Siege gun a terrible reminder at inquest

The appearance of the squat, ugly weapon used by killer Man Haron Monis came as a shock in the orderly courtroom confines of the Sydney siege inquest.

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That the gun would be produced was no surprise – counsel assisting the inquest Jeremy Gormly SC had warned in advance the sawn-off shotgun had to be shown.

But after recent hearings dominated by lengthy legal argument, the brutal weapon was a jarring return to the dreadful reality of the business before the court.

The families of victims Katrina Dawson and Tori Johnson were absent from the court during the evidence.

Counsel assisting the inquiry Jeremy Gormly SC had given notice that the grim exhibit would be shown and the only siege survivor present was Louisa Hope.

Outside the inquest, Ms Hope said it was a challenging experience.

Grim as it was, it was necessary in an inquest that must give the coroner a full understanding of every element of the siege.

NSW Police crime scene officer Walter Murphy demonstrated the gun’s lethal capabilities, using dummy cartridges to show how it could fire four shots in as little as five seconds seconds.

The gun was roughly cut down from over 1.2m to just 58cm, Mr Murphy said, most likely by someone who wasn’t highly skilled with their tools.

It showed signs of wear and possibly poor maintenance, but Mr Murphy was unable to offer any insight into its prior use.

The history of the gun remains murky: imported into Australia in the 1950s, it has never been registered and is believed to have come from the “grey market” of 250,000 cheap, illegal rifles and shotguns available in Australia.

There have been objections to images of the gun being shown but Mr Gormly said at the opening of the current hearing that it served a purpose.

“It is important that an image be shown in circumstances where so worryingly it is one of a great number of firearms floating around on the grey market in this country, capable of doing great harm in the wrong hands,” he said.

Even as the inquest goes on, police are continuing their investigations. How Monis got his hands on the gun, Mr Gormly said, is still very much an active line of inquiry.