'Your mum has been shot': siege phone call to family
A FORMER Gympie woman and her partner were woken early Tuesday morning to be told a close family member had been shot in the back while being held hostage in the Lindt cafe siege in Sydney's CBD.
The Mt Coolum residents, who wish to remain anonymous, received a phone call from the emergency staff of Sydney's Royal Prince Alfred at 2.10am, just after it was reported the siege ended.
"I'd just woken from a deep sleep when I was told 'your mum has been shot'," the man said.
The nightmare unfolded when the Mt Coolum resident was told his sister, who had been with his mother at the cafe, could not be located. News was flooding in from all sources that two of the five remaining hostages of the siege were dead, as well as the gunman.
The woman alerted relatives in Gympie, while her partner was able to speak to his 74-year-old mother in hospital by telephone.
She told her son that at the end of the siege "they were shielding the gunman". His mother had shrapnel from stun grenades through her shoulder and arms, but was in a stable condition.
"I got to speak to my mum, but she didn't know where my sister was, they'd been split up in the chaos," he said.
It took almost an hour in the dark hours of the morning, glued to the constant news feeds, filled with phone calls to Sydney police and conversations with his mother before the former Gympie woman and her partner learnt the man's 52-year-old sister was alive.
They were told she was wounded with shrapnel to the foot and cuts to the stomach, but in a stable condition.
"We found out my sister was in another hospital, but in that time I saw on the news that two were dead. I was thinking my sister was dead - I was thinking the worst case scenario was I've got one here and one's gone," the man said.
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The mother and sister had been in Sydney's CBD on business on Monday and had gone to the Lindt cafe in the morning for a break; a place they didn't normally go to.
The son had been aware that his mother and sister were in the CBD and sent them a message when news of the siege unfolded.
When he got no reply from his family, he thought they could be in lock down in a nearby building. Later he heard the pair had not shown up for a dinner date with his sister's partner.
As the former Sydney man, along with the rest of the nation watched a stream of news and social media updates on the siege roll in, he never guessed his mother and sister made up the number of victims.
"I didn't put the puzzle together, because in your wildest dreams you'd never think that," he said.
"I was watching it through social media and TV during the day and thinking how bad it is and how upsetting it would be for the families that have people in there," he said.
"Just before bed I sent them a text saying - "Haven't heard from you all day - I hope you're ok."
"The hardest part has been really finding out that your family is part of it," he said.
"Mum's never judged a religion in her life, we grew up having Muslims over for dinner one night and Catholic priests the next.
"It's not about the religion; it's about the extremist side.
"As I'm packing my bags to go to Sydney I'm still trying to come to grips with it. It's our nation - we're on home soil. That's as real as they say.
"But I'm not getting angry about it - I'm looking after my family."