Police search for answers in Bondi killer’s past

Jack Gramenz, Samantha Lock and Savannah Meacham |

The number of floral tributes continue to grow for victims of the Bondi Junctions stabbings.
The number of floral tributes continue to grow for victims of the Bondi Junctions stabbings.

A Queensland man’s behaviour attracted police attention in his home state, but he was not perceived as a threat before he carried out a stabbing rampage at a Sydney shopping centre that ended in his death.

Investigators are still searching for a motive or explanation for Joel Cauchi’s Saturday attack, during which the 40-year-old killed six people and injured many more at the Westfield Bondi Junction centre.

Queensland Police acting Commissioner Steve Gollschewski said the 40-year-old had “come under our noses because of his conduct and behaviour”, but no particular action had to be taken against him.

Investigators are searching for a motive or explanation for Joel Cauchi’s Sydney stabbing rampage. (Dean Lewins/AAP PHOTOS)

Cauchi killed five women in the attack at the shopping centre, in Sydney’s eastern suburbs, with a male security guard also killed.

He lived with mental illness, including schizophrenia, for decades before his move to Sydney, his family said.

“He wanted a girlfriend and he has no social skills and he was frustrated out of his brain,” his father Andrew Cauchi said.

Police were previously involved in an incident between Mr Cauchi and his son over the possession of knives, Mr Gollschewski confirmed.

“Police are not mental health experts, they have to deal with things that are presented to them and the threat to the community but at that time there was no threat to the community,” he said.

Woman kneels in front of floral tributes
Flowers are being left at the shopping centre, where a permanent memorial is being considered. (Steven Saphore/AAP PHOTOS)

Cauchi was shot dead by a police inspector after killing Dawn Singleton, 25, Jade Young, 47, Pikria Darchia, 55, Yixuan Cheng, 27, and 30-year-old Faraz Tahir, while Ashlee Good, 38, later died in hospital.

Another stabbing, in which a bishop and priest were attacked during a live-streamed church service in western Sydney on Monday night, has been declared an act of terror.

ASIO director-general Mike Burgess said the circumstances of the two events clearly differed.

“To call it a terrorist attack you need indications of, or information or evidence to suggest, actually, the motivation was religiously motivated or ideologically motivated … that was not the case (at Bondi Junction),” he said.

Police declined to go into detail when asked if Cauchi was motivated by a hatred of women – citing a lack of information.

Our Watch chief executive Patty Kinnersly said while she was unable to speak directly as to Cauchi’s motives, she noted mental illness alone was not a driver of violence against women. 

“Evidence shows that mental illness can be a reinforcing factor for violence against women … it can exacerbate a person’s risk to use violence if they already hold problematic attitudes, but mental illness itself does not drive violence against women,” Ms Kinnersly said.

Reports Cauchi had visited shopping centres in western Sydney at Parramatta and Penrith in the days before the attack would also be examined, NSW Police Commissioner Karen Webb said.

“I’ve made it clear we may not ever get an answer but we will get a picture of his movements and what he’s been doing,” Ms Webb said.

Peter Thurtell, Karen Webb and Dominic Morgan
Ms Webb says Cauchi’s movements in the lead up to Saturday’s attack will be examined. (Bianca De Marchi/AAP PHOTOS)

Six people, including the injured nine-month-old daughter of Dr Good, remained in hospital on Tuesday, although the baby’s condition improved from critical to serious but stable.

Three women remain in ICU in a serious but stable condition while two men are in a stable condition, NSW Health said.

Politicians and fellow officers praised the bravery of the police inspector who responded alone and shot Cauchi, as well as the actions of several shoppers who confronted him.

French construction worker Damien Guerot, who faced Cauchi with a bollard as he tried to move up an escalator, will be granted permanent residency by the federal government, according to his lawyer.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said Mr Guerot was able to stay in the country as long as he liked after the Frenchman told Channel Seven his work visa was due to expire in a couple of months.

Floral tributes continue to be left at the shopping centre, where a permanent memorial is being considered.

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