In the 10 years since the massacre at Port Arthur, Tasmania, the authorities continue to ignore concerns that there is no hard evidence to implicate Martin Bryant as the gunman.
1. Australians reacted with horror and outrage when, on the evening of Sunday 28 April 1996, they learned that over 30 people had been murdered and many others injured in an orgy of violence at the Port Arthur Historic Site (PAHS), Tasmania, one of the nation’s most venerable historic sites, and at adjacent locations.
The alleged perpetrator—a young Caucasian male with long blond hair, named Martin Bryant—was apprehended by police the following morning after he emerged from a burning tourist guest house, Seascape Cottage, which was located a short distance from Port Arthur.
Bryant instantly became the most vilified individual in Australian history and was rapidly enlisted in the serial killers’ hall of infamy as the world’s second-most-lethal gunman. However, the case—which never went to trial—is full of clues, direct and indirect, to suggest that Bryant, a 29-year-old man with an IQ of only 66, was framed.
However, even today, the case is regarded by most people as so delicate that it is considered insensitive to discuss it at all—a perfect means of perpetuating a cover-up, if ever there was one.
Martin Bryant’s guilt: the problem of lack of evidence
Strikingly absent from the recent media coverage of the 10th anniversary of the most traumatic event in modern Australian history was evidence to support the official claim that Martin Bryant had been responsible for the massacre.
The matter of whether Bryant had really been the perpetrator was only touched upon in an interview with Bryant’s mother, Carleen Bryant, that was published in the Bulletin of 4 April 2006:
“She likes to talk about her boy’s hair. It’s another reason she thinks he has been framed. ‘He had beautiful, shampooed soft hair.’ Carleen wants to set the record straight. ‘The guy who did it had dark, greasy hair and pocked skin. My Martin has lovely soft baby skin.'”
The writer of the report, Julie-Anne Davies, of course does not raise the subject of whether Carleen Bryant has any evidence to support her claims, simply observing patronisingly that Mrs Bryant “lives in a state of denial”. As I will show in this report, however, it is Julie-Anne Davies who is living in a state of denial—as are all Australians who think that Martin Bryant was responsible for the tragedy. There is simply no hard evidence to support this belief.
Most Australians, when confronted by the heretical idea that Bryant might not have been the gunman, respond in knee-jerk fashion: “Of course he was! People saw him do it!” In fact, it has never been proven that Bryant was the man “people” saw do it. It was the police and the media, not the eyewitnesses, who identified Bryant as the gunman. As we shall see, only two eyewitnesses have ever specifically identified Bryant as the perpetrator, and both of them gave their statements a month later—after they had been influenced by the publicity given to Bryant in the media.
If you ignore the media propaganda and study the details of the case, what becomes readily apparent is that there is no evidence that Martin Bryant—alone and to the exclusion of all other young men with long blond hair—executed the massacre. What’s more, there are compelling reasons to believe that Bryant could not have done it. As Carleen Bryant told the Bulletin, “He didn’t have the brains”. Above all, he didn’t possess the shooting ability.
Bryant’s physical appearance
Of the 40-odd persons who survived the shootings inside the Broad Arrow Café, only a few provided physical descriptions of the gunman. In these, his estimated age is 20 or less. Karen Atkins of Sydney told the Australian (29 April 1996) that, very soon after the shootings, she had spoken to a woman who had met the gunman in the café. According to this woman—who can be identified as Rebecca McKenna, on account of the content of the conversation she had with the gunman—he was: “…a young fellow, about 18 or 19. He looked like a surfie. He arrived in a Volkswagen and he walked into the cafeteria carrying a tennis bag.”
This description could perhaps be dismissed on the grounds that it is second-hand. However, it tallies with the description given by Carol Pearce. According to Pearce, the gunman, whom she passed on her way into the Broad Arrow Café, was: “…between 18–20 years of age; he had really blonde [sic] hair which was collar length; it was fairly straight with a bit of a wave in it. He was clean-shaven, he was average in height and build.” Pearce’s description is invaluable, as it was given on 28 April 1996, the very day of the massacre. Like the woman to whom Atkins spoke—Rebecca McKenna, as mentioned above—Pearce therefore could not have been influenced by the media campaign of vilification against Martin Bryant. No picture of him had as yet been published.
The same age-range is specified by former RAF officer Graham Collyer, who was shot in the throat inside the café. In his untainted witness statement taken on 7 May 1996, Collyer described the gunman thus: “He seemed somewhere about 20. He had long blonde [sic] bedraggled hair, about 3–4 [inches?] below the shoulder. He looked like he might have had a lot of acne. A pitted face. He had scraggly trousers; I don’t remember what colour.” Collyer is a valuable witness because, in his statement from a second interview on 8 May, he noted: “I still haven’t seen anything in the media about the person who shot me. I have been sedated or sleeping since the shooting.”
On 10 May, Jim Laycock, who was the co-owner of the Port Arthur Motor Inn at the entrance to the PAHS, told police that the man was in his “low twenties”. Another witness, Joyce Maloney, told the police: “I thought he was about 18–22 years old, only a young lad.” Betty Daviess described him as a “young male person”.
Of the individuals who gave their statements to the police before the barrage of images of Martin Bryant appeared in the media, Carmel Edwards, who held the door open for the gunman as he left the café to eat his lunch on the balcony, and Justin Noble, a member of the New South Wales police force who said he saw the gunman exiting the café after the shooting, gave the oldest age estimates. Edwards described him as “22–23 years old”. Noble described him as “20–25 years of age”.
Thus no actual witness to the shootings at Port Arthur cited an age above twenty-five. The only witness who did so (Justin Noble) cited the figure as the top end of the range, and would be equally comfortable with twenty. It would therefore be accurate to say that all actual witnesses said that the man was in his late teens or early twenties.
Yet at the time of the massacre, Bryant was a few days away from his 29th birthday and could not reasonably have been mistaken for anyone under about twenty-seven. This much is clear from a photograph which shows Bryant together with the woman we have been told was his girlfriend: Petra Wilmott. Since the pair reportedly only became romantically involved in February 1996, the photograph had to have been taken within three months of the massacre. Despite its poor quality, it shows Bryant’s face unframed by hair, and so gives a very good idea of what he looked like at the time. It’s obvious from this picture that Bryant was by no means “a young lad”. [See photo A]
It is also obvious that those who saw the gunman at close distance and who gave their descriptions before anything about Bryant’s appearance had been made public are to be considered by far the most reliable. The only eyewitnesses who estimated the gunman’s age in the upper 20s are witnesses like Yannis Kateros, who only saw him from a considerable distance, and most of them gave statements to the police a week or more after the shootings when the matter of Bryant’s age had already been established by the media.
Kateros, who gave his statement on 10 May, estimated the shooter’s age as twenty-eight. Is it only a coincidence that this is the same age the media were citing for Bryant?
• Facial features
But there were more than years separating Bryant and the Port Arthur gunman. Only one witness, Rebecca McKenna, got a good look at the man’s face. (Most witnesses saw very little on account of the long blond hair.) Although there are major problems with her statement—what kind of physical description omits a reference to the person’s age?—McKenna’s description of the gunman’s appearance makes disturbing reading for anyone who thinks that he could have been Bryant:
“I would describe this male as follows:- Approximately 173 cm tall. Slim build. Blonde [sic] hair, past his ears, wavy with a part in the middle. Unshaven dirty looking.
“His eyes appeared to be blue… He appeared to be German looking. His eyebrows appeared to be blonde [sic] and bushy. He appeared ‘dopey’ looking, his eyes appeared to be bloodshot. His facial skin appeared to be freckley [sic] and he was pale. His face seemed skinny and withdrawn. His ears were fairly large…”
It is interesting that while McKenna’s account of the man’s conversation was widely quoted—he talked about European WASPs and Japanese tourists—her description of his face was not. Perhaps this is because in no photo does Bryant seem to have bushy eyebrows or prominent ears (indeed, his ears seem to be on the small side). Bryant’s most memorable facial characteristic is, in fact, a broad nose with a somewhat bulbous tip—a feature which is obvious from the photos, but never mentioned by any witnesses.
Although McKenna’s description is uniquely detailed, it is at least partly corroborated by that of Graham Collyer who, as we saw, stated that the shooter’s complexion was acne-scarred. However, Bryant’s complexion is perfectly smooth, as all available photographs show. In particular, the photos taken at Richmond by Petra Wilmott three days before the massacre show a healthy, ruddy face.
McKenna’s description of the gunman’s height is certainly odd: she makes an estimate of the gunman’s height that gives an exact figure (“approximately 173 cm”). It would be interesting to compare this most precise “estimate” with Bryant’s real height, except that nowhere on record can one find his height specified. If McKenna’s figure of 173 cm is correct, though, this would surely raise questions about whether McKenna had been influenced by police during the course of giving her statement.
Another problem for the official story is raised by Bryant’s hair. The photos taken at Richmond show that it was wavy throughout, not “fairly straight with a bit of a wave in it” as Pearce stated. Yet most witnesses said that the gunman’s hair was straight, with a wave only at the bottom. Witness statements fluctuate between those that said his hair was collar-length and those that stated that it went down to his shoulders.
The aforementioned photos of Bryant taken at Richmond raise questions about his hair colour. According to one witness, a Mr Woods, the gunman stood out by virtue of his “white surfie hair and clothes”. Yet in the 25 April 1996 portrait of Bryant that was featured on the cover of Who Weekly magazine on 2 November 1996, Bryant’s hair is very clearly brownish with blond highlights and streaks. [Photo B] Further doubts about the whiteness of Bryant’s hair are raised by the news footage showing Bryant arriving at the Royal Hobart Hospital. In frames from this video footage—the last images of the accused man ever captured—it is apparent that he had brownish hair with blond streaks, rather than white or “really blond” hair. (It is also obviously collar length.) [Photo C] One possibility is that the real gunman had simply peroxided his hair in an effort to emulate Bryant’s hair, which may have looked white or blond in very strong sunlight.
Bryant identified as the gunman?
In terms of the allegation that the witnesses have identified Bryant as the man they saw shooting at the PAHS, the most serious difficulties are raised by Jim Laycock in his statement. Laycock is of outstanding importance in this case, as he is the one and only witness who observed the gunman in the act and actually knew Bryant. In his police statement, Laycock—who, as noted earlier, got a good enough look at the man to be able to estimate his age (“low twenties”)—said that he “did not recognise the male as Martin Bryant”. He stated only that he saw “a blonde [sic] headed person” shoot Zoe Hall and take Glenn Pears captive.
Another witness, Yannis Kateros, said he had never seen the gunman before. Yet Kateros had lived at Port Arthur since 1991, and, according to Laycock, Bryant had visited the PAHS on about a dozen occasions in the five-year period between about 1991 and 1995.
At least two other witnesses have also stated that Bryant was not the gunman. These are PAHS Information Centre employee Wendy Scurr, who, according to one report, saw the gunman inside the centre immediately prior to the attack, and Vietnam War veteran John Godfrey, who was waiting outside the centre when the shooting commenced. Godfrey viewed the gunman twice. He saw him drive by and saw him put a bag into the boot of his car. “In my opinion the picture I saw in the newspapers was not the same person,” he stated in his police statement taken on 7 June 1996. Wendy Scurr has changed her mind on the subject; she no longer believes that Bryant was the man she saw that day.
So when people tell me that everyone knows that Bryant “did it” because people saw him doing it, I tend to wonder which witnesses they can possibly be referring to. To my knowledge, the only witnesses who positively identified Bryant as the gunman were Linda White and Michael Wanders, both persons whose statements were taken a full month after the shooting, after they had been exposed to plenty of media coverage about the case.
On 27 May 1996, White viewed the 14 May police photoboard and decided: “Photograph no. 5 in this folder [i.e., Bryant] is the male who shot us near Port Arthur.” However, White’s only reason for selecting photo no. 5 seems to have been because of the fact that, in this photo, Bryant appeared to be wearing a top that was “very similar” to that worn by the gunman. “It could even be the same top,” she said.
Unfortunately, White’s statement is of no value whatsoever. An identification can scarcely be based upon an item of clothing, which can obviously be worn by another person. (Indeed, someone seeking to impersonate Bryant would have taken care to acquire an item of his clothing, or at least a very similar item.) What’s more, no previous witness recalled the gunman wearing the same top as that worn by Bryant in photo no. five. White was clearly basing her identification entirely upon a photo she had seen in the media.
As for Michael Wanders, in his statement taken the same day as White’s, he picked Bryant out from the police photoboard as “the person who shot at Linda and I on 28/4/96”. Unfortunately, Wanders’s identification is also of no value. On 28 April 1996, he told the police: “I would not be able to identify the person who shot at us.” In his statement a month later, he admitted that he hadn’t been able to “get a good enough look at the male to see how old he was or what he was wearing”. His statement suggests that, really, all he had seen was a male with long blond hair. Yet, somehow, his original statement did not deter him from picking Bryant out from the police photoboard a month later as the man who had shot at him. It is hard to credit the positive identification of Bryant a month after the attack by a witness who, on the day of the attack itself, told the police explicitly that he would not be able to identify the gunman.
