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Top cop defends Sydney siege police response -

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TONY EASTLEY: At the Sydney Siege inquest, a police commander has explained why the gunman's first shot did not trigger a response from police to storm the building.

The shot was fired as a group of hostages escaped from the Lindt Cafe in Martin Place just after two o'clock in the morning.

New South Wales police assistant commissioner Mark Jenkins was monitoring the worsening situation from a police operations centre in western Sydney.

Brendan Trembath reports.

BRENDAN TREMBATH: In the final hours of the Sydney siege, police had access to a constant flow of information.

A listening device picked up conversations inside the Lindt Cafe. Police snipers reported what they could see through the windows, and a live feed from fixed cameras around the building provided another valuable perspective.

A security camera captured the moment when a group of hostages escaped at 2:03 in the morning.

Assistant commissioner Jenkins was in a police command centre in Parramatta more than 20 kilometres away. He did not see the live feed at the time of the escape.

He's told the Sydney siege inquest that as a police commander he couldn't be all-knowing and have every bit of information.

Colleagues in a command centre closer to the scene informed him that the gunman had fired a shot in the air and possibly over the heads of escaping hostages.

Mr Jenkins agreed that it was a significant event, but there was no change to the police approach.

The inquest has heard that the trigger for police to storm the cafe was death or serious injury to a hostage. Imminent death or serious injury were also grounds to go in.

Mr Jenkins said there was conjecture that the first shot was fired at police. There was also a view that the gunman was aiming over the heads of hostages.

Man Monis was becoming more and more frustrated and angry. His demand for some police to be pulled back was met, and cars he complained about were moved.

But his demands for an Islamic State flag and a live debate on ABC Radio with the Prime Minister Tony Abbott were ignored.

After the hostages escaped at 2:03am, Monis forced the manager, Tori Johnson, to kneel.

Again Mr Jenkins was not immediately aware of this particular development. He said, “I would have expected that piece of information to be placed before the police forward commander.”

This officer's identity has been suppressed.

Assistant commissioner Mark Jenkins said the decision to raid the cafe would have been made by the by the Police Forward Command Centre.

Police enacted an emergency action plan moments after Tori Johnson was shot dead.

Tactical officers stormed the cafe and shot and killed Man Monis.

One of the hostages, Sydney lawyer Katrina Dawson, was struck by six fragments of a police bullet or bullets. She lost consciousness and died shortly afterwards.

TONY EASTLEY: Brendan Trembath reporting there from Sydney.