Sydney cafe siege gunman might have suffered from schizophrenia

  • AFP, Sydney
  • Updated: May 27, 2015 15:23 IST

The gunman who carried out last year's deadly siege in a Sydney cafe may have suffered from chronic schizophrenia, a psychiatrist who had treated him told an inquest on Wednesday.

Iranian-born Man Haron Monis took more than a dozen customers and staff hostage at the upmarket Lindt cafe in the city's financial heart on December 15. Police stormed the building and shot Monis after he killed the manager, Tori Johnson, with another hostage Katrina Dawson dying froma ricocheting bullet fragment.

An inquest into his death and the deaths of two hostages at the end of the 16-hour siege is probing Monis' motivations -- including whether he was a "lone wolf" playing out an IS-inspired terrorist act or a deranged individual.

It was told on Wednesday that Monis had mental health issues and at times believed he was under constant surveillance by security agencies in Australia and Iran. Monis was referred to a psychiatrist in May 2010 after he ended up in hospital complaining of dizziness.

"He was very evasive in his answers -- he felt that he was being watched all the time, even in his bathroom," psychiatrist Kristen Barrett, who first saw Monis that May, told the court.

"My impression was that he had chronic schizophrenia and my treatment plan was to start anti-psychotic medication."

Barrett said she had prescribed medication for Monis and he seemed to improve, but by early 2011 he stopped taking the drugs and ended their sessions a few months later.

Monis, a self-styled cleric who had a history of extremist views, demanded an Islamic State flag during the siege which put Sydney's financial district in lockdown. In his opening address on Monday, the counsel assisting the coroner Jeremy Gormly said Monis' mental health issues would not provide the full answer to what provoked his actions.

The ongoing inquest has heard that he was prone to grandiose claims and was prepared to reinvent himself to achieve personal significance, including an unsuccessful bid to join a motorcycle club whose members rejected him as being too "weird".

By 2014, Monis' life was apparently unravelling, with mounting financial and legal problems, and few social ties or interactions, including with Australia's Islamic community which did not accept him.

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