The Port Arthur Massacre
An Australian Spree Killer
Crime Spree: April 28, 1996
The Port Arthur Massacre of April 28, 1996, was a killing spree, orchestrated by Martin Bryant, which claimed the lives of 35 people and wounded 37 others. All of the deaths took place mainly at the historic Port Arthur prison colony, a popular tourist site in Tasmania, Australia.
The Worst Killing Spree
Martin Bryant, a 28-year-old from New Town, eventually pleaded guilty to the crimes and was given 35 life sentences without possibility of parole. He is now interned in the Wilfred Lopes Center near Risdon Prison.
Resulting in the deaths of 35 people, the Port Arthur Massacre remains Australia’s worst incident of a mass killing spree and is among one of the worst such incidents worldwide in recent times.
Who Was Martin Bryant
Martin is the elder of two children of Maurice and Carleen Bryant. Bryant was regarded as unusual in his childhood and in the early years of his schooling was diagnosed as having an IQ of 66, which is considered to indicate mental disability, and was put into special education classes.
He was described by teachers as unusually detached from reality and as either unemotional or as expressing inappropriate emotions. He was apparently a disruptive and sometimes violent child, and was severely bullied by other children.
Bryant was referred for psychiatric treatment and eventually determined to be mentally retarded with the added burden of a personality disorder.
Helen Harvey’s Money
Martin Bryant inherited a great deal of money from a deceased family friend, Helen Harvey, who he lived with and had left her estate to him. He used part of this money to go on many trips around the world. He traveled constantly.
At one point, however, his estate manager was forced to restrict his funds and Bryant stopped travelling so frequently. Instead, in late 1993, Martin Bryant purchased an AR-10 semi-automatic rifle through a newspaper advertisement in Tasmania. In March 1996, he had his AR-10 repaired at a gun shop. He made inquiries at this time about AR-15 rifles in other gun shops. He later purchased an AR-15 from Terry Hill, a local gun shop owner.
Martin Bryant also purchased some cleaning kits for a .30 caliber weapon and 12 gauge shotgun. He purchased a sports bag and told a shop attendant that it would need to be strong enough to carry large amounts of ammunition, measured out with a tape measure.
Killing Spree of Martin Bryant
The Morning Events
Martin Bryant’s alarm woke him at 6 a.m on April 28, 1996. His girlfriend and other family members said he had never been known to use an alarm since he did not work and had no other commitments.
At 8 a.m., his girlfriend left the house (which was also inherited from Miss Harvey) to visit her parents. Martin left the house and engaged the house alarm, which registered the time as 9:47 a.m. He left a large amount of ammunition in the hallway of the house.
At around 10:30 a.m.,Martin Bryant purchased a cigarette lighter from Midway Point News Agency, paying with a large note and leaving without waiting for his change. Initially he entered the shop without money to clarify that the shop did sell lighters, and upon hearing that they did, went back to his car to retrieve the money.
He then traveled to Sorell Supermarket and purchased a bottle of tomato sauce. Martin moved on, travelling to Forcett Village, arriving sometime around 11 a.m.
The First Murders
Martin continued down to Port Arthur and stopped at the Seascape guest accommodation site, which was owned by David and Sally Martin. Bryant was seen driving into Seascape down the Arthur Highway around 11:45.
Bryant parked his car and went inside. He fired several shots, then gagged Mr. Martin and stabbed him. Witnesses testified to different numbers of shots fired at this time, but all believed that this was the time that Martin Bryant killed Mr. and Mrs. Martin.
A couple then arrived at Seascape and Bryant appeared outside. They asked if they could have a look at the accommodation. Bryant told them that they couldn’t because his parents were away and his girlfriend was inside. His demeanor was quite rude and the couple felt uncomfortable. They left at about 12:35 p.m. Bryant’s car was seen reversed up to the front door. It is assumed he unloaded ammunition.
Martin Bryant Heads To Port Arthur
Bryant then drove to Port Arthur, taking with him keys to the Seascape properties after locking the doors. Martin stopped at a car, which had pulled over from overheating and talked with two people there. He suggested that they come to the Port Arthur cafe for some coffee later.
