Minto terror attack: Accused told heroic neighbours, 'I'm ready to die'

By Kim Stephens, Liz Burke, Andrew Koubaridis

A Minto woman has told how a stabbing victim fled from an accused knife-wielding terrorist and into a hair salon on Saturday, looked at his bloodied fingers and asked, "Why, why?"

A Current Affair aired exclusively obtained CCTV footage of the alleged terror-fuelled stabbing of Wayne Greenhalgh on Saturday morning, that shows the 59-year-old grandfather being chased by a man alleged to be Ihsas Khan.

The accused 22-year-old terrorist appears to try to smash his way into Duyen Phen's suburban garage salon through a glass sliding door, after Ms Phen and two customers locked the door to protect Mr Greenhalgh.

He ran for his life into the salon after heroic neighbours intervened to stop an apparently random attack on him, allegedly by Khan, in the southwest Sydney suburb.

Mr Greenhalgh had been out for his daily walk when Khan, yelling in Arabic, set upon him with a large knife, hacking off a number of fingers, police claim.

Mirabelle Brooks was in Ms Phen's hair salon when Mr Greenhalgh burst in, bleeding profusely.

"He kept saying to me, he sort of lifted his fingers, his arms, was looking at them and he (asked) 'Why, why? Look what he did to me,'" she said.

"I went and got one of Duyen's towels and wrapped it around one arm but I couldn't get the other one because he wouldn't sit down and he kept telling me, "I'm all right love, I'm all right'."

Mr Greenhalgh can be seen bleeding on the salon floor as the pair usher him towards a rear entrance, while a man alleged to be Khan, still gripping a large knife, tries to gain entry.

Mrs Brooks said the grandfather's hands were badly injured.

"I couldn't see the injury because there was so much blood," she said.

"The only thing I could see was his fingers on his right hand. I could see the bone ... and his fingers were white."

Outside the salon, neighbours who rushed to Mr Greenhalgh's aid armed with fence palings and broom sticks, confronted Khan.

Sivei Ah Chong, whose family have been hailed heroic for intervening in the attack and allowing Mr Greenhalgh to flee, said Khan told him he was ready to die.

"He was trying to attack me and he just stood there," he said.

"I said, 'mate, you do that to me, you know, I'll kill you.'

"He said, 'Oh do that, I'm here to die.' He said, 'I'm ready to die'.

The knifeman tried to break in to the hairdressing salon, where his victim had sought refuge. Photo / A Current Affair
The knifeman tried to break in to the hairdressing salon, where his victim had sought refuge. Photo / A Current Affair

The heroic neighbours told their a story after another, who gave her name only as Alison, told they passed him in the street moments before the alleged attack.

She and her husband were walking along Ohlfsen Rd, where the stabbing occurred, on their way to vote in council elections when they saw Khan standing in the exact spot he is alleged to have stabbed Mr Greenhalgh.

"He was walking in front of the reserve and he was glaring at us and we were glaring at him. We said, 'What the hell are you looking at?' - my husband was quite aggressive towards him."

Alison, who didn't want her surname published, said he kept walking, but was "mumbling incoherently".

"I think that's what he was doing, looking for someone to target. I think that's what probably saved us because we weren't very submissive to his demeanour."

Deputy NSW Commissioner Cath Burn, the state's most senior counter-terrorism cop, told reporters: "We know that this person has strong extremist beliefs inspired by ISIS ... but what made him act yesterday we don't know.

"It was deliberate, it was violent, his behaviour could have turned worse as well."

Alison told from near the alleged terror scene on Monday morning it was a troubling encounter made so much worse after what happened later on Saturday.

"He was very menacing, very menacing, the way he looked. Had I known he had machete in his backpack ... I think that's what he was doing at that time of day ... He was sizing us up but we were sizing him. He looked us up and down and we were quite aggressive in our demeanour back at him."

Residents of the street have all said the victim, 59-year-old Mr Greenhalgh, was a regular walking his dog in the community and always stopped to chat or wave.

Alison wondered if that could be why he was attacked. "Maybe that was his downfall, he looked to be a soft target."

She would not let her small children play on her front lawn again. "That won't be happening."

Mr Greenhalgh was listed in a serious but stable condition on Monday afternoon. He had eight hours of surgery to save his life after sustaining wounds to his chest, abdomen, and neck and lost several fingers trying to push the knife away.

He managed to drag himself to the home hairdressing salon of Duyen Phen, who managed to shut the doors to her business as Khan - still holding the knife - tried to get inside.

A salon customer who helped the bleeding Mr Greenhalgh said

She was too upset to speak about the ordeal today and was taken away from the home by friends just before midday.

"She's like a sister to me," one neighbour of Ms Phen said, adding she had been a hero for what she'd done to keep Mr Greenhalgh safe.

"I need to get her away from here," she said of the salon.

Startling images obtained by A Current Affair reveal how the salon filled with blood from Mr Greenhalgh's wounds while Khan could be seen holding a large knife.

Other residents of Ohlfsen Rd told of their shock at having an alleged terrorist event occur in their neighbourhood. Many fear it will never be the same again.

Blood stains an Ohlfsen Road residents car after the attack. Photo / News Corp Australia
Blood stains an Ohlfsen Road residents car after the attack. Photo / News Corp Australia

One woman said she heard the "screaming" and noise of the attack and went outside to look. She told she wished she hadn't - and would now keep her doors locked even during the day.

