Bondi Junction memorial
People have queued to pay their respects to victims of the Bondi Junction shopping centre attack. Image by Dion Georgopoulos/AAP PHOTOS
  • crime, law and justice

‘Sad and senseless’: public grieve Bondi attack victims


April 18, 2024

The doors have re-opened at a Sydney shopping centre that was the scene of Australia’s worst mass killing in years.

But there were no customers and shutters on stores remained closed as the site became a place of quiet – and sometimes emotional – reflection while hundreds mourned the six people killed in the stabbing.

Members of the public were allowed to return to Westfield Bondi Junction, in the city’s eastern suburbs, on Thursday for the first time since the attack, which happened during Saturday afternoon trade at the start of the school holidays.

Bondi memorial
 Many people laid flowers inside Westfield Bondi Junction shopping centre on the day of reflection. Image by Dion Georgopoulos/AAP PHOTOS 

A solemn crowd formed to leave condolences and bouquets on level four of the silent shopping centre, where stores will resume trade on Friday.

Mothers held children close and wiped away tears as they left.

Others crossed their chests in prayer as they descended the escalators.

Many wore black.

One police officer wore his badge but no uniform as he walked through the centre, his arms linked with another.

At the top of the escalator where the so-called “bollard man” – French construction worker Damien Guerot – confronted the knife-wielding attacker, people queued for coffee.

Hazel Stein
 “It could have been any one of us,” Hazel Stein said of the victims of the Bondi Junction attack. Image by Bianca De Marchi/AAP PHOTOS 

Behind closed shopfronts, some workers set about returning to normalcy, checking price tags and stock.

Local woman Sheira Said felt the “heavy weight of sadness” at the scene.

“It’s because we know how close we were to that fate which can happen at any time,” she told AAP. 

Hazel Stein said she felt for the six families left without their loved ones.

“It could have been any one of us,” she said.

“It’s just very sad and senseless … hard to believe.”

Chris Minns and Karen Webb
 NSW Premier Chris Minns (left) and NSW Police Commissioner Karen Webb signed a condolence book. Image by Bianca De Marchi/AAP PHOTOS 

A sombre-faced NSW Premier Chris Minns and Police Commissioner Karen Webb walked through the centre before addressing the media.

“It is not back to normal for Sydney, but this is an opportunity to get some kind of grieving and to turn the page on what has been a very difficult period,” Mr Minns said. 

The premier described the day as “the first step in healing”.

“We are a community that can stand together in difficult periods and show that grief is universal when it is felt by one family, one individual,” he said. 

Mr Minns has indicated stricter knife laws would be considered following the stabbing and a separate attack at a western Sydney church.

Bondi shopping centre
 The Westfield Bondi Junction shopping centre will re-open for trade on Friday. Image by Bianca De Marchi/AAP PHOTOS 

Police Minister Yasmin Catley said the state government would also consider similar laws to those implemented in Queensland to allow officers to use metal detectors without a warrant during searches.

Shops are set to re-open for business on Friday with an increased police and security presence.

The shopping centre tenants’ rent will be waived for the time it was closed, with staff offered mental health support and counselling.

Black ribbons were displayed on digital screens at all Westfield locations on Thursday.

Security will be increased at all centres in response to the attack.

Security guard Faraz Tahir, 30, was among those killed while fellow worker Muhammad Taha remains in hospital.

The pair, both Pakistanis, showed enormous courage and the government would consider extending Mr Taha’s visa to remain in Australia, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said.

The re-opening for trade will mark almost a week since 40-year-old Joel Cauchi went on a stabbing spree at the shopping centre.

The Queensland man, whose family said he lived with mental illness for decades, was shot dead by a police inspector on level five of the complex.

Six people remain in hospitals across Sydney, with one woman in intensive care in a serious but stable condition.

A nine-month-old baby, whose mother was among five women killed in the attack, is in hospital in a serious but stable condition.

A permanent memorial is being planned near the site and a beachside candlelight vigil will be held on Sunday.

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