2GB host Ray Hadley knew he had personal connection to hostage during marathon nine-hour siege shift

Screen Shot 2014-12-16 at 3.44.22 PMRadio presenter Ray Hadley has told Mumbrella he was motivated by a personal emotional agenda during his gruelling nine-hour shift covering the Sydney siege, after learning that his close friend’s sister – Katrina Dawson – was among those held captive in the Lindt cafe.

And tragically Ms Dawson, a barrister and mother of three, was one of the two hostages killed in the early hours of yesterday as police stormed the Martin Place building.

Hadley told Mumbrella that he learned early on during his widely talked about marathon stint in the studios of 2GB, during which he spoke several times to a hostage in the cafe, that the sister of his good friend Sandy Dawson was among those being held at gunpoint.

“I had found out mid morning that the sister of a very dear friend of mine, Sandy Dawson, was inside,” the 60-year-old host of 2GB’s morning show said. “Even though I didn’t know her personally I knew her brother very well and I was concerned for her and that was a focus for me. Of course I wanted a peaceful resolution for all the families but more notably I guess for the family I knew.

“Katrina was a sister, daughter, wife and mother and by all accounts a very good lawyer. Sandy is my barrister and during conferences I used to tell him he was a good barrister but he would say ‘you don’t have the best though, that’s my sister Katrina. She’s the one you should be talking to’.”

Hadley, whose show usually runs from 9am to noon, described the shift as the toughest he has ever done but insisted he gave no thought to stepping away from the mic as the drama unfolded.

Apart from his personal interest, Hadley said he was driven by a sense of duty to listeners and by a desire to report on a peaceful resolution.

“When you get into those sorts of shifts you get locked into it and it becomes second nature. The adrenalin gets you through in part when you are dealing with a crisis like that,” he explained. “You are wanting to disseminate information as quickly and accurately as you can and although you can’t always achieve that, you try to, and I had no thought about taking a break. It’s a job you have got to keep going at.

“Yes, it was tough but insignificant compared to what the hostages were going through.

“I also think that in times of crisis radio can be personal and a comfort. Whether it’s fires which I have reported on over the years, or something like this, there is a sense of duty as it can be a comfort to people, a portable comfort. Radio over the decades has always played that role.

“I was also aware many relatives were listening. The mother of a plumbing apprentice who was among the hostages called me. She wanted to talk to me in case her son was listening and the police wanted me to as it may have tugged at the heartstrings of the hostage taker if he had heard a mother talking about her son.”

During the day, Hadley spoke to one hostage who, under the instruction of hostage taker Man Haron Monis, listed three demands. After initially believing it may be a hoax call, the identity of the caller was confirmed by police as one of those being held.

“I sought advice from the police commissioner on what I should do and he said play for time, tell him you’re working on it,” Hadley said. “The hostage negotiator then came to my studio and spoke to a number of hostages during the day.”

Hadley said he was happy with his decision not to broadcast his initial conversions with the hostage, saying he had a “gut feeling it would do more harm than good”, a feeling that was later reinforced by detectives. He said the calls had not been recorded by the station.

He added he was wary of airing many claims on social media, instead monitoring the TV networks, although he admitted it was difficult in the circumstances to get everything spot on, citing the erroneous report that Sydney Airport had been closed as one example.

After stepping down at 6pm, Hadley said he couldn’t sleep and was “wide awake” at 2.11am when the siege came to its tragic conclusion.

Asked how the media had handled the siege, Hadley said it had “in the main” behaved responsibly in respecting police requests.

“Everyone is competing and editors and broadcasters would have been tempted to name the hostage taker but all complied with police requests not to, which was the responsible thing to do,” he said.

Steve Jones


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