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Gunman linked to more deaths in Tasmania

Hobart - Police said yesterday that they will re-investigate two unsolved murders and a disappearance in Tasmania to see if they are connected with the man accused of last weekend's gun massacre.

Martin Bryant, 28, is being held for the shooting of 35 sightseers and staff at the Port Arthur colonial prison complex last Sunday with high- powered assault weapons. He then barricaded himself inside a guest cottage with three hostages and set it alight. He is now in Royal Hobart Hospital under heavy police guard with extensive burns to his back.

Assistant Police Commissioner Luppo Prins said yesterday that officials will determine if Bryant was linked to the murders of a tourist and a local man, and the disappearance of a German tourist.

Italian tourist Victoria Cafasso, 20, was stabbed to death on a beach at Beaumaris on Tasmania's east coast late last year; Leo Rogers was stabbed more than 60 times in his home in Hobart last year; and Nancy Grundwaldt, 26, disappeared near Beaumaris in 1993.

Meanwhile, the first victim of this week's Port Arthur massacre was laid to rest. More than 600 mourners paid their respects to Royce Thompson, 59, a bus driver who died in the massacre at the historic ruins of Australia's most notorious colonial-era prison.

Mr Thompson was mowed down by his bus. He had driven a group tourists on a regular day trip to Port Arthur. "He was a special fellow, one of nature's gentlemen," his boss, Bob Chung Gon, said before the funeral at St Clement's church at Kingston, near Hobart.

Yesterday's burial will be followed by many more as bodies, most of them of visitors from other states, are returned to relatives over the next few days following post mortem exam- inations. Of the 18 people wounded in the massacre, 10 are still in hospital, one in a serious condition. Most are expected to be released next week.

Lindsay Pyne, the hospital's chief executive, said more than 40 threats had been received since Bryant was brought there.Most callers are angry that Bryant is receiving medical care under the same roof as some of the people he is suspected of wounding.

A trace was put on the hospital switchboard on Thursday after staff absenteeism increased dramatically following the threats. "There's been a few phone calls that have been tracked and handed over to the police," Pyne said yesterday.

Police have not released details of the threats, but the calls have frightened hospital staff already stressed from long hours of treating badly wounded people, Pyne said. A bomb scare was also telephoned to the hospital and 80 staff and 12 emergency patients were temporarily evacuated.