Sydney’s Bondi Westfield mall reopens for tributes after fatal stabbings

Westfield Bondi Junction, the Sydney shopping centre where six people were killed in a stabbing attack, reopened its door to the public for the first time since the incident.

Community members on Thursday were allowed to enter the centre and pay their respects to the victims, with stores remaining closed and a white floral tribute laid out on the second floor.

Trading would resume on Friday amid heightened security across the mall, announced Scentre Group, which operates Westfield malls in Australia and New Zealand.

Many people wept as they walked through the halls, with advertisements on digital screens replaced by black ribbons.

“It wasn’t very nice walking through there, it obviously did bring back certain flashbacks,” said Vinny Jovanovski, 33, who owns the Glo Bar cafe on the fifth floor of the mall and witnessed the attacks.

“But I mean, we have a lot of love and support from the community. Everybody is being very kind to each other,” he told Reuters.

People lay flowers at a tribute for the victims in Saturday’s knife attack (Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

New South Wales premier Chris Minns walked through the centre on Thursday morning before the doors were opened for the community.

He said there would be an increased police presence in Bondi for “as long as necessary” as people were anxious following the stabbing spree last weekend. “Not just for the immediate security needs, but so that people feel confident and safe in their community,” he told ABC News Channel.

Elliott Rusanow, chief executive of the Scentre Group, said having a “reflection day” allows members of the community to return to the shopping centre.

“It’s about paying respects, it’s about coming back and feeling comfortable with coming back to Westfield Bondi,” he told reporters on Wednesday.

People walk past the entrance to the Westfield mall at Bondi Junction in Sydney (Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Five women and one man were killed and several people, including a nine-month-old baby girl, were hospitalised following a knife attack by Joel Cauchi in the Westfield shopping centre on Saturday.

The New South Wales police commissioner Karen Webb said it was “obvious” that Cauchi focused on women and “avoided women”.

The only man killed in the attack was a 30-year-old security guard, Faraz Tahir, who tried to intervene.

Inamul Haq Kauser from the Ahmadiyya Muslim Association Australia paid tribute to “hero” Tahir, who he said “tried his best to save the life of others”.

“He grabbed him first … he was the first actually, who gave his life for the safety of Australians.”

People pay their respects at the scene of the 13 April stabbing rampage at Bondi Junction in Sydney (EPA)

He said Tahir hoped to bring his family from Pakistan and work as a plumber. “He never thought in this peaceful country, this is going to happen.”

The other victims of Saturday’s attack have been named as Dawn Singleton, 25, Jade Young, 47, who worked as an architect in Sydney, 55-year-old Pikria Darchia and Chinese student Yixuan Cheng.

Police shot and killed the attacker, while authorities have ruled out terrorism and said the 40-year-old had a history of mental illness.

The deadly rampage through Westfield Bondi Junction was the earlier of two knife attacks by lone assailants over three days that have traumatized Sydney. A 16-year-old boy is in police custody after he allegedly stabbed a Christian bishop and priest during a church service on Monday in an act of “terrorism”.

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