FREE MARTIN BRYANT
Port Arthur in Tasmania has been for many years a popular tourist attraction. Carved out of bushland, with the ocean lapping its foreshores, it is a picture of tranquility. With its manicured lawns, the natural beauty of the place belies its demonic past. The ruins of the penitentiary, the aching heart of the old penal colony are the only reminders of the cruelty that once flourished here - that and a few old pictures of convicts providing the locomotive power on the Port Arthur to Eagleneck railway. Although considered 'humane' by the standards of the day, by ours it could not be seen as anything other than a smoothly administered Hell on Earth.
On the sunny Sunday afternoon of April 28, 1996, as if the settlement straddled an unstable fissure, Hell erupted once again at Port Arthur. It was a normal day at Port Arthur's Broad Arrow Cafe. It was crowded and filled with bubbling conversation and a relaxed atmosphere. That was until, at approximately 1.30, a man who had been having his lunch at a table, rose and took the remainder of his meal outside to finish it. A short time later, he returned, drew a Colt AR15 Commando assault rifle and a spare clip from a blue sports bag and began firing. It is impossible to comprehend, let alone portray the effect of the collision of such sudden horror with such peaceful everydayness. One can only provide the details as conveyed by survivors and deduced by forensic investigation.
The first twelve victims were killed with single shots to the head in fifteen seconds. This kill rate as it is prosaically termed by the military was nothing short of amazing. The fact that each was felled at an average range of twelve feet by a gunman firing from the hip and all the time swivelling as a precaution against counter attack was equally amazing.
The weapon of choice, the Colt, was the perfect tool for the job. Firing a small, 5.56 (.22)calibre round at extremely high velocity, it packs enough kinetic energy to blow apart human heads like over-ripe melons. This is exactly what it did in the Broad Arrow Cafe.
After moving into the souvenir shop of the cafe seeking further victims, the murderer's total indoor tally was twenty killed (nineteen head-shot) and twelve wounded - 32 killed or injured with 29 rounds. Several people had been hit with bullet shards and bone fragments from other victims.
The gunman had stopped at round number 29 for good reason. He was using 30 round clips. With one round still in the chamber, he was able to change clips without, again, leaving himself vulnerable to counter-attack.
An eerie silence pervaded the scene of the carnage. The moaning and crying of the wounded was audible but this was nothing in comparison to the concussion-inducing roar of the muzzle blast bouncing of the walls of the contained space.
The gunman waited some minutes before leaving his blood-soaked sanctuary for the uncertainty of the outdoors. The official version has it that he left the cafe immediately after firing the last shot but this has been disputed - like so much else in the official version.
Wendy Scurr, a trained nurse who worked at Port Arthur as a tour guide was one of the first into the cafe after disregarding a bullet whining past her head a short time earlier. She was accompanied by two people she had trained in first aid. In her nursing career Wendy had been confronted by truly horrific scenes, but none like this. She would suffer classical post traumatic shock for many years afterwards. Blood fills her memories - the strong smell of warm blood, blood squelching underfoot, blood-spattered walls and blood dripping from the ceiling. She remembers a human brain resting in a plate of potato chips. She remembers an Asian couple sitting at a table - the woman with a piece of cutlery in her hand, the man with a finger through the handle of coffee cup - looking up from their meal as though surprised. Both had neat bullet holes in their foreheads.
Once out in the car park the man, as casually as a golfer selecting a more suitable iron, switched to a Belgian FN SLR .308 This is a heavier weapon - a driver instead of a five iron, but unlike the marginal readjustment needed switching between clubs, the behaviour between the two weapons because of weight and kick was considerable. It was of no consideration though to this particular marksman who did not appear to miss a beat. More killed and wounded dropped where he found them. Echos of the rifle shots rolled across the open space.
He then got into a Yellow Volvo and drove toward the toll booth at the entrance to the Port Arthur Historic Site. The Volvo belonged to a local man named Martin Bryant. Bryant, 28 at the time, is intellectually disabled. With with an IQ of 66 and the mental age of an eleven year old, he is literally a moron.
