Publish date:
Updated on
Year
1996

35 killed in Australia’s Port Arthur Massacre mass shooting

On this day in 1996, 28-year-old Martin Bryant begins a killing spree that ends in the deaths of 35 men, women and children in the quiet town of Port Arthur in Tasmania, Australia.

Bryant, who is believed to have an extremely low IQ and may be mentally handicapped, began the day by killing an elderly couple who were the owners of Port Arthur’s Seascape guesthouse. Some theorize that the killings were Bryant’s retaliation for the owners refusing to sell his father the guesthouse. Bryant’s father later committed suicide, an action Bryant is said to have blamed on his depression over not being able to buy the property.

After having lunch on the deck of the Broad Arrow Cafe, located at the site of the historic Port Arthur prison colony, a tourist destination, Bryant entered the restaurant, removed a Colt AR-15 rifle from his bag, and began shooting. After killing 22 people in rapid succession, Bryant left the restaurant for the parking lot, where he continued his shooting spree, killing the drivers of two tour buses, some of their passengers and a mother and her two small children, among others.

On his way out of the parking lot, he shot four people in a BMW and drove the car to a nearby gas station, where he shot one woman and took a man hostage, before driving back to the Seascape guesthouse. After an 18-hour stand-off with police, Bryant set the guesthouse on fire, ran outside and was captured. He had apparently killed the hostage sometime earlier.

Bryant initially pled not-guilty to the 35 murders, but changed his plea and was sentenced to life in prison, never to be released, Australia’s maximum sentence. The Broad Arrow Cafe and its environs were turned into a place for reflection and a memorial.

People across Australia and the world were horrified by Bryant’s actions. In the hopes of preventing similar crimes, gun-control laws in many areas of Australia were significantly strengthened in the aftermath of the tragedy.

Tags
terms:
Crime

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us!

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Jaycee Dugard’s kidnappers plead guilty

On this day in 2011, Phillip Garrido, 60, and his wife Nancy, 55, plead guilty to the 1991 kidnapping of 11-year-old Jaycee Dugard. The Garridos held Dugard captive at their Northern California property for 18 years, during which time Phillip Garrido fathered two children with ...read more

Mutiny on the HMS Bounty

Three weeks into a journey from Tahiti to the West Indies, the HMS Bounty is seized in a mutiny led by Fletcher Christian, the master’s mate. Captain William Bligh and 18 of his loyal supporters were set adrift in a small, open boat, and the Bounty set course for Tubuai south of ...read more

Benito Mussolini executed

On this day in 1945, “Il Duce,” Benito Mussolini, and his mistress, Clara Petacci, are shot by Italian partisans who had captured the couple as they attempted to flee to Switzerland. The 61-year-old deposed former dictator of Italy was established by his German allies as the ...read more

Muhammad Ali refuses Army induction

On April 28, 1967, boxing champion Muhammad Ali refuses to be inducted into the U.S. Army and is immediately stripped of his heavyweight title. Ali, a Muslim, cited religious reasons for his decision to forgo military service. Born Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr., in Louisville, ...read more

President James Monroe is born

Future U.S. Senator and President James Monroe is born on this day in 1758. Monroe, a contemporary of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, was the last of the original revolutionaries to become president. He served in the Continental Army and was wounded in the ...read more