From his earliest days in Australia, Sydney siege gunman Man Haron Monis wanted people to believe he was special.
When he found work as a security guard at a southwestern Sydney shopping centre in 1996, he told his boss he was a son-in-law of powerful Iranian rulers.
He had already told immigration officials – falsely – that he was a political refugee from Iran.
Eight years on, when working as a spiritual healer, Monis demanded a private Australian citizenship ceremony saying his life was at risk.
He instructed his suburban solicitor, Franklin Arguedas, to send a stream of angry letters complaining of his perceived mistreatment at airport check-ins.
When he joined Mr Arguedas for lunch at a halal restaurant in the inner-west Sydney suburb of Burwood, he would do so only when dressed as an ayatollah – a high-ranking Muslim cleric.
And when he went to Amnesty International to demand justice for a perceived violation of his human rights, he expressed outrage that he had written to the Queen and she had not written back.
Witnesses appearing before the inquest into the Sydney siege on Tuesday detailed encounters with Monis that marked him not as special but as an outsider.
Robert Mills, the Salvation Army officer who oversaw Monis’s 300-hour community service order – given for his 2013 conviction for writing offensive letters to families of Australian soldiers – told the inquest Monis could be polite but was lazy and sought attention.
“He was a grandstander,” Mr Mills said.
He recalled Monis arriving one day at the Salvation Army campus where he was sentenced to do maintenance work astride a black “chopper” motorbike.
Unbeknown to Mr Mills, self-styled Islamic cleric Monis was trying to join the Rebels bikie gang.
His bike was a cheap Chinese brand that snapped off a foot-peg when it fell over.
“If that wasn’t funny enough he was done out in the leathers and had a Nazi German helmet on,” Mr Mills said.
Hassan Zoabi, who managed the shopping centre where Monis worked as a security guard in 1996 described Monis as polite, well-spoken and good at his job.
Monis spoke English and the classical Arabic of the Koran.
“If I spoke normal Arabic he wouldn’t understand a word I was saying,” Mr Zoabi said.
Mr Arguedas said when Monis was his client from 2004 to 2005 – the Iranian’s mind was “churning” with a belief he was being “set up” by the Australian government.
Even after Customs officials tried to ease Monis’s paranoia by giving him a tour of their airport facilities and assuring him he was not being targeted, his belief he was being “framed” persisted.
While his behaviour was noticed as bizarre, no witnesses thought Monis was dangerous.
Mr Arguedas told the court he didn’t think Monis was insane.
“I just thought that he was a difficult person,” he said.
Monis was killed by police after he took 18 people hostage at the Lindt Cafe in Sydney’s Martin Place in December, 2014.
On Wednesday, the inquest is due to hear from a psychiatrist and mental health nurse who treated Monis.