Port Arthur: A Shortcut to Australia's Civlian Disarment?
By Dr. Joanne Eisen, Dr. Paul Gallant, and Andrew S. MacGregor.
“We are going to see a mass shooting in Tasmania...unless we get national gun control laws.”
-- Roland Brown, Chairman of the Coalition for Gun Control, uttered on "A Current Affair with Ray Martin", March 1996
At 1.30 p.m. on Sunday 28 April 1996, an unknown professional combat shooter opened fire in the Broad Arrow Cafe at Port Arthur in Tasmania, Australia. In less than a minute 20 people lay dead, 19 of them killed with single high-velocity shots to the head fired from the right hip of the fast-moving shooter.
In less than thirty minutes at six separate crime scenes, 35 people were shot dead, another 22 wounded, and two cars stopped with a total of only 64 bullets. A moving Daihatsu 4WD driven by Linda White was crippled by a “Beirut Triple”, normally reserved for dead-blocking Islamic terrorists driving primed car bombs around the Lebanon.
One sighting shot, a second to disable the driver, and a third to stop the engine before the primed car bomb can hit its target and explode. Very few people know of this technique, and only a handful of experts can master it with only three bullets.
This awesome display of combat marksmanship was blamed on an intellectually impaired young man called Martin Bryant, who had no shooting or military experience at all. As the book "Deadly Deception at Port Arthur" proves in absolute scientific terms, Bryant killed no-one at Port Arthur.
Joe Vialls. See footnote at the end of this article.
On Sunday afternoon, April 28, 1996 “lone nut assassin” Martin Bryant opened fire on tourists at the Broad Arrow Cafe in Port Arthur, Tasmania. Before Bryant left the Broad Arrow ninety seconds later, 20 people lay dead and 13 others lay injured. Nineteen of the twenty deaths were the result of a gunshot wound to the head. By the time Bryant was finally apprehended, the body count was 35 dead, and 18 seriously wounded.
Twelve days after Bryant's shooting spree, massive new restrictions were imposed on the civilian possession and use of firearms - restrictions specifically designed to reduce the number of lawfully owned guns in the hands of Australians. It was a scenario all too familiar to American gun-owners. A high-profile shooting occurs and new laws are demanded - laws designed to render civilian firearm possession all the more difficult.
With Port Arthur, however, many Australians believe that the firearm-prohibitionists weren't willing to leave anything to chance. Fuelling the fires of suspicion, major discrepancies in the official accounts of what transpired at Port Arthur surfaced in the years that followed and charges of cover-up and conspiracy were levelled against the Australian government. Even if the exact details may never be known with certainty, some light may be shed on the answers by examining the question of whether Martin Bryant was capable of acting alone.
Twenty eight year old Martin Bryant had an IQ of 66 and was considered incompetent by the state at the time of the shootings. In February 1984, a psychiatric assessment was undertaken for the purpose of determining Bryant's eligibility for a Dept. of Social Security Invalid pension. It was granted because of Bryant's mental deficiencies, that he been unable to hold a job and was incapable of managing his own affairs. In addition to his pension, he had been left a legacy of over one million dollars.
If Bryant had co-conspirators who made themselves scarce after his actions, then might not their motive be the facilitation of a political agenda? Sufficient evidence now exists in the public record to strongly suggest that Bryant could not have acted alone, either in planning or in executing the massacre. Charges of a conspiracy designed to stampede Australians into surrendering their guns becomes all the more credible.
A DIVERSIONARY PHONE CALL?
Bryant departed at 9:47 a.m. for Port Arthur after spending four days with his girlfriend. He made several stops along the way, purchasing a cigarette lighter, a bottle of tomato sauce, and approximately 20 litres of gasoline. He had lunch upon his arrival at the Broad Arrow Cafe.
