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Sydney siege inquest builds picture of Man Haron Monis' 'bizarre, delusional' world -

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SABRA LANE, PRESENTER: The bizarre, delusional world of Man Haron Monis is the focus of the first stage of the inquest into the Sydney Lindt Cafe siege.

It's looking into three deaths - those of the two innocent Sydneysiders and that of the man responsible for ending their lives.

For years Monis led a life of aggressive public displays and private crimes. He came to the attention of authorities both state and federal, but none was able to thwart his final act.

Adam Harvey reports.

MAN HARON MONIS: This pen is my gun and these words are my bullets!

ADAM HARVEY, REPORTER: This is the public Man Haron Monis.

MAN HARON MONIS: I care about Australia's safety, Australia's interest rather than America's interest!

ADAM HARVEY: An attention-seeking extremist who attracted police and ASIO investigation throughout his 18 years in Australia and convinced them that he was noisy but harmless.

MAN HARON MONIS: All nations, we want peace! We don't want war! We don't want Australia to be unsafe! We love Australia!

HUGO ASTON, LAWYER: Confused, delusional, narcissistic. That was generally my impression of him.

ADAM HARVEY: There was another side to him: secretive and extremely dangerous.

LARRY EMDUR, THE MORNING SHOW PRESENTER: Live, breaking news for us right here in the middle of the CBD.

KYLIE GILLIES, THE MORNING SHOW PRESENTER: One of the gunmen - or the gunmen appears to be middle-aged, wearing a white shirt with a black headband with white writing on it.

REPORTER: This is a major, major occurrence going on right now in the CBD of Sydney.

MICHAEL BARNES, NSW CORONER: We will look deeply into his background in an endeavour to identify how he was diverted down such a destructive pathway.

ADAM HARVEY: Today, the NSW Coroner began his inquiry into the siege of the Lindt Cafe. There'll be at least 100 witnesses and they'll give evidence of Monis' long history with police and intelligence agencies.

MICHAEL BARNES: Was there evidence that should have caused Monis to have been deported, detained or diverted? Once the siege commenced, could it have been curtailed without the loss of innocent lives?

JAMAL DAOUD, COMMUNITY LEADER: We thought that he's extreme, maybe, he's a thief, maybe, he's a liar, yes, he has a lot of mental health problems, maybe. But that does not mean that he can conduct himself a terrorist activity.

ADAM HARVEY: Monis demanded attention. Dressed as a religious scholar, he was a regular figure at protests organised by Sydney's Islamic community.

JAMAL DAOUD: Yes, this is a protest outside the Egyptian consulate. This is 3rd December. We - this is a rally against Israeli official visit to Australia, (inaudible).

ADAM HARVEY: He was investigated four times by ASIO. Over a 10-year period, there were more than 40 calls about him to the National Security Hotline and he became infamous for his bizarre one-man protests.

DAVID RUTLEDGE, ABC RADIO NATIONAL: He had a small tent by the fence of the - of Parliament House and I interviewed him at the mouth of the tent.

MAN HARON MONIS (ABC Radio National, 2001): The Iranian regime wants to make me silent and - because I have some secret information about Government and about their terrorist operations in the war.

DAVID RUTLEDGE: He was quite intense. The one thing I remember was that he was being a little bit dramatic. It seemed to me that he was aware that this was a media thing and that here was his chance to really kind of dial it up to 11.

ADAM HARVEY: He was convicted of writing offensive letters to the families of soldiers killed in Afghanistan.

HUGO ASTON: My view of him was that he was quite fervent, he had an agenda, a confused agenda, admittedly. But he was very much, it seemed to me, a man who enjoyed the spotlight.

COUNSEL ASSISTING: When Mr Monis first started sending these letters, the Australian Federal Police adopted a fairly moderate approach. An officer visited him in April, 2008.

ADAM HARVEY: Monis may have been an offensive nuisance, but in that same year, ASIO deemed that he was not a threat to national security. But to some people, he was a real danger. He ran a spiritual healing business that was a front for sexual advances on vulnerable women.

SOPHIE CALLAN, JUNIOR COUNSEL ASSISTING: He would frequently advise the women that he would need them undressed at least partially, but usually completely. His conduct extended from indecent touching under the guise of massage to full penetration.

ADAM HARVEY: At the time of the siege, Monis was on bail for 43 sexual assault charges.

SOPHIE CALLAN: Finally, with some, he indicated that he would himself impose curses or other harm if the women did not submit. If Mr Monis had been criminally tried for the large number of assaults he conducted, it seems more like than not that he would have been convicted and sentenced to a lengthy period in custody.

ADAM HARVEY: One of his 500 clients was a woman called Noleen Pal. They married in 2003, and for almost nine years, they lived here, in Sydney's Green Valley.

COUNSEL ASSISTING: He didn't want to be seen by neighbours. He'd close blinds. He wouldn't be photographed. He would not be questioned. He was overprotective and silent.

JAMAL DAOUD: We ask him, "Who you live with?" And he said he single at the moment. He's trying to get his wife and kids from Iran, but the Iranian Government is preventing this. So, we visited his home anyway. We insist to go and visit his home - or (inaudible) in Campsie. And there was no sign that he was living there anywhere. We could not see the bed or things like this. It was clear that it was something to deceive our eyes, you know? It was just - it was a warehouse and a lot of rubbish there, you know?

ADAM HARVEY: By 2011, Sydney's Islamic community wanted nothing more to do with him. His spiritual healing business had closed and his marriage to Ms Pal was over.

Monis tried to make new friends: the Rebels bikies.

SOPHIE CALLAN: On reflection, Mr Monis' willingness to change his appearance, adopt the garb of a new persona and his attraction to a group he perhaps saw as exercising power and influence is not so surprising. His constant goal in life appears to have been achieving significance.

ADAM HARVEY: The bikies grew tired of him and stole his motorcycle.

COUNSEL ASSISTING: It's not difficult to develop a summary of Mr Monis' life in Australia that makes him look like a man spiralling downwards.

ADAM HARVEY: Noleen Pal was murdered in 2013. Monis was charged with being an accessory to her murder and released to get on with a life that was becoming more extreme by the month.

He was a prominent figure in this protest in Sydney's Lakemba, organised by extremist religious group Hizb ut-Tahrir.

That same month, he wrote a provocative letter to Attorney-General George Brandis.

SOPHIE CALLAN: Mr Monis was seeking legal advice from the Attorney-General as to whether it was legal for him to send a letter to Caliph Ibrahim, the leader of the Islamic State.

ADAM HARVEY: ASIO's final assessment of him was in early December. Despite the convictions over the offensive letters, the sex assault and accessory to murder charges and his 18 years of increasingly extreme behaviour, Monis was deemed to be no threat to national security.

On December 15, he walked into the Lindt Cafe armed with a sawn-off shotgun.

COUNSEL ASSISTING: There's been some public speculation as to whether Mr Monis expected to emerge from the cafe alive. Reality for him may not have hit home until many hours into the siege.

SABRA LANE: Adam Harvey reporting.