He traveled past the Port Arthur historic site toward the Martin’s Palmer’s Lookout Road property, where he came across Mr. Roger Larner driving out of his driveway. Mr. Larner had met him on some occasions over 15 years ago and did not initially recognize him.
Bryant told Mr. Larner he had been surfing and had bought a property called Fogg Lodge and was now looking to buy some cattle from Larner. Bryant also made several comments about buying the Martins’ place, next door. He then asked if Mrs. Larner was home, and asked if he could continue down the driveway of the farm to see her. Mr. Larner said OK, but told Bryant he would come also. Bryant then changed his mind and left, claiming he was going to return in the afternoon.
Port Arthur Historic Site
At around 1:10 p.m., Bryant got in line behind other cars at the toll booth at the entrance to the historic site. Upon getting close to the toll booth, he left the line and moved to the back again. Eventually, getting back to the front of the line, Martin paid the entry fee and proceeded to park near the Broad Arrow Cafe, near the water’s edge. (The site security manager told him to park with the other cars because that area was reserved for camper-vans and the car park was very busy that day. Bryant moved his vehicle to another area and sat in his car for a few minutes. He then moved his car back near the water outside of the cafe. The security manager saw him go up to the cafe carrying a large bag and a video camera, but chose to ignored him.)
Martin Bryant went into the cafe and purchased a meal. He ate on the deck outside. People held the door open for him and commented on the large amount of food he had. He replied that he was hungry from surfing. Bryant started conversations with several people about wasps in the area and the lack of Japanese tourists, but seemed to be mainly mumbling to himself.
He appeared nervous and continually looked back to the car-park and into the cafe. He was seen to continually move his hands about, waving away wasps flying around the area. (Bryant’s remarks about “wasps” were interpreted by some Australian and overseas media as meaning “White Anglo Saxon Protestants”, but there is no real evidence to support this.)
Broad Arrow Café Murders
Bryant, having finished his meal, walked into the cafe and returned his tray, assisted by some people who opened the door for him. He put down his bag on a table and pulled out an AR-15 rifle with one 30-round magazine attached. He left the bag on the table, which contained, among other things, the knife he had used to stab Mr. Martin. (It is believed the magazine was partially emptied from the previous rounds fired at Seascape.)
The cafe was very small, so all the tables were very close together. The cafe was particularly busy that day as people waited for the next ferry. The events happened extremely fast. Martin Bryant took aim from his hip. He pointed his rifle at Mr. Moh Yee Ng and Miss Sou Leng Chung of Malaysia, who were at a table right beside Bryant.
He shot them at close range, killing them both instantly. Bryant then lifted the rifle to his shoulder and fired a shot at Mick Sargent, grazing his scalp and knocking him to the floor. He fired a fourth shot that hit Mick’s girlfriend, 21 year old Kate Elizabeth Scott, fatally hitting her in the back of the head.
A 28-year-old New Zealand winemaker, Jason Winter, had been helping the staff at the busy cafe. As Bryant turned towards Winter’s wife, Joanne, and their 15-month-old son, Mitchell, Winter threw a serving tray at Bryant in an attempt to distract him. As Winter’s father pushed his daughter-in-law and grandson to the floor, Jason Winter was shot by Bryant.
Anthony Nightingale stood up as soon as he heard the first shots, but had no time to move. Nightingale yelled “No, not here!” as Bryant pointed the weapon at him. Nightingale leaned forward and was shot fatally through the neck and spine.
The next table had held a group of ten people, but some had just left the table to return their meal trays and visit the gift shop. Bryant fired twice. One shot hit Mr. Sharp, killing him at once. The second hit Walter Bennett, passed through his body and struck another Mr. Sharp (related to the first), killing them both.
The three had their backs towards Bryant, and were unaware what was happening. One of them even made the comment “That’s not funny” after hearing the first few shots, not realizing it was a real gun. The shots were all close range, with the gun at, or just inches away from, the back of their heads.
