Friday, June 14, 2024

Police investigate whether Sydney stabbing spree killer targeted women

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Police are investigating whether the man behind a “very traumatic” stabbing rampage at the Bondi Westfield shopping centre in Sydney’s east yesterday afternoon had targeted women.

Joel Cauchi, 40, has been named as the knife-wielding man who killed six people and injured at least a dozen more in the attack.

Video appeared to show a knife-wielding man wearing a rugby league jersey. (9News)

Police have confirmed five women and one man, believed to be a security guard, died at the scene. The attacker was also killed after shots were fired from Inspector Amy Scott.

Those injured have been hospitalised in conditions ranging from critical to serious but stable. The nine-month-old infant has undergone surgery and is currently in ICU care.

At a press conference today, NSW Police Commissioner Karen Webb said about eight of those injured were also women.

She said whether Cauchi targeted women was an “obvious line of inquiry”.

“At this stage, we don’t know a motive. What we do understand, so far, is that there’s no ideological motivation,” she said. 

“We do understand that there is a history of mental health but it will be the ongoing work of the investigators to determine what his activities were yesterday and the days before.”

Webb said police would work through the “very confronting” and “very traumatic” crime scene throughout the day and into the night as part of the investigation, which could take weeks.

NSW Premier Chris Minns at the press conference said this was a “horrifying and violent attack”.

“The individual stories of those who’ve been killed, the complete strangers rushing in to help, as well as acts of courage and bravery mean that whether you know the individuals who’ve been killed or not, you’re grieving today,” he said.

“The entire state will have to get behind those families in the days ahead as they recover and they go through the inevitable grief associated with such a horrifying, horrifying event.”

Minns and Webb both praised the actions and “instinctive bravery” of Inspector Scott, who they said ran towards danger and saved many lives.

What we know about about Joel Cauchi

Cauchi was thought to have moved from Queensland to New South Wales last month, authorities confirmed this morning.

Webb said NSW Police were working with Queensland Police in their investigations.

“In terms of the individual, he’s not known criminally but he has come to the notice of law enforcement in this state and Queensland for mental health related issues,” she said today.

“We’re working with them because the holdings may not just be police holdings, they might be mental health holdings.” 

Assistant Commissioner Anthony Cooke earlier today said police had spoken to his family and they were cooperating with investigators.

“We know that shortly after coming to Sydney, he took possession of a storage facility that has been identified and we have worked through that very small storage facility,” he said. 

Joel Cauchi
Joel Cauchi, 40, has been identified as the man who carried out a deadly stabbing spree at Westfield in Bondi Junction. (Supplied)
Joel Cauchi
Cauchi was known to police. (Supplied)

He said while the reason for the attack was not confirmed, police expected it was related to the killer’s mental health.

The attacker was shot dead by a lone police officer, Inspector Amy Scott, who entered the shopping centre after reports of the stabbings.

Footage captured her, along with several bystanders, pursuing the knife-wielding man before a final confrontation.

“She was just on general duties, just in around the precinct, got the call and went to the scene immediately, and was confronted by the perpetrator,” NSW Police Minister Yasmin Catley told Today.

“He dived at her and she shot him.”

Catley said she had thanked the “humble” officer on behalf of the people of NSW for preventing further deaths and injuries.

“She said, ‘It wasn’t just about me, minister’,” Catley said.

“She said the people, the bystanders around really helped as well.”

Catley confirmed that Queensland Police were helping the investigation.

Bondi Junction Westfield stabbing
At least 12 people were taken to hospitals around Sydney for treatment, including the nine-month-old child who has undergone surgery. (Oscar Colman/The Sydney Morning Herald)

Infant girl undergoes surgery

NSW Health Minister Ryan Park confirmed this morning that a number of people remain in hospital.

“We have around about 12 people in hospital, some of them varying from critical to more stable,” he told Today.

He confirmed a nine-month-old baby girl had undergone surgery and was now in intensive care.

Park praised the actions of paramedics and other frontline emergency service personnel.

“Those brave paramedics and those brave police officers, people are alive this morning, Karl, because of their work and their bravery,” he said.

New footage shows Cauchi approaching a shopper on the nearly-deserted level five of Westfield Bondi, his knife hidden behind his back.

He is seen lunging at a shopper, who fell to the ground and scrambled away.

