THE tactical commander during the Sydney siege has told an inquest he was still in the dark about whether a report from a sniper who saw Lindt cafe manager Tori Johnson kneeling with his hands behind his neck was made over the police radio.
Neither the chief inspector and Tactical Operations Unit member or his deputy heard the report that was supposedly made when the sniper saw Mr Johnson kneeling in the cafe at 2.06am on December 16, 2014.
The tactical commander, who cannot be named but has 30 years’ experience including in the army as a special forces soldier, said he would have advised the forward commander to initiate the emergency action (EA) if he had that information.
The EA would be when police stormed the cafe because the death or serious injury to a hostage was about to occur.
The final decision would be with the forward commander and they would have had to discuss it.
Jeremy Gormly, counsel assisting the coroner, suggested it would have been a very “short conversation wouldn’t it” and the commander agreed.
The commander told the inquest on Tuesday morning he was unsure “to this day” if it was reported over the radio, but agreed it raised the real risk of imminent death.
Minutes after the supposed report from the sniper, gunman Man Haron Monis shot Mr Johnson dead, and police stormed the cafe, gunning him down. Hostage Katrina Dawson was struck by a fragment of a police bullet and also died.
Mr Gormly suggested the sniper didn’t have a view of Monis at that time which ruled out them taking a shot.
“You can’t shoot him if you can’t see him,” he suggested.
The tactical commander agreed, which led to him determining an EA was the best option.
Mr Gormly said the others hadn’t heard the message about Mr Johnson kneeling and put it to him it hadn’t happened.
“Are you doubtful that it was made?”
The commander answered: “I don’t know if it was or wasn’t.”
The inquest has previously heard the call may have been impacted by traffic over the police radio.
Mr Gormly told the inquest if the call wasn’t made “then it should have been” and the commander agreed it should have been.
The inquest heard the radio system police were using at the time has since been replaced. The commander said he was aware in general terms of “problems with communications” in the past but couldn’t say if that was what happened during the siege.
The tactical commander said the windows where three snipers were located throughout Martin Pl all but ruled them out from making a successful shot at Monis.
There were three snipers — one at Channel Seven, the Reserve Bank and Westpac.
“I don’t believe there was any live shooting options from those positions,” he said.
The commander added a missed shot could have created a situation where Monis would have responded, placing the hostages lives in imminent risk.
Mr Gormly put it to him the snipers wouldn’t have been able to fire successfully unless the glass was breached. He answered: “I believe that to be correct.”
He rejected suggestions the sniper at the Westpac building could have taken a shot at Monis at about 7.38pm, when the gunman was observed through a window at the Lindt Cafe.
He said police could not be 100 per cent sure that the person observed through the window was Monis.
A possibility Monis placed his bandana on a hostage’s head was discussed by senior police when a report was received Monis head was visible through a window.
The sniper in question would have had “zero possibility” to fire successfully from his location, the commander said.
—additional reporting: AAP