White’s and Wanders’s statements prove one thing: not that Bryant perpetrated the shootings, but that the laws prohibiting media organisations from publishing photos of accused persons before they have been tried are sensible ones which ought always to be rigorously enforced.
In view of the fact that no serious efforts were ever made to prevent the media from publishing photos of Bryant, the question has to be asked whether the police ever wanted the gunman properly identified, or whether they colluded with the media in the release of these photos in a deliberate effort to taint the pool of witness testimony. Certainly, they seem to have done their best to avoid placing Bryant together with eyewitnesses in the same room. Graham Collyer, who was on the same floor as Bryant in the Royal Hobart Hospital on the day his witness statement was taken, was never given the opportunity to look at him. On this occasion, a positive ID could have been obtained in a matter of minutes, if the police officers taking his statement had really wanted one.
In this regard, it is striking that none of the witnesses who showed a tendency not to identify Bryant as the gunman was given the opportunity to pick him out from the police identity board—not even NSW police officer Justin Noble, who said that he thought he could identify the man if shown a photo of him taken from the appropriate angle. The fact that Noble was never asked to view the police photoboard implies that Tasmania police anticipated a negative response.
A related issue is the uncertainty that surrounds the matter of the gunman’s clothing. In no context of which I am aware did the allegations against Bryant ever raise the matter of the items of clothing that the gunman had been seen wearing. It is striking that there is no consistent evidence as to the colour of the gunman’s clothing; one can only wonder whether witness statements were tampered with to prevent a clear picture from emerging, for fear that it would raise the question of whether there was any proof that Bryant had ever owned the items.
It is only when one realises that Bryant has never been positively identified as the PAHS shooter that one begins to understand why a court trial was never held. If a trial had been held, the authorities would have been in an extremely awkward position if some witnesses had either denied that Bryant was the man or expressed serious doubts about the identification. That a trial was avoided means that such problems were never permitted to arise. It is hard not to see why the legal strategy took the form of coercing Bryant into pleading guilty to all 72 charges against him—a process that took seven months—rather than risk the case going to trial.
Lack of Bryant’s fingerprints or DNA at Port Arthur
Martin Bryant is adamant that he never visited the PAHS on the day of the massacre. Most Australians—if they knew of this denial at all—would probably dismiss it as a lie. A fact that should deeply unsettle them is that neither Bryant’s fingerprints nor his DNA has ever been found at the PAHS. This much has effectively been conceded by Sergeant Gerard Dutton, officer in charge of the Ballistics Section of Tasmania Police, in an article he wrote about the case which was published in the December 1998 Australian Police Journal.
There is no good reason why no evidence of this kind exists. An obvious source of fingerprints and DNA would have been the food tray (with a can of Solo soft drink, a plastic Schweppes cup, food items and eating utensils) that Rebecca McKenna saw the gunman eating from immediately prior to the shooting. We know that the tray was recovered by the police, because it is shown in a police training video that turned up in a second-hand shop in September 2004. Although the tray would have contained fingerprints, thumb prints, palm prints, saliva, sweat, skin and possibly hair from the shooter, there is no evidence that it yielded anything that came from Martin Bryant. The only reason we have heard nothing about forensic evidence of this kind, surely, is that none of it incriminated him.
It is true that Damian Bugg, QC, is on record as giving the impression that a sample of Bryant’s DNA was found on a large knife that is suspected of having been used to murder David Martin at Seascape Cottage, a few kilometres from the PAHS. Bugg said that the knife was subjected to a “very refined test” which allegedly yielded “a DNA sample which was unable to be identified initially but it has now been identified as being consistent with that of Martin Bryant”. (The public has never been told what the source of the DNA was—whether it was blood, for example, or some other substance. If it was Bryant’s blood, this would imply that Bryant was a victim rather than a villain.)
It is, however, a mystery how Tasmania Police came by this knife. According to the official story, the knife was found inside a Prince sports bag that was discarded by the gunman inside the Broad Arrow Café. However, after the gunman exited the café, several witnesses looked inside the bag and none of them observed a large knife there.
What’s more, “Jamie”, the perpetrator of the subsequent siege at Seascape Cottage (by the way, the official claim is that Bryant was “Jamie”), mentioned having a large combat knife in his possession during the course of a phone call with police interrogator Sergeant Terry McCarthy on the evening of 28 April. If this is the knife Bugg is referring to, then it could only have emerged from the Seascape fire in a condition that rendered it useless for forensic purposes.
The mystery over the knife may explain why Bugg’s terminology verges on the devious. The DNA on the knife, he tells us, is “consistent with” that of Martin Bryant. However, DNA either is or is not a match. If the DNA matched Bryant’s, Bugg should have been able to say so. The term “consistent with” is semantic sleight-of-hand designed to encourage the misperception among those who know nothing about DNA testing that the DNA had been Bryant’s. In fact, the term “consistent with” means little in this instance. It could plausibly refer to DNA sequences found in every one of us. It is entirely possible that the DNA sample to which Bugg is referring is also “consistent with” both your DNA and mine!
In any case, it is obvious that the presence of Bryant’s DNA on the knife would do nothing to prove that he was the Port Arthur shooter. Even if his DNA had been found on the knife, and we were so rash as to draw the conclusion that the presence of his DNA proved that he had killed David Martin (which of course it doesn’t), this does not constitute evidence that Bryant was the Port Arthur shooter. The man who did stab David Martin could have been party to a conspiracy to frame Bryant. He could have stabbed both David Martin and Martin Bryant with the same knife, for instance. If so, the relevant question is whether anyone else’s DNA was on the knife, in addition to that of David Martin and Martin Bryant. The real killer’s DNA could have been all over the knife, but we will never know because Tasmania’s Director of Public Prosecutions was only interested in telling the public about a sample that was “consistent with” Bryant’s DNA.
Everything to do with the knife is extremely suspicious indeed. Since David Martin was murdered by being shot twice rather than by being stabbed, the sole point of stabbing him would seem to have been to plant a sample of his blood on the knife. The only reason for “Jamie” at Seascape to specifically inform Sergeant McCarthy that he had a large combat knife in his possession would have been to provide a link between Martin Bryant and the murder of David Martin. So Jamie appears to have been trying to frame Bryant. This is very hard to explain if we believe that Bryant was himself Jamie. Why would Bryant have wanted to incriminate himself? And even if Bryant had been perverse enough to want to incriminate himself by leaving the knife he had used to stab David Martin some place where the police would be able to find it later, why did he subsequently deny murdering him?
Abundant examples of Bryant’s fingerprints and DNA should have been retrieved from the Volvo driven by the gunman into the Port Arthur Historic Site, but no such evidence was recovered from the vehicle—a circumstance that seems most difficult to explain. Nonetheless, there is an explanation—one that, understood in its true light, amounts to evidence that the yellow Volvo used by the Port Arthur shooter was not Bryant’s.
A little-known fact about the case is that the Volvo was left in the open air, at the tollgate, for the night of 28–29 April. (It was still there at the tollgate at 9.00 am on 29 April, when Peninsula resident Michael Copping, a witness to movements of the Volvo on 28 April, saw it while on his way to collect PAHS worker Steven Howard from Port Arthur. By the way, Copping didn’t identify Bryant as the driver, although he said in his statement of 10 May that he had known him “through casual contact”.) With the vehicle’s rear passenger-side window missing (the gunman presumably removed it as a means of minimising the noise/blast effect of shooting from the driver’s seat), fingerprints and DNA inside the vehicle would have been vulnerable to the effects of night moisture. In fact, according to police, the overnight moisture eliminated all traces of fingerprints and DNA.
The question inevitably has to be asked of why the police did not take due care to ensure the preservation of whatever fingerprints and DNA were inside the car. At this stage—and recall here that Bryant was not taken into custody until the morning of 29 April—fingerprints and DNA inside the car represented essential proof of the perpetrator’s identity. As darkness descended on the Tasman Peninsula on 28 April, the only reason to connect the massacre to Bryant was a passport that reportedly had been found inside the Volvo at around 4.30 pm by a detective. At this time, the fingerprints and DNA from the Volvo therefore represented the most reliable means of determining whether the greatest homicidal maniac in Australian history had really been Bryant (as the presence of the passport suggested) or someone else. It would have been absolutely critical to preserve them in as perfect condition as possible for use during future criminal proceedings.
The fact that a major portion of the evidence required for the purpose of identifying the perpetrator vanished overnight invites only one sound conclusion: the police wanted it to vanish.
Unless the police had a reason not to want the massacre connected to Bryant (and I know of no evidence that would invite such a possibility), the outcome is consistent with only one conclusion: Tasmania Police did not want evidence to survive that would have proven that Bryant had not been the person using the car that afternoon. The Port Arthur shooter therefore has to have been someone other than Bryant whose identity the police were anxious to protect.
For many people, the most important reason to doubt that Bryant was the killer is on account of the latter’s impressive gunmanship. In 1998, Wound Ballistics Review pointed out that the Port Arthur incident: “…is unique in relation to the wounds for several reasons. Twice as many people were killed as injured (the reverse normally being true).”
What’s more, the Broad Arrow Café gunman managed to shoot the first 19 out of 20 people dead with single accurate shots to the head, fired from his right hip. Some researchers maintain that Bryant, who was an amateur shooter with virtually no shooting experience whatsoever, would have entirely lacked the skills to carry out such a feat. A powerful case has been made to this effect by Perth researcher Joe Vialls (now deceased), based on the fact that amateur shooters generally achieve a much lower KIR (killed-to-injured ratio) than did the Broad Arrow Café shooter. In an enclosed space like the Broad Arrow Café, targets would have to be shot in a careful sequence with split-second timing to maximise the kill rate. Yet the Broad Arrow Café gunman managed a kill rate well above that required of a fully trained soldier—an impossible task for a man like Bryant, with an IQ in the mid-60s and his total lack of military training. Vialls concluded that the shooter was a military-trained marksman who would probably rank among the top 10 or 20 shooters in the world.
Brigadier Ted Serong, former head of Australian forces in Vietnam, was just as impressed. In 1999, Serong—who explained that his eyes had first been opened by the “astonishing proportion of killed to wounded”—told Melbourne newspaper the Age:
“There was an almost satanic accuracy to that shooting performance. Whoever did it is better than I am, and there are not too many people around here better than I am.”
One reason why most members of the general public have accepted the official story that Bryant was the gunman is that they possess a greatly exaggerated idea of what amateur gunmen are able to do. Not only do amateurs tend to injure many more persons than they kill, they are usually overpowered before they have completed their sinister work. By contrast, the Port Arthur gunman was a thorough professional who was at all times in perfect control. Vialls wrote:
“The shooter in the Broad Arrow Café at Port Arthur demonstrated all of the qualities of a trained counterterrorist marksman but made no amateur mistakes. Always in motion and point-shooting from the right hip with devastating accuracy, he killed twenty of the occupants with single shots to the head and wounded twelve more, firing a total of only 29 rounds. Using known techniques reported by witnesses, he ensured his own safety from attack by turning on the spot and staying outside grappling range. It was an awesome display of expertise, even by special forces standards.”
However, we don’t have to take the word of people like Vialls and Serong who never saw the Port Arthur gunman shoot with their own eyes. According to eyewitness (and victim) Neville Quin: “He [the gunman] appeared to be the best-trained army guy I’ve ever seen; his stance was unbelievable.”
Also important to consider is that, according to most witnesses, the Broad Arrow Café shooter shot from his right hip. Not only is Bryant left-handed, he told police he had never fired a gun from his hip. We should believe him. It is doubtful that anyone except a highly trained professional shooter could.
Weapons and ammunition used at Port Arthur
The prosecution claims that Bryant perpetrated the massacre using two firearms, a Colt AR-15 semi-automatic .223 mm rifle and a Belgian FN-FAL semi-automatic .308 mm SLR (self-loading rifle), both of which were recovered from Seascape Cottage after detectives went over the burned-out site on the afternoon of 29 April 1996. However, it is not clear whether these were really the weapons used at Port Arthur. Both were recovered in a badly damaged condition which effectively ruled out ballistics testing.
However, the matter is complicated by the fact that the earliest newspaper reports do not mention a Colt AR-15. No eyewitness mentions it either. Graham Collyer said that the weapon used by the gunman inside the Broad Arrow Café “looked like a standard SLR service semi-automatic”. This description is more consistent with the FN-FAL than the Colt AR-15, although it is this latter weapon that we are now told was the weapon used inside the café.
