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‘Get out, you need to go’ – Irishman describes ‘horrifying scenes’ inside Sydney shopping centre during stabbing attack

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Niall Naughton, who is from Boston, Co Clare is living in Sydney for the last seven months and went to centre to do some shopping.

“Usually, I don’t venture to Bondi but for some reason I did today, unfortunately,” Mr Naughton told RTÉ’s Saturday with Colm Ó Mongáin.

“I went in and I got my hair cut, which was on the same floor that everything happened,” he added.

However, it was while he was in a clothes shop fitting room when the attack began.

“I could hear what sounded like a stampede of cattle coming running through the shop. I had the curtain closed in the dressing room so I couldn’t see anything but I could hear everything,” he said.

Niall Naughton

“Next thing, somebody pulled back my curtain and said ‘get out, get out, get out, you need to go, you need to go. There’s a stabbing, someone’s stabbing, terrorism, terrorism’,” he added.

Mr Naughton said he did not have the chance to look back to see what was happening as everyone was running in one direction.

“We were escorted down to the basement, the storeroom in Zara by Zara staff, and they managed to bolt the door and we got down on the ground, and everyone was screaming, crying.

“It was absolutely horrific and there were even kids as young as four years of age in the room with us,” Mr Naughton said.

(PA Graphics)

The lack of knowledge of what exactly happened led to panic, Mr Naughton said, despite staff doing their best to get customers to safety.

“Ultimately, everyone was in such a state of panic and I think everyone was really just in such distress and overwhelmed and everyone was screaming and crying.

“It wasn’t a very calm situation. But, you know, naturally enough, you’d be in that state when you hear of someone stabbing or shooting. So it was just horrific,” Mr Naughton said.

The number of people in the basement made it difficult for the Clare man to contact his family as the crowds were so close together.

“I was even thinking of my own family at the time. What if there is a possibility that something is going to happen to me and I’m going to die? I couldn’t even reach for my phone at this stage because there was so many of us crammed into the room,” he said.

As the closest person to the emergency door, Mr Naughton said he opened it to see if it was safe for the crowd of people to evacuate and described how the scenes outside were like something from a movie.

“I was happy enough ultimately to open the door and just pop my head slowly around the corner, which was off the back of the shopping centre,” Mr Naughton said.

“As I did so, I could see hundreds and hundreds of people coming running across the road. There’s a two way street there and they were coming running across in front of cars, there were cars driving at full speed. It was like something you would see out of a movie, it was that scary,” he added.

Emergency services at Bondi Junction (Steven Saphore/AAP Image via AP)

Once Mr Naughton got out of the storeroom, he ran away from the shopping centre.

“I just kept running and that’s all I could do was run as far away from the shopping centre as I could,” he said.

It wasn’t until he saw an Irish couple running that he was able to hear details of what happened.

“Whilst I was running, there was an Irish couple beside me in their mid 30s and both of them were in distress, crying, they were actually in this shopping centre, and saw everything that had happened at the time as well. So it was then when I actually got the first sight of some accurate information about the incident that occurred,” he said.

After running about a kilometre to a nearby park, Mr Naughton called his friend, not knowing what he should do next.

“I rang her and I said, ‘look, I don’t know what to do. Where are we meant to go? Where am I meant to hide? Because ultimately, you’re in a situation where you can’t trust anyone around you.

“So it’s just a state of panic really. Thankfully, I managed to grab a taxi. And my friends collected me from the nearest safest point, which was great,” Mr Naughton said.

Mr Naughton, who works in mental health said while he would consider himself a strong person, he was shook from the events.

“This has properly shook me to the core. I never in my life thought I’d ever be in an incident where I’d be in some form of attack like that,” he said.

“It has shook me but definitely this is going to have a ripple effect towards everybody living in Sydney. But also in the context of the wider world, something like this never happens especially in an area like Sydney.

“I’ve been living here for seven months. I’ve always felt safe. I’ve always felt comfortable living here.

“I do call this home now but ultimately you turn around and you think of your family straightaway when you’re in an incident like that and it can make you quite homesick too and that you want to be with your family,” Mr Naughton said.

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