Just seconds before, a young girl was standing where the killer would soon be, before she was safely hidden in Cotton On.

Another scene shows the attacker pursued by Scott, the police officer, who is joined by some bystanders, including one armed with a chair.

Moments later, Scott would confront the attacker and shoot him dead.

Bondi Junction Westfield stabbing
Police rushed to the scene after they received multiple calls from members of the public. (Dion Georgopoulos / The Sydney Morning Herald)
NSW Police Commissioner Karen Webb addresses media on Bondi incident
NSW Police Commissioner Karen Webb confirmed four other women and one man died at the scene, in addition to the attacker. The mum died later in hospital. (9News)

The shopping centre will be closed for trade today and the crime scene will remain ongoing for several days.

How the situation unfolded

“It is clear that during that engagement he caused harm to those people, we believe, by stabbing them with a weapon he was carrying,” Cooke said.

Police rushed to the scene after they received multiple calls from members of the public.

Bondi Junction Westfield stabbing
The shopping centre will be closed for trade on Sunday and the crime scene will remain ongoing for several days. (Dion Georgopoulos / The Sydney Morning Herald)
Bondi Junction Westfield stabbing
Bondi Junction Westfield and streets surrounding were in lockdown. (Dion Georgopoulos / The Sydney Morning Herald)

Video obtained by 9News shows a man wearing a rugby league jersey holding a knife as shoppers flee.

Scott, a senior police officer was nearby at the time and was directed to the man by shoppers in the centre.

“She confronted the offender, who had moved by this stage to level five, as she continued to walk quickly behind him to catch up with him,” Cooke said.

“He turned, faced her, raised a knife, she discharged a firearm and that person is now deceased.

Bondi Junction Westfield stabbing
Shoppers fled as the attack unfolded in Sydney. (Flavio Brancaleone / The Sydney Morning Herald)
Five people have been killed and an attacker has been shot dead after multiple people were stabbed at Westfield Bondi Junction shopping centre in Sydney's east. NSW Police Assistant Commissioner Tony Cooke said the man walked into the centre at about 3.10pm and returned 10 minutes later at 3.20pm.
NSW Police Assistant Commissioner Tony Cooke said the man walked into the centre at about 3.10pm and returned 10 minutes later at 3.20pm. (9News)

“This all happened very, very quickly.

“The officer was in the near vicinity, attended on her own, was guided to the location of the offender by the people who were in the centre and she took the actions that she did saving a range of people’s lives.”

Webb echoed a similar sentiment for the “enormously courageous” officer who dealt with the matter solo.

“The police officer who attended is enormously courageous as were other police officers that have attended the Bondi area,” she said.

“I spoke to them this afternoon when they returned to the station.

Webb added: “She’s doing well under the circumstances, she showed enormous courage and bravery and she will process that.”

Bondi Junction Westfield stabbing
A woman is interviewed by media at Bondi Junction after the attacks. (Dion Georgopoulos / The Sydney Morning Herald)
Multiple police cars and ambulances were seen outside the shopping centre.
Multiple police cars and ambulances were seen outside the shopping centre. (9News)

Cooke said police were “not ruling anything out” in terms of a motive with the investigation in its early stages.

“There’s nothing that we’re aware of at the scene that would indicate any motive or any ideology,” he said.

Bondi Junction Westfield stabbing
NSW police and ambulance vehicles line the street outside Westfield Bondi Junction on April 13, 2024 in Bondi Junction, Australia. Six victims, plus the offender, are confirmed dead following an incident at Westfield Shopping Centre in Bondi Junction, Sydney. (Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images)
Bondi Junction Westfield stabbing
Heavily armed police entered the centre as crowds of shoppers were ushered outside. (Dion Georgopoulos / The Sydney Morning Herald)

Witnesses describe helping mother and baby

Two brothers have described how they helped a mother and her baby, both of whom had been stabbed.

“The baby got stabbed,” one of the men told 9News.

“The mum got stabbed and the mum came over with the baby and threw it at me and (I) was holding the baby.”

Witnesses have described how they helped a mother and her baby, who they claim was stabbed.
Witnesses have described how they helped a mother and her baby, who they said had been stabbed. (Nine)

Despite the brothers and other shoppers doing what they could to compress the bleeding, the 38-year-old mum later died in hospital.

