Tori Johnson's relatives mourn 'gentle, loving' man
FAMILY of Lindt cafe manager Tori Johnson have described the gut-wrenching wait for news that ultimately ended in tragedy with their nephew being hailed a hero.
As gunman Man Haron Monis began to doze, 17 hours into the siege that gripped the globe, Mr Johnson attempted to disarm the fake sheik and was fatally shot.
Mr Johnson's uncle and aunt Ron and Leilani Johnson last saw the 34-year-old devoted family man when at his grandmother May's 90th birthday at Tuckombil in August.
Ron said whenever Tori got the opportunity, he loved to escape Sydney to spend time with family in the Northern Rivers.
"He spent a lot of time here with his dad and obviously us as his family and all of his cousins; he had more family here than probably anywhere else," Ron said.
"We have a lot of fond memories of taking the boys canoeing at Nymboida, great times camping out, and family get togethers around the Northern Rivers.
"He was the most gentle, peaceful, loving person who wouldn't harm a fly."
Tori's father Ken, a world-renowned artist, recently sold his Tintenbar property.
After graduating from high school, Tori studied at Washington State Uni-versity, before making his mark in hospitality.
"He was the manager of the Lindt cafe but before that he had a wonderful resume working around the globe as a concierge in very big hotels. He was at the top of his game," Ron said.
Leilani said a peaceful day with her daughter and grandchildren instantly turned sour when her sister sent her a text saying "have you heard the shocking news there is a siege and hostages have been taken in Sydney".
"My daughter went and turned the TV on and when she saw where it was she came running to me saying 'Mum, it's Tori's cafe'."
"We were both just glued to the TV from then because we knew he was the manager and there was a good chance he was there."
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Confirmation came when Leilani phoned Tori's mum, Rosemary, who had travelled to Sydney and she spoke to his stepfather Daniel, who said "Tori is in there".
"We could just imagine him feeling so responsible, knowing the type of caring person he was," she said.
For the next three hours, Ron was unaware of his nephew's plight as he shopped at Ballina and people remarked "isn't it shocking, that siege in Sydney".
"We were in shock, just glued to the TV, while Ron had no idea it was his nephew in there," Leilani said.
"Because the press kept saying we feel it is going to have a peaceful resolution, it gave us some hope. All we could do is just pray."
Until they fell asleep, Leilani said the family was transfixed by the TV, waiting for good news.
"We got a call in the early hours of the morning from Tori's aunt who lives at Tuckombil, because his father was too distraught, saying the police had notified the family of what happened."
"I can just hear Ron saying "No! No!" and I knew something dreadful had happened.
"At that stage I hoped he had just been wounded, but she said 'No he's been shot and killed'."
She said the outpouring of tributes and flowers had been overwhelming.
"The fact that he is being called a hero gives us some comfort.
"We want him to be remembered that way because we can see him sacrificing himself to save others because he was such a loving, caring person."
Tori is survived by his parents Ken and Rosemary, his stepfather Daniel, his brother Jamie and two half sisters Camille and Rhada, and his partner of 14 years, Thomas Zinn.