It was then that by the unkindest twist of fate that he spotted 36 year old Nanette Mikac running with her two daughters away from the Broad Arrow Cafe to presumed safety. He stopped the car, got out and aimed the rifle at the woman who was holding her youngest daughter, three year old Madelain, in her arms. Ignoring her pleas for mercy, he killed them both with a single bullet. Six year old Alanah - the girl with stars in her sky blue eyes, the girl with a sign hanging on her bedroom door proclaiming 'Future Miss Australia - ran for her life. It would last only several seconds though as he fired again and cut her down.
The shooting, up to this point, had lasted just 17 minutes. Just four minutes before it had started, the only two police in the area had been lured to the remote location of Saltwater River on a bogus tip-off concerning a stash of heroin which turned out to be soap powder. The informant had chosen to remain anonymous and had taken the trouble to call the local police rather than 000, the emergency number that records all calls. It would take at least 30 minutes to return to Port Arthur from Saltwater River. The police being so far away also meant there'd be no-one to raise the draw bridge connecting Port Arthur to the rest of the peninsular it was separated from, thus effectively sealing the area. This is just one of the many factors that have caused many to doubt that the right man received retribution for this horrific crime - the worst in the nation's history. Could Martin Bryant, the man who was charged with its commission and has sat for almost fourteen years in Risdon Prison with no hope of release, be the wrong man? Could a man with an IQ of 66 be capable of such meticulous planning?
The man in the Yellow Volvo sped towards the toll-booth at the entrance to the Port Arthur Histrorical site where he stopped and killed four more people. He got back into the car and continued in his quest of extinguishing human life wherever he found it. Perhaps for a distraction, or to break the monotony, he also killed two cars that day. Adopting a free-standing position like a hunter stalking fast moving big game, he brought them, at range, to a halt with single shots to the engine blocks.
Abandoning the Volvo with a Daewoo combat shotgun in the boot, the killer commandeered a BMW and took one of its occupants hostage. He originally intended to take the female companion hostage but the man, Glen Pears, had offered to take her place. He then blasted the hysterical woman.
The action then moves to the Seascape Cottage guesthouse where the final scenes will be played out. The guesthouse belongs to David Martin and his wife, acquaintances of Martin Bryant. It's rumoured that bad blood exists between Bryant and the Martins. The official version of events has it that the Martins were Bryant's first two victims earlier in the day but this isn't possible. At 10.40 AM, when Andrew Simmons and his wife Lynn were standing outside their house directly opposite the Seascape, they heard several shots coming from the guesthouse. It was around this time that Gary King, an employee at the Shell service station at Forcett, 58 kilometres away, remembers serving coffee to Martin Bryant.
The gunman takes his hostage into the Seascape and barricades himself in. Some time later the BMW is reported burning nearby. The Beamer was evidently torched by a policeman to prevent it being used as a getaway vehicle. This seems extreme though. What was wrong with the tried and trusted method of bullets in tyres? Could it have been rather to obliterate the fact that not one Martin Bryant fingerprint would be found on it?
Back at Port Arthur pandemonium rages like bushfire. Wendy Scurr had set up a triage system with her volunteer helpers. Curiously, but as a graphic illustration of what she has to live with, she blames herself to this day for abandoning a man as beyond help who against the odds continued to live and apparently still does. She describes a surreal scene of people kneeling in pools of blood, desperately trying to staunch the flow of it while at the same time another volunteer picked his way through the bedlam delivering cups of tea. Wendy and her helpers were working under extreme stress, not knowing where the shooter was, and expecting him to return at any moment. At around this time nerves must have almost snapped like rubber bands at the sound of three more rifle-shots. Later examination of the time-line revealed that at this exact time the swathe of death had already come to halt at the Seascape Cottage. So who fired the three shots at Port Arthur? It remains part of the fog of mystery.
Feeling naturally under imminent threat of execution, Wendy and her people had desperately being trying to contact police even as they fought to save lives. No police arrived. Then the sound of a helicopter landing raised hopes and turned the tide of draining courage. The chopper though dropped off only two police officers then quickly returned to Hobart. Wendy says these police were unarmed but as all Australian police sport side arms, she apparently means they were lacking the type of weaponry needed to take on someone armed with assault rifles. The officers did the best they could to help. No police arrived in force until six hours after the slaughter began although ambulances were beginning to arrive. The tardiness of the police presence is inexplicable except for two alternatives: either those in charge were consumed by an inordinate concern for the safety of their brothers in arms, or they were responding to pressure to stay away from the crime scene until the perpetrator/s had gained safety. Neither reflects well on Tasmania Police.
