In Australia, crowds join Bondi Beach candlelight memorial for mall stabbing victims

Crowds gathered at Sydney’s iconic Bondi Beach on Sunday for a candlelight memorial to the six people killed by a knife-wielding assailant at a nearby shopping centre.

Many hundreds sat on the grass in a beachside park to grieve for the five women and a Pakistani male security guard who died in the April 13 attack at the Westfield Bondi Junction shopping complex.

The killings stunned many Australians, who are largely unaccustomed to such violent crime.

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A man holds a cross during a candlelight memorial, recognising the victims of a fatal stabbing attack at Bondi Junction Westfield shopping centre, in Sydney, Australia, on Sunday. Photo: Reuters

“When I heard this, I cried. Because it is new to us. We don’t have this happen often. It’s a shock,” said 56-year-old local cafe owner Daniela Pontidas.

“I know a lot of people that were impacted in some way,” she said. “I feel like this has burst Australia’s bubble a bit.”

Paul Inggall, 50, said he had been at Bondi Junction in the morning hours before the attack.

“These things don’t happen often in Australia but when they do, I think they have a profound impact,” he said. “I think it really moves the community, so I want to be a part of it.”

The mentally ill knifeman, 40-year-old Joel Cauchi, was tracked down, shot and killed by police inspector Amy Scott, who attended the service.

As waves crashed into the beach at dusk, a choir sang the hymn “Keep Your Loving Arms Around Me”.

An Indigenous didgeridoo was played as people lit candles in the breezy evening.

“Bondi is tough and this is a strong community, and we will get through this,” said New South Wales Premier Chris Minns.

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Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese (left) lights a candle during a candlelight vigil to honour the victims of the Bondi Junction tragedy at Bondi Beach, in Sydney, Australia, on Sunday. Photo: EPA-EFE

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese offered the condolences of the nation for the six lives “snatched away on that hardest of Saturday afternoons”.

“We mourn for all the joy they should have known,” he said.

Cauchi’s parents say he was diagnosed with schizophrenia at 17 but stopped taking medication, later leaving their Queensland home and dropping out of treatment.

His women victims were a designer, a volunteer surf lifesaver, the daughter of an entrepreneur, a Chinese university student, and a new mother.

The 38-year-old mother, Ashlee Good, handed over her bleeding nine-month-old girl Harriet to two strangers in desperation before being rushed to hospital, where she died.

The baby was also taken to hospital and is said to be doing well.

The shopping centre reopened for business on Friday in a sombre mood, with floral tributes to the dead piled up inside and shoppers stopping to sign a book of condolence.

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New South Wales inspector Amy Scott attends the candlelight vigil for the victims of a fatal stabbing attack at Bondi Junction Westfield shopping centre, in Sydney, Australia, on Sunday. Photo: Reuters

Australian leaders have praised the “heroes” of the Bondi attack, including the police and emergency responders.

The government has granted permanent citizenship to Frenchman Damien Guerot, who fended off the attacker with a bollard; and it is expected to do the same for wounded Pakistani security guard Muhammad Taha.

Despite the rarity of such crimes, two days after the mall attack, an Assyrian Christian bishop was brutally stabbed during a live-streamed service in western Sydney.

The bishop has said he is recovering in hospital. A 16-year-old suspect has been charged with committing “a terrorist act”.

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