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Cath Burn denies intruding in Lindt siege

AAP logoAAP 15/08/2016 By Daniel McCulloch

NSW Police Deputy Commissioner Cath Burn has denied offering a senior commander any suggestions around negotiation strategies when the pair spoke during the final hours of the deadly Sydney siege.

Ms Burn, the state's head of counter-terrorism, entered the witness box to give her highly-anticipated evidence at the Lindt cafe inquest late on Monday afternoon.

Along with Commissioner Andrew Scipione and Acting Deputy Commissioner Jeff Loy, Ms Burn denies playing an operational role during the December 2014 siege.

NSW Coroner Michael Barnes is now seeking to determine whether any of the police chiefs inappropriately interfered - or failed to intrude when they ought to have - during the Martin Place stand-off.

Much of Ms Burn's evidence on Monday afternoon centred on a phone conversation with Commander Mark Jenkins shortly before 11pm during the siege.

Ms Burn said she was off-duty and had called the commander after receiving a call from a journalist regarding releasing the identity of gunman Man Haron Monis.

"I rang him and informed him about the media interest regarding the identity (of the gunman) and that they (the media) understood the name was being withheld," Ms Burn said.

"As far as I understand, he confirmed that, it was part of the strategy to keep it out of the media."

Ms Burn insisted the pair did not discuss the state of negotiations, nor did Mr Jenkins identify any problems or issues.

The deputy commissioner flatly rejected making any recommendations around negotiation strategies.

Counsel assisting the coroner, Jeremy Gormly SC, put to Ms Burn that making such suggestions would have been a sensible and reasonable course of action and well within her entitlement.

Mr Gormly said by that point in the siege, negotiators had failed to secure direct contact with Monis or make any strategic changes.

However, Ms Burn insisted she was not in a position to do so.

"I was not on duty at that time. Acting Deputy Commissioner Loy had taken over the role that I had. I would not think it reasonable for me to make that suggestion at that time," Ms Burn said.

"I did not know what had occurred from the time I left (at around 10pm), I had not been briefed on anything.

"By that time other information may have come to their knowledge that I did not know."

Earlier, Ms Burn said there was "a very real need" for executive officers to leave such matters to police in operational posts, adding such an intervention may even prove dangerous.

The deputy commissioner was also pressed about text messages she sent during and soon after the siege which were deleted and have not been recovered.

Many of the texts related to setting up briefings or meetings, while others were received from members of the public wanting to pass on their support to police, she said.

Ms Burn said other than a text message to Mr Loy soon after the siege had ended, asking for a debrief on the execution of an "emergency action" (EA) which saw police storm the building, she couldn't recall any others which pertained to an EA.

It was also "highly unlikely" any of the deleted text messages related to progress in negotiations, she said.

"To my knowledge and my recollection none of the texts I had were texts I thought I needed to keep, that I needed to retain," Ms Burn said.

Ms Burn is set to return to the inquest on Tuesday morning.

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