Sydney knife attacker was 40-year-old man with mental health issues, say police

 (PA Wire)
(PA Wire)

The knife attacker who killed six people in a stabbing spree at a Sydney shopping centre before being shot dead was a 40-year-old man with mental health issues, police have said.

New South Wales Police said they had identified the attacker as Joel Cauchi, of Queensland, and do not think he was motivated by terrorism.

The lone knifeman attacked shoppers on Saturday afternoon at the Westfield shopping centre in the suburb of Bondi Junction in eastern Sydney.

Four women, aged between 20 and 55, and a man who was in his 30s died in the shopping centre and another woman, 38, later died in hospital. Another eight people are receiving treatment in hospitals around Sydney for different injuries.

New South Wales Police Commissioner Karen Webb said the man who was killed was a security guard.

Assistant Commissioner Anthony Cooke said Cauchi is believed to have come to New South Wales last month and that police have spoken to his family, who are co-operating with the investigation.

He said Cauchi had hired a “very small” storage container shortly after arriving in Sydney which police have “worked through”.

He told a press conference: “As I had said last night, there is still to this point nothing that we have, no information we have received, no evidence we have recovered, no intelligence that we have gathered that would suggest that this was driven by any particular motivation, ideology or otherwise.

“We know that the offender in the matter suffers from mental health.

“We are continuing to work through the profiling of the offender but very clearly to us at this stage it would appear that this is related to the mental health of the individual involved.”

A nine-month-old infant who was attacked during the stabbing spree remains “in a serious but stable condition in hospital”, Assistant Commissioner Cooke said.

He added: “We have a number of people remaining in hospital being treated for their injuries.

“We know many are in a serious but stable condition.

“In particular, a young child remains in a serious but stable condition in hospital.”

Reports have suggested the woman who died in hospital is the infant’s mother.

At a press conference in Bondi, Commissioner Webb was asked whether Cauchi was targeting women in the attack and said: “That’s been reported to me as well and obviously will be a line of inquiry.

“And that’s concerning, but that will form an obvious part of the investigation.”

A female New South Wales Police inspector has been hailed as a hero after she confronted the attacker on her own and shot him dead as he raised a knife and lunged at her.

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese hailed the “extraordinary” bravery of those who were at the shopping centre during the attack.

“We also see the footage of ordinary Australians putting themselves in harm’s way in order to help their fellow citizens,” he said. “That bravery was quite extraordinary that we saw yesterday, the best of Australians amidst this extraordinary tragedy.”

“These events were witnessed by thousands of people who were there shopping. This is a shopping centre that is very familiar to Sydneysiders, it is very large indeed.

Mr Albanese said he had received condolence messages from leaders across the world, including US President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

“I thank them for their thoughts and prayers that we have received at this most difficult time.”

New South Wales Premier Chris Minns called the attack “horrifying” and praised the efforts of the police inspector.

“Sydney has suffered a horrifying and violent attack on innocent people who are doing something everybody does on the weekend and that is going shopping with their family and their friends,” he said.

“Of course, inspector Amy Scott, who ran towards danger, showed professionalism and bravery and without a shadow of a doubt, saved many, many lives in the last 24 hours.”

Mr Albanese and Mr Minns laid a wreath of flowers in Bondi to pay tribute to those killed, injured and affected by the attack.

The King has said he and the Queen were “utterly shocked and horrified” by the “senseless attack” in Sydney and their “hearts go out to the families and loved ones of those who have been so brutally killed”.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has said his “heart goes out” to those affected by the “truly devastating” attack.