About an hour before the shooting commenced, an anonymous phone call was made to the police. The unidentified caller reported a large quantity of heroin stashed at a coal mine situated near Saltwater River at the extreme west end of the Tasman Peninsula. The only two policemen on the Tasman Peninsula were sent to investigate this report. One was dispatched from Nubeena, the closest police station to the Port Arthur site, 11 kilometers away. The other officer was dispatched from Dunalley, a small town to the north with the "swing bridge" capable of isolating the Tasman peninsula from the rest of Tasmania. On their arrival at Saltwater River, the police found only glass jars filled with soap powder.
Within minutes of the officers' phone call reporting their position at the coal mines, the shootings commenced at the Broad Arrow Cafe. Was that anonymous phone call just mere coincidence? Was it simple oversight that, in all of the government documentation, there is only a single reference to this phone call, and of the subsequent dispatching of the only available police officers to far away Saltwater River?
Without any suggestion that the phone call might have been used as a diversionary tactic, the reference appears in the official report of Commissioner of Police Richard McCreadie. He noted only that “the local police were at the Saltwater River area...”
There was neither any further interest, nor any follow-up investigation of the origins of that anonymous phone call.
Wendy Scurr was the first one to call in the report of the shootings to police and is a senior instructor at St. John Ambulance. In her spare time, she worked as a volunteer with the Tasmanian Ambulance Service in the Port Arthur area. About the anonymous phone call, Scurr said, “I became aware that the only 2 local police were dispatched to Saltwater River. I was chatting to the Nubeena policeman and he told me where he was when the shooting began. His name is Paul Hyland. The other policeman was stationed at Dunalley. He would back up Hyland as they were told heroin (soap powder) was found at Saltwater River.”
“This meant that the only 2 local police were at least 25 minutes away from Port Arthur. Very convenient. I don't know when, where, or who rang and alerted the police to this so-called heroin haul...”
“I know it should have been on tape. But I went to Hobart about a week after the shooting to a meeting of the ambulance service. A comment was made to me that the tape recordings of the day's events had been accidentally wiped. The chap who told me was a senior ambulance officer. I travelled with him to the meeting, and it was during this journey that I was given this information.”
In addition, according to free-lance journalist Joe Vialls, closing the swing bridge at Dunalley “would also prevent anyone from leaving the Peninsula, including those involved in executing the massacre at Port Arthur.” But because the Dunalley-based officer was called away, “the bridge remained open to traffic after the massacre, and several people are known to have left Port Arthur and escaped across that swing bridge...”
If Martin Bryant was too incompetent to plan and execute this complicated scenario, then there was at least one other person who helped Bryant by diverting the police from the Cafe, and providing Bryant more time. Who was that person? Did he use the swing bridge at Dunalley to make good his escape?
BRYANT'S EXIT TO SEASCAPE
What is known about the events following the carnage at the Broad Arrow Cafe is that Bryant, upon leaving the Cafe, switched from the .223 Colt AR-15 semi-automatic rifle used inside the Cafe to his other rifle, a .308 Fabrique Nationale FAL semi-automatic, and fired several shots.
He then drove 100 yards to the toll booth at the Port Arthur historic site, shot four people inside a gold BMW, and exchanged vehicles. He drove another 200 yards to a service station, blocked off a Toyota Corolla driven by Glen Pears, and took Pears hostage at gunpoint, forcing him into the trunk of the BMW. As Pears' female companion Zoe Hall attempted to get into the driver's seat and make her escape, Bryant shot her.
Bryant drove the BMW to the Seascape Cottage, a holiday accommodation with the back of the property facing a body of water called Long Bay. Bryant set fire to the BMW and took Pears into the main building.
A state of siege ensued upon the arrival of the police. Police superintendents Barry Bennett and Bob Fielding discussed the Seascape siege in the March 1997 issue of the Association of South Australia Police Journal. They noted: “There was some suggestion that there may be two suspects. It appeared at one stage that two gunmen or some people or hostages at Seascape were exchanging gunfire with the gunmen as there appeared to be shots coming from two separate buildings...” (emphasis ours).
According to autopsy reports, two of the hostages - the elderly couple who owned and operated Seascape, David and Sally Martin - were killed early on Sunday, before Bryant had even driven into the Port Arthur area. According to the official Court transcripts, the burned corpse of the third hostage, Glen Pears, was recovered with his hands secured behind his body with a pair of handcuffs.
