Lindt Cafe Siege Hostage John O’Brien describes escape as “the worst 5 seconds of my life”

Lindt Cafe Siege hostage John O'brien makes a dramatic escape

John Maddison Tower, Sydney Australia.

Lindt Cafe Siege hostage John O’Brien has described his dramatic escape from the cafe as the “worst 5 seconds of my life”. O’Brien made his remarks whilst giving evidence to the New South Wales Coroners Court inquest into the deaths arising from the Lindt Cafe siege of December 2014.

The former international tennis player said he decided to make his escape as in his opinion Man Horan Monis  was “quite aggro and dangerous” and that “he appeared tired in the afternoon and the longer this went on I thought he’d get trigger happy”.

John O’Brien who was aged 82 during the siege, told the inquest that he acted defiantly to Monis when he was noticed to be moving towards the Phillip St entrance of the cafe and Monis demanded that he move closer to him and lay on the floor. O’Brien steadfastly refused saying that “Monis demanded I move and that I lay on the floor. I refused stating I can’t do this, I’m an old man”. O’Brien told the inquest he was of the belief that had he complied with Monis request to move closer and lie on the floor he would never have escaped via the Phillip Street sliding door.

John O’Brien told the inquest he was unsure if the green button used to open the Phillip Street sliding entrance door would work “I pushed the green button and away we (fellow hostage Stefan Balafoutis, who followed O’Brien) went. I thought the doors had been electronically locked”.

Mr O’Brien first knew that the siege had began when he was sitting near the cash register area and saw Monis and store manager Tori Johnson in discussion. O’Brien said he observed Monis with Tori Johnson in front of him close the Phillip Street entrance door. Monis then ordered all in the cafe to face the windows with their eyes closed. According to Mr O’Brien he could not stand any longer and told Monis “I can’t do this, I’m 82”. According to Mr O’Brien, Monis allowed him and 5 other hostages be allowed to sit down.

John O’Brien said during the siege he was keen to return home to his family, in particular his wife and daughter and was concerned for their well-being. During one of the accompanied toilet breaks, O’Brien told the inquest he had asked Lindt Cafe employee Fiona Ma “How do I get out of here?”. During the duration of the siege O’Brien said he moved closer to the Phillip Street door. He managed to squeeze past a 25 to 30 centimeter partition. he told fellow hostage Stefan Balafoutis “This is it I’m going to try to get out and made around a coffee sign”.

O’Brien said once he was safely with NSW police who were located outside in Phillip Street, he quickly provided information with regards to the situation inside the cafe. Mr O’Brien described the stress of his escape as akin to being on a “merry go round” and that his blood pressure “had gone through the roof”.

O’Brien stated that Monis would describe the then current Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott as a “liar and that if Mr Abbott did not have a conversation with Monis on the phone, He would kill us all and Tony Abbott would have the blood of all the hostages on his hands”.

John O’Brien told the inquest he was of the belief that Monis was “determined to follow things through” and “he had a determined personality”. O’Brien went on to say that Monis was determined to stay where he was and have his way at all cost.

Lindt Cafe Siege hostage with members of the NSW Police force immediately after his dramatic escape Photo: Sky News TV screen grab.

Lindt Cafe Siege hostage John O’Brien with members of the NSW Police force immediately after his dramatic escape. Photo: Sky News TV screen grab.


O’Brien said that Monis appeared “unpredictable and wasn’t fearful of death”. O’Brien summed up Man Horan Monis as “He had a mission, He achieved nothing”

The inquest will continue on Friday.

For further information regarding the Lindt Cafe Siege inquest visit: Inquest into the deaths arising from the Lin​​dt Café siege​


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Jodie Newell
Love reporting on sports, politics, history and music