The day after the massacre, the Examiner reported that police had found a .223 mm Armalite M16 at Port Arthur. Nothing has been heard since about the weapon that was found that day inside the PAHS. Then, on 1 May 1996, the West Australian told the public that the two weapons used had been a 5.56 mm Armalite AR-15 and a Chinese-made SKS .762 mm assault rifle. It is interesting that it took only two days for the Armalite M16—a prohibited import—to disappear from the public record, to be replaced by a weapon which could be legally bought and sold in Australia. From this point onwards, the SKS became the weapon most frequently referred to in the media as the weapon “Bryant” had used. Then, finally, the SKS was dropped altogether and its place in narratives of the massacre was taken by the Belgian FN-FAL. To me, these intriguing shifts look like shifts from the real murder weapons to weapons that could be connected to Bryant, if only because, like him, they also emerged from the Seascape inferno.
In any case, there is no evidence that Bryant procured either of the weapons to which the massacre has officially been attributed.
No one has even been proven to have sold the weapons to Bryant, and no theory exists that would explain how he came by them if he did not buy them from gun dealers. A similar mystery surrounds the ammunition used at Port Arthur.
Although Hobart gun dealer Terry Hill admits to having sold Bryant three boxes of Winchester XX 11⁄2-oz shotgun shells (code number X12XC) on 24 April 1996—four days before the massacre — this is not ammunition which was used at Port Arthur. If Hill — or anyone else — sold Bryant the ammunition that was recovered from the crime scene, then Tasmania Police ought to have been able to prove it. The fact that they have never traced the origin of the ammunition (or, at least, have never revealed its origin to the public) surely means that it cannot be connected to Bryant. It is, after all, extremely hard to believe that Bryant, with an IQ so low that it would put him in the bottom one or two per cent of the population (as established by psychiatrist Ian Joblin in June 1996), could have managed his purchases of guns, ammunition and everything else involved in the case so successfully that the police have utterly failed to establish the origin of so much as a single item. It is far easier to believe that the police simply do not want us to learn who procured these deadly items and how.
Narratives of the Port Arthur massacre also contain mention of other items which allegedly belonged to Martin Bryant. These items consist of a video camera and a yellow Volvo left at the PAHS tollgate, together with items found inside it: a full 25-litre drum of petrol, a 10-litre drum of petrol containing seven litres, a grey video camera bag, lengths of sash cord rope, two pairs of handcuffs and three packets of Little Lucifer fire starters. Not one iota of proof has ever been provided to prove that Bryant owned any of these items (not even the Volvo, which could have been an identical model to Bryant’s, rather than Bryant’s unique vehicle). What’s more, no one is on record as having admitted to selling Bryant any of these items. Although Bryant could easily have purchased Little Lucifer fire starters inconspicuously, it is unlikely that he could have bought large drums of petrol or two pairs of handcuffs without attracting attention.
Concerns about lack of evidence against Bryant
The lack of evidence for the identification of Martin Bryant as the Port Arthur shooter is a matter that should concern all Australians today. Only a few determined individuals have been brave enough to raise the matter in public. At a meeting of the Australian and New Zealand Forensic Science Society held at Griffith University in Queensland in 2002, Ian McNiven raised the subject of the lack of forensic evidence incriminating Martin Bryant.
The presenter, who was apparently Sergeant Gerard Dutton, of the Ballistics Section of Tasmania Police, grew angry and had university security threaten McNiven and effectively evict him from the meeting. McNiven was not wrong to raise the question of the lack of hard evidence against Bryant.
In an interview with the Bulletin of 4 April 2006, Tony Rundle, who became premier of Tasmania six weeks before the massacre, effectively admits that the evidence in the public domain is insufficient to support the official determination that Bryant had been the gunman, except that he tries to explain the fact away:
“Rundle still wonders whether the recovery might have been hastened if Bryant had stood trial. At the time the view was a trial could do no good for the victims and their families. ‘Now I think maybe that wasn’t the case. If all the evidence was heard, then maybe it would have provided some closure and stopped the proliferation of conspiracy theories that sprang up over the years,’ he says.”
A question to Mr Rundle: given that a great many Australians are sceptical of the claim that Bryant was responsible for the Port Arthur tragedy, can it ever be too late to release “all the evidence”?
If he is so concerned by the proliferation of “conspiracy theories”, perhaps he should contact Fiona Baker, executive producer of the popular TV program Forensic Investigators, which deals precisely with the subject of how the police use evidence to identify suspects. So far, Baker has not done a program on Port Arthur. I’m sure she would be delighted to make her program a vehicle for the first public presentation of the evidence for which Australia has been waiting for 10 years. ∞
• Dutton, Gerard (Sgt) (Ballistics Section, Hobart Tasmania Police) et al., “A Review of the Wounding Effects of the Colt AR-15 and FN-FAL Rifles used by Martin Bryant in the Port Arthur Shooting Incident, April 26, 1996, Tasmania, Australia”, Wound Ballistics Review 3(4) 1998.
• McDonald, Noel, A Presentation of the Port Arthur Incident: Prelude to a Royal Commission, 2001 (self-published book; a separate CD-ROM with documents, videos and pictures is also available).
• MacGregor, Andrew, “Deceit and Terrorism: The Massacre at Port Arthur“, 1991 (CD-ROM).
• Shooters News website, http://www.shootersnews.addr.com/ (includes scans of police witness statements).
• Vialls, Joe, Deadly Deception at Port Arthur, Carine, Western Australia, 1997–1999 (self-published book); for transcript, see http://home.overflow.net.au/~nedwood/JoeVialls.html.
I wish to thank Mr Noel McDonald, author of A Presentation of the Port Arthur Incident (2001), for his valuable work in scrutinising the case and, in particular, for culling some extremely significant information from the witness statements. Most of the unattributed information in this article is sourced from his book.
— Carl Wernerhoff
2. The police interrogation
On 4 July 1996, two police detectives who had been appointed by Superintendent Jack Johnston to handle the Port Arthur investigation, Inspectors Ross Paine and John Warren, interviewed Martin Bryant about the case at some length.1 Despite the extreme seriousness of the crimes for which he was being held responsible, Bryant was interrogated without legal counsel present. This outrageous circumstance is exposed in the interview record which begins with Bryant being informed that his lawyer (David Gunson) had “no problem” with the interview taking place without his participation.
Inspector Paine: Look Martin, you’ve obviously got a, a, an interest in firearms as well?
Martin Bryant: Well, I have had an interest in firearms.
Paine: How many guns do you own?
Bryant: I own, umm, a shotgun and a semi-automatic and another semi-automatic. Three altogether.
Paine: Where’d you get those guns?
Bryant: Oh, umm, I can’t really say, I haven’t got my lawyer here, so.
Paine: Well, we have spoken to your lawyer and he knows that we’re talking to you.
Bryant: He knows, he knows.
Paine: And aah, has no problem with that so, aah.
As we shall see, this was an extremely devious means of approaching the Port Arthur issue because, at this stage, Bryant still had no idea of the charges that were about to be foisted upon him and therefore had no idea that the interview concerned the subject that would determine his entire future. In fact, on 5 July, the very day following the interview, Bryant was officially charged in the Hobart Supreme Court with 69 criminal charges arising from the Port Arthur incident. Prior to that, the only crime with which he had been charged was the murder of Kate Elizabeth Scott, who had been a victim of the shootings in the Broad Arrow Café. According to the official record, Bryant was charged with her death in a bedside hearing on 30 April 1996:
Paine: Do you know why you’re here?
Bryant: Know why I’m here, well Inspector Warren was saying in the Royal [Hobart Hospital] that I was on one murder count.
Given the incredible magnitude of the allegations that were presented to Bryant for the first time during the 4 July interrogation, a lawyer should certainly have been in the room. In such circumstances, the intellectually challenged Bryant was obviously no good judge of his own interests. Furthermore, Bryant had been placed under a guardianship order in 1994 and was therefore not competent to decide whether a lawyer ought to have been present or not. Only a legally appointed guardian had the right to make that call.
To compound the sins of the Tasmanian criminal justice system, the interview was most unprofessionally conducted. The equipment frequently malfunctioned and the conversation was constantly interrupted. The result is said to be atrocious. However, there was no necessity to conduct the interview on 4 July and it could easily have been—indeed, should have been—postponed to such a time as the equipment was working properly. After all, the Port Arthur massacre was the biggest murder case in Australian history. Such adverse conditions therefore had to have been created deliberately. The unprofessional conduct of the interview also suggests that both Paine and Warren knew that Bryant would never be properly defended and even that the case would never go to trial. As a Tasmania Police officer has admitted in an email to researcher Noel McDonald, the videotape was of such poor quality that “the defence would have had a field day if it had been presented” in court.2
Why would Paine and Warren have persisted in such a long interview if there was a high risk of Bryant’s lawyer objecting to the tape’s presentation in court?
On account of the deliberate negligence by which the videotape was made and the fact that the tape itself has never been released, we cannot be certain that anything attributed to Bryant in the printed record of the interrogation matches what he said. The transcript also omits a great deal of what he did say: a very substantial portion of the conversation has been withheld. Pages 1–9, 18, 23, 32–35, 40, 44–46, 79–81, 92–97 and 116-41 were deleted in their entirety, while most of pages 10, 91, 142 and 145 and parts of pages 17, 31, 36, 39, 41, 43, 47, 74, 78, 98, and 115 were also deleted.3
Even the pages that were released cannot be trusted entirely. No fewer than 80 of Bryant’s comments have been rendered as “inaudible”. Since there is a suspicious tendency for “inaudible” responses to appear in crucial parts of the conversation—particularly parts where Bryant’s version of events contradicts that of his interrogators—it is hard to resist the conclusion that the material was excised as a means of withholding exculpatory material, e.g., references to potential alibi witnesses. In addition, it may have contained important clues as to how his movements and actions were manipulated prior to the massacre as a means of making him the scapegoat for it. If the official account of the massacre is true and the killings were perpetrated by a lone nut inexplicably run amok, there can be no good reason to withhold any sections of the transcript from the public at all.
Despite its massive shortcomings, the interrogation transcript remains invaluable as a record of Martin Bryant’s side of the story. It is a great pity that Australians have condemned him without ever taking on board what he had to say on the very first occasion on which he was confronted with the accusation of having perpetrated the Port Arthur massacre.
For those convinced of Bryant’s innocence, the transcript also sheds a great deal of light on the devious processes by which he was framed. A careful reading of the transcript establishes beyond doubt that the police manipulated him into a situation in which the most heinous allegations could be raised against him, and he had absolutely no means of challenging them—no means, that is to say, other than his own extremely limited intelligence, which psychiatrist Ian Joblin states is roughly equal to that of an 11-year-old.
A day in the life of an unwitting patsy
Most Australians will be astounded to discover that in this interview Bryant not only denied carrying out the massacre but also related an entirely different narrative of the events of 28 April 1996 than that which has been presented to the public by the authorities.
According to the official story put to the Hobart Supreme Court by Tasmania’s Director of Public Prosecutions, Damian Bugg, QC, Bryant had set his alarm clock for 6 am, left his house in Clare Street, New Town, Hobart, at 9.47 am precisely (the time he allegedly activated his house alarm), and drove to Seascape guest house, making stops at Midway Point (to buy a cigarette lighter), Sorell (to buy a bottle of tomato sauce), Forcett (to buy a cup of coffee) and Taranna (to buy petrol).
When he arrived at Seascape, he murdered the owners, David Martin and his wife Sally, and loaded the building with firearms and ammunition that he had presumably brought with him in his car from Hobart. Bryant then proceeded to the Port Arthur Historic Site (PAHS), stopping to chat for five or 10 minutes with a neighbour of the Martins, Roger Larner, and to buy a small amount of marijuana on the way.
Bryant, on the other hand, told Inspectors Warren and Paine that he did not set his alarm clock at all that morning and that he rose at 7 or 8 am. He left the house around 11 am—”when the sun came up and it got a bit warm”—without turning on his house alarm, which he had last done on the previous occasion he went to Melbourne. He then drove to Roaring Beach on the western side of the Tasman Peninsula, stopping only once along the way—at the Sorell Bakery, where he bought a cappuccino. He emphatically denied having stopped at Midway Point to buy a cigarette lighter, at the Sorell service station supermarket to buy a bottle of tomato sauce—”Why would I want tomato sauce for?” he asked Inspector Warren—or at Taranna to buy petrol (he says the Volvo’s tank was already full when he left Hobart).
Bryant says that after stopping at Sorell he proceeded via Taranna to Roaring Beach, where he surfed for about 20 minutes and noticed two other people bodysurfing in short wetsuits at the other end of the beach. After drying off in the sun, he went to Nubeena where he stopped for coffee and a toasted sandwich at “a little shop near the school”. After this, he says he drove past the PAHS to visit the Martins at Seascape Cottage.
Everything that happened after he set out for Seascape is extremely obscure. Indeed, after Nubeena, Bryant’s narrative of the day’s events dissolves into what seems more of a nightmare sequence than anything else, for Bryant implicates himself in criminal acts which, as we shall see, he cannot possibly have carried out in reality, including an act that we know was actually perpetrated by someone else.
