The armed man who held an unknown number of hostages in a Sydney cafe was an Iranian refugee known for sending hate mail to the families of Australian soldiers killed overseas and facing several charges of sexual assault, a police source said on Monday.
Local media said that the gunman, identified as Man Haron Monis, was killed along with a hostage after police stormed the base early on Tuesday. They reported his age at 49. New South Wales police declined to comment on the reports, and it was not clear whether the fatalities occurred during the rescue operation itself.
Monis was born Manteghi Bourjerdi and fled from Iran to Australia in 1996 where he changed his name and assumed the title of Sheikh Haron. He had long been on officials’ radar. Last year, he was sentenced to 300 hours of community service for using the postal service to send what a judge called “grossly offensive” letters to families of eight Australian soldiers killed in Afghanistan between 2007 and 2009, as a protest against Australia’s involvement in the conflict.
At the time, Monis said his letters were “flowers of advice”, adding: “Always, I stand behind my beliefs.”
Last year, he was charged with being an accessory to the murder of his ex-wife, Noleen Hayson Pal, who was stabbed and set alight in a Sydney apartment block.
Earlier this year, Monis, who describes himself as a “spiritual healer”, was charged with the indecent and sexual assault of a Sydney woman in 2002.
His alleged victim, 27 at the time, allegedly saw an advertisement for ‘spiritual consultation’ in a local newspaper and contacted him. He told her he was an expert in astrology, numerology, meditation and black magic and advised her to visit his clinic. Further charges — reported to number over 40 — were laid in October.
Monis was on bail and due to appear in court over indecent and sexual assault charges in February 2015.
“This is a one-off random individual. It’s not a concerted terrorism event or act. It’s a damaged goods individual who’s done something outrageous,” his former lawyer, Manny Conditsis, told Australian Broadcasting Corp (ABC).
“His ideology is just so strong and so powerful that it clouds his vision for common sense and objectiveness,” Conditsis said.