Katrina Dawson was having a Monday morning coffee with a colleague at the cafe down the street from their law firm’s office when the nightmare began.
The 38-year-old mother of three was among 17 people taken hostage by a gun-wielding man with extremist Muslim views who seized control of the Lindt Chocolate Cafe in the heart of Sydney’s central business district.
The siege last around 16 hours before police stormed the cafe in the middle of the night. The gunman was killed, but so were Dawson and another hostage, Tori Johnson, the manager of the cafe.
As the two victims’ identities were revealed Tuesday morning, tributes began to pour in.
Members of the public paid tribute to Dawson and Johnson, as well as the hostages who survived the siege, laying flowers at Martin Place, the street where the cafe is situated.
Authorities said they also planned to put out condolence books later in the day.
Flags on government buildings in New South Wales, the state containing Sydney, were flying at half-staff Tuesday to honor “those who tragically lost their lives,” said the state premier, Mike Baird.
Tori Johnson: ‘Our beautiful boy’
“We are so proud of our beautiful boy Tori, gone from this earth but forever in our memories as the most amazing life partner, son and brother we could ever wish for,” Johnson’s family said in a statement.
The 34-year-old had worked for Lindt for more than two years, the company said.
“He was a great ambassador for our company and the store that he managed, which he cared about passionately,” said Lindt Chief Executive Stephen Loane. “He was a dedicated professional who always built a great rapport with his customers and was much loved by the Lindt team.”
Johnson was reportedly killed as he tried to wrestle the gun away from the hostage taker, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) reported, citing unidentified sources. Police haven’t confirmed that account.
One of Johnson’s former colleagues from an earlier job, Tony Manno, told the ABC that he was devastated by the news.
“Tori was a great guy, a good guy to be around,” said Manno, who worked with Johnson for a number of years at the Adria Rybar & Grill in Sydney. “He got on really well with all the staff.”
Johnson’s former boss there, Peter Manettas, told The Daily Telegraph that “family was everything to him and not a single day would go by when he wouldn’t talk about them.”
Katrina Dawson: ‘One of our best and brightest’
Dawson’s death has shaken the legal community in Sydney.
“Katrina was one of our best and brightest barristers who will be greatly missed by her colleagues and friends at the NSW Bar,” said Jane Needham, the president of the New South Wales Bar Association. “She was a devoted mother of three children, and a valued member of her floor and of our bar community.”
Dawson worked for the firm Eight Selborne Chambers, whose offices are about 70 meters from the Lindt cafe.
“A morning coffee at the Lindt Cafe was part of her daily routine,” reported The Australian, a daily newspaper. On Monday, she was there with a pregnant colleague, the newspaper said.
Dawson was trying to protect her colleague when she was killed, The Courier Mail reported without saying where it got the information.
Police said two pregnant women held hostage by the gunman were hospitalized after the siege and are in stable condition.
Dawson’s three children — two girls and a boy — are aged 8, 5 and 3, local media reported.
A high-flying student who graduated of the University of New South Wales, Dawson specialized in commercial, bankruptcy and competition law. Her brother and husband are also lawyers.
She is the daughter of a prominent businessman, Alexander “Sandy” Dawson, the former chief executive of the food company Arnott’s, and the sculptor Jane Dawson, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.