"Some of the deceased are sitting there as if they were enjoying their meals at the time they were shot," Superintendent Jack Johnson, the officer in charge of the scene at the Broad Arrow Cafe, said. "Their meals were still on the table." The bodies remained where they were until a coroner completed examining the murder sites at the resort.
One of those in the restaurant, a woman from Melbourne, who did not give her name, said she took refuge under a table when the gunman fired.
"I just lay there and all I could hear was the gun and screaming," she said. "The only thing that went through my head was, 'the next one's for me'."
Afterwards, she said, "There were people just sitting there in their chairs where they'd been eating - dead ... There was a weird sort of calm, as if no one could believe what they were seeing."
Superintendent Johnston said the Broad Arrow Cafe resembled a war zone.
Many of the dead clearly did not have any warning of the hail of bullets. "Their meals were still on the table. Blood was everywhere." Some were found with forks raised to their mouths.
Milo and Denise Roganovic, from Melbourne, who were on a sightseeing trip to Port Arthur with their daughters Kim, 13, and Amy, 10, were walking towards the restaurant when the shooting started. They fled as the gunman emerged, his weapons blazing. "He was following us and I thought to myself: 'That's it, we're dead'," Mr Roganovic said. "I can't believe we're alive; I'm glad we are going home now."
Other survivors told of sheltering behind walls of the old prison buildings at the resort as the bullets flew.
Some said they had initially thought the shots were blanks, fired by costumed staff at the site, one of Tasmania's most popular tourist attractions, the ruins of the penal colony to which Britain sent many prisoners from 1830 to 1877.
Other survivors helped to drive victims to safety. Some of the rescuers had been hit by bullets themselves.
Yesterday, green cloth covered the blood-soaked roads where victims outside the cafe were killed. Four bodies were left where they fell at the scene, to allow the police to gather more evidence.
Some relatives of the dead visited the area with police: a man who lost his wife and two children sat in a squad car sobbing, with his head in his hands. Bloodied blankets marked the spots where victims were killed.
Pools and trickles of blood on roads and pavements and shattered glass from shot-out car windows were testament to the indiscriminate brutality of the killings.