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Find Out Who The Hostages Really Are

As Australia takes a deep breathe and reflects on the harrowing experience of the Martin Place siege last December, we have taken the time to look at each hostage and their stories.

Paolo Vassallo, 36, father of two
Lindt Café Kitchen Supervisor

Paolo started work at the Lindt Café in the same week as the late Tori Johnson in October 2012. They were close friends. That morning Paolo’s wife  and two children (three and six months old) were still asleep when he left for work, meaning he didn’t get to say goodbye. That thought would have played on Paolo’s mind as he struggled with his decision to make a run for it. When John O’Brien and Stefan Balafoutis escaped out the front door, Paolo took his chance and was one of the first group to flee.

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Harriette Denny, 30, secretly pregnant
Lindt Café Barista

Harriette would arrive for work every morning half an hour early to have coffee with Tori before preparing to open the café. She is the mother hen of the café workers, who was also 14 weeks pregnant. Only one other person in the café knew Harriette was carrying a child.

Joel Herat, 21, student
Café Worker

Joel was running late for work that day. He was in the kitchen when Monis took control of the café, and was passed a knife and scissors by Jarrod Morton-Hoffman and told “we might need these”. Joel would facilitate hostage videos being uploaded to YouTube and social media.

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Jarrod Morton-Hoffman (left), 19, student
Café Worker

Despite having worked at the café for 10 months it was Jarrod’s first ever morning shift. Jarrod would prove to be the crucial link between police negotiators and Monis, repeatedly calming him down through the course of the day and evening. There were numerous moments when Jarrod could have escaped but he chose to stay with his friends.

With Monis extremely agitated, Jarrod, Joel and Harriette eventually made a run for it at 2.03am on Tuesday, December 16.

Fiona Ma, 19, student
Café Worker

It was Fiona’s sixth shift at the café. She was going to switch shifts with her sister but decided against it the night before. That morning her pants hadn’t dried from washing, so she contemplated being late for work, but decided instead to show up on time with damp pants. Fiona served Monis cake and tea before the siege began. Early on she was chosen by Monis to be his helper, fetching food and water for other hostages and escorting them to the bathroom. Fiona also had numerous chances to escape but chose not to. She eventually slid out the door only moments before police stormed in.

Selina Win Pe, 43
Senior Manager, Digital at Westpac

Selina does not like Lindt chocolate and rarely drinks hot chocolate, but on this morning she chose hot chocolate over coffee, and thought she’d pick up some Christmas presents for colleagues at the same time. Selina was forced to make phone calls to the media and appear in hostage videos. She was threatened with her life on several occasions as Monis became more enraged. Monis was about to execute her when he was distracted by a noise outside. Towards the end Monis warned her she had 15 minutes to get the street lights turned off or he would kill her. Selina was in the Lindt Café when police stormed in.

Louisa Hope, 52, suffering from MS, and her mother Robin Hope, 72

Louisa and Robin were seated in the café when Monis took control. With limited mobility there was never a consideration that Louisa could try to escape, and Robin would find running difficult too, so mother and daughter formed a solemn bond not to leave each other. Robin and Louisa were used as human shields by Monis through much of the day, and were side by side with Tori Johnson at the very end. They were in the café when police stormed in, and Louisa is still in hospital recovering from her injuries.

John O’Brien, 83
Retiree

At 83-years-old John was the eldest hostage in the Martin Place siege. John was one of the first to escape from the terrifying situation. Allegedly while held captive Monis had told the hostages to lie on the floor and he refused, due to his age.  

Stefan Balafoutis
Tenth Floor Chambers Barrister

One of the first to escape, Stefan was held up in the hostage situation after going to buy his usual morning coffee from the café. His chance came through a fire exit with two other men, running directly towards the protection of the police officers guarding the area. It was at approximately 3:35pm.

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Elly Chen, 22, student
Café Worker

A 22-year-old university student, Elly had  been working at the Lindt Café for less than a week before the siege. The talented sportswoman obviously was unaware of what her regular Monday shift was going to involve. According to New Idea, Elly had begun to hyperventilate and vomit during the siege after being one of the hostages forced to hold the Islamic flag in the window. She met now friend, Jieun ‘April’ Bae underneath a table during the ordeal.

Jieun ‘April’ Bae, 20, student
Café Worker

Arriving for what she thought would be a standard day of work at 9am quickly took a turn for the worse, with Man Monis taking control of the café just 45 minutes later. It wasn’t until 5pm that she could make her escape alongside co-worker Elly Chen.

Marcia Mikhael, 43
Westpac Employee

A 43-year-old Marcia was one of the final hostages being held captive by Monis and was inside the Lindt Café until the very end of the police operation. She was reportedly beside Katrina Dawson for much of the struggle, as well as being one of the women forced to hold up the black and white flag in the window of Martin Place. Read more of Marcia’s story here.

Julie Taylor, 35, pregnant
Eight Selborne Chamber Barrister

A barrister at Eight Selborne Chambers, Julie was a colleague of the late Katrina Dawson. She was one of many hostages that was forced by Monis to upload videos during the siege. She released a statement on behalf of Katrina at the end of the siege. "Katrina Dawson was the most wonderful person I have ever met. She was my closest friend, a role model and confidant. Her bravery and strength was, and continues to be, a comfort and inspiration for me.She invested every moment of her life in her friends and family, and will be greatly missed by everyone who has known her. My thoughts and sympathy are with her family, whom I have come to know and love."

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Puspendu Ghosh
IT Manager at Westpac / Infosys

One of four Westpac workers embroiled in the siege situation, Puspendu was not able to escape the Lindt Café until the early hours of Tuesday. Going to get a coffee with a colleague Viswakanth, the day took a turn for the worse. On finding out his son was being held captive, Puspendu’s father was forced to watch the updates from India where he lives and prey for his son’s safety.

Viswakanth Ankireddy, father
Software Engineer at Infosys

Viswakanth works for the Indian IT company Infosys, and was heading a project for Westpac.The company released a statement during the siege detailing that one of their employees was caught up in the Lindt Café Seige. News.com.au has reported that he and Puspendu Ghosh went to the Lindt Café together to see if one of their health conscious friends could resist one of her vices – macaroons.

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