Seven News.
Hostage Marcia Mikhael during her interview with Seven News.

But Marcia's colleague, Pushpendu Ghosh, and another of their friends had no intention of letting her avoid Lindt and its famous chocolates.

“That particular morning it was like, 'Let's tease her and test her will, how much can she resist chocolate because she loves chocolate'," Mr Ghosh told 7News.

Also joining in on the joke was Viswakanth Ankireddi who is married to Shilpa and works as an IT expert at Westpac.

Before heading to work Viswa, as his mates call him, dropped his young daughter at day care.

He then caught a train to Martin Place to join Pushpendu in convincing Marcia to go to Lindt.

At 8:33am, 50-year-old Man Haron Monis entered Lindt.

He ordered chocolate cake and cup of tea.

Just after 9am as Sunrise presenters, David Koch, Natalie Barr and Rebecca Maddern signed autographs in Martin Place Monis told a waitress he wanted to speak to the manager.

At 9:30am, Marcia arrived with her two colleagues who were still intent on playing their joke.

"Actually, six dark chocolate macaroons were ordered that morning, although I said no chocolate today," she said.

"We never, we never got to eat them, never got to eat them."

Next to their table, she said cafe manager Tori Johnson was doing some paperwork.

With him, was an "unusual" man who would, within moments, turn terrifying.

"He looked a bit unusual with his backpack on and he didn’t have the bandana on then. ... and they were just calmly talking there it seemed, and I didn't take any notice of it," she said.

Gunman Man Haron Monis. Picture: AAP
Gunman Man Haron Monis. Picture: AAP

"I thought it was like a meeting. Nothing special.”

One customer tried to leave and couldn't get through the locked doors.

"I thought it was quite rude," Ms Mikhael said.

"So I looked at her and I said, 'This is the manager, I know, ask him to open the door for you, he'll let you out'."

"And that's when everything started. That's when Man Monis gets up and he shows the gun."

"He takes the gun out of the bag and he says, 'Sit down, everyone... if you sit down and don’t move you'll be okay, you'll be safe'."

"(He said) 'There's a big police presence outside, I'm trying to keep you safe'."

"He made it sound like he was trying to keep us in there for our own good and safety."

Fellow hostage Jieun Bae Bae said she thought the doors had been locked because something was happening outside.

But then Monis told them he had two bombs in the cafe.

He ordered them to move against the wall.

Hostage Marcia Mikhael was forced to stand in a window of the Lindt cafe during the siege. Photo: 7News
Hostage Marcia Mikhael was forced to stand in a window of the Lindt cafe during the siege. Photo: 7News

Ms Mikhael was then told to stand by the window and hold up a black flag so it could be seen from outside.

Monis told his hostages - 10 men and eight women - that if the police came close to the cafe, he would shoot one of them.

Two of the women were pregnant.

The ten customers included three barristers, four Westpac employees, a retired tennis champion, an elderly mother and her daughter who has MS.

All of them struggling to come to terms with what was happening.

"He would actually ask us questions," Mikhael said.

"He was trying to make small talk... so he asked Julie if she had any children and she said no she was pregnant."

"At the end he knew that I had three kids because he asked me... he knew that Katrina had three kids, so he was he was making small talk with all of us."

"He wanted to, he wanted to know about us which was bizarre."

Sydney siege victims barrister Katrina Dawson and cafe manager Tori Johnson.
Sydney siege victims barrister Katrina Dawson and cafe manager Tori Johnson.

At 9:44am, Monis ordered cafe manager Tori Johnson to dial Triple zero and say that Australia “is under attack by Islamic State."

By 9:51am, police satrted arriving outside the cafe.

"I was hoping they would stay away because every time the police came closer and he saw he would threaten us again and threaten to shoot," Mikhael said.

"Our life was in danger.”

Ms Mikhael said they feared Monis would make good on his word.

“We were terrified that he was eventually going to start shooting us, we didn’t know what he was capable of because no-one knew who he was... whether he was just a lunatic who decided to do this on his own or whether he was with someone else, or whether he was a terrorist, we didn't know, we just didn't know who he was."