Gerald Broome, who was also at the same table, was struck in the face by a bullet fragment from one of these two shots, but he survived. Gaye and John Fiddler, also at the table, were wounded but both survived.
Martin Bryant Continues To Fire
Bryant then turned towards another table where two couples, Tony and Mrs Kistan and Andrew and Mrs Mills, were sitting. Both men stood up at the noise of the initial shots but had no time to move away. Mr Mills was shot in the head, as was Mr. Kistan. Both Mrs Mills and Mrs Kistan were apparently not seen by Bryant, and scrambled safely into hiding beneath a table.
Thelma Walker and Pamelia Law, at another table, were struck with fragments from the shots that killed Mr Kistan and Mr Mills. Peter Crosswell, at the same table was able to drag both women to the ground and the three sheltered underneath the table. Also hit by fragments from the same shots was Patricia Barker, who survived.
It was only then that the majority of the people in the cafe began to realize what was actually happening and that the shots were not some sort of noise from a re-enactment at the historical site. At this point there was great confusion, with many people not knowing what to do, as Martin Bryant was near the main exit.
Bryant moved just a few meters and began shooting at another table, hitting Graham Colyer in the neck. Despite choking on his own blood for some time, he survived.
It’s All Really Happening
Martin Bryant then pivoted around and fatally shot Mervyn Howard who was still seated. The bullet traveled through him, through a window of the cafe, and hit a table on the outside balcony. Several people outside then realized there was real danger and began to run away. Bryant quickly followed up with a shot to the neck of Elizabeth Howard. Bryant then leaned over and pointed the gun at her head and shot her a second time.
Sarah Loughton, having seen Mr. Colyer shot, ran toward her mother who had been moving between tables. The mother took them to ground and lay on top of her daughter. Bryant shot Carolyn Loughton in the back, then shot her daughter in the head. Mrs Loughton had her eardrum ruptured by the sonic boom from the gun going off beside her ear. The mother survived and learned of her daughter’s death in hospital later.
The Gift Shop Murders
As Bryant was near the exit, people had not attempted to run past him and escape. Bryant then moved across the cafe toward the gift shop area. There was an exit door through the display area to the outside balcony, but it was locked and could only be opened with a key. As Bryant moved along, Mr Elliott realized he would soon be seen. He could not hide under the table as it was full of people. Instead he tried to run over to a fireplace. He was shot in the arm and head as he ran but survived after extensive surgery.
All of these events, from the first bullet that killed Mr Ng, took approximately 15 seconds. In this time, 12 people were dead and 9 more were wounded. As Bryant moved toward the gift shop area, many people had time to hide under tables and behind shop displays. Mrs Lever, Mrs Jary, Mrs Morr and Mrs Wanderpeer hid behind a fabric screen.
Peter and Mrs Nash had attempted to open the locked door but could not. Mr Nash then lay down on top of his wife to hide her from Bryant, who then moved into the gift shop area where people were trapped with nowhere to go, and were simply crouched down in the corners. He calmly walked up to Nicole Burgess and shot her in the head. He then pointed the gun at Mr Lever and shot him in the head. Mrs Neander was then also shot in the head and killed instantly.
Returning To The Beginning
Bryant then saw movement in the café and moved back to the front door. He shot at a table and hit Mr. Crosswell, who was hiding under it, in the buttock. Mr. Winter, hiding in the gift shop, thought Bryant had left the building and made some comment about it to people near him before moving out into the open.
Bryant saw him and shot him as he was getting up, the bullet hitting his hand, neck and chest. Bryant moved back towards Mr. Winter and shot him in the head, killing him instantly. Fragments from those shots struck Dennis Olsen who had been hiding with Mr. Winter, but Bryant did not see him and he survived.
It is not clear what happened next. At some point Bryant reloaded, either before or after killing other people. It appears Bryant walked back to the cafe but returned to the gift shop yet again, this time looking down to another corner of the shop where he found several people hiding in the corner, trapped.
