Memorial services held for Sydney siege victims

White Lady funeral directors carry the coffin of Tori Johnson during a funeral service in Sydney, Australia, Tuesday, Dec. 23, 2014. Johnson was one of three people including the gunman who were killed during a siege in the Lindt cafe coffee shop in Sydney on Tuesday morning Dec. 16, 2014.(AP Photo/Rob Griffith)

SYDNEY (AP) — Two victims of a deadly siege in Sydney were remembered Tuesday at private memorial services, one week after a gunman took them hostage inside a downtown cafe.

The memorial for Tori Johnson was held at a church just around the corner from the Lindt Chocolat Cafe, where he and 17 others were taken hostage on Dec. 15 by a shotgun-wielding Man Haron Monis, a 50-year-old Iranian-born, self-styled cleric with a long criminal history.

The standoff ended 16 hours later when police stormed the cafe in a barrage of gunfire to free the captives. Johnson, the cafe’s 34-year-old manager, and 38-year-old lawyer Katrina Dawson were killed, along with Monis.

Johnson has since been lauded for his heroism, after unconfirmed reports emerged that he tried to wrestle the shotgun away from Monis, sacrificing his life and allowing several of his fellow hostages to escape before police moved in.

Johnson’s partner of 14 years, Thomas Zinn, and father, Ken Johnson, helped to carry the white coffin into St. Stephen’s Uniting Church. Tibetan monks chanted prayers at the end of the service and accompanied Johnson’s coffin to a waiting hearse.

Later, Prime Minister Tony Abbott joined hundreds of mourners at the University of Sydney for a memorial service honoring Dawson, a highly respected lawyer and mother of three young children.

Dawson’s friend and fellow hostage Julie Taylor, who is pregnant, said Dawson made her want to be a mother.

“Katrina’s greatest love was the love for her family,” Taylor said. “If there is one thing above all that we can learn from Katrina’s example, it’s how to love, to show love, to use love and by loving to make other people and places better.”

Johnson’s family and friends, along with several hostages who survived the siege, laid flowers at a makeshift memorial set up in Martin Place, a plaza in the heart of the city where the cafe is located. One woman kissed her fingers and pressed them against a flower-framed portrait of Johnson and Dawson that lay among the blooms.

Volunteers, meanwhile, removed thousands of bouquets of flowers that mourners have left at a separate site near the cafe over the past week, ahead of predicted rainy weather. The flowers will be turned into mulch that officials hope to use at a permanent memorial, while cards and letters left to honor Johnson and Dawson will be preserved in memory books for their families.

The permanent memorial will be set up after officials consult with the families, New South Wales Premier Mike Baird said.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

WTNH NEWS8 provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review. Also, you can now block any inappropriate user by simple selecting the drop down menu on the right of any comment and selection "Block User" from there.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s