April 30, 1996 in Nation/World

Stoic Killer Had History Of Mental Illness Plea Hearing Planned Today For Hospitalized Gunman

Associated Press

He slept by day, prowled by night, threatened visitors with his beloved guns and nonchalantly cut the grass minutes after being told of his father’s drowning.

The blond man cruised Tasmania’s towns in a mustard-yellow Volvo hatchback with a surfboard strapped on top. He shared his bed with a pet pig. He once threatened to shoot two neighbors who dropped by his farm and offered to buy raspberries.

On Sunday, muttering to himself about “WASPs” and “Japs,” he rolled in to one of the area’s most popular tourist sites, unpacked automatic rifles from a tennis bag and started shooting.

By the time he was done, at least 34 people were dead: Some were shot down in their seats at a tourist cafe. One little girl died struggling to hide behind a tree.

Police sources and the Australian Broadcasting Corp. identified the gunman as Martin Bryant, 28, who had no criminal record but a history of mental problems. He was hospitalized, sedated and put under police guard Monday in the same hospital where 18 of his victims were treated for gunshot wounds.

Today, a special bedside plea hearing was planned for Bryant, who has been charged with one count of murder. Further charges were to be filed soon, police said.

Hospital officials said they had received anonymous death threats from people demanding that Bryant not be treated for his burns.

“There is a lot of anger against what has happened,” said Lindsay Pyne, the hospital’s chief executive officer.

Four of the 18 wounded were discharged from the hospital with minor injuries. Five others were in serious condition.

In the aftermath of Australia’s worst modern-day massacre, workers carried the dead to a morgue, citizens gathered for evening prayer vigils and police puzzled over why someone would use assault rifles to methodically pick off victims ranging from 3 to 72 years old.

His neighbors said his threatening behavior was apparent since his arrival four years ago in the farming community of Copping, outside the Tasmanian capital of Hobart.

Across the region Monday, people struggled to cope with the carnage. Prime Minister John Howard said the slayings have “shaken the nation to the core.”

Hundreds holding candles packed Hobart’s St. David’s Cathedral for a memorial service. Mourners wept as they remembered slain family and friends.

MEMO: See related story under the headline: Vancouver couple survived massacre by feigning death

See related story under the headline: Vancouver couple survived massacre by feigning death

© Copyright 1996 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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