Skip to content

TOPSHOT - Families walk out of the Westfield Bondi Junction shopping mall after a stabbing incident in Sydney, Australia, on 13 April 2024. Australian police said they had received reports that "multiple people" were stabbed at a busy shopping centre in Sydney. (Photo by DAVID GRAY/AFP via Getty Images)

Australian Officials Praise First Responder and Bystanders After Stabbing Attack at Mall

An assailant armed with a knife killed six people and injured several more at a mall outside Sydney, Australia, on 13 April before he was shot and killed by a police officer.

The attacker—identified by police as Joel Cauchi, 40—stabbed at least nine people at Westfield Bondi Junction shopping center. Five people died at the mall, and a sixth person died at the hospital. A nine-month-old baby was along the injured, and the child’s mother was killed in the attack, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.

The attacker allegedly walked into the mall briefly on Saturday before leaving and returning with a knife. He then began to lash out and stab at people “indiscriminately,” witnesses said. His motive is unclear, although investigators say he acted alone and that the incident was not an act of terrorism. An investigation into the attack and response is ongoing.

Several bystanders and Police Inspector Amy Scott were praised by officials for their bravery and willingness to corner and confront the assailant. One bystander used a metal pole to hold off the attacker who was coming up an escalator into a children’s area while hundreds of people fled the scene, according to the Associated Press. Scott was directed to the attacker’s vicinity on the fifth floor by bystanders, and she shot the assailant after he turned and raised a knife, according to New South Wales Assistant Police Commissioner Anthony Cooke. After she shot the attacker, Scott applied CPR until medics arrived, however, the assailant died.

Witnesses who were at the mall shared stories of how retail employees led them to safe spaces in the backs of stores, locked down shops, and led bystanders out through back corridors.

“Today Bondi Junction was the scene of horrific violence, but it was also witness to the humanity and the heroism of our fellow Australians, our brave police, our first responders, and of course our everyday people who could never have imagined that they would face such a moment,” said Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.

The outburst of violence is highly unusual in Australia. After a mass shooting in 1996, the nation enacted strict gun laws, and incidents of mass violence are rare. The Bondi Junction stabbing was the deadliest mass killing in New South Wales since 2011.

When firearms and explosives become harder to access, lone actors and terrorist groups frequently turn to edged weapons, including knives, wrote Joshua Sinai for Security Management in 2021.

“There are numerous advantages for the perpetrators to use edged weapons in a terrorist attack,” he wrote. “Knives can be easily purchased at a store or taken from a kitchen drawer, thereby making it difficult to control or restrict their use in an attack. Thus, it is easy for the potential perpetrators to avoid detection because acquiring an edged weapon will not arouse suspicion that a violent attack might be imminent. Their use requires little advance planning or funding, and gaining access to their unexpecting and defenseless victims is far from challenging, especially in public areas where edged weapons are easily concealed. The shortened timeframes used in edged weapons attacks can make it difficult, although still possible, to predict the imminence and location of such attacks.”