As we have already seen, Bryant’s recollections of his doings on the morning of 28 April 1996 are not implausible; what’s more, they are almost certainly true. There are no witness statements from staff at either the Sorell Bakery or the “little shop” in Nubeena contradicting Bryant’s claim to have been there that day. It is also difficult to envisage a motive for Bryant to lie about the stops he made between Hobart and Roaring Beach. What would he have had to gain by denying that he had stopped at Midway Point, Forcett and Taranna? Whether he made four stops or just the one at Sorell made no difference to the allegations against him. Why would he lie about where he stopped to buy a coffee? His statement contradicts that of Gary King, a casual employee of the Shell service station at Forcett, who told police that he sold a coffee to “a young bloke” with “long blonde [sic] curly hair” who was driving a Volvo with “a surf board on top”. But what does it matter whether Bryant bought a coffee at Sorell or Forcett? No matter where he bought it, it sheds no light on his alleged responsibility for the massacre.
Bryant also told Inspector Warren that he had paid for his coffee with gold coins from the glove compartment of his car. Yet Gary King says the man paid in five- and ten-cent coins. Another discrepancy is that Bryant told Warren that he had had no more than $10 to $15 with him that day, and all the money was in gold coins in the glove box of his car. Yet according to service station attendant Christopher Hammond, the “Bryant” who bought petrol at Taranna paid $15 in two notes. Why would Bryant lie about these trivial matters?
But if it is hard to see what Bryant had to gain by lying about his trip from Hobart, it is easy to see what a Bryant impersonator would have stood to gain by making four stops along the way to Port Arthur. While Bryant stopped just once, which is not at all unusual for a trip that would only have taken an hour and a quarter, the impersonator would have wanted to attract as much attention to himself as possible within this short period. Thus he made pointless purchases—items that he could easily have brought with him from Hobart if he needed them—and paid for three out of four of them with small change in order to increase the likelihood that shopkeepers would recall the incidents afterwards. The multiple stops were necessary to ensure that after the massacre, a body of evidence existed that seemed to confirm that Bryant had travelled to Port Arthur that morning. The theory that an impersonator made four stops on the way to Port Arthur makes a good deal more sense than the idea that it was necessary for Bryant to conceal having made those stops.
Two further circumstances invite the conclusion that the stops were those of a Bryant impersonator. First, one of the four witnesses, Angelo Kessarios, who sold “Bryant” a cigarette lighter at Midway Point, recalled being perplexed that “Bryant” did not recognise him. The most plausible explanation is that Kessarios had encountered an impersonator. Clearly, Kessarios did not know Bryant so well that he could avoid being taken in by a double, while the double did not know Bryant’s background so well that he knew he ought to behave more familiarly. Second, Gary King said in his statement that the “Bryant” he’d encountered on the Sunday morning commented that he [King] served him “a nice cup of coffee” the previous Tuesday. King did not confirm that he’d had a previous encounter with “Bryant”. Whether or not this is a memory lapse on King’s part, there is nothing on record to suggest that the real Bryant visited Forcett on the Tuesday.
Incident at the Fortescue Bay turnoff
The bizarre twist in Bryant’s narrative begins “At the Fortescue Bay turnoff, just, ohh, about three or four minutes away from the Martins’ farm” on the Hobart side of Seascape.4 Bryant confessed, “unfortunately I held up a car, I took ahh, I saw this car I liked and got, umm, held up the person in the car and kidnapped him”. The car was “a nice-looking BMW” occupied by three people, a male, a female and a child. Bryant says he ordered the man inside the boot of the car and made the female and the child get inside his Volvo. Why did he take the man hostage? “I was a bit worried that if he didn’t go, he’d go off in my car,” Bryant explained. After commandeering the BMW solely because he “liked” it (he states that his intention was simply to take it for a drive), Bryant sped off towards Seascape at 140 km/h.
What is striking about this story is that it combines elements from two different events that took place shortly after the massacre inside the Broad Arrow Café: the PAHS gunman’s hijacking of a gold-coloured BMW sedan belonging to Ken and Mary Rose Nixon and his subsequent taking of a hostage, Glenn Pears, who had been the driver of a white Corolla with a female passenger, Zoe Hall, outside the Port Arthur General Store. Bryant is not simply being forgetful here:
Inspector Warren: Do you remember seeing a white, ahh, small Japanese car, like a Corolla?
Bryant: Corolla, no. Not at all.
But if Bryant’s story about hijacking a car at the Fortescue Bay turnoff does not resemble any one incident in the official narrative of the massacre, it matches perfectly an incident discussed by “Jamie”—protagonist of the Seascape siege—in a telephone conversation with police negotiator Sgt Terry McCarthy that took place shortly after 5 pm on 28 April:
Sgt McCarthy: Now you were talking just a little bit about the, um, Rick having come from Fortescue Bay. Can you just enlighten me as to what happened there?
Jamie: Yeah, yeah; I got him and managed to get him, his wife, she, he wanted to participate, um, in the kidnapping in, instead of his wife. I thought alright, quick…get in, get into the car and I’ve got him as a hostage.
McCarthy: Okay, okay, now you were in your, your car there, were you?
McCarthy: Right. You’re in your car and you wha, what, pulled them up? They were driving along in a car, is that correct?
Jamie: That’s correct.
McCarthy: Alright, and and what, how did you stop them, Jamie?
Jamie: Had to get a rifle.
McCarthy: Oh I see, right, so you, you, you were standing on the road, they drove up and you pointed…
McCarthy: …the rifle at them and they stopped.
Jamie: Oh yes.
McCarthy: Is that right?
Jamie: Yes, that’s correct.
McCarthy: Okay, an, and what did you…you were planning on taking these people hostage?
Jamie: That’s right.
McCarthy: Right. Why, why Jamie? Do you want to tell me why?
Jamie: Oh man, ya [inaudible]… You, that’s what you’re getting paid for, I me…
McCarthy: Well, I’d like to hear it from you.
Jamie: No, na, na, no.
McCarthy: Is there any…reason why you took these particular people?
Although we never learn the reason, it is subsequently established that the name of the male hostage was Rick, a 34-year-old man from (Fort) Lauderdale, Florida, that his wife was a very highly educated woman with a good job, and that the child was only a year old:
McCarthy: Now Jamie, we were talking earlier on about, ar, Rick and the fact that you kidnapped him from Fortescue Bay.
Jamie: That’s correct. Yeah.
McCarthy: Do you want to tell me about that?
Jamie: Not really, no.
McCarthy: Well, you talked about, you talked about, ah, his wife and, er, his child and, um, we’re having difficulties locating his wife and child.
Jamie: Yes, she’s only 12 months old, the little child, I found out from him.
McCarthy: Right. What, from him?
McCarthy: Right. What about his wife? Do you know anything about his wife?
Jamie: Um, sh, yeah, I do.
Jamie: I know…
McCarthy: Can you tell me something about it?
Jamie: I know how high up in things she is. Yeah.
McCarthy: I’m sorry?
Jamie: I know how high up she is in the different areas.
McCarthy: How, how high up? What do you mean by that, Jamie?
Jamie: In work, higher than what you are…
Jamie: …the intelligence and everything, university and everything.
McCarthy: Oh right, is she, she’s only, she, er, a university, er…
Jamie: Oh, she’s passed that; she’s got full-time work, but I’m not going to let you know.
When the conversation returned to Rick — who Jamie told McCarthy was a lawyer — Jamie launched into the most bizarre statements, one of which implies that Jamie actually knew Rick’s wife:
McCarthy: …we’re having problems locating Rick’s wife.
Jamie: Where is she?
McCarthy: Well, we don’t know because we’re not real sure who Rick is.
Jamie: Oh I don’t know, she went round to, um, to Fortescue Bay.
McCarthy: How do you know that, er, Jamie?
Jamie: She headed round that way.
McCarthy: She headed around that way?
Jamie: Yeah. Couldn’t get…
McCarthy: Right. Well (cough)
Jamie: …away quick enough.
McCarthy: Well (cough), if, if, um, if Rick’s there, would you mind asking…
McCarthy: …him what his surname is if you don’t know?
Jamie: …apparently, um, she’s had a pretty hard life until she met, um, thingamabob…
Jamie: Rick and, um, he’s great, she’s a great lady, they’re both professional people.
McCarthy: Right. What do, what does, ah, what does she do?
Jamie: Um, well, I can’t tell you that.
McCarthy: Why not?
Jamie: Cause I don’t know.
Whatever we think about the astounding number of bizarre things Jamie told Sgt McCarthy over the phone on the evening of 28 April, the above excerpts establish that the incident cannot be connected with the massacre at Port Arthur. For Jamie—whether he was Bryant or not—clearly cannot have been hijacking the Nixons’ gold BMW or taking Glenn Pears hostage near the Port Arthur General Store at the same time that he was hijacking a BMW and taking “Rick” hostage at the Fortescue Bay turnoff.
Did the Fortescue Bay turnoff carjacking really take place?
Given that the incident at the Fortescue Bay turnoff is described by both “Jamie” (on 28 April) and Martin Bryant (on 4 July), it is striking that there is no record anywhere of a 34-year-old man from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and his family being the victims of a carjacking that day. The likelihood, therefore, is that the incident never took place and that Bryant very largely imagined his own participation in a scenario whose outlines he could only have learned about from others.
Most people are aware, due to the unprecedented wave of false accusations of rape and child abuse that swept the United States in the 1980s, of the existence of false memory syndrome. As Dr Elizabeth Loftus, Professor of Psychology at the University of Washington, writes in The Myth of Repressed Memory (1994): “We can easily distort memories for the details of an event that you did experience. And we can also go so far as to plant entirely false memories—we call them rich false memories because they are so detailed and so big.”
Less well known is the fact that pseudomemories can emerge in self-incriminating forms. The textbook case is that of Paul Ingram, an American man accused of sexual abuse by his two daughters, who in the late 1980s “produced an astonishing series of self-incriminating ‘memories'” relating to his alleged membership of a satanic cult which had supposedly sacrificed 25 babies. According to John Frow, what is striking about the Ingram case is the “breathtaking readiness on the part of its major players to form lasting ‘memories’ on very slight provocation”: not only Ingram and his daughters but a son, his wife and two of his colleagues implicated in the supposed satanic cult and in ongoing abuse of the daughters, either at some time remembered major and almost certainly non-existent crimes or at least suspected their own complicity even if not remembering it; and Ingram “remembered”, and came firmly to believe in, a pseudomemory suggested to him by a sociologist working as a consultant for the prosecution.5
People of extremely low intelligence—as well as those with certain types of mental illness—are probably even more capable of persuading themselves to believe that they have done terrible things which in fact they have not done, than people of average intelligence. According to Richard Ofshe, a sociologist at the University of California, Berkeley, obtaining confessions from mentally disabled people “is like taking candy from a baby”.6 That such persons have generated false, self-incriminating memories that have led to their being imprisoned or even executed is a documented fact. Two examples are given in Bob Woffinden’s 1987 book Miscarriages of Justice, including those of Timothy Evans, who confessed to killing his wife, and Margaret Livesey, who confessed to the murder of her son. Neither was guilty. Thus, with respect to Bryant’s admissions regarding the Fortescue Bay turnoff carjacking, we would seem to be looking at a classic case of the mentally deficient person confessing to a crime that he believes he must have committed, even if he doesn’t actually remember doing so or know why he would have done such a thing.
It is possible to reconstruct the laborious mental process that would have led the hapless Bryant to believe that he had actually perpetrated the Fortescue Bay turnoff carjacking. When the interview with Inspectors Warren and Paine began, Bryant knew no more than that he was being detained on a single charge of murder. He had no idea what had happened, who had died or why he was being held responsible. Building an explanation on the basis of certain facts that must have been leaked to him about the case, presumably by a doctor and “security guards” (who may in fact have been intelligence agents feeding him carefully selected tidbits of information), he finally believed himself to have commandeered a BMW at gunpoint and taken the male driver hostage. Although Bryant knew that the man he thinks he took hostage had subsequently died, he did not admit having killed him intentionally. He stated that, as he was knocking on the door of Seascape Cottage, he heard the vehicle explode. His assumption was that his hostage had died in the explosion:
Warren: Do you, you’ve already said that you remembered me going to see you at the hospital?
Bryant: Ohh yes. Mmm.
Warren: And that I told you that you were being charged with…
Bryant: A murder count.
Warren: A murder.
Warren: What recollection have you got of that?
Bryant: Must’ve been the hostage, the bloke in the BMW must’ve died.
Although Bryant did not recall having set the vehicle on fire, he realised that the explosion had to have started somehow. After concluding (erroneously, as we shall see) that only he could have started the fire, he tried to imagine what he would have to have done to have caused it. He decided that he must have transferred “two or three” plastic drums of petrol from the Volvo to the BMW, tipped the petrol all over the car, and then lit it using a match (or a lighter) that he must have found inside his jacket pocket. Having decided that this is how he had set fire to the car, Bryant seized upon the fire as an explanation for his burns: “I must’ve been in the car when it went up, ‘cos I got burnt.” He reasoned that the whole mess that had landed him in gaol had been the result of “a bad thing”, by which he meant “playing with fire” as he had done when he was 10 years old.
