Horror in Sydney

The stabbings in Sydney are so close to home.

They struck immediate terror in the Westfield Mall at Bondi Junction.

They strike wider fear across Australia and neighbouring New Zealand.

Memories from the stabbing at Countdown Dunedin Central in 2021 amplify the horror for some in Dunedin. Four people were stabbed then by a 42-year-old man.

Fortunately, no-one was killed, although it was a near thing, and severe injuries were inflicted.

In Sydney, six people were fatally stabbed and another 12 injured in a 15-minute frenzy by Joel Cauchi (40).

The mother of a baby, also stabbed, is among the dead.

Many New Zealanders will have visited that shopping centre. Many more will have family in Sydney. Everybody recoils at the thought of carefree shopping turning to carnage, of an afternoon with family and friends ending in tragedy.

The victims could have been any of us and anywhere.

This wasn’t a late-night mass stabbing in a dangerous part of town. This wasn’t some gang fight. This was in a ubiquitous Westfield mall on an everyday Saturday afternoon.

A police car is parked outside Westfield Bondi Junction Mall following Saturday’s stabbings in...
A police car is parked outside Westfield Bondi Junction Mall following Saturday’s stabbings in Sydney, Australia. PHOTO: REUTERS
Sadly, death — no matter how prudent we are — is often unfair and random. The innocent were in the wrong place and at the wrong time.

It is painful to read about the lives of the victims. Each has their own interesting story. Each has had their future obliterated.

Society seeks scraps of consolation in the face of the incomprehensible.

Although it makes utterly no difference to those killed and little to their families, further potential division and hatred would have been provoked should the killer have been, say, a white supremacist or an Islamic extremist.

It is reported there was no evidence the attack was driven by ideology. Sickening, however, are the suggestions women were specifically targeted. The only man killed was a security guard.

Mr Cauchi, shot dead by police officer Amy Scott, suffered from mental health issues. There is a lot yet to be understood in this area in Mr Cauchi’s history, his circumstances and his treatment.

The community, and rightly so, focuses on the bravery amid the shock.

New South Wales Premier Chris Minns said many people ran "towards danger", including Inspector Scott, to confront and corner the murderer — "instinctive bravery under terrible circumstances".

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said the bravery was extraordinary, the best of Australians amidst this extraordinary tragedy.

Courage was also starkly evident in the Dunedin 2021 stabbings. Countdown store manager at the time, Dallas Wilson, restrained the assailant, receiving life-threatening knife wounds in the process.

Corrections officer Jorge Fuenzalida also intervened, he and his wife, Vanessa Miller-Andrews, both being badly injured.

Mr Albanese said there was no doubt Insp Scott saved lives and so too had Australia’s robust gun controls, implemented following the Port Arthur massacre in Tasmania in 1996. The perpetrator then killed 35 people.

While the knife was deadly, Mr Albanese said, there would have been hundreds of deaths if the Sydney killer had had an automatic rifle.

"It is an important reminder of how important it is that we do have strong gun laws in this country."

Gun laws are under review in New Zealand. Sydney’s experience should cause more than just a pause for thought about diluting present controls.

Guns are a default weapon in United States incidents. Most likely, many, many more would have died in a crowded shopping centre there.

History teaches us mass murders can take place in the most unlikely places. Dunedin, for instance, will never forget the Aramoana massacre of 1990.

There is only so much safety that practical security measures can provide. We live in an open society and occasional random and senseless violence will, sadly, eventuate.

This latest dreadful incident won’t be the last, no matter how hard we try to limit the dangers.

In the meantime, our hearts go out with sadness to all the loved ones of the Sydneysiders who simply went out shopping one Saturday afternoon and never came back.