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Australia: Sydney knife attacker may have targeted women

April 15, 2024

A man went on a rampage with a knife in a Sydney shopping mall, killing six people as he did so. Police continue to interview witnesses and are calling on the public to share video footage with them.

Police block a street near a crime scene at Bondi Junction in Sydney
Six people died in the attack, five of whom were womenImage: Rick Rycroft/AP/picture alliance

Australian police said on Monday they were beginning a probe into why a 40-year-old man who had a mental illness appeared to target women as he terrorized a Sydney shopping mall with a large knife, killing six people and wounding a dozen more.

Videos shared on social media showed a man pursuing mostly females as he rampaged through the Westfield shopping complex in Bondi Junction in Australia's largest city on Saturday afternoon. In the attack, five of the six people killed, and most of those injured, were females. 

"It's obvious to me, it's obvious to detectives that seems to be an area of interest that the offender focused on women and avoided the men," New South Wales State Police Commissioner Karen Webb told the Australian Broadcasting Corp (ABC).

"The videos speak for themselves, don't they? That's certainly a line for inquiry for us," Webb said. 

Three women place flowers as a tribute near a crime scene at Bondi Junction in Sydney
Mourners have been spreading flowers to pay tribute to those who lost their lives in the attackImage: Rick Rycroft/AP/picture alliance

Flags at half-mast

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese told ABC Radio, "the gender breakdown... was concerning."

Later on Monday, Albanese posted on X: "This morning across Australia, flags are flying half-mast in honor of the victims of the Bondi Junction attack. We grieve together, as one."

In a separate social media post, Albanese also lauded the "selfless courage and bravery" of Inspector Amy Scott, who halted and killed the assailant by herself.

New South Wales Minister for Police and Counter-terrorism Yasmin Catley said on Monday that the crime scene had now been handed back to the mall, after dozens of pieces of evidence had been taken by investigators.

Sydney police have since revealed the assailant had known mental health issues. On Sunday they had said there were no early indications of a terrorist or "ideological" motive.

Knife attacker kills six people in Sydney mall

All but one of the deceased are women 

One of those who was stabbed to death was a young Chinese woman who was a student, with that information coming to light on Monday.

The other women killed were a designer, a volunteer surf lifesaver, the daughter of an entrepreneur, and a new mother whose nine-month-old baby girl was injured and hospitalized.

The mother handed her wounded baby to strangers in desperation before being rushed to hospital where she later died. The baby remains in a stable condition in a Sydney hospital, according to police.

The only man killed was a Pakistani man who had been working as a security guard in the mall at the time of the rampage.

jsi/msh (AFP, Reuters)