A former employee at the cafe at the centre of an armed siege in Australia has spoken of her shock at the popular outlet hitting the headlines for the wrong reasons.
Three people were killed and four wounded after an armed man took hostages at the Lindt chocolate shop and cafe in the centre of Sydney, Australia, on Monday morning (local time).
While the world watched in horror as the situation unfolded, it was all too close for comfort for Clare Haddon who spent five months working at the shop and head office in 2013.
Speaking to the News Guardian, Clare, of Whitley Bay, said: “I first discovered what had happened when late on Monday. I checked my Facebook newsfeed and it was dominated by a former colleague inquiring on the well being of all my Lindt Facebook friends.
“Googling the story soon uncovered the sad truth and then seeing the image of my friend Harriet positioned at the window of the cafe looking incredibly frightened I realised it was a terror attack.
“I stayed up all evening and morning checking Facebook and various UK and Australian news sites for updates.
“Three of the hostages I knew personally and so was concerned over their well being.
“One has just become a father for the second time so my heart went out to his wife and little girl. Another was my drinking buddy and the store manager was a thoroughly nice guy.”
At the height of the incident, there were ten members of staff and 30 customers in the cafe, before some of the hostages managed to escape.
The siege ended after 17 hours when armed commandos stormed the cafe, with two hostages and the gunman being among the deaths.
Police later confirmed a 34-year-old man and a 38-year-old woman, who were among the hostages, were shot and pronounced dead at hospital.
The 50-year-old man who took the hostages died at hospital after the confrontation with police.
A gunman carrying a blue sports bag had reportedly entered the cafe on Monday morning and a hostage situation quickly developed, with heavily armed police surrounding the cafe and closing off the streets of the central area of Australia’s biggest city.
Early images showed some hostages apparently forced to hold a black and white flag against the window bearing the Islamic creed.
Clare, 27, is now hoping the city and country will be able to overcome the situation.
She said: “Australia and Sydney have an easy going vibe and likewise the community spirit is very affable.
“I never once felt unsafe in Sydney so this will shock the local community and indeed the country.
“I think the scars will remain for a long time and will affect people going into the Central Business District and may affect tourism.
“I would assume Lindt will provide extensive counselling to those affected but I think some of my ex-colleagues may decide to never return to work at Lindt as they will not want to be reminded of this incident.
“It will be difficult for the city to regain its confidence from this.”