City feels killer's legacy of bitterness

Tasmania massacre: Nurses receive death threats as gunman charged in court hearing at his bedside

"An eye for an eye" reads the chilling, spray-painted slogan along the front wall of the Royal Hobart Hospital. Meanwhile, staff have received death threats for continuing to treat Martin Bryant for the burns he suffered when the Port Arthur holiday lodge, where he took three hostages and held police at bay in an 18-hour siege, burned down. There is enormous bitterness and anger in Hobart.

As Tasmanians tried to come to grips with the horror of the Port Arthur massacre, 28-year-old Bryant, the man accused of slaughtering 35 people in Sunday's horrific shooting spree, was formally charged yesterday in a bizarre court hearing at his bedside. The charge related to the murder of Kate Scott, a 21-year-old who was among the victims. Further charges will follow.

Bryant lay silently in bed as he was charged. He entered no plea. Elsewhere in the same hospital, 16 of the 19 people injured in the shooting spree were also receiving treatment, some in serious conditions.

Helen Gray, of the Tasmanian nurses' association, said her colleagues were having a tough time reconciling their professional duties with their feelings of rage. Meanwhile, police stepped upsecurity, as thousands of Hobart people prepared to stop work today to join an ecumenical church service attended by John Howard, the Prime Minister, and other political leaders.

Newspapers around Australia splashed Bryant's photograph yesterday, staring wistfully from beneath shoulder-length blonde hair. "This is the Man", announced the front page of the Mercury, of Hobart. "He Killed 35", declared the Herald Sun, in Melbourne. "Face of a Killer", proclaimed the Australian.

Former friends and neighbours continued to paint a disturbing portrait of Bryant as a complex young man, a loner who was alienated from his family. He had inherited a fortune from a spinster twice his age and had lately developed a morbid fascination with guns.

Bryant was born in Tasmania in May 1967, the son of a dock worker. While he was still at school, he became friendly with Helen Harvey, heiress to the Tattersalls gambling fortune.

She became his benefactor and took him in to her mansion in the Hobart suburb of New Town, which Bryant later inherited from her, along with a farm at Copping, a hamlet near Port Arthur.

Neighbours remember them as an odd pair. They kept up to 40 cats, dogs and birds on their farm as well as a pig which, locals claim, Bryant would sometimes sleep with. They would occasionally go for drives in one of Miss Harvey's expensive cars with a miniature pony in the back seat, which they would then take for walks in the countryside around Port Arthur.

When Miss Harvey died in a car crash near Copping about four years ago, she left Bryant property and other assets valued at about pounds 300,000. His father moved to the farm after her death, but their relationship was strained.

About a year after Miss Harvey died, Bryant's father went missing. Neighbours alerted police who found his body floating in a farm dam with lead diving weights around his neck. Some people were suspicious about both deaths, but no charges have ever been laid.

John and Sue Featherstone, farmers who live next door to the farm, which Bryant has since sold, have unhappy memories of their former neighbour.

Mr Featherstone said yesterday that Bryant had once invited his wife and daughter in for tea.

"Then he herded them outside and told them not to come back ever or he'd shoot them," he said. "He would go from being a 25-year-old to a 12-year- old delinquent kid, just like that. Miss Harvey once told us that he'd threatened to shoot his own father."

The Featherstones reported their encounters and fears about Bryant to police, but their complaints were not followed up.

On Monday, when police raided the deserted mansion in New Town where Bryant lives, they took away boxes of ammunition and a firearm. Phil Wilkinson, an inspector with the Hobart criminal investigation bureau, said yesterday: "He had developed a growing interest in firearms quite recently. It's my understanding that none of his family knew he had firearms."

Bryant is believed to have purchased his guns, including two semi-automatic military-style weapons used in the Port Arthur shootings, by mail order. He was able to do so because Tasmania's gun laws up to this week had been the least restrictive in Australia.

Given the degree of public outrage over the killings, the Tasmanian state government yesterday announced that it would impose an immediate ban on the future sale of self- loading military weapons. Meanwhile, Australia's federal and state governments are to hold talks next week in a bid to introduce tough, uniform gun laws.

Letters, page 16

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
Tim Sherwood raises his hand after the 1-0 victory over Stoke
footballFormer Tottenham boss leads list of candidates to replace Neil Warnock
Arts and Entertainment
L to R: Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Captain America (Chris Evans) & Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) in Avengers Assemble
film
News
Nigel Farage celebrates with a pint after early local election results in the Hoy and Helmet pub in South Benfleet in Essex
peopleHe has shaped British politics 'for good or ill'
News
news
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
i100
Travel
Suite dreams: the JW Marriott in Venice
travelChic new hotels in 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Sink the Pink's 2013 New Year's Eve party
musicFour of Britain's top DJs give their verdict on how to party into 2015
Sport
Yaya Sanogo, Mats Hummels, Troy Deeney and Adnan Januzaj
footballMost Premier League clubs are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant- NY- Investment Bank

Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Day In a Page

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that? The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that?

The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year
Hollande's vanity project is on a high-speed track to the middle of nowhere

Vanity project on a high-speed track to nowhere

France’s TGV network has become mired in controversy
Sports Quiz of the Year

Sports Quiz of the Year

So, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry, his love of 'Bargain Hunt', and life as a llama farmer

Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry and his love of 'Bargain Hunt'

From Armstrong and Miller to Pointless
Sanchez helps Gunners hold on after Giroud's moment of madness

Sanchez helps Gunners hold on

Olivier Giroud's moment of madness nearly costs them
A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect