By Dee McLachlan
This is stuff of a John le Carré novel.
Take yourself back to April 28, 1996 — the day of the massacre in Tasmania. On that Sunday afternoon, two local cops — Constables Garry Whittle and Pat Allen were instructed to appear outside “Seascape Cottage” — a bed-and-breakfast place not far from the Port Arthur Historic Site. Earlier that day a gunman had killed many people in a café.
Constables Whittle and Allen had taken cover in the roadside ditch, as “the” gunman was shooting wildly around them from the vicinity of the Seascape cottage. Garry Whittle, in his debriefing notes, describes “a female running around the back yard naked. Yelling and screaming,” pursued by a gunman.
In an attempt to halt the gunman’s actions and save the life of this naked person (never identified, but possibly Noelene “Sally” Martin), the constables used their radio. At 1630 hours (4.30pm) they twice they appealed to their superior, “We have the Port Arthur gunman in sight. Permission to shoot.”
Permission was denied.
Secrets from a CB [citizen-band] Radio
On the 30 April 2016, Stewart Beattie (author of A Gunsmith’s Notebook for Port Arthur) relayed in writing to Terry Shultz, details of a meeting with the late Tony Catlin from the Yass district (NSW).
For some time before April 1996, Catlin had enjoyed a close friendship with a then serving member of the Australian Federal Police (AFP). Although Catlin’s AFP friend was not deployed to the Tasman Peninsula, he attended ‘a critical debriefing’ shortly after April 29 1996.
“Via a third party, Tony Catlin requested a meeting, in which he would willing participate if the meeting was conducted in a ‘discreet, public area, and not in any dwelling’. Some weeks later we met late one afternoon… among the headstones of Wagga Wagga Lawn Cemetery. There Tony Catlin told me (what) he had learned directly from his shocked Federal Policeman friend.
“At the time Tasmania Police operated an open channel type CB Radio system, and monitoring those transmissions were SES and Fire Brigade volunteers. Several of those personnel heard a senior police officer respond (to the request to shoot): ‘Permission denied this has to happen.’ The above radio transmission (RT) incident was confirmed earlier in the investigation of the massacre by several volunteer firemen from the Peninsula.”
After the debrief meeting, Catlin’s AFP friend witnessed two of his close colleagues, who had heard the CB radio transmission, hand in written resignations to their superior, which took effect immediately.
Some Officers Did Not Want To Let The People Down
Owing to the 20th anniversary of PAM (Port Arthur massacre), radio stations seemed to welcome persons who could reminisce. On a broadcast by ABC Riverina FM105, was the former police constable from Tasmania, Pat J Allen. He was the constable with Whittle in the ditch, and had a few choice words to share.
The following is from the Breakfast with Anne Delaney show, as transcribed by Stewart Beattie. It commenced at 9.24am on Thursday, 28 April 2016. Pat Allen speaks to an unidentified female ABC reporter:
Allen: … gunman had driven away with a hostage from a service station and killed a female in a car there.
ABC: Pat Allen prepared to reverse his police car towards the cottage [Seascape] where Martin Bryant was holed-up, with, it was alleged, three hostages.
Allen: As I was finishing a U-turn….ahh um, shots started coming across…
ABC: He bailed out and joined another officer [Garry Whittle] in a leech-ridden ditch where they were forced to stay for the next eight (8) hours as bullets kicked around them.
Allen: You could see them crack’n-off in the bush behind, ahh um, you could hear them being fired, when they were coming in your direction, and you could hear, see them, skip on the road sometimes or you’d see umm strike on the road or definitely dirt from the other side of the bank…
ABC: Frustration mounted as the hours ticked by.
Allen: We followed what we were supposed to do. But it doesn’t make you feel any better about yourself. It does make you wonder if ahh, especially in particular the last hostage was executed while we were cowering in the ditch. That’s a big thing to live with.
ABC: So that is the way it happened?
Allen: Yes. Absolutely.
ABC: Pat Allen took six (6) months off The Job after the massacre.
Allen: I just turned into a different person. Shocking. Just angry …all the time.
One can hardly imagine what some police officers have gone through for the last 20 years, knowing what they know. We can only wonder how many other cops in Tasmania are unhappy as to how the facts of the case have been presented.
The Shooter’s Accuracy Record
The police statements, and that “anniversary” radio interview with Constable Allen, create a dilemma as to the accuracy of the gunman’s shooting skill.
I find it strange that, at the Broad Arrow Café, the “shooter” shot with absolute precision – reportedly killing 12 people (most in the head) and injuring others — in just 15 SECONDS, yet, when he was holed up at the Seascape, the ‘shooter’ shoots all AROUND his police targets — for HOURS on end.
This suggests that someone did not want to kill any cops, but just prevent Allen and Whittle from doing what they would otherwise do – try to save the lives of the (alleged) hostages. It also seems that there were more people in the cottage doing the shootings and creating all this ruckus.
From the police statements it appears a siege at the Seascape cottages was RELENTLESS. All describe screaming, numerous windows being broken out, with constant, but random, shooting. They reported a variety of weapons, of different calibers, being used — from different locations. This constant firing forced the police be in cover all the time.