The problems with Bryant’s story are immediately apparent. First, there is the matter of where he was when the explosion took place. If the vehicle exploded while he was knocking on the door of Seascape, how can the explanation for his burns be that he was in the car when it ignited? How can he possibly not remember where he was when he “got burnt”? Second, there is the problem of how the explosion started. Bryant told Inspectors Warren and Paine that he had not been carrying anything with him that he could have used to start a fire. So how could this non-smoker happen to find himself carrying something in his shirt pocket that proved useful for precisely this purpose? And how can he possibly not recall whether the object was a set of matches or a cigarette lighter?
Clearly, Bryant was foundering for an explanation that would account for the burns to his body and his subsequent loss of liberty. Since he was not trying to evade responsibility for the carjacking and the subsequent explosion, he found himself in the dilemma of a person who accepts that he is guilty but is having great difficulty envisaging the precise circumstances in which he committed the offences. Thus Bryant’s recurring use of “must have”: he “must’ve” played with fire, he “must’ve” transferred petrol drums into the BMW, the hostage “must’ve” still been in the car when it exploded. In short, Bryant was desperately hypothesising. If he had really been responsible for the explosion and not seeking to deny it, how can he possibly not remember what he had done to cause it? If he was suffering from post-traumatic amnesia, how is it that he was able to recall everything clearly enough that had happened prior to the carjacking?
Between his arrest on 29 April and his interrogation on 4 July, therefore, Bryant seems to have performed mental cartwheels in an effort to devise a scenario that would explain how his misfortunes had come about. By this date, he had confabulated a scenario in which he had commandeered a BMW and set it alight. As we saw, the scenario bears only superficial similarities to the gunman’s actual capture of the Nixons’ vehicle—an event that was viewed by several witnesses including Jim Laycock, who knew Bryant but did not recognise the gunman as Bryant.
Although the real gunman seized the Nixons’ BMW near the PAHS tollbooth, Bryant believes he hijacked a BMW at the Fortescue Bay turnoff. Since he cannot even get the location right, his confession to having captured the vehicle and taken a hostage has to be dismissed as sheer fantasy. However, on account of its resemblance to the scenario recounted to Sgt McCarthy by “Jamie”, its key elements (the BMW, the hostage, the petrol drums, the explosion) had to have been suggested to him somehow. The question is: how?
What I propose is that, once they were in total control of Bryant’s environment—and after his arrest, Bryant was subjected to weeks on end of virtual solitary confinement—government agents specialising in mind control convinced Bryant that, due to the traumatic nature of the events in which they alleged he had been involved, he was suffering from psychogenic amnesia (memory blockages). They would have offered to help him “recover” his lost memories. Psychiatrists known to have worked with Bryant who may have been involved in such a memory recovery program would include Dr Fred E. Emery, of the notorious brainwashing specialists the Tavistock Institute, who died on 10 April 1997, that is, only a year after Port Arthur—a fact that might well be regarded as suspicious—and Emeritus Professor Ivor Jones of the University of Hobart, who headed the two floors of Royal Hobart Hospital which were devoted to psychiatric studies at the time Bryant was being detained there.
The best explanation, therefore, is that we are looking at a case of artificially induced memories. Bryant would have been subjected to the whole arsenal of coercive psychological techniques that are used to break down resistance and enhance suggestibility. Techniques likely to have been employed for the purpose of making him receptive to pseudo-memories would include sleep deprivation, electric shock treatment, hypnosis, “deep sleep” therapy, torture and the administration of beta-blockers like Propranolol.
By such methods, Bryant’s suggestibility would have been elevated to the point that he was fully capable of mistaking a mere narrative for authentic memories.
Such a program would probably have been supplemented by a short video portraying the events themselves. I conjecture that an individual disguised as Bryant—presumably the Port Arthur gunman himself—perpetrated the Fortescue Bay turnoff carjacking, but that the episode was a mere charade performed for the benefit of a video camera.
The entire sequence of events would have been filmed for the purpose of brainwashing Bryant into believing that he had been the actual perpetrator, that he was the man shown in the film. The video camera was then taken by the gunman to the PAHS, where it was abandoned in the Broad Arrow Café as a means of ensuring that it reached the police.
If Bryant was subjected to repeated viewings of such footage while under the influence of the appropriate psychoactive drugs, he would have wound up believing quite sincerely that what he had seen portrayed so vividly on the screen had in fact been his own memories.
This theory helps explain a hitherto obscure circumstance: the fact that the Port Arthur gunman, despite being sufficiently burdened already with a heavily stuffed sports bag, was also lugging around with him a large black video camera. Although the camera was discarded at the café and is known to have been recovered by police, it has not been heard of since.
As it is most unlikely that the gunman would have encumbered himself with this object for no reason, the camera had to have played a role in the drama.
Although I cannot prove that the camera contained footage of the Fortescue Bay turnoff incident, it might well have contained footage of some kind. If it didn’t, it’s hard to see why the official narrative of the case entirely glosses over the matter of whether there was anything on the camera.7
Although Bryant’s confabulated scenario failed to match the official account of his alleged deeds, it was serviceable enough for the purpose of forging a link with the sinister activities of the real gunman. Inspectors Paine and Warren would have felt gratified that, for all its logical problems, Bryant’s scenario contained four episodes that feature in the official account of the Port Arthur massacre: (i) arriving at Seascape (ii) in a stolen BMW (iii) with a male hostage in the boot and (iv) setting the BMW alight. Nonetheless, Bryant’s scenario can be rejected as false because at least three known facts about the case directly contradict it.
First, the BMW was actually set on fire by Constable Andrew M. Fogarty of the Special Operations Group (SOG), who was the first police officer to arrive at Seascape. According to a police insider—apparently Superintendent Bob Fielding, who arrived at the police operations centre at Taranna about half an hour after the incident occurred—Fogarty had fired a phosphorus grenade at the vehicle in order to prevent it from being used as an escape vehicle. (The drums of petrol which Bryant had allegedly brought with him from Hobart that morning, but which no eyewitness actually reported seeing, may therefore be completely fictitious.)
Second, while Bryant believes that the BMW driver was still in the boot when the explosion occurred, the body of the hostage—Glenn Pears—was discovered inside Seascape, not inside the BMW, suggesting that the gunman had freed him from the boot of the BMW and escorted him into the house.
Third, the burns to Bryant’s body were in reality sustained the next day during the Seascape fire. (He emerged from Seascape on the morning of 29 April 1996 with his back in flames.)8
In short, although Bryant’s story constitutes an admission of criminal acts, it does not add up to an admission of responsibility for any events that actually took place that day. Damian Bugg, QC, was therefore misleading the Court when, on 19 November 1996, he declared that “Jamie”—who he assumed to have been Bryant—had admitted stealing the Nixons’ BMW and taking Glenn Pears hostage. In fact, “Jamie”, as we’ve seen, had only related a parallel event involving “Rick” from Florida. Bryant did no more than “confess” to the same episode.
Bryant’s distinctive appearance and vehicle
When his police interrogation began, the only significant information Bryant knew about the events of 28–29 April is that Seascape had burned down and a number of people had perished in the fire. He said he obtained the information not from Inspectors Paine and Warren (who seem to have been surprised to learn that he knew this), but from “a doctor, and security guards”. What few Australians know is that Bryant was saddened to hear about Seascape’s destruction and expressed sorrow for the Martins’ loss. “Worked hard all their lives, renovating; took them years to build it, renovate it and to start it all up, and it’s just so sad to see; apparently it’s burnt down, it’s so sad to see it burnt down,” he lamented.
Before we recount the process by which Bryant was first made aware of his alleged responsibility for the Port Arthur massacre, it is necessary to remind the reader once again that neither forensic nor eyewitness evidence exists to link him to it. The case against him depends entirely upon two circumstantial factors: the distinctiveness of his personal appearance and that of his 1979-model yellow Volvo. The police framing of Bryant for the massacre therefore included obtaining concessions from him as to the distinctiveness of his appearance and that of his Volvo.
The matter of his appearance was raised spontaneously by Bryant himself, but was instantly capitalised upon by Inspector Warren, who deviously connected it to “Port Arthur”, even though Bryant hadn’t mentioned that location himself:
Warren: Martin, getting back to that point about the hostage, you taking the hostage because you didn’t want him telling the police. What didn’t you want him telling the police?
Bryant: That I took his, umm, car.
Warren: But I mean, if you’d have left him on the side of the road, he wouldn’t have known where you could’ve driven.
Bryant: Yeah, but he could’ve let them know that there was a chap with blonde [sic] hair, took me car, stole me car. So I sort of put him in the boot to be safe.
Warren: So you thought your looks that day were distinctive, and if someone said they saw a chap with blonde hair…
Warren: …at Port Arthur on that particular day?
Second, the Volvo:
Warren: We have lots of people who are telling us that they saw you at Port Arthur and your car.
Bryant: Well, it must’ve been another, there’s other Volvos…
Warren: With surfboards on the top? With someone with long blonde hair driving them or getting out of them?
Bryant: There’s not many with surfboards on top.
As we shall see below, these concessions left Bryant little wiggle room when police confronted him with a photograph of what seemed to be his yellow Volvo parked at Port Arthur. Once they had succeeded in having Bryant admit the distinctiveness of his appearance and that of his Volvo, Inspectors Paine and Warren had to do one more thing before they could confront him with the accusation that he had perpetrated the massacre inside the Broad Arrow Café: they had to convince him that he had entered the PAHS that day.
To do so, Warren confronted Bryant with generalised references to eyewitness sightings of himself which he was ill-placed to contest, having already conceded the distinctiveness of his appearance and of his Volvo:
Warren: Well, what would you say if I told you that you were seen going into Port Arthur and in fact you were at the toll gate?
Bryant: I couldn’t’ve been.
Warren: And more than that, that you did complain about the price of admission.
Bryant: Umm, I don’t remember going in, into Port Arthur or going through the toll gate at all.
Warren: Well, as you said a minute ago, you, your description of the long blonde hair does make you, umm, stand out from the crowd.
Bryant: Mmm, exactly.
Warren: What about your yellow Volvo?
Bryant: That would, wouldn’t it? That would stand out.
Later in the interview, Warren showed him a photograph of a vehicle that Bryant conceded looked like his own Volvo:
Warren: Martin, I want you to have a look at this photo. It’s photo number zero one one two. In it is a car I believe to be yours and it’s depicted adjacent to the toll booth.
Bryant: Couldn’t be mine. Where’d you get that? I don’t remember being stationary [inaudible]…
Warren: Do you agree that that could be a surfboard on the top?
Bryant: Yes, I think it probably is.
Warren: And it’s certainly similar to your, ahh, your car?
Warren: The registration number of this vehicle I think is CG two eight three five.
Bryant: I don’t remember the registration.
Warren: Well that’s your car. So that certainly suggests it because that’s the exit road at the toll booth, that your car had been.
Bryant: How could the car be there when I didn’t go, go there in the first place [inaudible]…?
Warren: As I said, sorry, as I’ve said, we have, there are lots of people saying that they saw you in the Port Arthur site and your car in the Port Arthur site.
Bryant: Mmm, I can’t recall that.
That Inspector Warren twice told Bryant that “lots of people” had seen him at Port Arthur is a clear-cut case of police mendacity. Police witness statements show that the eyewitnesses had seen a man with long blond hair—who, on account of numerous discrepancies, could not have been Bryant. Furthermore, as we saw in the previous article, only one person who actually knew Bryant observed the Port Arthur shooter in action. That person, Jim Laycock, got a good enough look at the gunman to estimate his age but told police that he “did not recognise the male as Martin Bryant”. Another witness, Michael Copping, who knew Bryant “by casual contact”, saw the gunman driving the Volvo but did not indicate in his police statement that the man had been Bryant.
In addition, it should be noted that Warren claimed that “Bryant” had complained about the price of admission to the PAHS. Although he made this statement twice during the interview, both PAHS employees who said that they accepted the money from the Volvo driver, Aileen Kingston and Steven Howard, stated the exact opposite in their respective witness statements. Kingston related: “I was expecting an argument about the entrance fee from the Volvo driver as he looked to me that he didn’t have a lot of money. This didn’t eventuate, and the driver produced $50.00 and I gave him the change with the tickets as well as a briefing, and he then drove off towards the site.” Inspector Warren seems to have been so determined to stick to a prefabricated script that he felt free to disregard information supplied by actual eyewitnesses.
And what about the Port Arthur massacre itself? Towards the end of the interrogation, Inspectors Warren and Paine finally broached the subject for which they had spent several hours laying the groundwork. After again denying that he had even been at Port Arthur on 28 April, Bryant reacted as any reasonable person would when charged with crimes as heinous as the Broad Arrow Café shootings:
Warren: We believe you went into Port Arthur. Had a slight argument with the toll gate person about the price on entry. We believe you then went to park your car and an attendant or someone…
Bryant: Park the car.
Warren: …said you couldn’t park in a certain spot, so you didn’t and sometime later you did move your car to that spot. We believe you went to the Broad Arrow Café with that bag over there, containing some guns and your video camera. You purchased a meal, you went outside, sat down, and then went back into the café. Took one.