He walked up to them and shot Ronald Jary through the neck, killing him. He then shot Peter Nash and Pauline Masters, killing both of them. He did not see Mrs Nash underneath Mr Nash.
At some point either before or after these killings, Bryant aimed his gun at an unidentified Asian man, but the rifle’s magazine was empty. Bryant then quickly moved to the gift shop counter where he reloaded his rifle, leaving an empty magazine on the service counter. The order of events was indeterminable, but in any case, it was here where Martin Bryant left the building.
29 rounds were fired in the café in approximately 90 seconds. Very few shots missed and most were fired from extremely close range. In that time, Bryant had murdered 20 people.
The Car Park Murders
During the cafe shooting, some staff members had been able to escape through the kitchen and alert people outside. There were a number of coaches outside with lines of people, many of whom began to hide in the buses or in nearby buildings. Others did not understand the situation or were not sure where to go. Some people believed there was some sort of historical re-enactment happening, and actually moved towards the area.
Ashley John Law, a site employee, was moving people away from the café into the information center when Bryant fired at him from 50-100 meters away. The bullets missed Law and hit some trees nearby.
Bryant then moved down towards the coaches where Brigid Cook was trying to guide a number of people down between the buses and along the jetty area to cover. She had only been informed of what was happening and was worried that she was making a fool of herself in over-reacting, although her actions no doubt saved many lives.
One of the coach drivers, Royce Thompson, was shot in the back as he was moving along the passengers’ side of a coach. He fell to the ground and was able to crawl, then roll under the bus to safety, but he later died of his wounds.
Bryant then moved to the front of this bus and walked across to the next coach. People had quickly moved from this coach toward the back end, in an attempt to seek cover. As Bryant walked around it he saw the people scrambling to hide and shot at them. Brigid Cook was shot in the right thigh, causing the bone to fragment, the bullet lodging there. A coach driver, Ian McElwee, was hit by fragments of Miss Cook’s bone. Both were able to run away and survive.
Bryant then quickly moved around another coach and fired at another group of people. Winifred Aplin was fatally shot in the chest. She had been running to get to cover behind another coach. Another bullet grazed Yvonne Lockley’s cheek, but she was able to enter one of the coaches to hide, and survived.
Some people then started moving away from the car park towards the jetty. But they were informed by shouting that Bryant was moving that way, so they tried to double back around the coaches to where Mrs. Cook was previously shot. However Bryant had turned around and also gone back. Janette Quin was shot by Bryant in the back. She lay there unable to move.
Bryant then continued along the car park as people tried to escape along the shore. More shooting took place and some people decided to hide in the coaches instead of running. Mr. Hutchinson was attempting to get into a coach when he was shot in the arm. He quickly changed directions, ran around the front of the coach, and then along the shore to the jetty and hid.
No Where To Hide
Martin Bryant then went to his vehicle, which was just past the coaches, and changed weapons. He fired at Denise Cromer, who was near the penitentiary ruins. Gravel flew up in front of her, as the bullets hit the ground. He moved back to the coaches. Some people were taking cover behind cars in the car park and, because of the elevation, Bryant could see them and the cars did not provide much cover.
When they realized Bryant had seen them, they ran into the bush. He fired several shots, at least one hit a tree behind which someone was taking cover, but no-one was hit. Douglas Hutchinson tried to move between the cars to the jetty, but Martin Bryant noticed him and shot, but he was able to escape.
Bryant then moved back to the buses where Mrs Quin was lying injured from the earlier shot. He shot her in the back, then left. She later died from her wounds. Bryant then went onto one of the coaches and fired a shot at Elva Gaylard who was on the bus hiding, hitting her in the arm and chest, killing her.
At an adjacent coach, Gordon Francis saw what happened and moved down the aisle to try and shut the door of the coach he was on. He was seen by Bryant and shot from the opposite coach. He survived but needed four major operations.
