Jewish student falsely named as Sydney stabbing attacker settles defamation claim

Benjamin Cohen was wrongly identified by Seven News as the perpetrator of the attack that left six dead at a Sydney shopping centre


BONDI JUNCTION, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 14: A member of the public lays a floral tribute at Oxford Street Mall alongside Westfield Bondi Junction on April 14, 2024 in Bondi Junction, Australia. Six victims, plus the offender, who was shot by police at the scene, are dead following a stabbing attack at Westfield Shopping Centre in Bondi Junction, Sydney. (Photo by Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images)

The Sydney man who was wrongly named as the Bondi Junction stabbings murderer during a live broadcast by Seven News has reached a confidential settlement for his defamation claim against the network.

University student Benjamin Cohen, 20, hired defamation lawyers and sent a concerns notice to Seven after being erroneously identified as the perpetrator of the mass stabbing incident at Westfield Bondi Junction in Sydney, an attack that left six people dead.

In a letter from Jeff Howard, the managing director and CEO of Seven News, the network head admitted that naming Cohen “was a grave mistake and that these assertions were entirely false and without basis.”

“Seven withdraws the false allegations unreservedly and apologises to you for the harm you and your family have suffered as a result of Seven’s statements about you,” Howard said in the letter, which was released by Cohen’s lawyers.

Prior to Seven’s breakfast show Weekend Sunrise, which broadcasted the morning after the incident, a producer “mistakenly believed that information relating to a 40-year-old named ‘Benjamin Cohen’ had been confirmed as correct information,” which was then shared during the live news broadcast by its on-air presenters, according to Howard’s letter.

“Seven’s staff, including especially its on-air presenters Mr [Matt] Shirvington and Ms [Lucy] McLeod, are devastated that the error was made and that it has affected you.

“Seven wishes to assure you that the error originated at the producer level and that Seven’s presenters were in no way involved in suggesting or scripting the words which were published.

“Both Mr Shirvington and Ms McLeod nevertheless wish to offer their own personal apology to you for the hurt and distress caused. Whilst Seven does not suggest that it is relevant to your reaction, we nevertheless note that the staff members involved are deeply remorseful and traumatised by the mistake,” the letter said.

Online trolls falsely named Cohen as the perpetrator as early as Saturday night, sharing photos of the student on X where his name began trending.

It appears that the fabricated claim originated on a small account sharing almost exclusively anti-Israel content, while other users suggested the attack could be connected to Israel or Gaza. Further social media accounts with larger followings then amplified the untrue claims that Cohen could be connected, with many of the posts on X drawing attention to what users perceived to be the Sydneysider’s Jewish identity. Cohen’s LinkedIn profile was also shared on X by accounts falsely claiming he resembled the attacker.

The defamatory claim was then picked up by Seven News and repeated by another media outlet.

Several hours later, New South Wales police named the culprit, now deceased, as Joel Cauchi, a 40-year-old from Queensland.

Cohen has since issued a statement via his lawyers: “Users who abuse a platform to target individuals or communities should be held accountable for the consequences of their actions and platforms should be more accountable for the content they host.”

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive