Dunblane 'link' to rampage

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The Independent Online
Martin Bryant, 28, the gunman who killed 34 people in Tasmania on Sunday, was yesterday under armed guard in hospital as psychologists tried to find the reason behind his murder spree.

Bryant, who had a history of mental disorder and slept with a pig, had threatened repeatedly to shoot his neighbours before he went mad with two rifles.

He was arrested yesterday in Port Arthur as he ran from a burning guest house with his clothes on fire, after killing three hostages.

Yesterday, the psychologists were trying to make some sense out of the senseless killing. Dr Park Deitz, the FBI's chief psychiatrist, suggested that coverage of the Dunblane tragedy, in which Thomas Hamilton shot and killed 16 children and their teacher, may have inspired the Tasmania massacre.

He said: "Were it not for the experience of someone else's actions, such people would more likely just kill themselves. Presumably what happened was this man was sitting in Australia watching the emotional television pictures from Dunblane and more than the mourning parents he saw people vowing to change policy and ban dangerous weapons.

"He realised that this other man [Thomas Hamilton] had a tremendous impact, not just on the children, but on the whole nation.

"He probably thought to himself, 'I am as powerful as he is. The world needs to know my suffering and feel my rage'."

A psychiatrist, Dr Harry Jacobs, the executive officer for the Society of Clinical Psychiatrists, agreed: "People are very suggestible. This kind of televsion coverage puts shooting in everybody's mind, in your mind, in my mind. If one is a bit paranoid the idea is implanted. I don't know if there is a way to stop it."

He said he would like to see less "instant sensationalism" in the reporting of such events.

Certainly, Bryant appeared to be profoundly disturbed from the day that he moved to the quiet suburb of Hobart where he lived.

He once threatened to shoot a neighbour who popped round to welcome him. He did the same when two young women asked if they could pick some raspberries from his farm.

Bryant lived on the farm on his own. His father drowned about three years ago and was presumed to have committed suicide. A woman friend in her fifties who gave him his pet pig, which sometimes shared his bed, later died in a car accident. No one knew him, until last Sunday.