One of the brothers said he believed the baby would survive its injuries.

The husband of one woman injured in the incident told 9News he was relieved to see his wife at St Vincent’s Hospital.

“We didn’t know what had happened,” he said.

“She just got a little, they said, stab in the top right-hand corner of her back.

“She thought she got punched and then she touched herself and there was blood but apart from that, she’s okay, she’s alive and that’s all that matters.”

The man said once he saw his wife, the “stress was over”.

Armed police at Bondi Junction as the attack unfolded. (Flavio Brancaleone)

“No one could tell you anything when we were there,” he said.

“It was terrible but she’s good now.”

Earlier, a grocery shop worker at the centre told 9News he was let out of the shopping centre just after 4.30pm.

“My girlfriend called me, she said that her mum works upstairs, level three and she said, ‘Look, please be careful, there’s a shooting,'” he said.

“I couldn’t hear her well, so I came outside. I just started hearing a bunch of (shots).

“My reaction was to basically put all the customers inside (and) close the door of the shop.”

Albanese said he has been briefed by Australian Federal Police after the attack by a man at Bondi Junction Westfield on a busy Saturday afternoon. (Dion Georgopoulos)

Prime minister says shopping centre attack ‘horrific act of violence’

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has called the attack “beyond words or understanding.”

He said Australians will be “shocked” at the attack.

“This was a horrific act of violence, indiscriminately targeted at innocent people going about an ordinary Saturday doing their shopping,” he said.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has called the attack which has killed five people at a Sydney shopping centre on a Saturday afternoon “beyond words or understanding.” (9News)

“The first thoughts of all Australians are with the victims of these terrible acts and their loved ones. 

“Our nation offers our deepest condolences and sympathies to all those who are grieving for someone they have lost and we send our strength to those who have been injured.”

He praised the health workers caring for the eight people – including a baby – who were rushed to hospital.

He also talked about shoppers who rushed to help those who had been injured.

“Today at Bondi Junction was the scene of shocking violence, but it was also witness to the humanity and the heroism of our fellow Australians, our brave police, our first responders and of course, everyday people who could never have imagined that they would face such a moment,” he said.

“For these  Australians, their first instinct in the face of danger was to help someone else. That is what we hold on to tonight as Australians.”

Prince William and Catherine, Princess of Wales put out a rare personal message on social media in repose to the incident.

The short statement was signed off casually with “W & C” which signifies the post was written by the couple themselves.

“We are shocked and saddened by the terrible events in Sydney earlier today,” they wrote.

“Our thoughts are with all those affected, including the loved ones of those lost and the heroic emergency responders who risked their own lives to save others.”

King Charles, who has visited the Bondi area a number of times in the past, also offered a formal message of support to the Australian people following the tragedy.

“My wife and I were utterly shocked and horrified to hear of the tragic stabbing incident in Bondi,” the monarch said in the statement.

WINDSOR, ENGLAND - MARCH 31: King Charles III and Queen Camilla attend the Easter Service at Windsor Castle on March 31, 2024 in Windsor, England. (Photo by Samir Hussein/WireImage)
King Charles, who has visited the Bondi area a number of times in the past, also offered a formal message of support to the Australian people following the tragedy. (Samir Hussein/WireImage)

“Our hearts go out to the families and loved ones of those who have been so brutally killed during such a senseless attack.

“While details of these shocking circumstances are still emerging, our thoughts are also with those who were involved in the response, and we give thanks for the bravery of the first responders and emergency services. Charles R.”

  • Six people have been killed in a mass stabbing attack at Westfield shopping centre at Bondi Junction in Sydney’s eastern suburbs.
  • The man, suspected to be a 40-year-old male known to police, was shot dead by a lone officer at the scene. Police do not believe he acted “with ideation”.
  • Eight people have been rushed to hospital in a critical condition after the attack just after 3pm.
  • A baby and a mother were among those stabbed. The mother, a 38-year-old woman, has since died of her injuries. The baby continues to receive treatment.
  • Video appears to show a man wearing a rugby league jersey holding a knife as shoppers flee.
  • Mobile phone footage shows crowds within stairwells, with other shoppers saying they were evacuated to the roof
  • Shoppers helped victims as others cowered in shops for up to two hours.
  • The attacker acted alone and there is no ongoing threat.

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