SYDNEY (Reuters) - A self-styled sheikh who staged a siege at an Australian cafe last year suffered “grandiose delusions” and was once kicked out of a motorcycle gang because he was deemed so weird, an inquest into the deaths of three people heard on Monday.
Police stormed the Lindt Chocolate Cafe in central Sydney in the early hours of Dec. 16 after Iranian-born gunman Man Haron Monis shot and killed 34-year-old cafe manager Tori Johnson with a sawn-off shotgun following a 17-hour standoff.
The inquest has already heard that one of the hostages taken by Monis, 38-year-old lawyer Katrina Dawson, was killed by a ricochet from at least one police bullet.
Monis, who was killed by police, harboured deep grievances against the Australian government and claimed to be carrying out an attack as a member of the Islamic State radical group.
However, far from belonging to a global movement, the inquest was told of his multiple failed attempts to cultivate a following not just within Sydney’s mainstream Muslim community but anywhere that would accept him.
“His constant goal in life appears to have been achieving significance,” said Sophie Callan, a lawyer assisting the inquiry.
The inquest will continue to examine Monis’ biography, as well as looking into how he was on bail at the time of the siege despite facing charges relating to the murder of his ex-wife, who was found burned to death in a Sydney apartment block.
Between 2002-2007 Monis reinvented himself as a new-age guru or clairvoyant, marketing his “spiritual healing” techniques to female clients through advertisements in ethnic newspapers.
He was eventually charged with more than 50 counts of sexual and indecent assault as a result of his activities during that period, the inquest heard.
In 2012 or 2013, Monis unsuccessfully attempted to join the notorious Rebels Motorcycle Club, Callan said. He was rejected because the biker gang thought that he was too “weird”.
“Ultimately, he was rejected by the Rebels and they took his motorbike,” she said.
Monis, who received Australian citizenship after claiming persecution, falsely claimed that his late father had been an ayatollah in Iran, lawyer Jeremy Gormly told the inquest.
Monis was found guilty in 2012 of sending threatening letters to the families of eight Australian soldiers killed in Afghanistan as a protest against Australia’s involvement there, and was known to harass government employees.
Editing by Paul Tait