Man goes on stabbing spree in Syndey mall, two friends and police thwart the killer

We ran a few meters behind the policewoman until we found the attacker again. She stood in front of him. “Drop the knife, put it down,” she commanded. He hesitated for a few seconds. Suddenly, he started running toward me.

  • 1 week ago
  • June 8, 2024
7 min read
Silas Despreaux and his friend Damien played a major role in stopping a man on a killing spree in a Syndey mall. | Photo courtesy of Silas Despreaux Silas Despreaux and his friend Damien played a major role in stopping a man on a killing spree in a Syndey mall. | Photo courtesy of Silas Despreaux
journalist’s notes
interview subject
Silas Despreaux is a construction professional with eight years of industry experience in Australia. Originally from Clermont-Ferrand, a city near Lyon in France, Silas moved to Australia at the age of 24. He brings a diverse background and a robust skill set to his role in the construction sector.
background information
A tragic incident at the Westfield shopping center in Sydney resulted in six fatalities and multiple injuries due to a stabbing attack. The assailant, 40-year-old Joel Cauchi from Queensland, had a history of mental health issues. Diagnosed with a mental illness at the age of 17, his condition had deteriorated significantly in recent years despite ongoing treatment. Joel, who had never been previously arrested or charged, reportedly targeted women due to his frustrations stemming from a lack of social skills and unsuccessful attempts to form romantic relationships. Five of the six victims were women, as detailed in the reports on Infobae and ABC.

SYDNEY, Australia — People sometimes recognize me on the street and congratulate me, which makes me a little uncomfortable. If I’m known at all, it’s because of a tragedy. My friend and I intervened to stop a man who was stabbing and killing people in a shopping mall. When I think about my actions that day, I have mixed feelings. I know I helped, but I can’t shake the feeling that I could have done more.

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Danger at Westfield Bondi Junction shopping center: “There’s someone stabbing people!”

On Saturday, April 13, 2024, my friend Damien Guerot and I took advantage of our day off and went to the Westfield Bondi Junction shopping center. Shortly after noon, the place remained quiet. We finished looking at a computer Damien wanted to buy, and then he decided to accompany me to the gym.

As we walked up the escalators, two young women ran down next to us. They seemed flustered as if something happened to them. At the time, I did not realize they were scared, just in a hurry. We continued up the stairs. At the bottom of the escalator, I realized what lay ahead. A woman shouted, “There’s someone stabbing people!” She looked terrified, and I could tell she meant it.

Some people stood still, while others began to descend to the lower level, heeding the woman’s warnings. Damien and I felt the need to see what was going on. Something inside us urged us to move forward. We hadn’t fully grasped what the woman was saying, and we needed to see to understand. It felt instinctive.

We advanced a few meters down the mall corridor, with no sign of the attacker. We heard nothing, and no one was running. Suddenly, we saw him. Immediately, I felt as if I had entered a bubble. My mind cleared, focusing exclusively on the details needed to resolve the situation. I do not remember specifics about the attacker because my mind perceived him only as a silhouette carrying a knife. Behind him, I saw people lying on the ground, already stabbed.

Confronting an armed man: “I threw the pole at the attacker”

I thought to myself, “Look for something to fight with,” and got moving. Damien and I moved in sync, without saying a word as if we knew what we had to do. We moved away from the attacker to find something we could use as a weapon. We found some metal poles, heavy and awkward to maneuver, but we knew we didn’t have much time or many options. When we went back to find him, he had gone down some stairs. In those seconds, he continued stabbing people mercilessly.

With my heart racing and my body moving on autopilot, I went to look for him. He was below me, and I thought about throwing the pole at him but hesitated, fearing I might hit other people. Instead, I ran toward the stairs with Damien behind me. I couldn’t see him, but I felt his presence.

The attacker started to go down a few floors, and we chased after him at full speed. I wasn’t thinking about anything, just hoping to stop him. At one point, I heard screaming and turned my head toward a staircase where many people were trying to escape. I realized the man remained close to them. “Don’t keep coming down,” I shouted. Confusion ensued.

Some people kept running without knowing why, and others walked in a relaxed state, unaware of the situation. I pushed through the crowd to go up a level, and as soon as I could, I threw the pole at the attacker. For the first time, I saw his face. In his eyes, I saw uncontainable anger, and I knew from that moment he would haunt me.

A policewoman intervenes, fires two shots at the attacker

Though I was not fully conscious of it at the time, I felt scared. When the experience ended, I saw pictures of the attacker and realized he was tall but slim. In the heat of the moment, however, the fear and adrenaline made him seem muscular.

After throwing the pole, I ran to find another object. I saw a nearby exit and headed for the street, frantically searching for something useful. I wanted to find a grocery cart to keep a distance from the attacker. Finding nothing, I decided to turn back. Damien was confronting him, and I started yelling at him to throw the pole.

As soon as he did, we both ran outside again. We saw a patrol car approaching and started jumping and waving our arms wildly to get their attention. The car stopped, and a policewoman got out. We tried to explain what was happening, but we were too confused to organize our speech. She, however, entered the shopping mall and took the lead.

People inside pointed out that the attacker had gone back up, and a second chase began. A man joined us. We ran a few meters behind the policewoman until we found the attacker again. She stood in front of him. “Drop the knife, put it down,” she commanded. He hesitated for a few seconds. Suddenly, he started running toward me. Fear took hold of me; I couldn’t run anymore, and I thought he would kill me. “Shoot,” I shouted desperately. The policewoman fired. The roar of two shots preceded the collapse of the attacker, who lay sprawled on the ground, bleeding.

I feel proud of my reaction, but I think I could have done more

Although it’s horrible to say, in that moment I felt happy. There was a dead man in front of me, but I couldn’t feel compassion or shock. I only felt relief that I was safe. If he hadn’t been stopped, he would have attacked me, and maybe I would have been the body on the ground. For an instant, I felt the story came to an end. However, I quickly remembered that people were still dying in the shopping mall.

I approached the officer to ask if she needed me as a witness. She remained shocked, having killed someone, and couldn’t hold a conversation with us. She simply said to talk to her colleagues outside. We left our information with them so they could locate us. People inside didn’t know it all ended and continued running to escape from the attacker.

The adrenaline remained high, and Damien and I needed to lower our emotions. We walked toward the beach. It felt strange to be there. It’s a beautiful place, with soft sand, warm water, and blue skies, where people relax. Minutes before, we had been in the middle of people running. We experienced panic and death.

As I resumed life, at home, I constantly thought about what happened, making it hard to move forward. I felt lucky to experience this with Damien, my friend and co-worker. We spent a lot of time together and talked about how we felt. Everyone calls us heroes. People stop us on the street to ask for photos. It’s uncomfortable that we became known because of a tragedy. I feel proud of my reaction, but I think I could have done more. If we had acted differently, we might have subdued the attacker in the first encounter and prevented him from stabbing more people.

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