People walk outside the Westfield shopping mall at Bondi Junction...

People walk outside the Westfield shopping mall at Bondi Junction in Sydney, Friday, April 19, 2024. The Sydney shopping mall reopened for business on Friday for the first time since it became the scene of a mass stabbing in which six people died on Saturday, April 13. Credit: AP/Mark Baker

SYDNEY — Shoppers and workers returned to a “really quiet” Sydney mall Friday, where six days earlier an assailant stabbed six people to death and wounded more than a dozen others in an attack that police believe targeted women.

Westfield Bondi Junction mall near world-famous Bondi Beach had opened Thursday, although shops inside were closed, for a “community reflection day.” New South Wales state Premier Chris Minns described it as “the first step in healing” in what has been a traumatic week for Australia’s largest city.

There was a large police and security presence, with guards wearing black stab-proof vests posted on each level of the mall. Visitors numbered in the hundreds, but were fewer than the usual expected on a Friday during school holidays.

One visitor, Anthony Simpson, shopping with his two children, described the atmosphere at the usually busy shopping center as “somber."

“It’s got an eerie feeling, I guess you could say,” Simpson said.

Another shopper, local Bondi resident Stephen Roy, simply said the mall was “really quiet."

Authorities said counseling services were available on site for retail workers and visitors.

Police officers walk into the Westfield shopping mall at Bondi...

Police officers walk into the Westfield shopping mall at Bondi Junction in Sydney, Friday, April 19, 2024. The Sydney shopping mall reopened for business on Friday for the first time since it became the scene of a mass stabbing in which six people died on Saturday, April 13. Credit: AP/Mark Baker

Echoing similar calls made by the NSW government, the union that represents retail workers asked shoppers to be mindful and sensitive of how they interact with the shopping center's staff.

“It’s going to be a pretty confronting day for many people,” SDA NSW union secretary Bernie Smith said to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation on Friday. “If you are in those shops, sure, you should acknowledge what’s happened, but don’t retraumatize workers by asking them what happened on that day.”

A large floral tribute outside the mall that began on Sunday has continued to grow since the attack, as Sydney residents try and come to terms with the shocking attack.

A condolence book and a floral tribute had also been set up inside the shopping mall for visitors to pay their respects.

A security guard watches as shoppers return to the Westfield...

A security guard watches as shoppers return to the Westfield shopping mall at Bondi Junction in Sydney, Friday, April 19, 2024. The Sydney shopping mall reopened for business on Friday for the first time since it became the scene of a mass stabbing in which six people died on Saturday, April 13. Credit: AP/Mark Baker

A candlelight vigil at nearby Bondi Beach is planned on Sunday evening to honor the victims.

The assailant, Joel Cauchi, was shot and killed by a police officer during his knife attack in the mall. The reopening of shops Friday coincided with a teenager being charged by police with terrorism offenses for the attack Monday at a Sydney church that wounded two Christian clerics.

The teen spoke in Arabic about the Prophet Muhammad being insulted after he stabbed Bishop Mar Mari Emmanuel and the Rev. Isaac Royel during the Assyrian Orthodox service. He was later overpowered by parishioners, sustaining severe hand injuries.

Some have said the mall attack should be designated an act of terrorism if investigators found Cauchi's motivation was to target women. Five of the six people he killed were women, while the man who died was a mall security guard. The majority of those wounded were also women.

Police have ruled out terrorism, and Cauchi's family said he had a long history of schizophrenia.

Australia's Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus would not be drawn into the suggestion but said more needed to be done to prevent violence against women.

“I think we can talk about violence against women without blurring lines into something else,” he told ABC Radio on Friday.

——

Smith reported from Newcastle, Australia.

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