Joel Cauchi named as Bondi Westfield attacker who stabbed shoppers

The family of Bondi Junction attacker Joel Cauchi have described his actions as “truly horrific”, offered condolences to the loved ones of the victims and expressed support for the police officer who ended the stabbing spree by shooting him dead.

Police say Cauchi had mental health problems and that he had moved from Queensland to New South Wales only a month before he took a knife into the crowded Sydney mall on Saturday afternoon and killed six people in an unprovoked stabbing spree.

In a statement issued late on Sunday and distributed by police, Cauchi’s family said they were “absolutely devastated”. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of the victims and those still undergoing treatment at this time,” they said.

“Joel’s actions were truly horrific, and we are still trying to comprehend what has happened. He has battled with mental health issues since he was a teenager.

“We are in contact with both the New South Wales Police Force and Queensland Police Service and have no issues with the Police Officer who shot our son as she was only doing her job to protect others and we hope she is coping alright.”

NSW police earlier on Sunday indicated they were looking into the possibility that Cauchi targeted women in the attack.

Police in Queensland, where the 40-year-old lived before moving to New South Wales about a month ago, said they were also investigating claims that Cauchi had an interest in knives.

Cauchi killed five women and one man. The women included 47-year-old Jade Young, 25-year-old Dawn Singleton, 38-year-old Ashlee Good, 55-year-old Pikria Darchia, and one other woman who has not been named. Security guard Faraz Tahir, 30, was also killed.

Cauchi did not have a fixed address in Sydney and had been living in his vehicle, police said. Guardian Australia understands that police do not believe he knew any of his victims.

“We are continuing to work through the profiling of the offender but very clearly to us at this stage it will appear related to the mental health of the individual,” the NSW police assistant commissioner, Anthony Cooke, said.

“There is still to this point nothing – no information we have received, no evidence we’ve recovered, no intelligence that we have gathered – that would suggest that this was driven by any particular motivation, ideology or otherwise.”

Asked if police had any information to suggest he targeted women, Cooke said detectives would “canvass all possibilities”.

The NSW police commissioner Karen Webb said whether or not Cauchi targeted women would be an “obvious line of inquiry”.

“That’s been reported to me as well and obviously that will be an obvious line of inquiry,” Webb told reporters. “And that’s concerning, but that will form part of the investigation.

“I mean, anyone seeing that footage can see that for themselves.”

Webb said “at least eight” of the 12 people injured were women.

Cauchi had moved from the Brisbane area and rented a “very small” storage unit in Sydney which police searched overnight, Cooke said.

Cooke would not say what police found in the unit, which Guardian Australia understands was only about 1 cubic square metre in size.

The Queensland police assistant commissioner, Roger Lowe, said Cauchi had not been prosecuted or charged with any offence in Queensland, including domestic violence.

“There are no [domestic violence] orders in place,” Lowe told reporters on Sunday.

Related: Police officer who shot Bondi Junction attacker wielding a ‘massive’ knife hailed as a hero

It is believed Cauchi had an interest in knives. Lowe confirmed QPS were investigating an incident in early 2023 in which Cauchi reportedly called police after his family took away his knives.

“This gentleman was diagnosed with a mental illness at the age of 17 and has had treatment over the years,” Lowe said. “From our investigations… just in the last number of years, his mental health has declined.”

The owner of a knife-sharpening business in Queensland described Cauchi as an “odd” and “strange” guy. Speaking on the condition of anonymity, the business owner said Cauchi had asked him to sharpen his two “everyday knives” roughly three years ago.

“Which I thought was weird,” the owner said. “He wasn’t a chef or a butcher.

“He goes, ‘Oh no, I just do a bit of dabbling in the backyard with the knives and I use them every day.’”

Cauchi’s family only had periodic contact with their son and contacted the police after seeing footage of the incident, according to Lowe.

Cauchi was shot dead at the shopping centre by a police officer after he allegedly lunged at her with the knife. He was treated by paramedics but died at the scene.

Insp Amy Scott was conducting routine duties nearby when she was directed to go to the shopping centre by reports a man was using a “massive” knife to stab shoppers.

The prime minister, Anthony Albanese, said Scott was a hero who “no doubt” saved lives.

Related: At Bondi Westfield someone said: ‘There’s been a stabbing, we have to go.’ I could see in her face it was real

One of the women killed was Dr Ashlee Good, who was shopping with her nine-month-old daughter when Cauchi attacked them both.

The infant was in the intensive care unit at Sydney’s Royal Children’s hospital on Sunday after undergoing emergency surgery overnight. Eleven other people injured in the attack were being treated at hospitals across Sydney.

Good, 38, died after trying to save her baby. Her family said on Sunday they were “reeling from the terrible loss”.

In a statement, the family confirmed the baby girl’s condition had improved.

They described Good as “a beautiful mother, daughter, sister, partner, friend, all round outstanding human and so much more”.

“To the two men who held and cared for our baby when Ashlee could not – words cannot express our gratitude,” they said.

A fundraiser set up to support Good’s family had raised more than $14,000 by late Sunday morning.

Police have asked anyone who was at the shopping centre on Saturday or who had any other information to contact crime stoppers.