Escaping Martin Bryant
Neville Quin, husband of Janette Quin, had escaped to the jetty area, but had come back to look for his wife. He had been forced to leave her earlier after Bryant had shot her. Bryant exited the coach and noticed Mr Quin. He fired at him, but missed. Bryant chased Mr Quin around the coaches as Mr Quin tried to escape. Bryant fired at him at least once more before Mr Quin ran onto a coach, in the hope of escaping Bryant.
However, his attempts were unsuccessful and Bryant entered the coach and pointed the gun at Mr Quin’s face, saying, “No one gets away from me”. Mr Quin ducked when he realized Bryant was about to pull the trigger. The bullet missed his head but hit his neck. He was momentarily paralyzed. After Bryant had left, he was able to find his wife and she later died in his arms. (Mr Quin survived.)
As Bryant left the coach, James Balasko, tried to catch Bryant on his video camera. He was successful but Bryant saw him and fired at him, hitting a nearby car. By now many people, unable to use their parked cars, were hiding or running along Jetty Road or the jetty itself.
Most people did not know where Martin Bryant was because the gunfire was extremely loud and difficult to pinpoint. It wasn’t clear that Bryant was mobile, nor was it even clear from which direction the shots were coming.
The Toll Booth Murders and Car Jacking
Martin Bryant got back into his car and proceeded to leave the car park. Witnesses say he was sounding the horn and waving, others say he was also firing into the parking area. Bryant drove along Jetty Road toward the toll booth where a number of people were running away.
Bryant passed by at least two people. Ahead of him were Nanette Mikac (Née Moulton) and her two young children, Madeline, 3, and Alannah, 6 years old. She was carrying Madeline and Alannah was running slightly ahead. By now they had run approximately 600 meters from the car park. Nanette told Alannah, “We’re safe now, pumpkin.” Bryant opened his door and slowed down. Mrs Mikac moved toward the car, apparently thinking he was offering them help in escaping.
Several more people witnessed this from further down the road. Someone then recognized him as the gunman and yelled out “It’s him!”. Calmly, Bryant told Mrs Mikac to get on her knees. She did so, saying, “Please don’t hurt my babies”.
Bryant then shot her in the temple, killing her, before firing a shot at Madeleine, which hit her in the shoulder, before shooting her fatally through the chest. Alannah ran off and hid behind a tree. Bryant shot twice at Alannah, as she ran behind the tree, missing her. He then walked up, pressed the barrel of the gun into her neck and fired, killing her instantly. Bryant fired one or two more rounds at some people hiding in a bush, but he missed.
The Killing Spree Continues Without Mercy
Having seen the murders of the children, some people further up the road began running. They told drivers of cars coming down the road to go back. The people thought Martin Bryant would head up the road, so instead they proceeded on foot down a dirt side road and hid in the bush. The cars turned around and went back to the toll booth. Several vehicles stopped to ask the staff member on duty what was happening. It appears no-one at the toll booth area knew what was happening.
Bryant then drove up to the toll booth where there were several vehicles. Apparently Bryant had put his gun away at this point. He got out of his car and got in an argument with Robert Salzmann. (It is not known why, but may have been because Bryant could not proceed due to cars blocking the road. Bryant suddenly pulled a gun and shot Mr Salzmann, killing him at once.
A driver got out of his BMW and went towards Bryant. It is not clear why or if he was attempting to stop Bryant. Bryant walked up to him and shot him in the chest, killing him. More cars then arrived, seeing this, but were quickly able to back up the road and escape.
Martin Bryant then moved to the BMW. He forced two women from the car and shot them dead.
Bryant then transferred ammunition, handcuffs, the AR-15 rifle and a fuel container to the BMW. (Mary Nixon, Russell Pollard, and Helene Salzmann, as well as Graham Salzmann, are the people Bryant was charged with killing at the toll booth.)
Another car then came towards the toll booth and Bryant shot at it. The driver, Graham Sutherland, was hit with glass. A second bullet hit the driver’s door. The car quickly backed up the road and left. Bryant then got into the BMW having left behind a number of items in his Volvo, including a shotgun and hundreds of rounds of ammunition.
