A woman grieves as she leaves flowers outside the Westfield Bondi Junction shopping mall in Sydney on Sunday.—AFP
A woman grieves as she leaves flowers outside the Westfield Bondi Junction shopping mall in Sydney on Sunday.—AFP

SYDNEY: A small evening vigil was held on Sunday for the six people killed in a knife attack at a busy Sydney shopping centre, which police said was carried out by a local man with a history of mental illness.

As night fell Sunday, a group of about 40 people from a local Muslim association placed flowers on the ever-growing pile outside the shopping centre.

They stood for a minute of silence with their hands clasped, heads bowed, and eyes fixated on the flowers as they remembered Tahir, who was killed on his job.

The mourners then raised their hands in a moment of prayer. Many wiped away tears.

Police say knife attacker was a local man ‘with a history of mental illness’

Police said the attack lasted for about half an hour until a solo police woman tracked down Cauchi and shot him dead.

Inspector Amy Scott was hailed by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese as a “hero” who “no doubt” had “saved lives through her action”.

Among Cauchi’s victims were a designer, a volunteer surf lifesaver, the daughter of an entrepreneur, and a new mother whose nine-month-old baby is still in hospital with serious stab wounds.

As the attack unfolded on Saturday, online social media accounts falsely reported that the attack was linked to ideological or religious groups or events in the Middle East.

Police have named the assailant as 40-year-old itinerant man Joel Cauchi, who was previously diagnosed with a mental health issue.

New South Wales police Assistant Commissioner Anthony Cooke said there was no evidence to suggest Cauchi was “driven by any particular motivation, ideology or otherwise”.

Police said he was diagnosed with a mental health issue at age 17.

‘Only doing her job’

In a statement, Cauchi’s parents offered thoughts for the victims and said their son’s actions were “truly horrific”.

“We are still trying to comprehend what has happened. He has battled with mental health issues since he was a teenager.”

The parents also sent a message to the officer who shot their son dead.

“She was only doing her job to protect others, and we hope she is coping alright,” they said.

Cauchi is believed to have travelled to Sydney about a month ago and hired a small storage unit in the city, according to police. It contained personal belongings, including a boogie board.

He had been living in a vehicle and hostels and was only in sporadic contact with his family via text messages, his parents said.

A Facebook profile said Cauchi came from Toowoomba, near Brisbane, and had attended a local high school and university.

A distinctive grey, red and yellow dragon tattoo on his right arm was used to help identify him.

Australians, largely unaccustomed to violent crime, are still coming to terms with an attack that shattered a city better known for its famed beaches and laid-back bars and restaurants.

‘Outstanding human’

One victim, 38-year-old mother Ashlee Good, succumbed to her injuries after desperately passing her bleeding baby to two strangers in the hope they could save the child’s life.

Good’s family described her as “a beautiful mother, daughter, sister, partner, friend, all round outstanding human and so much more”.

“To the two men who held and cared for our baby when Ashlee could not — words cannot express our gratitude”, they said in a statement to Australian media.

The baby, named Harriet, was said to be recovering well after lengthy surgery.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said Australians were struggling to understand an “unspeakable” attack that is “really just beyond comprehension”.

“We also know there are many people still in hospital dealing with recovery, and our thoughts and prayers are with them,” Albanese said he had received messages from US President Joe Biden, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, and New Zealand Prime Minister Christopher Luxon, among others.

Flags across Australia will be flown at half-mast on Monday to honour the victims of the Bondi Junction stabbing, as per Sydney Morning Herald.

Published in Dawn, April 15th, 2024

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