“Well I’m looking forward to my helicopter ride, man”
Such a siege makes puzzling the calm and polite voice of Jamie (alleged to be Martin Bryant) during his many protracted phone discussions that evening with a police negotiator. The negotiator, Terry McCarthy, was speaking from an office in Hobart.
‘Jamie’ talks about how much he is looking forward to his helicopter ride. That, according to McCarthy, was the deal Jamie was trying to arrange; he would “escape” by helicopter – to Adelaide! It all sounds ridiculous if you read the entire transcript. He even mentions that if the helicopter has only two seats, he might hold Sally on his lap.
In sentencing Martin Bryant to life imprisonment, Chief Justice William Cox said that the accused had already killed both Sally and David Martin in the morning on his way to Broad Arrow. I quote that November 22, 1996 court document: “he shot both of them dead and continued on to Port Arthur.”
Amazingly, Jamie talks about the holiday atmosphere and his love for helicopters:
McCarthy: How’s things going in there mate?
Jamie: Fine couldn’t be better just like on a Hawaiian holiday.
McCarthy: Hawaiian holiday?
Jamie: Yes that’s correct sir.
McCarthy: Oh, sorry I don’t understand what you mean by that.
Jamie: Uh I don’t know myself, no.
McCarthy: You’ve. You’re still firing a few er er… odd shots out the…
Jamie: Well I’m looking forward to my helicopter ride man. When are you gonna to tee up this helicopter ride?
The police statements refer to “shots constantly being discharged from the house.” But, inside the house, in the middle of the chat with the negotiator, Jamie says he has to hang up so he can attend to feeding the “hostages.”
Jamie: these people have got um salad and some bacon in the fridge
Jamie: and eggs I’m gonna fry up some bacon and eggs for them
McCarthy: Uh uh.
Jamie: Uh that’s all they seem to have in the that I can find that’s nutritious.
And later, Jamie seems concerned that Rick get home to Melbourne.
Jamie: Well the chap that I’ve got here um Rick he’s got um he’s from Melbourne so ah um I mean you could drop Rick off but … [then later] yeah but Rick wants to he Rick had twenty past oh 7 o’clock flight home you see tonight… [and later] with his wife and um I mean Rick has to get back to Melbourne.
During the phone conversation, one can hear a “CRACK” sound, that sound like gunshots. If so, this means that Bryant is on the phone, while a shooter is taking pot-shots at – or around — the police in the ditch. The deduction is: The person doing the shooting is someone other than Martin Bryant!
Note: in the court transcript, the gunshot sounds occur more than 20 times, and are written as “COUGH.”
Aerial view of Seascape
It Was “Wendy and Colleagues” Alone on Duty
Another odd thing about that day, and which the mainstream media is always careful not to mention, was the utterly incongruous fact that despite this being Australia’s most violent incident, police were not sent quickly to the Broad Arrow Café at the Port Arthur Historic Site (PAHS).
Wendy Scurr recounts what happened from the time of the 1.30 pm shootings until 7.30 pm. In her statement, Wendy Scurr says, “It was after 7.30pm when we were advised that the police had finally arrived at the Site.”
Except for one unarmed female police constable, Wendy and other employees of PAHS were left there, unprotected, to look after many terrified customers.
Television and radio stations were keen to honor the recent anniversary with reminisces from those who could tell a story — but Wendy Scurr is never among the invited guests.
Why Did It Take So Long To Get Help?
Ten seniors managers of the Port Arthur Historic Site had been sent to a “conference” in Swansea, which is just over 2 hours north of Port Arthur Historical Site (PAHS).
Statement: Robyn Cooper — Manager, Visitor Services:
“At 11.00 a.m. that day, (10) Managers and Supervisors, left the Site on their way to a conference at Swansea. This was the first time in my twenty years, that I am aware of, where all Senior Management had been involved in a conference/training session away from the Port Arthur Historic Site which required an overnight stay, Sunday through to Monday.”
When these managers were informed of the massacre, they raced back from in Swansea, arriving at PAHS at 4 pm.
So why couldn’t police get there earlier than that? The Hobart police station is a lot closer than Swansea (see map).
Traumatized tourists were made to wait 6 hours before getting relief. Moreover, at 5.30 pm, shots were again heard at the PAHS!
There has been no investigation of the identity of the naked woman, why Jamie was frying up eggs, or any explanation of the CB transmission message, “Permission denied. This has to happen.”
Catlin and Beattie’s meeting among the headstones in Wagga Wagga is the stuff of a John le Carré novel. But this is not fiction.
The ominous words “Permission denied. This must happen” brought vividly to my mind the picture of Dick Cheney on 9-11 and his stand-down order. Transport Secretary Norman Minetta explicitly told the 9-11 Commission – under oath – that when a plane was observed heading toward the Pentagon, Vice President Cheney forbade a young assistant to mess with the arrangement that was in place.
Pat Allen said on radio, “I just turned into a different person. Shocking. Just angry …all the time.” Australia was turned into a different country — and we need to know what actually happened.
Twenty years of mainstream media spin is enough on Port Arthur.