The Service Station Murders
Graham Sutherland, who just had been shot at in his car, drove to the service station close by where he tried to inform people what was happening. Bryant then drove up to the service station and cut off a white Toyota Corolla that was attempting to exit onto the highway.
Glenn Pears was driving the car with Zoe Hall in the passenger seat. Bryant quickly exited the car with his rifle in hand and tried to pull Miss Hall from the car. Mr Pears got out of the car and approached Bryant. Bryant then pointed the gun at Pears and pushed him backwards, eventually directing him into the now open boot of the BMW. He locked Mr Pears inside the boot.
Bryant then moved back to the passenger side of Mr Pears’ car. Miss Hall was said to have climbed over to the driver’s seat. Bryant raised his rifle and fired three shots, killing her. However, her body was later seen by a police officer in the passenger seat. Many people around the service station saw this and ran to hide in the nearby bush.
The service station attendant told everyone to lie down and he locked the main doors. He grabbed his rifle, but as per Australian law, the ammunition was kept locked in a safe. By the time it was retrieved and the gun loaded, Bryant was back in his car and gone. A police officer arrived several minutes later and then went in the direction of Martin Bryant.
The Seascape Roadway
As Martin Bryant drove down to Seascape he shot at one red vehicle coming the other way, smashing its front windscreen. Upon arriving at Seascape, he got out of his car. A vehicle then approached Seascape along the road. They saw Bryant with his gun but believed him to be rabbit hunting and actually slowed down as they passed him.
Bryant fired into the car, the first bullet hit the bonnet and broke the throttle cable. He fired at least two more bullets into the car as it passed, breaking the windows. One bullet hit the driver, Linda White, in the arm. The car was going downhill so it was able to roll down the road out of sight around a corner. The driver then swapped seats with her boyfriend who attempted to drive the car but was unable to, because of the broken throttle cable.
Another vehicle then drove down the road, carrying four people. It wasn’t until they were almost adjacent to Bryant that they realized he was carrying a gun. Bryant shot at the car, smashing the windscreen. Douglas Horner was wounded by shrapnel from the shattered windscreen.
The Law Is Finally Called
The car proceeded ahead where Mrs White and her boyfriend tried to get in, but Mr Horner did not realize the situation and drove on. When they saw that Mrs White had been shot, they came back and picked them up. Both parties then continued down to a local establishment called the Fox and Hound, where they called police.
Yet another car drove past and Bryant shot at it, hitting the driver in the hand. The passenger, Simon Williams, was struck by shrapnel. Another approaching vehicle saw this, stopped and turned around. Martin Bryant also fired at this car hitting it but not injuring anyone. Bryant then got back into the BMW and drove down the Seascape driveway to the house.
Sometime after he stopped, Bryant removed Mr Pears from the boot and handcuffed him to a stair rail within the house. At some point he also set the BMW on fire with fuel, probably using the lighter he purchased earlier in the day. He is believed to have arrived at the house by about 2 p.m.
At 1:30 p.m. the only two police officers in the area had received a radio message to attend Port Arthur and be on the look out for a yellow Volvo. They headed to Port Arthur in different cars, going different routes. On the way they were informed to look for the BMW and eventually they were informed of people at the Fox and Hound who had been shot.
One police officer then drove down the road past Seascape and past the disabled car of Mrs White. He looked at it for a moment and continued down to the Fox and Hound. He informed his partner about events and they then proceeded back to Seascape. At about 2 p.m. they were back at Seascape and could see the BMW on fire.
At some point they were fired upon, and eventually had to hide in a ditch at the side of the road. Bryant fired at them whenever they tried to escape, and they were not able to move from that position for many hours.
At around 2:10 p.m. Bryant received a call from a woman from the ABC network, she had been ringing local businesses randomly trying to receive information about what was occurring, and Bryant answered the Seascape phone. Bryant informed her his name was Jamie and when she asked what was happening he replied “Lots of fun”. Bryant then informed her that if she phoned him again, he would shoot Mr Pears.