When Walter Mikac arrived and saw the bodies of his wife and two little girls, his reaction was predictable: he was instantly transformed into someone else, someone howling, crying, deranged, beyond reach.
The police surrounded the Seascape Cottage just before nightfall and settled in for a siege that would last until the return of daylight. As there was no way in or out, and Martin Bryant would stagger on fire from the blazing building in the morning, it was obvious that he was inside the guesthouse at this point. It is though incomprehensible why Bryant, who had apparently been smart enough to decoy police away from Port Arthur, wasn't smart enough to flee the area altogether given the incredible length of time it had taken for appropriately equipped police to arrive. But who else was inside beside Bryant and his supposed hostage? There had to be at least one other person because at the very same time that Bryant was calmly talking to police by phone, rifle shots were ringing out from the same location - at least 20 in total as recorded in the negotiator's tapes. As Bryant would have been flat out chewing gum and tying his shoes up at the same time, who was doing the shooting? At least 250 shots were fired from the Seascape that night. No-one was hit.
As foreshadowed, the Seascape went up in flames at around 8.15 in the morning. Who set fire to it. Bryant? Even to someone with an IQ as low as his, it would not have made a great deal of sense to set fire to the building inside which you happen to be residing. The police? If so, this would appear to be just a little bit rash given there was a hostage inside. Martin emerged with the clothes on his back on fire. This is unusual for someone escaping from a burning building. Usually the flames are more evenly distributed. Was Bryant lying face down on a floor, perhaps drugged, when the fire started, only to be awoken by the pain of his back burning? If this was, in contradiction of the lone nut theory, in fact a conspiracy, it would obviously have been much more convenient for Bryant to have died in the fire.
The bulk of the information related here is taken from two main sources: Deadly Deception at Port Arthur, by the late Joe Vialls, a freelance investigative journalist, and Deceit and Terrorism, by Andrew MacGregor, a former Victoria policeman. Although disagreeing on several fundamental points, both books raise profoundly disturbing questions and come to the same conclusions: Port Arthur was the result of a complex conspiracy and that the name, Martin Bryant should rate alongside Lee Harvey Oswald's as a synonym for the American word, patsy. Contrary to the open and shut case conducted by the media, not one shred of DNA, ballistic or fingerprint evidence links Bryant to the crime.
After examining the cases presented by both writers, particularly Vialls, it is impossible to believe that Bryant was the shooter in the Broad Arrow Cafe. It could be said that the real perpetrators outsmarted themselves and made a grievous mistake in employing a killer with such lethal efficiency. Indeed, as Vialls emphasises, the skills demonstrated in the cafe would be possessed by only a handful of Special Forces types world-wide. The shooter, it will be remembered, was firing from the hip and spinning while correcting from the recoil with every shot. Bryant is left-handed. He had had no military training. His firearms experience had been limited to knocking a few cans off a fence with a single shot Webley Osprey, firing from the shoulder, as most do to have any chance of hitting anything.
It will also be remembered that nearly all the victims in the Broad Arrow were shot in the head. This would also be the result of special military training, taking into consideration the possibility of adversaries wearing bullet-proof vests. Coincidentally, the dimensions of the cafe were very similar to the spaces in which such outfits as the US Navy Seals and Delta Force practise diffusing hostage situations.
Bryant never had a trial. Even if he had, the possibility of a fair one would have been beyond him as his photo had been flashed world-wide and was appearing on TV screens virtually before the gun-smoke had cleared. This was an outrageous example of witness identification being corrupted. It is for this very reason that police usually go to extreme lengths to prevent such an occurrence. Although the photo was obtained through dubious means, no-one was ever charged or even reprimanded.
Initially, Bryant steadfastly pleaded not guilty. For a mass murderer, virtually caught red-handed to be pleading not guilty seemed remarkable at the time, but then again, in the anger and confusion most were accepting the accounting at face value. In spite of being kept in solitary confinement for long periods, Bryant continued to plead not guilty for five months. His original barrister then mysteriously resigned to be replaced by John Avery, who, to paraphrase Andrew MacGregor, immediately began working for the Prosecution by badgering Bryant to change his plea to guilty. Bryant still held out. According to Tasmanian reporter, Mike Bingham, it was only after Bryant was visited by his mother and told that unless he pleaded guilty to spare her the pain of a trial, both she and Bryant's sister, Lindy, would commit suicide, that he caved in.