Bryant: But you might’ve. That’s like me saying to you, that you were down there.
Warren: But the difference is, Martin, my car wasn’t down there and I haven’t been identified as being down there and I wasn’t down there. And then you took one of the guns out of your bag and opened fire in the café.
Bryant: Why would I do that? I mean…
Warren: I don’t know, you tell me.
Bryant: Why, why would anyone do a thing like that, what?
Warren: Well, you tell us.
Warren: That’s what we want to know Martin, why.
Bryant: What, what, would, I wouldn’t hurt a person in my life.
Inspector Warren then reminded Bryant that he had already admitted having done someone some harm that day:
Warren: Well, you’ve already said you’d put the man in your boot of the car.
Bryant: Only, yes, yes.
Warren: Then you’ve set fire to the car and you thought that he was in the boot.
Warren: So how do you explain that?
Bryant: It was a bad thing…
Bryant: Well, I shouldn’t’ve gone and kidnapped him and the BMW. It’s the wrong thing. That and, that, and in the, being caught with not having a driver’s licence. So they’re the two things I’ve done wrong. I don’t know why I stole the BMW in the first place. I wish I’d [inaudible].
Bryant found himself checkmated. By having him admit that he had done one bad deed that day, Inspector Warren effectively deprived him of a case for asserting that he would not be the kind of person who would murder 35 people! Although the taking of a hostage is clearly not a crime of the same magnitude as mass murder, most readers will think that Bryant has been caught up in his own lies and that the truth will unravel, inch by inch.
The problem with the case Inspectors Paine and Warren presented to Bryant, however, is that it relied upon assertions, not evidence. Apart from the aforementioned image of a yellow Volvo—not necessarily his—parked at the Port Arthur toll gate, they showed Bryant no visual evidence—no photographs, not even the video allegedly made by American tourist James Balasko which purports to show the gunman at the scene—that would decide the matter. What’s more, they showed the accused man nothing of a forensic nature—fingerprints or DNA—that could substantiate their extraordinary allegations.
In other words, when it came to convincing Bryant that he had been responsible for the most appalling crime in recent Australian history, as late as 4 July 1996 Inspectors Paine and Warren still had nothing to fall back on except the distinctiveness of his appearance and that of his car. However, it is not hard to see that both are things that could easily have been imitated by someone involved in a plot to set up Bryant; indeed, the conspicuous absence of any other kind of evidence against him renders such a scenario a virtual certainty. Unfortunately, Bryant’s intellectual limitations are such that he was incapable of graduating to the relatively complex idea that someone had emulated his appearance in order to set him up. His low IQ, in a nutshell, is the real reason why he seems destined to spend the rest of his life in prison.
1. The transcript can be read online at http://home.overflow.net.au/~nedwood/transcript.html or http://members.fortunecity.com/able_j/transcript.html.
Note that the extracts used in this article have been slightly modified in the interests of readability.
2. Noel McDonald, A Presentation of the Port Arthur Incident, 2001, p. 173. Admittedly, “an edited version of this interview”—two hours long—was played in court on 19 November 1996. However, this was in the context of a sentencing hearing, not a trial (McDonald, pp. 174, 176).
That day, Bryant’s second lawyer, John Avery, told the judge that he was “not troubled” by the decision to play the tape—a statement which raises questions about Avery’s view of his obligations to his client.
3. McDonald, pp. 175–76.
4. Since Bryant’s intention after he left Nubeena was to visit the Martins at Seascape, there was no reason for him to go past Seascape as far as the Fortescue Bay turnoff. This means that Bryant must have driven from Nubeena to the Fortescue Bay turnoff via Taranna. But this contradicts Bryant’s recollections elsewhere in the same interview of having driven past Port Arthur without stopping. This contradiction is the first clue to the fact that the whole story is imaginary.
5. John Frow, “Recovering Memory”, Australian Humanities Review, December 1996; article available online at http://www.lib.latrobe.edu.au/AHR/archive/Issue-Dec-1996/frow.html.
6. See http://www.religioustolerance.org/ false_co.htm.
7. The idea that videotapes were used to persuade Bryant to accept responsibility for the Port Arthur massacre and the murders at Seascape is not a far-fetched one. Later in this series, I examine a videotape which seems to have been fabricated months after the massacre for the purpose of convincing Bryant that he had been present at Port Arthur that day.
8. McDonald (pp. 119-27) discusses several other problems with Bryant’s account.
3. The set-up so far
In the first article in this series, it was shown that Martin Bryant could not have been the perpetrator of the horrendous massacre at Port Arthur on 28 April 1996 because his fingerprints and/or DNA were never found at the crime scene. Eyewitnesses also described a man who was not only much younger than but also differed from Bryant in several significant respects. The popular idea that eyewitnesses identified Bryant as the gunman is therefore a complete misrepresentation of the facts, as is the theory that he was a mind-controlled patsy. Quite simply, he wasn’t even there.
Given that Bryant eventually pleaded guilty to all charges arising from the massacre, the question inevitably arises as to how this came about. Three factors made it possible for the Tasmanian state government to manipulate Bryant into pleading guilty.
First, Bryant is an individual of extremely low intelligence, with a mental age estimated to be that of an 11-year-old. He was therefore much less capable of realising that he was being set up than a person of average intelligence. This circumstance alone helps explain why Bryant, rather than someone else, was selected as the patsy.
Second, after being deprived of his liberty, Bryant was maintained in a condition of virtual solitary confinement for months on end. During this period, he was at the absolute mercy of his captors and their agents: police, lawyers, psychiatrists, doctors, nurses and security personnel. They could do with him whatever they wanted because very few members of the public, if any, cared what happened to him: the media had successfully persuaded them to believe that he was a monster, not worth an ounce of their pity.
Third, in order to prevent him from finding out the full extent of the crimes which were being attributed to him, Bryant was not allowed to watch TV, listen to the radio or read newspapers or magazines. His only potential sources of information about the massacre were his former girlfriend Petra Wilmott, who visited him once, and his mother, who visited him once every few weeks; however, neither was permitted to discuss the case with him. As late as 4 July 1995, Bryant was under the impression that the only charge against him was a single count of murder arising from the abduction of a male hostage: a lawyer from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA, whom he knew only as “Rick”. This is simply astonishing because, by 4 July, at least officially, Bryant had been informed on no fewer than three prior occasions (1 May, 22 May and 14 June) that he had been charged with the murder of Kate Elizabeth Scott. Yet the transcript of the 4 July police interrogation makes it abundantly clear that this was the first occasion on which he grasped the fact that the murder charge had arisen from the death of a female. This finding inevitably raises questions as to whether Bryant was present (or, if he was present, whether he was conscious) during the three initial indictments.
In the second article in this series, the hypothesis was advanced that in the weeks prior to his 4 July interrogation, a concerted effort was made to implant false memories in Bryant’s mind that would represent a first step towards having him accept responsibility for the Port Arthur murders. According to my hypothesis, psychiatrists would have told Bryant that he needed their help to reconstruct memories of his actions that he had blotted out due to trauma. The anticipated outcome was that Bryant would finally grow convinced that he had committed the crimes, even if he would have no idea why he would have done so. Fortunately for the Tasmanian Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), motive was irrelevant. In order to forestall a court trial, Bryant only needed to accept that he had committed the crimes; he did not also need to furnish a motive for having committed them.
The transcript of Bryant’s 4 July police interrogation shows that the initial effort was successful enough: on this occasion, Bryant produced a narrative of participation in the carjacking of a BMW at the Fortescue Bay turnoff that was uncannily similar to that related over the phone to police negotiator Sgt Terry McCarthy by the enigmatic “Jamie”, the spokesperson for the bizarre events at Seascape Guest House that followed on the heels of the massacre. Although the crime to which Bryant “confessed” was unconnected to the events at Port Arthur and almost certainly never took place in reality, Bryant’s yarn was interpreted by the DPP as a confession to acts actually perpetrated at a different location by the real Port Arthur gunman, i.e., the carjacking and abduction of a male hostage that took place outside the Port Arthur General Store. By ignoring the details of Bryant’s “confession”, the DPP—Damian Bugg, QC—deceived Tasmania’s Supreme Court by telling it that Bryant had confessed to the acts perpetrated by the real gunman.
However, at this early stage of the game, Bryant vehemently resisted the idea that he had perpetrated the murders at Port Arthur. He maintained that he had not even visited the Port Arthur Historic Site (PAHS) on the day in question, and he had difficulty understanding how the police had obtained a picture of a vehicle that seemed to be his own yellow Volvo parked at the PAHS toll gate when he only recalled driving past it. Clearly, a great deal of work remained to be done before Bryant could be made to confess to the shootings at Port Arthur.
Bryant’s first lawyer, David Gunson, failed to make any headway in this respect, and on 30 September 1996 Bryant pleaded “not guilty” to all of the 72 charges against him. He did so “clearly and coolly”.1 Gunson resigned as Bryant’s lawyer the very next day and refused to clarify his reasons to the media. The individual who rose to the task was John Avery, who had already been involved in the case as part of the police effort to frame Hobart gun dealer Terry Hill for allegedly supplying Bryant with the weapons and ammunition used at Port Arthur. That Avery was waiting in the wings, ready to take over from Gunson, can be inferred from his presence in the courtroom when Bryant pleaded “not guilty”. Avery met with Bryant for the first time the following day—the day that Gunson retired from the case.
Avery proved able to do in a month what Gunson had failed to do in five. On 7 November 1996, Bryant reversed his “not guilty” pleas and finally, on 22 November 1996, pleaded “guilty” 72 times. The fact that on the latter occasion Bryant tittered between his “guilty” pleas is a baffling circumstance that begs comparison with his previous experience on 30 September. On that occasion, Bryant entered “not guilty” pleas without any inappropriate noises, so it is extremely strange that Bryant apparently tittered while pleading “guilty”. Since one would expect the opposite—that a mass murderer declaring himself “not guilty” might do so with a certain self-amusement—it is striking that Bryant apparently was more amused by the idea of pleading “guilty”. Alternatively, he may have been trying to send the public a message: the sounds he made to accompany his “guilty” pleas may have been intended to help convey the message that his pleas were insincere and not to be taken at face value.
A further circumstance that invites concern is that, having pleaded “guilty” to all charges, Bryant was never escorted over the crime scene to verify that he had perpetrated the criminal acts to which he had “confessed”.
As researcher Joe Vialls pointed out: “Standard procedure in these circumstances is to take the suspect out to the crime scene and ask for details of exactly how he committed the crime(s), i.e., where each victim was standing, what sex, how many bullets, where the weapon was reloaded, etc., etc., all recorded on continuous (time-stamped) video. The Victoria Police Service observed this standard procedure meticulously in the case of Julian Knight at Hoddle Street during 1987, as did the New South Wales Police Service after a street shooting in Wollongong in 1998.”2 Such “walkthroughs” are a staple of modern criminological procedure and are invariably videotaped. Footage of this nature is often used in television crime programs, such as Forensic Investigators and similar American programs such as Body of Evidence. In short, Bryant has never corroborated his “guilty” pleas—a fact that makes them virtually worthless.
How did the turnaround come about in the space of about a month? Until recently, it has been impossible to do more than guess how Bryant was finally persuaded to plead “guilty” to all charges against him. All we have had to go by is a sequence of events that looks extremely suspicious: first, Bryant stunned the Tasmanian legal establishment by refusing to plead “guilty”; second, Bryant’s first lawyer retired from the case; third, Bryant acquired a new lawyer, John Avery; and fourth, Bryant pleaded “guilty” a month later. Three transcripts of conversations between Bryant and Avery, published by the Bulletin (4 April 2006), shed a great deal of light on the sudden transformation.3
The threat of a trial
However, before we discuss what can be learned from the Bulletin-published transcripts, it is important to emphasise that the first transcript supports the conclusion that the DPP was extraordinarily anxious to prevent a trial from being held:
Bryant: …Mr B., do you know Mr B.?
Avery: I know Mr B., yes, and Mr D.
Bryant: Well, they are trying to brainwash me to not having a trial.
It is intriguing that the Bulletin has suppressed the names of the two individuals who, unacknowledged in any public source concerning the Port Arthur case, were clearly part of some irregular or extra-legal form of pressure being exerted on Bryant. (I know of no one involved with Bryant’s case whose surname begins with “D”. However, “Mr B.” might well be Damian Bugg, QC.)
If Bryant were really guilty, there would seem no reason why a trial should not have been held. On the other hand, it would be consistent with the case that Bryant was set up that a trial be averted at all costs. Bryant clearly raised the stakes by pleading “not guilty” to all charges on 30 September 1996. At this stage, the DPP at least went through the motions of preparing for the possibility that there would be a trial, with a provisional date set for a first session on 18 November 1996.
Throughout October 1996, the DPP’s focus was on strategies for controlling such a trial. One strategy was clearly to sift through the body of witness testimony and eliminate witnesses who posed a problem for the prosecution.