At about 3 p.m., shortly after forcing the police officers to take cover in the ditch, Bryant rang the local police station where the girlfriend of one of the police officers answered the phone. Bryant asked who she was and if she knew where her husband was. He also called himself Jamie.
He asked if she knew or not if her husband was okay, and when she didn’t answer, Bryant then told her he was okay and that he knew where her husband was. At some point, as night fell, one of the police saw a woman running around naked and screaming, but she seemed to eventually run back into the house. It is possible this was Noelene Martin.
Around 9 p.m. a team from the Special Operations Group of the Tasmania Police had arrived and were eventually able to assist in removing the policemen from the ditch to safety by using the cover of darkness, riot shields and bullet proof jackets. They did not provide cover fire for fear of hitting hostages. An 18-hour standoff ensued during which time the police talked over the phone to Bryant who called himself ‘Jamie’.
Martin made a request for a helicopter. Saying that he wanted to be flown to a plane and then onto Adelaide in South Australia. He said he would release one hostage, Mr Pears, and only keep Mrs Martin, if the helicopter arrived. It is possible that both Mrs Martin and Mr Pears were still alive at this time.
Bryant could see the movement of SOG officers and continually demanded their retreat each time they began an approach to the house. Police believed he had some kind of visual aid device, as he appeared to maintain excellent awareness of the events unfurling around him despite the pitch black of night, however none was ever found. A man was spotted on the roof of an adjacent building at one point, believed to be Bryant.
Later in the night, the cordless phone Bryant was using began to run low on batteries. Police tried unsuccessfully to get him to return the phone to the charger, but it went dead and no further communications were established.
Capture and Prosecution of Martin Bryant
Bryant was captured the following morning when he presumably started a fire in the guest house. Bryant taunted police to ‘come and get him’, but the police, believing the hostage was already dead, decided that the fire would eventually bring him out.
A large amount of ammunition had also ignited and was exploding sporadically as the house burned. He eventually ran out of the house with his clothes on fire and quickly removed his burning clothes. He was arrested by the police, and taken to hospital for treatment.
It was found that Mr Pears had been shot dead during or before the standoff and had died before the fire. The remains of the Martins were also found. It was also determined they had been shot, and in the case of Mrs Martin suffered blunt force trauma. They both died before the fire and witness accounts, as presented to the Supreme Court of Tasmania, of gunfire place the time of death of David and Sally Martin as being at approximately noon on 28 April.
One weapon was found burnt in the house, and the other on the roof of the adjacent building, where police believed they had seen Bryant the night before. Both weapons had suffered from massive chamber blast pressure, possibly from the heat of the house fire.
Martin Bryant Confessing
In his police interview Bryant admitted to having car jacked the BMW, but claimed it only had three occupants and denied shooting any person. He also claimed he did not take the BMW from the vicinity of the toll booth and that his hostage was taken from the BMW.
He said that he thought the man he took hostage must have died in the boot when the car exploded. He did not distinguish between the car fire and the later house fire. He also denied visiting Port Arthur on that day, despite identification by several people, including the toll attendant.
Such discrepancies indicate that Bryant was either lying during the police interview, or was mentally incapable of recalling events accurately. Bryant also claimed that the guns found by police were not his, but admitted to owning the shotgun that was found with his passport back in his own car near the toll booth.
Initially Bryant pleaded not guilty to the 35 murders, laughing hysterically as the judge read out the charges against him. He later changed his plea to guilty once the prosecution began presenting evidence. Bryant did not provide a confession. He was found guilty of all charges and is now serving 35 sentences of life imprisonment (for the 35 murders) plus 1,035 years in Hobart’s Risdon Prison (as cumulative penalty for various charges including attempted murders and grievous bodily harm for shooting at, and injuring, numerous people).
His prison papers indicate that he is never to be released. He is serving his term without possibility of parole. This is very rare in Australia; where the majority of murder sentences allow for the possibility of parole after a long prison term. Martin Bryant remains Australia’s worst killing spree murderer and the incident is one of the worst cases worldwide of a mass killing spree in modern times.
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