The officer said they’d also never been made aware of text messages other counter-terrorism agencies had that revealed that Shire Ali had been watching ISIS videos with his younger brother Ali Khalif Shire Ali in 2016.
“That’s the first time I’ve heard that. [You] said potentially be involved in politically motivated violence onshore? [That’s] a concern,” SIU Officer E said.
The officer said that information, alongside intelligence that Shire Ali was becoming increasingly paranoid and was experiencing significant life stressors in the months leading up to his deadly attack, would have meant his unit would likely have given the file higher priority.
Shire Ali was classified as a national security risk after attempting to leave the country in mid-2015 and was being monitored by a string of different agencies including both national and Victorian security, intelligence and counter-terrorism units.
The inquest had earlier heard evidence that SIU officers had given lower priority to the management of Shire Ali’s file, believing the intelligence they had, which included that the 30-year-old was using cannabis, lessened the likelihood he would progress into extremism.
But the witness, known as SIU Officer E, said had they been made aware of the “concerning” information aired in the Coroners Court of Victoria on Thursday, they might have acted differently.
The officer said that during the management of Shire Ali’s file in mid-2018, the SIU was responsible for managing in excess of 300 national security “person’s of interest”, with cases prioritised on a risk basis. Of those, his team alone oversaw 32.
Now, the officer said, the SIU had more than 200.
SIU Officer E said it wasn’t until October 2018 that his unit increased their focus on Shire Ali, which included finding his address, which they’d been unaware of for some months.
On October 20 they were then made aware of his paranoid behaviour and, on October 29, that he’d excluded himself from his family and changed his name.
The inquest was told it was then that the SIU made significant attempts to track the wanted man down.
On November 9, 2018, Shire Ali drove down Bourke Street and set his car alight, before fatally stabbing Pellegrini’s Espresso Bar co-owner Sisto Malaspina and seriously injuring two others. Shire Ali was shot by police and later died in hospital.
Numerous witnesses said Shire Ali was armed with knives and yelling “Allah” and “Allahu Akbar” as he lunged at police and pedestrians.
Following failed negotiations he was shot by police and later died in hospital.
The inquest continues.
Erin covers crime for The Age. Most recently she was a police reporter at the Geelong Advertiser.