"At first I was hysterically crying - like frantic crying - standing there with my arms up in the air, because at the beginning there was a lot of commotion."

"There were people trying to either get in and out of the building, cops yelling at them to get out of the way. And then the street became deserted."

"And then all of a sudden there was a police officer."

"I was the only one who could see him because he was standing right against a wall."

"Because of where I was standing, Man Monis couldn't see that I had my eyes open, so I was actually looking out and I started to communicate with this police officer."

"That was right at the beginning, maybe the first hour."

"The police officer asked me then how many of gunmen in the room. Because I had my arms up in the air, all I did was just point, you know, number one, to him."

"So he goes, okay, he goes 'One?' And I said, 'Yes'. And then he goes, "Where is he now? And once again, I just kind of pointed as to where he was, because he was standing just behind the wall where I was. And then he disappeared'."

"There was no-one there anymore."

"It was just quiet and it was very scary."

"I was thinking where’s everyone? Why are they? Why aren’t they rescuing us? Where are they? It was just deserted. There was no one outside, no one. It was quite scary."

IN PICTURES: A timeline of the siege that took place at the Lindt Cafe in Martin Place and the tributes that followed after. Photo: AAP
IN PICTURES: A timeline of the siege that took place at the Lindt Cafe in Martin Place and the tributes that followed after. Photo: AAP

Across Martin Place, the Channel Seven newsroom could be seen through glass walls. It had been evacuated but key members of the police tactical response unit were using it as a base to observe what was happening through the cafe windows and possibly take out Monis.

Monis kept asking his hostages: "Is there anyone in Channel Seven? Can you see anyone?"

"And I'm looking inside Channel Seven and I could see police officers in there walking around and I'm just looking at them going why aren't you helping us?," Marcia said.

"Why don't you come and get us out of here?

"And then he would ask, 'can you see anyone?' and I would go 'no, the building has been evacuated, there's no one in there. There's no one in there'.

"And I could see about five, six police officers just walking around, walking around and I'm like, 'Why aren’t you helping us?'

"I know they couldn't. I know that. I know they had a plan but not knowing, the unknown was hard. It was hard."

It was late-morning when George, Marcia's husband of 25 years, learned of the siege taking place in the cafe near her workplace.

"I was worried about my wife. So I called her twice; she didn't answer. I sent her a message; she didn't answer," he recalled.

But Marcia didn't have her phone with her.

"[Monis] made us put the phone on the table, but I knew that I would've been getting a lot of text I managed to grab the phone off the table when I told him that I needed to go to the toilet," Marcia said.

By now George was in his car driving frantically towards the city, and Martin Place.

"As I crossed Anzac Bridge she sent me the first message. I was driving. I read it. My heart just dropped. You know, my fear just came," he said.

"It said, 'Lindt hostage'. I replied while I was driving. I said, 'I love you'."

At 2:30pm, George sent a message saying 'Be strong'.

The only other message George would receive would be later in the evening read:'I'm scared he's going to kill us.'

Frustrated that none of his demands were being met and none were being broadcast on radio or TV at the request of the police Monis had hostages like Jarrod Hoffman and Marcia Mikhael ring the police and media directly.

A clearly distraught Marcia was forced to call a Sydney newsroom.

“He kept saying...he would release a hostage for a flag, he would release five hostages for the opportunity to talk to Prime Minister Tony Abbott via live broadcast and he would release two other hostages if there was a live broadcast saying this was an attack on Australia by the Islamic State," Mikhael said.

“But we were more than eight people in there so I actually asked him – what if all your demands are met, eight hostages are out, what about the rest of us?

"He goes, 'Don't worry, I'll make all the demands and we'll release all the other hostages as well'. And then I asked him, 'What about you? How do you think you are going to get out of here, are you going to get out of here alive?'."

"He looks at me and he goes, 'Don't worry I have a plan for myself'."

"So, I knew he didn't want to get out of there alive... and because of that I was very afraid of how it was going to end."