Many had seen Khan before. He was well known in the area, often clutching a Koran and preaching to passers-by, in a white robe.

One man, identified as Adrian, said he saw Khan the day before the attack standing "like a zombie" in the middle of Ohlfsen Rd.

"He was standing there as I was driving past ... in the middle of the street. As I got close, I had to swerve around him. He was just standing, staring, zombie like."

Police investigating the stabbing had been told about the behaviour in the lead up to Saturday's incident - but police refused to say if anyone had called them in recent times with specific concerns about Khan.

They have said only that he was known to them for stealing a Vietnam vet's Australian flags, but was not on the radar of counter-terrorism officers.

Victor has lived in the street for more than 20 years. He was used to seeing Khan standing in front of the home he shared with his father, sometimes in robes, other times "in street clothes".

He was shocked to see it was him on the ground as police swarmed around tasers drawn on Saturday.

"It's devastating really, it's such quiet spot, to think [we] have teen kids here. They often are throwing a ball round exactly where it happened."

Victor had known Khan's mother, who died recently. They'd never spoken but he had seen her more than once in the street, in obvious distress.

It was unnerving to know what police regard as a terror attack unfolded almost at his door.

"At one stage the police wanted everyone to get back. They were unsure what was inside the house, and they actually said, 'You have to get back.'"

Ms Burn described the incident, a lone-wolf style attack, as "the new face of terrorism".

"This really highlights the challenges that this is the new face of terrorism. This is the new face of what we're dealing with," she said.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull went as far as to link the stabbing with the September 11 attacks - taking place on its 15th anniversary.

He said the events were connected by "violent Islamic ideology" and praised the "heroism" of the bystander who confronted the assailant and kept him at bay while awaiting police.

It was as though authorities finally had an example of the type of apparently random, sudden, almost undetectable attacks they had been thwarting - stopping nine similar IS-motivated strikes - behind closed doors.

The incident on Saturday was in full view of many in broad daylight. Now millions of Australians have been given a graphic illustration of the sort of attacks authorities have been fearful of.

The reaction by government and police, seen by some as extreme, is what experts are calling an insight into the mindset of counter-terror authorities and their constant struggle with this new brand of terror.

Deakin University terrorism expert Greg Barton told there were good reasons police and other authorities were being so strong with their warnings.

"Calling this the new face of terrorism is understandable in terms of framing the issue, it highlights the immediate problem that police are struggling with, which is how to be prepared to spot, and stop, somebody who could carry out a lone wolf attack," he said.

"These aren't scare tactics, there are a couple of reasons for the warnings."

Prof Barton said Australians were new to the risk of lone wolf extremist attacks, which before the rise and spread of Islamic State, were associated with American right wing extremism and similar acts in places like Norway.

And after receiving wake up calls like terrorist Numan Haider's attempted attack of two police officers in Melbourne in September 2014, the Lindt cafe siege later that year, and the daylight murder of police worker Curtis Cheng in Sydney last year, authorities wanted people to be aware of the risks.

"The person who is best placed to see somebody ticking over into the sort of state of mind towards preparation for such an attack is family and friends, and we've had examples. It's a very real issue that probably police are not going to catch these people without family and friends at least presenting to police and saying they need help and assistance, without that warning, it's very, very hard, so the warnings about being alert to problematic behaviour is for them," he said.

While authorities' instructions following events like these are alarming, they're also quite confusing. It's difficult to pinpoint to the public what behaviours they need to look out for, or provide instructions on how to avoid a terror attack.

According to Prof Barton, exacerbated statements like the one Ms Burn delivered following the stabbing, gave a window into the frustration caused to authorities.

"In the past there's been the attitude among police they don't want to escalate things, I think what we're seeing in the recent statement by Catherine Burn is a window into the mind of police at the moment - I think when they say this is the new face of terror, it's actually an insight into what they're having to deal with all the time," he said.

"When it is appropriate to talk about (terror), we see the things that they're wrestling with. They're stressed by this and I think we're seeing that. We're seeing their anxieties and I think we're getting a sense of their own vulnerability."

University of NSW counter terror expert Clarke Jones was less supportive of authorities' panicked reactions.

"I am concerned that the fact that the government and the NSW Police assistant commissioner were on the TV concluding that it was a terrorist act and I think we need to be very careful," he said.

"For the prime minister to get up and link it to 9/11 is just preposterous, is just crazy, how we can get carried away and blow this incident way out of proportion is beyond me."

Dr Jones said he understood police and government taking the opportunity to issue warnings, but it was important not to lead the public to leap to conclusions.

"People need to be on the lookout for any violent behaviour but we don't need to link it to terrorism, we don't need to link it to a particular religious group. All these things contribute to the underlying causes and make these problems worse."

He warned crediting terror groups with specific attacks contributed to "making the group sound bigger than they are".

"I'm not saying we shouldn't take this movement more seriously, we would be stupid not to. We need to play it very carefully and very intelligently and not overreacting to what is basically a serious assault on the street," he said.

Khan did not seek bail when his case was mentioned at Parramatta Bail Court yesterday and will appear in court again on Wednesday.


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