Bondi Junction massacre survivor Liya Barko reveals the chilling words Joel Cauchi said after stabbing her

Georgina Noack
The Nightly
3 Min Read
Ukraine-born Liya Barko has spoken for the first time about her harrowing ordeal at Westfield Bondi Junction.
Ukraine-born Liya Barko has spoken for the first time about her harrowing ordeal at Westfield Bondi Junction. Credit: Supplied

Liya Barko went to Westfield Bondi Junction on April 13 to buy a volleyball, it should have been an ordinary, hassle-free experience.

Instead, it was a decision that brought her face-to-face with knifeman Joel Cauchi and changed her life forever.

Ms Barko, 35, a Ukraine-born student and cleaner detailed her experience in the harrowing massacre that left six people dead and many more injured, including a nine-month-old baby.

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She is the first victim of the attack to speak about her experience in the shopping centre — sitting down a week after she was discharged from hospital, where she spent 10 days in intensive care — and recalled the moment she was confronted by knife-wielding Cauchi.

“I think he just looked at me and he decided at that moment (to attack), and then I looked at my hands and I was bleeding,” Ms Barko told 9News.

Cauchi stabbed her in the stomach and left her to bleed on the floor of the busy shopping centre.

Ms Barko remembered the killer looking at her after the attack, and uttering the chilling words “catch you” after plunging the knife into her body.

Supplied Editorial A bystander armed with a bollard tries to stop the armed man on an escalator at Westfield Bondi. Picture : 9 News
Joel Cauchi went on a violent rampage through the shopping centre. Credit: Supplied

As well as the horror, and seeing everyone’s “crying” and “scared” faces, Ms Barko recalled how a man in a green T-shirt dragged her into a nearby store and stemmed the bleeding from her wound.

She said she wanted to find that man and “at least give him a hug” to thank him for helping save her life.

The next thing Ms Barko remembers is waking up in hospital to the “ecstatic” face of her doctor — she had “never seen someone ... so happy”.

“I thought okay, if I die right now, I’ll just destroy his shift. So I can’t die right now because he’s just so happy,” she said.

Ms Barko, who emigrated to Australia from Argentina in 2022, has been unable to return to work since the attack.

“My question is how it happened? Why a schizophrenic man was there outside with a knife making a normal Saturday afternoon, he just turned it into hell?”

After the attack Queensland Police Assistant Commissioner Roger Lowe said Cauchi, 40, had been diagnosed with a mental illness at the age of 17, believed to be schizophrenia, and that his mental health had declined in recent years.

A statement from Queensland Health confirmed Cauchi had been treated for mental health issues more than a decade ago, but “his care was transferred to a psychiatrist in the private sector in 2012”.

Cauchi moved from Queensland to Sydney in the weeks before the attack, and was shot dead in the shopping centre by NSW Police Inspector Amy Scott.

The rampage left six people dead, including Westfield security guard Faraz Tahir, 30, architect Jade Young, 47, bride-to-be Dawn Singleton, 25, artist Pikria Dachria, 55, Chinese economics student Yixuan Cheng, 27, and osteopath Ashlee Good, 38, who died trying to save her nine-month-old daughter.


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