Although it has sadly become commonplace to hear stories about innocent people being killed overseas, it is still horrific when one learns about the details of the incident. However, it can take on a different outlook when this occurs in places that society would never expect. One such incident took place in Australia and hearing about one or a few people being murdered would be unusual; however, learning that over 30 people were killed sounds unbelievable. Despite this, 28-year-old Martin Bryant goes on a killing spree on December 28th, 1996 that concludes with the murders of 35 children, men and women in Tasmania, Australia in the quiet town of Port Arthur.
Bryant was believed to have been mentally handicapped as well as having a below average IQ; regardless, started the day by murdering an elderly couple who owned Port Arthur’s Seascape guesthouse. Some theories explain the murders as being retaliation from Bryant because the owners would not sell the property to his father. Later, his father killed himself in which Bryant had been vocal about his depression was brought on after the failure of securing the guesthouse.
He first had lunch at the Broad Arrow Café on its’ deck which was at the site of historic Port Arthur prison colony; known to be a destination for tourists. When Bryant was done, he went inside the restaurant, removed from his bag an automatic rifle and started shooting. Bryant left the restaurant after gunning down, in rapid succession, a total of 22 individuals and then proceeded to the parking lot in order to continue his shooting spree; among others that he killed were two tour buses drivers, some of the passengers as well as a mother with her two young children.
He then shot four people while out in the parking lot driving a BMW and then drove the vehicle to a gas station that was nearby. There, he took a male hostage after he shot a woman and drove back to where the Seascape guesthouse was. There was a stand-off with police that lasted a total of 18 hours until Bryant ended it by setting on fire the guesthouse and then went outside where he was finally captured; apparently, he had earlier killed the hostage.
At first, Bryant pled not guilty to the charge of murdering 35 people. Eventually, he decided to change his plea and would receive a sentence to life in prison without ever having the possibility of being released; he received the maximum sentence that Australia allowed. The Broad Arrow Café, as well as its’ environment, were turned into a memorial and a place for reflection.
Individuals throughout Australia and the world were more than horrified by the actions of Bryant. With the hope of preventing similar crimes from happening again, many areas of Australia had their gun-prevention laws strengthened significantly from the aftermath of the tragedy.