Adding to Bryant's egregious denial of justice was no less than the Prime Minister who urged that no Coronial Inquiry be held, ostensibly to spare those involved the pain it may cause. As a barrister he would have been in no doubt that this was highly prejudicial to the case of someone charged with any crime. This was nothing short of an act of contempt as it is defined. Radio commentators have been gaoled for less. Howard of course wasn't. Australian law dictates that a crime involving the deaths of foreigners, as this one did, necessitates a Coronial Inquiry.
Both Vialls and MacGregor add many strange pieces to the jigsaw puzzle, perhaps the strangest being the procurement by the Tasmanian government shortly before the massacre of a mortuary truck capable of carrying 22 bodies - the only one of its kind in Australia. Why would one be needed in tiny Tasmania, probably the least violent, most uneventful state in the Federation? It was sold several years after the massacre, apparently having served its purpose. Here is the advertisement that appeared on the internet in September 1999:
Vehicle for Sale.
Genuine Enquiries only.
Yellow Chevrolet 350 V8 truck with refrigerated body, holds 22, this vehicle was primarily used as the disaster vehicle in the Port Arthur Massacre. This vehicle is currently for sale and all reasonable offers will be considered. The vehicle has value as not only a refrigerated unit for body removal, it is the only one of its kind in the entire country. The "memorabilia" value of it for anyone making a movie/series or writing a book on Port Arthur is limitless. Not only would the purchaser be getting the disaster vehicle, but the whole Port Arthur Story would be given as well.
This vehicle is currently for sale and all REASONABLE OFFERS will be considered.
In May 1996, Tim Fisher, the then Deputy Prime Minister said something singularly strange. Addressing a meeting of professional shooters in Alice Springs, he said, "If we don't get it right this time, the next time there is a massacre, and there will be, they'll take all our guns of us." As it transpired, we did get it "right". 400,000 rifles were handed in and destroyed - not stored in case our almost non-existent defence forces needed help in defending the country, but pulped. It required merely the deaths of 35 people and the wounding of another 22.
But who were "they"? This seems to imply a force or power external to Australia. Is this how our government was cowed into obfuscation and cover-up? Was it blackmailed? Would the terms have been along the lines of "either disarm your population or expect mass killings until you do"?
Understandably, most people would reel away from this possibility in absolute horror and disbelief. But they should at least part the fingers across their eyes to look at least briefly with an unflinching gaze. If they were to do this would realise that the Port Arthur atrocity had all the hallmarks of a classic psy-ops in the parlance of those familiar with such exercises: psychological operation designed to attain political goals through terror. They are commonplace but the big ones stand out. The allowance of the bombing of Pearl Harbor by the Roosevelt gang in order to gain entry to World War Two is one. What was the sacrifice of 2,400 American citizens in the grand scheme of things? 911 was another - an obvious inside job, or "false flag" operation as its known in the trade. This effectively justified and facilitated an unprovoked attack against a sovereign nation. Port Arthur may one day be seen as our 911.
The white-hot, burning question remains: who was responsible? We'll probably never know. It's worth though considering certain realities. Disarmament is considered by the UN to be almost a holy crusade. They do not however mean the disarmament of nations - not yet anyway. First things first, and the first thing here is disarmament within nations. As the Stormtroop division for world government, this illustrious organisation is painfully aware that even though you can fool most of the people most of the time, there will always be a hard core of those who will not toe the line. Worse, they may inspire others to emulate them. As the heat from the blow-torch comes nearer, these intransigents who refuse to bow down will become more and more dangerous. Therefore, it is axiomatic that a prerequisite for world government will be universal disarmament of the citizenry.
But why Australia? As Graham L Strachan points out in his book, Globalisation: Demise of the Australian Nation, Australia is probably the most globalised nation on Earth, having effectively surrendered its economic sovereignty. He goes as far as to say that the country has become a kind of guinea pig - a test case. So far, we are passing that test with flying colours. Our 'government' will always do as its told.
It can't happen here no longer applies to Australia. We are no longer the cosy country safely insulated from the nastiness taking place in the rest of the world. If it can happen anywhere, it can happen here. Welcome to globalisation. Welcome to being seamlessly woven into the world-wide web of evil.
In memory of Joe Vialls
and the 35 killed at Port Arthur