It is highly unlikely that Martin Bryant, alone, could have been shooting from several buildings at once, while spending the time he did on the phone with the hostage negotiators. With all three of Bryant's hostages accounted for, and no one else found in the buildings at Seascape besides Bryant, who was the other gunman?
By early the next morning, smoke was seen billowing from the building, forcing Bryant out, his back on fire and into police custody.
GUILTY UNTIL PROVEN INNOCENT
The events following Bryant's capture should be familiar to most American gun-owners. The Australian media, in lockstep, condemned Bryant as guilty without any evidence. Because semi-automatic firearms were used, the firearm-prohibitionists and their allies in media and the government pulled out all the stops to ban these firearms.
Bryant's lawyers accepted the premise that he was guilty of all charges. At his court appearance on September 30, 1996, Bryant pleaded “not guilty” to each of the 72 charges levelled against him. That decision was untenable for David Gunson, one of Bryant's legal representatives, who was replaced by John Avery. Although Bryant never made a detailed confession concerning the Broad Arrow murders, Avery eventually persuaded Bryant to plead guilty. That guilty plea was entered in court on November 7, 1996.
On November 19, the first day of the court proceedings involving Bryant's sentencing, Avery stated to the court: “Your Honour nothing that I can say on behalf of my client can mitigate the outrageous nature of his conduct.” At a subsequent speech delivered at the University of Tasmania law school, Avery stated: “I felt intensely that I had to do right by the community as well.”
Here are just a few of the astonishing irregularities and discrepancies that, at the very least, should have been pursued by Bryant's lawyers:
· Eyewitnesses were not interviewed when it became known that their stories would conflict with the government account.
· A credible time-line that connects Bryant to the killing of the Martins at Seascape, and still allows him to arrive early enough at the Broad Arrow to buy and eat lunch before the carnage, was never established. If he didn't kill the Martins, then who did?
· No forensic evidence of Bryant's physical presence at the Broad Arrow was ever established. Because Bryant's face was plastered throughout Australia, all eyewitness identification was contaminated. Why didn't Avery pursue the discrepancies in the descriptions of clothing Bryant was reported to have worn at different stages during the carnage?
· In direct violation of the Australian constitution, Prime Minister John Howard suggested that a Coronial Inquest was not required, and called for the immediate demolition of the Broad Arrow Cafe. Although the survivors clamoured for more information, Howard used the pretext that more information would be too painful for them to bear.
Bryant's financial resources would have permitted his lawyers to hire as many private investigators and psychiatrists as necessary to defend him, yet they failed to do so. On November 22, Bryant was sentenced to life in prison.
Are all these discrepancies and unanswered questions just the result of coincidence and official ineptitude? Or were the lives of 35 innocent victims sacrificed for the sake of politics? In the course of researching the Port Arthur shootings, the more we learned, the more questions we found without answers. One thing seems irrefutable: the Australian government was - and still is - afraid of the truth.
Dr. Joanne Eisen practices dentistry in Old Bethpage, New York. Dr. Paul Gallant practices optometry in Wesley Hills, NY. Andrew MacGregor is a retired Senior Constable of Police, Victoria, Australia.
The Deadly Deception at Port Arthur is available from: J. Vialls, 45 Merlin Drive, Carine, Western Australia 6020 A$ 14.95 including postage within Australia.
First published in Guns & Ammo Magazine, May, 2001
Note: Joe Vallis, the writer of the introductory passage and one of the most prominent voices questioning the official account of events at Port Arthur, was recently accused of being “Anti-Semitic”. The charge came from no less than the Anti-Defamation League and it is rapidly becoming a familiar refrain. In other words anyone who questions or challenges the official spin on events is accused of being “Anti-Semitic”; amongst those recently accused are historian David Irving, David Icke and Professor Norman Finkelstien, who is Jewish himself and was thus labelled . . . “a self hating Jew.” Ed.
Last updated 04/11/2002