Lindt siege officer had only four weeks training as negotiator

By Karlis Salna

In this December 16, 2014 file photo, armed tactical response officers stand ready to enter the Lindt Cafe. Photo / AP
In this December 16, 2014 file photo, armed tactical response officers stand ready to enter the Lindt Cafe. Photo / AP

The primary police negotiator during the Lindt Cafe siege had never before worked in a hostage situation and had no counter-terrorism experience other than role playing with colleagues, an Australian inquest has heard.

The senior sergeant, identified only as "Peter", has also told the inquest into the December 2014 siege at Martin Place in Sydney that he had never before been involved in an operation where the offender had refused to directly communicate with negotiators.

The officer, who has been with NSW Police for more than 29 years, had just four weeks of formal training as a negotiator, including an initial course at Goulburn in 2004, and two subsequent weeks in 2005 and 2006.

He undertook a counter-terrorism course in 2009, which included some training in relation to Islamic extremism.

But the inquest into the siege, during which hostages Tori Johnson and Katrina Dawson, as well as gunman Man Haron Monis were killed, heard today that Peter had never before worked in a hostage situation, or a counter-terrorism operation.

Asked by counsel assisting the coroner, Jason Downing, why he was picked to be the primary negotiator, he responded: "I think that at the time Reg just said 'go primary'."

The officer identified as "Reg" was the team leader and negotiation co-ordinator during the siege, and was effectively second in the chain of command on the negotiation team.

The primary negotiator was the third person in the chain. "I don't think I've had any formal courses since 2009," he told the inquest, adding however, that he had been involved in more than 100 negotiations since 2004, "whether it's Father's Day, Christmas, full moons".

Asked by Downing whether he had been involved in any hostage events, he replied: "Personally, no I haven't".

"I've been in role playing ... having hostages ... but I haven't done any real situations where there were hostages".

He was also asked about the use of a dictaphone for recording conversations with hostages, telling the inquest that he never before used one. But he decided to take on the responsibility on the day of the siege, as the negotiation team initially worked from a 4WD and then from a cramped gaming manager's office at a nearby leagues club.

The recordings of phone calls to and from hostages up until 1.16pm on the day of the siege, which included those made from the 4WD, have not been recovered. Peter said he could not remember what the dictaphone looked like or what type it was. "I'll let you know, I'm not real good with technology," he said.

The inquest continues.


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