Survivors of the Sydney café siege have spoken about their 16-hour ordeal, disclosing that they considered stabbing the lone Islamist gunman and recalling "the big smile on his face as he kept threatening us".
In their first interviews since Australian special forces ended the siege in December, a group of survivors described Man Haron Monis, the self-styled "sheikh" who took 18 hostages at the Lindt cafe in the city centre, as "extremely paranoid". The siege ended with the deaths of two hostages, as well as Monis.
Selina Win Pe, a bank worker, broke into tears as she described how Monis (50) dragged her alone to a storage room and put a gun to her head and appeared to contemplate physically or sexually assaulting her.
"He leaned over and said I have to kill one person - it was me he was going to shoot," Ms Pe told Australia's Channel Nine. "He pressed me against the storage door. I said, 'Please, brother, please, please don't shoot me. I only have my mum.' He looked me in the eyes. I thought he was going to do something bad to me physically."
The survivors, who reportedly received large sums for their interviews, which were shown on Channel Nine and Channel Seven, recounted how Monis became increasingly frantic as the hours wore on, particularly after several groups of hostages escaped.
Fiona Ma (19), a waitress, said Monis was "nice actually" when he entered the café at about 9am, ordering a piece of chocolate cheesecake and a cup of English breakfast tea. But he took only one bite before launching his attack.
About 9.45am, he ordered staff to lock the café door and then took out his gun and told the hostages: "I want to terrorise millions of Australians," according to Jarrod Hoffman (19), a waiter.
Another hostage, Harriette Denny (30) said: "It was very strange. He had a big smile on his face when he kept threatening us.
"Knowing that you're going to die is hard. The desperation, the fear, thinking that there is nothing you can do."
Mr Hoffman and a fellow café employee, Joel Herat (21), said that they hid knives used for unpacking boxes in their apron pockets and considered trying to stab Monis, but decided it was too risky.
Mr Hoffman, a student, said he thought about stabbing the gunman "in the jugular", but was concerned because he could see that Monis's gun was pointed at another hostage.
Mr Herat (21) said: "Do I stab him? What if I miss? He could shoot us all. I couldn't end up doing it. I just couldn't."
The hostages disclosed their fears as they plotted escapes and their guilt about whether they could have done more to prevent the death of Tori Johnson, the 34-year-old café manager who was shot by Monis in the back of the head.
The killing triggered a police raid, during which Katrina Dawson, a 38-year-old barrister and mother of three, died after she was hit by ricocheting police bullets.
The survivors recalled how Monis threatened to shoot an equal number of hostages for any who escaped. (© Daily Telegraph, London)