Real Life

EXCLUSIVE: Lindt Siege Anniversary ‘We saved each other’

Survivor Louisa Hope has forged an unlikely friendship with her saviour, Officer A
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Louisa Hope can still remember the moment she first saw the man better known as Officer A.

It was December 16, 2014, and she was one of 18 hostages being held by a lone terrorist in the Lindt cafe in Sydney’s Martin Place.

Officer A, or Ben, was one of two Tactical Operations Unit (TOU) officers who shot and killed Man Haron Monis after a 16-hour stand-off.

Sitting beside each other at Louisa’s Sydney home eight years later, it’s hard to imagine the pair being embroiled in such a life-or-death experience.

“That one moment in time bonds you in such a peculiar way and I now feel completely safe with him, I can trust him with anything,” Louisa, 60, tells Woman’s Day.

“When the police came in to rescue us, it was incredibly overwhelming. I thought I was going to die.”

The siege occurred in 2014.

(Image: Phillip Castleton)

In the first hours of the siege, Ben and his fellow officers arrived on the scene and peered into the cafe window.

“I remember seeing Louisa and the way [the gunman] was terrorising and treating these people,” says Ben, 41.

“It made it very personal. After seeing that, I was desperate to go in, but I wasn’t allowed to.”

At 2.13am, nearly 16 hours after the siege began, officers entered the cafe and killed Monis. Louisa was caught in the crossfire and suffered shrapnel injuries to her foot.

“I knew I needed to get the hostages out of there. I saw Louisa on the ground in a very distraught state. We tried to help her walk but she was struggling. I glanced down at her left foot and saw a trail of blood following her.”

Louisa was taken to the Prince of Wales Hospital for treatment. She stayed there for almost three months.

“I was overwhelmed with gratitude that I didn’t die,” she says.

Louisa wouldn’t see Ben, who’d been an officer for 14 years at that point, for another four years, until after the 2016 inquest.

Ben’s face cannot be fully pictured due to a suppression order.

(Image: Phillip Castleton)

The pair reconnected when Ben began writing about his experience inside the cafe, following a recommendation from his psychologist.

“I was very nervous to meet Louisa,” Ben admits.

“The last time I saw her I was dragging her out of the cafe. I didn’t know how she felt.”

Those writings would eventually turn into his new book, Tiger! Tiger! Tiger! – the code words tactical police used on the day that meant they could storm the cafe.

“I’ve poured my heart and soul into this book despite my natural inhibitions,” he smiles.

“I needed something to focus on and it helped me get through such a transitional time.”

Eighteen people were held hostage inside the cafe.

(Image: Getty)

The duo are candid about the struggles they’ve experienced since the siege, which include invasive thoughts, nightmares and exhaustion, all signs of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).

“The memories stay alive – it’s still as vivid as that day. Trauma has its own sweet way with all of us,” says Louisa.

Ben, who remained an active police officer for years after the siege, struggled to lock his dark thoughts away. He was later diagnosed with PTSD, severe depression and what he describes as a “debilitating” panic disorder.

“I went downhill quickly and my wife Lisa told me I had to do something,” he says.

“It was my responsibility as a father to my three girls to get my mind right. It’s still a constant battle but it’s one that I’m not willing to back away from.

“Like the siege and the terrorist, I have to confront the threat and this time it’s my own mind.”

As well as conventional and alternative therapies, having people in his life who understand what he’s been through has been essential to Ben’s recovery.

“Having a friend as lovely as Louisa, who has also been through the same experience, helps,” says the now stay-at-home dad who says raising his children is his focus.

“That’s what I put my heart into now.”

(Image: Getty)

As the eight-year anniversary of the siege approaches, Louisa and Ben say they will honour the day in their own way.

Ben will host an event at Sydney’s Wentworth Gallery, Martin Place, where his book Tiger! Tiger! Tiger! is being launched.

Louisa will be there too, and she plans to travel to the memorial site at dusk where she will remember the siege’s victims, Tori Johnson and Katrina Dawson.

“This changed our life,” Louisa says as Ben nods in agreement.

“The siege doesn’t define us, it’s just a circumstance that happened along the way. All the grief of that can’t be swept away or hidden from, but it can be resolved.

“We were all together in that moment and that moment was a long 17 hours. But it’s something that we all share.”

Ben’s incredible inside story is available to purchase at []

Donate to Louisa’s Fund for Nurses at

Katrina Dawson and Tori Johnson were killed in the siege.

(Image: Getty)

Anyone needing support can call Lifeline on 13 11 14.

Woman’s Day is unable to fully identify Ben or picture his face due to a suppression order handed down at the 2016 NSW Coronial Inquest.

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