Louisa Hope-From Hostage To Hero
The Australian Women's Weekly|Christmas 2019
Five years after the terrifying Lindt Cafe siege, one of its survivors has embarked on a mission to turn evil into pure, unadulterated goodness. Louisa Hope shares her journey of healing with Genevieve Gannon.

The morning of December 15, 2014 began like any other. The air was warm and Sydney’s financial district was decorated with red and green banners. Christmas was only 10 days away. The city was humming in anticipation of the festive break. Among the workers and busy shoppers were Louisa Hope and her mother, Robin, in town for a meeting. Four days prior, Louisa had been in Dallas, Texas, and was considering extending her stay, but her mother was dealing with a legal matter. “So I came home early,” she recalls. They debated whether to have breakfast at their hotel or go out, and decided they’d eat at the Lindt Cafe. It was a decision that would change the course of their lives.

Earlier that morning, a dangerous and deluded man named Man Haron Monis had also entered the Lindt Cafe. He sat in wait, watching as customers came and went. As Louisa, then 52, and Robin, 73, finished their breakfast, Monis gave cafe manager Tori Johnson a note that said Australia was under attack from Islamic State. The doors were locked, sealing 10 customers and eight staff members inside. What followed was described by then NSW coroner Michael Barnes as “terror that is hard to imagine”.

Monis stood, raised a sawn-off shotgun and said he had a bomb. Distressed hostages stood at windows, holding up black flags bearing an Islamic creed. Monis told Louisa she was his secretary and ordered her to dial triple-0. He wanted to speak with then Prime Minister Tony Abbott, and he wanted the ABC to broadcast his demands. Louisa was flustered and Monis grew impatient. He told another hostage, Jarrod MortonHoffman, to call radio station 2GB and triple-0. Then he pointed his gun at Louisa and said the police had two minutes to retreat or he would execute her.

“In the cafe you swing from: ‘It’s all going to be okay – we’re all going to get out of here’, to ‘Oh my God, we’re all going to die’,” Louisa says in her gentle voice.

The horror and heroism

She smiles bravely as she recounts the day for The Weekly. She is a kind woman with a strong Christian faith, a quick wit, a penchant for floral dresses and an eclectic collection of earrings. It was her faith that kept her strong through the ordeal, she says. But as Monis trained the muzzle of his shotgun on her, the terror was only beginning.

Monis would hold 18 people at gunpoint for almost 17 hours. It was an intensely dangerous situation, the coroner said, and “could fairly be described as torture”. The Hopes were unique among the 18 hostages in that they spent the day facing the possibility of not only their own violent deaths, but the death of a loved one.

“He was not mad in that he absolutely was in control and knew what he was doing,” Louisa says. She closes her eyes, her eyelashes gently fluttering as she relives it. “He definitely had crossed the line within his own humanity. The violence in his heart was definitely the primary leader in his life.”

As the morning wore on, tactical response groups, snipers and police negotiators took positions. Hostage and cafe worker Fiona Ma held up a sign that read: “Leave or he will kill us all. Please go.”

The gunman allowed the captives food, water and toilet breaks but he also made aggressive threats and pointed his weapon at them. He had bursts of rage. “Although at times Monis purported to engage in acts of kindness, those acts were at best self-serving or at worst highly manipulative extensions of his cruelty,” the coroner said. Around 3.30pm, three hostages escaped. John O’Brien, Stefan Balafoutis and Paolo Vassallo ran to safety. Enraged, Monis warned those inside the cafe that for every person who attempted to escape he’d kill a remaining hostage. Later, April Bae and Elly Chen made a desperate dash out the foyer door. When Monis heard news reports that two more hostages had fled, his anger was explosive. As the day drew to a close, and darkness crept in, Monis became tenser and more erratic. He exhibited a particular hatred towards the cafe manager Tori Johnson.

The foyer door was still unlocked and escape was on the minds of many remaining hostages, but Louisa, who has multiple sclerosis, knew that she and her mother would have to stay until the end. After the second escape, Tori moved closer to Robin. “What he was doing was calming mum because mum was getting angsty,” Louisa says. “Tori, very graciously, sat next to her.” Louisa could hear them talking and incredibly, laughing a little, as they comforted each other. “Tori,” Louisa closes her eyes again. “My God. Heroic. People have no idea.”

Continue reading your story on the app

Continue reading your story in the magazine

MORE STORIES FROM THE AUSTRALIAN WOMEN'S WEEKLYView All

Role model royals

As we celebrate William and Kate’s 10th wedding anniversary, Juliet Rieden asks: can the close-knit Cambridge five steady the royal ship with their duty, dignity and family values?