One witness scrubbed at this point was Wendy Scurr. Despite her status as one of the more high-profile witnesses, Scurr was sent a letter by the Office of the DPP, dated 15 October 1996, informing her that her witness testimony “will not be necessary in the trial of Martin Bryant”. By far the most interesting part of this letter—which does not even consider the possibility that Avery might call her as a witness for the defence—is a passage in which Scurr was warned against speaking to the media prior to the trial:
“Because you are not called as a witness it does not mean that you can freely discuss issues in a public way. We would be most concerned if there was any inappropriate pre-trial publicity about this matter. We would ask that you exercise caution if you are approached by any representative of the Media as it would be unfortunate indeed if the trial process was in any way delayed or complicated through inappropriate pre-trial discussions.”4
The intimidating tone of this letter defies belief. By 15 October 1996, Martin Bryant was already the victim of the most prejudicial pre-trial publicity in Australian history. Given that there is virtually nothing Scurr could have said to foster a more anti-Bryant climate than that which already existed, it would be difficult to interpret this letter as a warning to her not to contribute in any way to the further demonisation of the accused. Virtually the only way Scurr could have “delayed” or “complicated” the trial was if she had thrown a spanner into the works by publicly declaring that the man she saw at the PAHS that day had not been Bryant—which we now know is her position—or if she had reported the existence of hitherto unsuspected accomplices.
This letter could therefore be regarded as a deliberate attempt by the prosecution to pervert the course of justice by ordering a witness to shut up. It is the authors of this letter — Damian Bugg, QC, and DPP clerk Nick Perks — who should therefore be under scrutiny. 5
A further insight into the deviousness of the DPP’s strategies derives from Bryant himself. On 3 October 1996, Bryant told Avery that he was not allowed to cut his hair, which by that stage was so long and unruly as to resemble dreadlocks:
Bryant: …I can’t have a haircut until after the Court case.
Avery: Who said that?
Bryant: I mentioned that to one of the officers.
Avery: Oh, did you?
Bryant: He said to me the other day, “You can’t till after the Court case”. I’ll have to try and brush my hair a bit and keep it tidy.
Given that the only thing Bryant had in common with the Port Arthur gunman—other than being male and under 30—was his long blond hair, it is hardly surprising that he was denied a haircut. The DPP would have wanted Bryant to preserve the image of the “blond Rambo” in case his distinctive appearance became a factor during a trial. In any event, Avery’s successful interventions in the case soon spared the DPP the immense trauma of orchestrating a trial, and when Bryant appeared in court in November he had in fact had a haircut.
The Avery transcripts
During October 1996, John Avery engaged in untold hours of “discussions” with Martin Bryant at Risdon Prison Hospital. Of the 20 meetings the pair had during that period, only the transcripts for parts of three have been made public. (Whether these transcripts are accurate verbatim records of the conversations must remain in doubt. Their accuracy clearly cannot be confirmed without having access to the original recordings.)
The first transcript, which preserves part of a conversation that took place on 3 October 1996, is from most points of view the most important; the second and third present a Bryant echoing the police tune like a trained parrot. How Avery got Bryant to the point that only five days later he would casually discuss the massacre as if he had really perpetrated it is a subject that is ignored in the published transcripts; only unedited transcripts of the complete conversations would provide the necessary clues.
Avery’s major concern was apparently to persuade Bryant away from persisting with his “not guilty” pleas, as doing so would force a trial. As he told the Bulletin earlier this year (4 April 2006): “That was the hardest thing, because if Bryant wanted to be the ringmaster, it was going to be difficult to stop him.” When Avery met Bryant on 3 October 1996, Bryant clearly still regarded himself as the “ringmaster” and was anticipating a trial in the not-too-distant future. Only five days later, according to the second transcript (8 October 1996), Bryant was apparently prepared to accept responsibility for literally any acts Avery wanted him to, no matter how heinous, meaning that a trial would no longer be necessary.
Two factors seem to have contributed to the transformation. The first was Avery’s success in convincing Bryant that, without an alibi for his whereabouts at the time of the massacre, he had no viable defence strategy. “I can’t magically find a defence that you were in Hong Kong or somewhere else,” he told Bryant.
The second factor was Avery’s use of “evidence” allegedly putting Bryant at Port Arthur on 28 April 1996. In addition to the old chestnut that lots of people saw Bryant at Port Arthur—”Heaps and heaps of people [say] you’re it, you were there”—Bryant was given an undisclosed number of witness statements to study. Since his low IQ would have rendered him unable to consider the possibility that the statements he was given had been faked or were being presented to him in a misleading way—matters concerning the integrity of the evidence are, of course, normally the responsibility of the defence; but Avery was not seeking to defend Bryant, only persuade him to plead guilty—Bryant was left in the position of being forced to conclude that the man they referred to could only have been himself.
The Balasko video
Avery told Bryant that the evidence against him, in addition to the witness statements, included a video image: “…they’ve even got a photograph of you off the video walking round with a gun at Port Arthur shooting everyone. So you’re pretty distinctive.”
The video to which Avery was referring can only have been that allegedly made by American tourist James Balasko, which is a fake. It was reportedly filmed from behind a campervan as the gunman returned to his vehicle. However, the actual circumstances in which the video came to light are highly suspicious and militate strongly against its authenticity.
The official story is that Tasmania Police only became aware of the video’s existence after a follow-up interview with Balasko on 1 August 1996, two weeks before its investigation concluded. To be sure, Balasko did not mention having filmed the gunman in the police witness statement he gave on the day following the massacre. The best explanation for Balasko’s failure to mention the video on that occasion is, quite simply, that he hadn’t made one. It is, after all, extremely improbable that he would have tried filming the gunman. Like most of the latter’s other potential victims, the American’s priority at that stage would have been to remain as inconspicuous as possible. Yet seven months later, Damian Bugg, QC, told the Supreme Court that Balasko had “placed himself in a position of danger” in order to make the film, and furthermore that the risk had become a reality because the gunman noticed Balasko filming and fired a shot at him. Can we really believe that Balasko would have risked his life to make a video?
The two contradictory statements Balasko made regarding the circumstances in which he allegedly made the video are proof of the hoax. In his 29 April statement, he said that he ducked behind the campervan precisely because he saw the gunman take aim at him. He made no mention of either possessing a video camera or filming the gunman. In his 1 August statement, however, Balasko said: “As I was filming the shooter, he noticed me sticking out behind the van with my camera…” Not only are the two statements irreconcilable, but if Balasko really had made a video of the gunman it beggars belief that he would not have mentioned it to the police at the first opportunity. At this stage, the footage would have been of immense value to both the police and the Australian media. What’s more, failing to declare the existence of footage pertaining to the commission of a crime would probably have constituted a felony.
There can be little doubt, therefore, that Balasko and Tasmania Police are lying and the video was actually concocted after the event. Balasko, who is rumoured to be an American CIA operative, would readily have agreed to help the police out by vouching for the spurious footage. (He also agreed to overdub some corny commentary for the video’s first public presentation on Channel 9’s A Current Affair on 24 November 1996.)
The spuriousness of the video becomes readily apparent upon close examination. Particularly suspicious is the fact that the images of the shooter captured in the video entirely lack facial detail. The facial area looks unnaturally washed out, which can only have been the result of digital tampering. The only discernible facial feature, in fact, is the outline of the actor’s nose, which looks pert and feminine—in clear contrast to Bryant’s extremely full nose.
In this regard, Ian McNiven, a critic of the official Port Arthur story, has made an interesting observation that towards the end of the footage: “…just as the gunman turns to face Balasko’s camera showing the gunman’s face, the head of the gunman disappears having been clearly fuzzed out when the remainder [of] him is quite clear… The dazzling gold hair also has disappeared… This fact is clear evidence someone didn’t want the gunman’s face seen and the reason is because it wasn’t that of Martin Bryant. What they wanted the public to see was the blond-haired man…”6
Abducted and drugged?
Now that it’s been established that Bryant appears to have been persuaded to plead “guilty” to the massacre because he had no alibi, the question that arises is this: if Bryant was not guilty of the crimes at the PAHS, where was he when they took place? Why is it that no one can provide him with an alibi for his whereabouts between 12.50 pm and 1.50 pm on 28 April 1996? There are, as we should expect, very few clues as to what happened. All that can be said with confidence is that something happened to Bryant shortly after he stopped for coffee and a toasted sandwich at Nubeena, since that is when his pseudomemories began.
The baffling gap which appears in Bryant’s recollections after Nubeena can probably best be explained by a scenario in which Bryant was intercepted, abducted and drugged into unconsciousness after he left Nubeena. If Bryant had any genuine memories of that period, he would probably have been far less suggestible than he turned out to be. Around lunchtime on 28 April, therefore, Bryant must have been administered a drug that literally knocked him out until he woke up, with his back on fire, in Seascape the following morning. (The lingering effects of the drug may explain why Bryant retained no memory of the bedside hearing on 30 April at which he was formally charged with the murder of Kate Scott.) Thus Bryant has no memory of where he was at the time of the massacre, because by then he was already unconscious; accordingly, no one can provide him with an alibi for his whereabouts in the crucial time period because by that stage he was already in police custody.
The interception and abduction of Martin Bryant can be deduced from a number of intriguing facts. First of all, in his 4 July police interrogation, Bryant lamented that one of the only two things he had done wrong was “being caught with not having a driver’s licence”. However, there is nothing on the public record about Bryant’s apprehension for driving without a licence. This otherwise overlooked incident probably suggests that, after he left Nubeena, Bryant was intercepted by the police, the pretext for taking him into custody being his lack of a driver’s licence. His Volvo would have been taken into custody at the same time. One of the policemen would have drugged Bryant—probably at Nubeena Police Station—and delivered the unconscious man to Seascape in the boot of his vehicle, while the other would have dropped Bryant’s car off at the PAHS shortly before the massacre began.
This scenario presupposes that there were police in the area tailing him. Strikingly, three policemen were present in the area that day, any or all of whom could have been involved in the abduction effort. According to the official story, sometime around midday the only two policemen on the Tasman Peninsula, Constable Paul Hyland of Nubeena Police Station and Garry Whittle of Dunalley Police Station, were summoned away to a remote location at Saltwater River—the farthest point on the peninsula—by an anonymous caller reporting a large stash of heroin. About an hour later, the policemen allegedly rang in to report that the call had been a hoax and that nothing had been found at Saltwater River other than a sample of ordinary soap powder.
Although it is generally assumed that the perpetrators of the massacre decoyed the two policemen to this remote location in order to retard the police response to the massacre, the story itself could well be bogus and have been invented to provide an alibi for their doings in the crucial hours beforehand. At the time the two policemen were allegedly decoyed on a wild goose chase, they could well have been actually engaged in abducting Martin Bryant and commandeering his Volvo.
A third policeman, Constable Chris Iles from Sorell Police Station, was also present in the area at the time of the massacre. According to eyewitness Kyle Spruce, Iles appeared in front of Port Arthur General Store within a minute or two of the gunman’s departure. He then sped off towards Seascape. No explanation has ever been given for Iles being out of his own district that afternoon, just as there has been no explanation for what he did after he reached Seascape, which he would have done within five or 10 minutes.
The scenario described above would account for several interesting circumstances:
(1) Bryant told his interrogators that while surfing at Roaring Beach he noticed two people bodysurfing in short wetsuits at the other end of the beach. It is interesting that Bryant should recall such a trivial detail. That he chose to mention it may indicate that he assigned the men some significance—significance which has been expunged from the interrogation transcript. Could the men have been Hyland and Whittle? If so, how did they know they could begin tailing Bryant there? Did Bryant’s girlfriend Petra Wilmott, after she left his house that morning, alert them to the fact that Bryant planned to go surfing at Roaring Beach?
(2) According to Michael Beekman and Rebecca McKenna—two persons who had been sitting near the gunman on the front deck area of the Broad Arrow Café—the Port Arthur gunman was watching the carpark anxiously in the period between about 1.10 and 1.15 pm. According to PAHS employee Aileen Kingston, a yellow Volvo arrived at the Port Arthur toll gate at around the same time. The vehicle would therefore have entered the Port Arthur carpark a minute or two later. After a few minutes of inane chatter, the gunman suddenly rose from his table on the front deck and entered the café proper. Chronologically, the two events are so closely tied that they must represent cause and effect. The Volvo’s arrival in the carpark appears to have been a signal to the gunman that the massacre was to go ahead as planned. (The use of such a signalling device seems obvious enough when you consider that the decision as to whether the massacre was to go ahead would have depended on whether Bryant, the designated patsy, had successfully been apprehended. It wouldn’t have been acceptable to have allowed Bryant to be seen elsewhere at the time of the massacre, and his car also needed to be on hand for the gunman to use as an escape vehicle.)
