Chilling video of police interviews with Australia’s worst mass murderer Martin Bryant have been revealed on the Seven Network’s Sunday Night program for the first time – showing the evil killer laughing as detectives question him for hours about his horrific shooting spree.
In tapes that have only ever played in court 20 years ago, Bryant is seen being wheeled into the interview room in a wheelchair — his legs burned from the fire he set after his 35 murders in Port Arthur, Tasmania.
Slouched in his chair, smiling and giggling, Bryant often denies knowledge of the dreadful events at the Broad Arrow Café and elsewhere around Port Arthur.
Bryant claimed he went surfing on April 28, 1996 and knew nothing of "the day everyone's talking about".
His defence lawyer John Avery has also revealed to Sunday Night how Bryant confessed to his crimes and revealed his true motivation.
Throughout the police interviews, Bryant played a bizarre game of cat and mouse with the police, only admitting to small bits of their evidence, and making jokes about his incarceration.
But he could barely hide his excitement over the number of dead and injured.
Bryant: How many people died altogether then?
Police: Including the people at Seascape. Thirty five.
Bryant: How many other people injured? Many?
Bryant: How many ... inaudible... a dozen?
Police: Approximately twenty.
Bryant: Approximately twenty. What, seriously or not?
It is a side to Bryant the public has never seen and Avery said he has long-wanted to open up about the true man behind the crimes.
"I think it's a way of me finally putting the Martin Bryant saga behind me. It's been around in some ways for so long that hopefully I can bury it."
Avery said the infamy sought by the "sad insipid little boy" he encountered was all he needed to manipulate him into changing his plea to guilty.
He thought Bryant was denying his crimes, not to get away with them, but to sit through a trial across from his surviving victims.
"I thought, ‘Christ what's this fellow going to be like, is he Hannibal Lector-like? Is he just plain evil?’" John Avery told Sunday Night's Mike Willesee
"When he was wheeled in in a wheelchair with his legs manacled and handcuffed and with a big grin on his face like a school boy, it didn't frighten me."
"I could see without the gun, without the weapon, he was nothing. He was a sad, insipid little boy."
He was a 28-year-old man with the IQ of a child, a loner who took joy in being the center of attention.
Police: Martin, it's not funny
Bryant: I can't explain anything, because I don't know anything about keys or
Police: But it's not funny is it?
Bryant: What is?
Police: This, what we're talking about. So why do you laugh?
Bryant: [Laughing] ‘cause it's good to get out of my cell...
Bryant was intent on pleading not-guilty, which would have led to a lengthy trial involving those Bryant had maimed and the families of those he had killed.
Avery wanted this to be avoided at all costs to spare the survivors and families the agony of what Bryant was seeking – a long show-trial with the killer starring, centre stage.
To change his plea, Avery needed to get inside the killer's head, so he called on forensic psychiatrist Paul Mullen.
"In Bryant’s case, all that was required to get him talking and keep him talking was to show an interest. [It was] all about him," Mullen told Sunday Night.
Mullen determined Bryant was socially inept and his rage came from ongoing rejection.
"He couldn’t understand why people didn’t like him. Couldn’t understand why people moved away from him. He believed this was because they were malicious, had it in for him and it was all terribly, terribly unfair."
But Bryant did strike up an unexpected friendship with Helen Harvey, an heir to the Tattersall's lottery fortune. She died in a mysterious car accident and left him two properties and more than half a million dollars.
Mullen said the introduction of money was "A disaster".
He couldn’t buy friends, but he could buy guns.
Repeatedly in the police interviews Bryant can be seen enjoying himself, admiring the weapons police had seized, one of which he revealed cost him $5000.
Police: We have got some of your guns here.
Police: Mr Warren might hold them up and we'll perhaps talk about each one individually. That might be the best way, better'n we.
Bryant: It's big, isn't it. [chuckling] Is it loaded?
Police: No, it's not loaded. Definitely not loaded Martin, I can tell you.
This was a serious weapon, a Colt AR15 semi-automatic assault rifle. One of three types of weapons Bryant took to Port Arthur that day.
Using this rifle it took just 15 seconds for Bryant to kill 12 people and wound ten more at the Broad Arrow Cafe.
Before Police brought Bryant’s murderous rampage to an end a total of 35 people were dead and 23 injured.
But Bryant's game of evasion persisted throughout his police interviews; he even at one point admonished the 'wicked' crimes.
Police: What would you think about a person who has killed 35 people? What would be your opinion of that person?
Bryant: That's a wicked awful horrendous thing. Mmm. I don't know. And they reckon others were injured
Police: There were many injured. There was two little babies killed. Shot. There have been many witnesses who have given very graphic description of you being responsible for killing those people
Bryant: It is sad isn't it. It's horrendous. Horrific. For anyone to go down there and do a thing like that, Mrs Jones. [nodding]. Mmm
In truth Martin Bryant had been planning the Port Arthur attack for months – even circled the 28th of April on his calendar.