10+ mins read
The Australian Women's Weekly
April 2021

TOGETHER FOR CHANGE

As allegations of sexual assault and harassment swirl around our federal Parliament, Samantha Trenoweth sits down with some of the most powerful women in the land to consider the issues that have shaken the nation.

10+ mins read
The Australian Women's Weekly
April 2021

Remember the time

APRIL 1823: The first Sydney Royal Easter Show

1 min read
The Australian Women's Weekly
April 2021

“Finding my power” -Toni Pearen

Facing her demons (and a few snakes) in the jungle led to a personal and professional renaissance for Toni Pearen. Jenny Brown meets the former pop princess as she steps into a brave new life.

9 mins read
The Australian Women's Weekly
April 2021

“I was lost before Lauren”

It may seem a charmed life, but MasterChef Australia judge Jock Zonfrillo has had serious lows with the highs. He tells Sue Smethurst how love saved him.

9 mins read
The Australian Women's Weekly
April 2021

Ray of hope

Nobody would consider the parents of children with cancer lucky, but for two families who were included in a ground-breaking Australian program to fight childhood cancers, lucky is exactly how they feel. Genevieve Gannon meets those families.

10+ mins read
The Australian Women's Weekly
April 2021

My story: My journey out of darkness

When screenwriter Kristen Dunphy checked herself into a psychiatric ward, her world was unbearably dark, but with pen and paper in hand, she found the glimmer of hope that carried her home.

6 mins read
The Australian Women's Weekly
April 2021

In the name of my daughter

When her 20-year-old daughter was brutally murdered in a Queensland hostel, Rosie Ayliffe needed answers. What she uncovered compelled her to launch a campaign to expose the dangers backpackers face in Australia, she tells Juliet Rieden.

10+ mins read
The Australian Women's Weekly
April 2021

How to MAX your morning RITUALS

In our quest for the best possible wake-up and start to our day, we need a multisensory approach that draws us out of slumber and kickstarts our body clock. Here, Russell Jones, author of Sense, shares simple ways to feel good.

4 mins read
The Australian Women's Weekly
April 2021

Best friends forever

A trip down memory lane makes the perfect birthday gift for a much loved childhood friend.

3 mins read
The Australian Women's Weekly
April 2021
RELATED STORIES

TORI TOO POOR TO DUMP DEAN!

HARD-UP Tori Spelling’s marriage to Dean McDermott seems to be hanging by a thread — but an insider says she’s too broke to pull the plug!

1 min read
Globe
April 19, 2021

STOCK TRADING APP COMPANY ROBINHOOD FILES PLAN TO GO PUBLIC

Stock trading app company Robinhood said this week that it has submitted a confidential plan to go public later this year.

1 min read
AppleMagazine
AppleMagazine #491

The Sheriff Wants a Word With Robinhood

Massachusetts regulator William Galvin says the free app is encouraging novice investors to trade themselves into trouble

5 mins read
Bloomberg Businessweek
March 08, 2021

What Robinhood and Apple Have in Common

There’s a curious thread connecting Robinhood, Facebook, Twitter, and Apple this year: The technology companies are starting to take active responsibility for what happens on their platforms.

2 mins read
Bloomberg Businessweek
February 15 - 22, 2021

Well, That Was Weird

Tendies. GameStop. Silver. SPACs. What. The. Hell. A sane person’s guide to a bonkers stonks market

10+ mins read
Bloomberg Businessweek
February 08, 021

Apocalyptic Scenarios and Inner Worlds

A Conversation with Gloria Susana Esquivel

10+ mins read
World Literature Today
Winter 2021

TORI SPELLS OUT FOR DEAN: NO BABY, NO ALLOWANCE!

Threatens to freeze his ‘pay’ if he doesn’t play by her rules

2 mins read
National Enquirer
January 04, 2021

Sharing Journeys and Insights

Successful Journalist Owns the Ultimate Lifestyle Publication for Growing Entrepreneurs

4 mins read
Home Business Magazine
Winter 2021

MILEY LAPS UP CHER'S SLAMS

Celebs sharpen knives for her as chaos swirls

2 mins read
National Enquirer
January 11, 2021

Robinhood's Unexpected New Rival

Webull, owned by a Chinese company, is breaking into the crowded zero-fee brokerage business in the U.S.

6 mins read
Bloomberg Businessweek
December 14, 2020