(3) At around 1.50 pm, in circumstances that remain extremely obscure, two things seem to have happened at Seascape. A hostage was taken out of the boot of a vehicle and taken inside Seascape Cottage. At more or less the same time, an explosion occurred which destroyed the BMW that had been hijacked by the gunman. It is entirely possible that the hostage who was taken by the gunman—Glenn Pears—was still inside the boot of the vehicle when it ignited, and that the hostage who was taken inside Seascape Cottage was none other than Martin Bryant. In short, the gunman may have taken Glenn Pears hostage for no other reason than to provide a cover story for witness sightings of a hostage being bundled into Seascape. Although the official story is that Pears’s body was found inside Seascape, only the officers who first opened the BMW’s boot after the siege was over the following morning—and the media were not allowed to visit the location until 11.00 am, giving the police a period of approximately two hours in which to tamper with the crime scene—would be in a position to know the truth.
Where are the witnesses?
All Port Arthur Massacre (PAM) researchers face essentially the same obstacle when they seek to show that the official narrative cannot be true. If the official story is not true, people ask, then why haven’t eyewitnesses come forward to denounce it as a hoax and tell us what they saw? In my opinion, it is impossible to answer this question satisfactorily without presenting an overarching theory of the case.
In this three-part article I have concerned myself with only a part of the whole: the issue of Bryant’s framing. A great many aspects of the case have not been dealt with for reasons of space, and these aspects include evidence that would convince anyone that the massacre involved elements of the Australian federal government. In the wake of John Howard’s emergence as opposition leader in January 1995 and police forensic expert Sergeant Gerard Dutton’s move from Sydney to Hobart soon afterwards, the year preceding the events of 28 April 1996 also saw a staggering number of personnel changes within the Tasmanian state government, including Premier Ray Groom’s baffling exchange of the state’s top job for a swag of ministerial portfolios six weeks before the massacre. Also, in June 1995, owner Jim Laycock sold the Broad Arrow Café to the Tasmanian government. This, in an age of privatisation, seems to have been an extremely unusual case of acquisition by government of the kind of business normally considered the preserve of private enterprise. The government, which took over the building on 1 July 1995, then proceeded to refurbish it—presumably to create the perfect environment for the kind of massacre being planned. The work included the insertion of a new door to the rear of the building—the very door which infamously failed to operate on the day of the massacre.
A particularly damning piece of evidence is the fact that in 1995 the Tasmanian government ordered a mortuary vehicle that was capable of carrying 16 bodies at once.7 It is impossible to account for the government’s decision to purchase such a vehicle when the state—which had been the most peaceful in Australia for over a hundred years—had an average murder rate of one every two months. No other state, not even New South Wales and Victoria—the states in which all previous gun rampages had occurred—possessed a vehicle with such substantial capacity. So why did the Tasmanian government decide it needed such a vehicle in 1995? And why did it subsequently decide that the vehicle, having proved its worth at Port Arthur in 1996, would not be needed in future and, in September 1998, offer it for sale? Someone with remarkable abilities of prediction seems to have been steering the course of Tasmanian government policy in the 1990s.
The mortuary ambulance remains just one small piece of the puzzle. It takes looking at only a few such pieces before it becomes impossible to avoid the conclusion that the massacre had to have been organised by elements within the Tasmanian government (albeit presumably at the instigation of the federal government). It is only as a government conspiracy that the carnage makes any sense.
The most important clue perhaps is that, when the shooting began at 1.27 pm that day, the Broad Arrow Café was crowded with in excess of 60 people. The café was “chockers” (crammed full), to quote witness Michael Beekman. This is because, in addition to the regular numbers of tourists, there was a sizeable contingent of members of the Australian security (police/military) and intelligence establishments—including many individuals who appear to have been agents of covert government organisations such as ASIO and the even more secretive ASIS.
Among the dead, there is considerable certainty regarding the intelligence affiliations of Tony Kistan, Andrew Mills and Anthony Nightingale.8 Of the survivors, those who have been tentatively identified as spooks include Rob Atkins, Karen Atkins, Lyn Beavis, Justin Noble and Hans Overbeeke. Several army personnel were present, including RAF veteran Graham Collyer, Vietnam veteran John Godfrey and Major Sandra Vanderpeer. Intelligence agents from abroad may also have been involved. In addition to two suspicious Americans—James Balasko, whose role in the production of a fake video was mentioned above, and gun-control advocate Dennis Olson—there is the intriguing case of a Taiwanese man injured in the shooting who would not tell anyone his name, and whose identity in fact has been suppressed by the DPP, even to the point that Bugg referred to an “Asian gentleman” rather than a “Taiwanese gentleman”.9 It appears that planning for the massacre drew upon the expertise of intelligence agents from around the world.
The most plausible explanation for the presence of so many agents in the Broad Arrow Café at the same time is that their work had brought them there: their job was to pose as members of the public and help manage the aftermath of the slaughter. Some of them may have been tasked with scooping up evidence afterwards; others may have been coached to talk to the press, perhaps to offer detailed descriptions of a gunman who would, at least in their accounts, bear an uncanny resemblance to Martin Bryant and to provide other sundry pieces of disinformation. Other operatives may have been present only because they wanted to see for themselves how everything went down, perhaps out of idle curiosity or perhaps out of “career development” motives.
Obviously, they cannot have expected the massacre to take place inside the café. The expectation seems to have been that it would be carried out a short distance away, on the Isle of the Dead. At least four people—Rob Atkins, Michael Beekman, Gaye Lynd and Rebecca McKenna—claimed to have heard the gunman make remarks about going to the Isle of the Dead to kill wasps.10 After the shootings, the idea that the gunman’s original destination was the Isle of the Dead was expressed by several people including PAHS employee Ian Kingston and Assistant Police Commissioner Lupo Prins.
Prins told the Hobart Mercury (31 December 1996): “At one stage we thought he was trying to get on a boat which a lot of people were on, to go to the Isle of the Dead. Had he got on the vessel he could have shot everybody on board, so the potential was there for it to be a lot worse than it was.”
I have always been highly sceptical about the idea that the police were able to read the gunman’s mind—to claim to know what he intended to do—when there are no indications, other than a few vague references to the island, that he planned to do anything other than what he finally did do. What we are supposed to believe, apparently, is that the gunman only entered the Broad Arrow Café after he had learned that the Bundeena ferry service was taking tourists out to the Isle of the Dead at 2.00 pm that day, not at 1.30 pm as he had supposed. (The ferry timetable had been changed two weeks earlier.) This theory has the advantage of explaining why a café brimming with intelligence agents became the target. Unfortunately, the theory also asks us to accept two highly unlikely things: (1) that the gunman (or anyone working with him) never bothered to check the ferry timetable carefully before he came up with his plan; and (2) that at more or less the last minute the gunman, on his own initiative, made a radical change of plan and fixed on the café as the location, even though it was “chockers” with agents involved in the exact same plot.
Yet according to Rebecca McKenna’s witness statement, the gunman went from chatting idly about European wasps to entering the café in the space of a few minutes. As far as I can tell, nothing significant happened in the interval—although the gunman was watching the carpark anxiously and must have had a reason for being fixated on that area. It is possible, therefore, although I think not highly likely, that someone signalled to him from the carpark that the café, rather than the Isle of the Dead, was to become the massacre scene. (As you’ll already have read, my view is that what he observed was, rather, the delivery of Martin Bryant’s Volvo to the carpark, and that the presence of the real Bryant vehicle was the signal for the massacre to begin.)
I part ways with most other PAM conspiracy researchers, therefore, when I reject the theory of the Homer Simpson–like gunman so daft as to forget to check the ferry timetable ahead of time (doh!) and argue that the eventual outcome was far from being an accident: the gunman was a skilled professional who did exactly what he had been trained to do. The view that the massacre went off according to plan is buttressed by the footage that was released to the media of faked images of the gunman’s blue sports bag sitting on top of a table inside the entirely pristine café. Referring to a frame taken from the footage that appears on his website, Ian McNiven writes that since it is “inconceivable” that the police “would have cleaned up the crime scene to take this picture”, it must have been taken before the massacre—perhaps, I would suggest, before the café opened for business that day.11 This seems strong evidence that the massacre unfolded in the café exactly as planned.
The key to understanding the massacre is thus that it contained at its heart a “double-cross” mechanism enabling it to eliminate a substantial part of the personnel who had actually been involved in planning it. It is certainly hard not to believe that Anthony Nightingale was involved in the plot: as soon as the shooting started, he leapt up from his seat to cry out, “No, no, not here!” Clearly, Nightingale knew, or thought he knew, where the massacre was supposed to take place. Yet the gunman fired on regardless.
The best answer, therefore, to the question of why no survivors have come forward is that many, if not most, were intelligence operatives. Those who knew about the massacre were expecting to be able to observe it from a safe distance. Those at the highest levels of the plot had in mind a quite different development: the massacre would lead to the elimination of most of the people who knew anything about it. This was easily done—only a handful needed to know that the carnage would really take place inside the café—and would ensure that afterwards there were very few left who actually knew what had happened and so there could be few leaks. The survivors, having been tricked in this way, would have been left in an extremely awkward position. They could hardly have gone public with what they knew, for to do so would oblige them to admit that they had been involved in a plot to murder the tourists on the Isle of the Dead.
If my theory is correct, there is a silver lining to the horrendous dark cloud that was the Port Arthur Massacre. At least some of the dead had themselves been party to a conspiracy to murder dozens of innocent people. Maybe there is some justice in their becoming victims of their own planning. ∞
Some transcript extracts used in this article have been slightly modified in the interests of readability.
- McDonald, Noel, A Presentation of the Port Arthur Incident, 2001, p. 145.
- See http://home.overflow.net.au/~nedwood/bryant3.html.
- The transcripts are available by following the link to Interview 1 (3 October 1996): http://bulletin.ninemsn.com.au/bulletin/site/articleIDs401A8F3AB6442877CA25713D0075FA08. According to Julie-Anne Davies (“Making of a monster”, The Bulletin, 4 April 2006), Avery conducted 20 conversations with Bryant and possesses hours of tapes. According to Davies, Bryant refused to allow his former lawyer to release them. If true, this makes it seem most unlikely that Bryant gave Avery permission for the release of the three transcripts published by the Bulletin. If Avery felt free to disregard Bryant’s wishes in the case of three transcripts, it is hard to see what prevents him from releasing them all. Admittedly, Avery denies having given the transcripts to the Bulletin; however, I must admit to not believing him. Avery was disbarred in early 2006, some say as a consequence of having released the transcripts to the Bulletin. However, the official explanation appears to be that he was disbarred on account of a financial irregularity. The matter cannot be clarified by contacting the Law Society of Tasmania—the organisation that brought the action to disbar Avery—as I sought to do between June and August 2006. The Law Society stonewalled me by simply referring me to a website publishing all the decisions of the Tasmanian Supreme Court. However, the Avery decision was not available on the website to which I was referred (http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/tas/supreme_ct/recent-cases.html) and is in fact still not available there today (as at the beginning of September). When I wrote back to the Law Society to point out the omission, I was glibly informed that “Some judgments seem to take some time before being posted on the web”. At this stage, I strongly doubt that it will ever appear.
- Quoted in McDonald, ibid., p. 264.
- In fact, Bugg has done very well out of Port Arthur. On 19 October 1996, the Hobart Mercury revealed that during the year Bugg’s income had risen from his regular annual salary of A$107,638 to around $221,836, including the value of a “private-plated car”. Soon afterwards, Bugg was promoted to Federal Director of Public Prosecutions.
- See http://www.shootersnews.addr.com/snpaheadlessgunman.html.
- See http://shootersnews.addr.com/snpamorgtruck.html.
- Anthony Nightingale, who was ostensibly an employee of the Commonwealth Bank at Noble Park, Victoria, is a particularly interesting case. According to one researcher, Nightingale’s beneficiary received a six-figure payout from his employer in compensation for his death—a fact that implies that, far from being on holiday, he was on active duty at the time.
- McDonald, ibid., pp. 185, 225.
- Overseas readers should know that European wasps, which were introduced to Tasmania in 1959, are attracted to picnic areas, barbecues and schoolyards by sweet foods and meats. They are a particular nuisance at the PAHS during the warmer months of the year.
- See http://shootersnews.addr.com/snpasportsbag2.html. Correction: In the previous article in this series (NEXUS vol. 13, no. 4), I stated that Martin Bryant is left-handed. I have since been informed that in fact he is right-handed, and that confusion has arisen over this issue because of a statement he made to police in which he said that he had taught himself to shoot left-handed.
About the Author:
Carl Wernerhoff is the pseudonym for a Sydney-based conspiracy researcher with a particular interest in the history of political assassinations and orchestrated tragedies such as the Port Arthur and Columbine massacres. He has a PhD in History and currently works as a teacher. He recently released an e-book, What’s Going On? A Critical Study of the Port Arthur Massacre. It can be downloaded (free of charge) from http://www.ourmedia.org/user/95839.
Carl Wernerhoff can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Extracted from Nexus Magazine, Volume 13, Number 4 (June – July 2006)
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From our web page at: www.nexusmagazine.com
by Carl Wernerhoff, © May 2006