Tasmanian admits gun massacre

Relief swept across the island of Tasmania yesterday when Martin Bryant, the man who massacred 35 people at Port Arthur six months ago, pleaded guilty in court to all charges against him over the world's biggest mass shooting by a lone gunman.

Staff at Port Arthur, the 19th-century prison for transported British convicts, which is now one of Australia's chief tourist attractions, could barely contain their emotions when the news came through.

They opened bottles of champagne, donned party hats and closed their doors early to hold a celebratory barbecue on the lawn by the seafront where they had watched in horror on Sunday, 28 April, as Bryant stalked through the crowded site, armed with two semi-automatic weapons, shooting tourists and Port Arthur employees at random.

Bryant, 29, admitted to 72 charges over the Port Arthur killings when he appeared in the Tasmanian Supreme Court in Hobart, for the start of what was expected to be an agonising trial, at which hundreds of witnesses were due to be called to relive the horrors of modern Australia's worst massacre.

Only two months ago, he had pleaded not guilty to the same charges. Bryant's lawyer resigned soon afterwards.

The unemployed Hobart man, with long blonde hair, said to be a millionaire from inherited money and property, smirked and laughed as he stood in the dock yesterday, shielded by bullet-proof glass, and answered "Guilty" to each of the charges. People in the public gallery wept. Some relatives and friends of the victims fled sobbing from the court.

After Bryant's dramatic change of plea, John Avery, his new lawyer, said: "We have been doing a lot of talking over the last few weeks. I am gratified that the right decision has now been made." Mr Justice Cox, Tasmania's chief justice, will sentence Bryant on 19 November. The judge issued an edict to staff at Port Arthur not to comment until he hands down his sentence.

But the reaction was already clear. "We're immensely relieved," said David McDonald, a tour guide. "We were dreading the anguish of going through all this in court again. Now we can try to get back to normal." Walter Mikac, a pharmacist whose wife and two young daughters were among those whom Bryant murdered, said Australia must now turn its attention to tightening its gun laws so that a similar massacre never happens again.

Since the Port Arthur massacre, Australians have surrendered more than 130,000 guns under an amnesty introduced as part of a bid to reform the country's lax firearms laws. The weapons are crushed or cut in two before the owner's eyes, then tossed into an ever- increasing stockpile of scrap metal. The federal government in Canberra has taxed every Australian to build a fund of A$500,000 (pounds 250,000) to compensate gun owners under the amnesty, which runs until next October.

Gun laws are the province of Australia's six states. Their notorious reluctance to tighten their laws was shattered by Port Arthur, and most states have since introduced legislation to ban semi-automatic, military- style weapons of the type that Bryant, and gunmen in earlier mass shootings in Sydney and Melbourne, used. Tasmania, which once had the weakest laws, now has some of the toughest. Almost 10,000 banned guns have been surrendered in that state.

However, the surrendered guns are thought to be the tip of an iceberg. Estimates of the number of guns in Australia range from four to 10 million. The rural-based gun lobby is urging people to bury their guns rather than hand them in. And the Australian Coalition for Gun Control has criticised the new laws for still allowing large-scale and semi-automatic pistols, of the type Britain has banned since the Cullen report.

Roland Browne, the coalition's deputy chairman, said in Tasmania yesterday: "Our new gun laws have brought us up to the point that Britain was at before the Cullen report. Australia should draw on the Dunblane experience to minimise the availability of guns."

Suggested Topics

Actress sees off speculation about her appearance in an amazing way

Arts and Entertainment
Serge Pizzorno of Kasabian and Noel Fielding backstage at the Teenage Cancer Trust concerts
musicKasabian and Noel Fielding attack 'boring' musicians
videoWatch Lynda Bellingham's tragic final Loose Women appearance
Arts and Entertainment
The last great picture - Winner 'Black and White' and overall 'Wildlife Photographer of the Year'
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage

Arts and Entertainment
High notes, flat performance: Jake Bugg

Review: Despite an uphill climb to see Jake Bugg in action, his performance is notably flat

The Putin automaton will go on sale next month in Germany
videoMusical Putin toy showing him annexing Crimea could sell for millions

Powerful images of strays taken moments before being put down

Arts and Entertainment
S Club 7 pose for Children in Need 2001
Arts and Entertainment
'Right Here' singer Jess Glynne is nominated for Best Newcomer at the MOBO Awards 2014
musicExclusive: Jess Glynne hits out at 'ridiculous' criticism of white artists nominated for Mobo Awards
'Irritatingly Disneyfied': fashion vlogger Zoella

Arts and Entertainment
Russell Brand has written a book of political analysis called Revolution

Review: Witty banalities aside, the comedian has an authentic voice

Arts and Entertainment
Separated at birth? Frank Sivero (left) claims The Simpsons based Mafia character Louie on his Goodfellas character
arts + entsFrank Sivero sues Simpsons studio over allegedly basing mobster character on Frank Carbone
Carl Bernstein (left) and Bob Woodward (right) with former 'Washington Post' executive editor Ben Bradlee

The Washington Post editor helped Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein bring down President Nixon

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

HLTA - Higher Level Teaching Assistant

£70 - £90 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Higher Level Teaching Assist...

Science Teacher

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Science teacher requi...

Deputy Head of Science

£36000 - £60000 per annum: Randstad Education Southampton: Our client are a we...

IT Teacher

£22000 - £32000 per annum + TLR: Randstad Education Southampton: Our client is...

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London