The night before he spent at his home with his girlfriend Petra.
Police believe Bryant didn’t normally use his alarm clock but he set it for 6AM that day.
They got up – took a shower together and had breakfast before Petra left at 8AM.
In the next hour or so, Bryant drank from a bottle of Sambuca while he gathered his weapons and ammunition.
And although Bryant took his surfboard, he did not go to a beach.
He loaded two semi-automatic rifles, a shotgun and a hunting knife into his yellow Volvo and headed towards Port Arthur.
At first he also lied to lawyer John Avery – claiming he didn’t go to Port Arthur
"[I said] Look Martin that's just bullshit that just doesn't sit with anything that we know'."
"He laughed his head off and then pretty much gave me a complete confession that was consistent with the evidences that I knew."
"It was a girlish giggle, it was at times uncontrollable."
This was when Avery also learned what had triggered Bryant's rampage.
Bryant had wanted to buy another property nearby on Lighthouse Road.
But the owners David and Sally Martin refused to sell to him for any price.
"He had a long grudge against them so he told me…'I tried to buy the farm off them before, and offered them a lot of money but Mrs Martin would say to me 'I'm never going to sell it. It doesn't matter how much money you offer me Martin.' So I shot them in the head'."
It was after he killed the couple that he went to the Broad Arrow Café to continue killing.
"I think he realised or thought that he would either be killed himself or at least go to jail for a very long time." Avery said.
"He thought 'I might as well go out uh in a big way, kill as many as I can'."
Bryant drew the murder scenes in detailed crayon drawings, himself in black and his victims, where they fell, in red.
One such sketch shows where Bryant went after the cafe - stopping his car at a tollbooth where he killed four people in a BMW.
He then stole the car and drove to a service station where he killed a woman and forced her boyfriend, Glen Pears, into the boot of the BMW.
The kidnapping was the only crime Bryant admitted to police during the interview.
Bryant: I saw this car driving by and I held up the person and kidnapped him
Police: Kidnapped him. How did this guy get to get in the boot?
Bryant: I put him in the boot because I had the gun.
Police: Which gun did you have?
Bryant: I had the umm.
Police: Can Mr Warren hold it up?
Bryant: That AR15. You see if people didn't do these unfortunate things, you guys wouldn't have a job.
Police: Well there's a lot of truth in that Martin, let me tell you.
Bryant: That was the one.
Police: This is the one.
Bryant: It's a sweet little gun. Because it's so light. How light is it?
Police: Can you remember what you said ahh, this fellow?
Bryant: Hey mate, can you get out of your car please, I'm gonna take your car.
Police: Did, and you had this pointed at him did you?
Bryant: Yeah I had it pointed at him.
Bryant: And moving it backwards and forwards with his wife and child too.
Bryant’s final act was to drive Glen Pears to the Seascape guesthouse where, during an all-night siege with police, he shot him ... his 35th murder.
When Martin Bryant first appeared in the supreme court of Tasmania he entered the bizarre plea of “not guilty”.
Police had tried over a period of months to convince Bryant to tell the truth.
But for him, it was a game.
"Look he was absolutely interested in the fact that he was not only the talk of Hobart and Tasmania but at least for a short time national interest," his Lawyer John Avery recalled.
"I think he reveled in it"
Soon he convinced Bryant to plead guilty to the murders, but he still denied shooting those who had survived.
"I think that what he wanted was the people who he'd so grievously maimed, he wanted them to come to court and say it was him. He wanted to be the centre of attention."
Psychologist Paul Mulled determined Bryant did not suffer from a mental disorder but had a child-like IQ lower than over 98 percent of the general population.
"He’s mad in the everyday sense of the word. He did something that none of us can, or almost none of us can even get our heads around imagining, let alone doing. But no he did not have a serious mental illness, he did not have schizophrenia.
Bryant was very sensitive to suggestions he had a low IQ and Avery realized he might be able to use this sensitivity to encourage him to plead guilty.
He convinced Bryant he would look stupid for pleading not-guilty in front of the victims.
Bryant was ordered to serve 35 life sentences without the chance of parole.
Bryant would never be free again, but after the trial his lawyer realized he had gotten too close to a madman.
"I said to myself, am I his next victim? Have I been drawn into his web? Is he playing with my mind while I'm trying to get into his?"
Avery felt he was caught in the orbit of a madman and was 'haunted' by Bryant.
His career deteriorated quickly. He embezzled half a million dollars from his own clients to buy art and was sentenced to four years in jail and disbarred as a lawyer.
All these years on he regrets his association with Bryant but doesn’t use the traumatic experience as an excuse for his own actions and professional descent.
He said he suspected Bryant wanted to die famous, but not as slowly as he is.
*Images of Martin Bryant in prison provided by Gary Ramage-Newspix