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Born or Bred?: Investigating the forces that -

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Born or Bred?: Investigating the forces that shaped Martin Bryant

Broadcast: 28/04/2009

Reporter: Deborah Cornwall

In a new book on Martin Bryant, journalists Robert Wainwright and Paola Totaro have returned to the
Port Arthur tragedy 13 years on, piecing together the jigsaw of forces that led to the making of a
mass murderer.

Transcript

KERRY O'BRIEN, PRESENTER: It's 13 years today since the Port Arthur massacre in which 35 people
died at the hands of Martin Bryant. Despite a spate of other mass murders across the globe since
then, Tasmania's tragedy still stands as the world's worst ever killing spree by a lone gunman.
Bryant's 11th-hour guilty plea spared victims' families the trauma of a full trial but it also left
many questions unanswered.

Now two Australian journalists have written a book investigating the forces that shaped Martin
Bryant. Deborah Cornwall reports.

FEMALE VOICE (archive footage, 1979): Do you think you'll be playing with a firecrackers anymore?

MARTIN BRYANT (as 12-YEAR-OLD BOY): Yes.

FEMALE VOICE: Don't you think you've learned a lesson from this.

MARTIN BRYANT: Yes but I'm still playing with them.

DEBORAH CORNWALL, REPORTER: This odd exchange with a 12-year-old Martin Bryant is a rare insight
into the defiant little boy who would grow up to be the deadliest lone gunman in the world.

PAUL MULLEN, FORENSIC PSYCHIATRIST: Bryant went there with the intention of dying, but dying in
what he regarded as a blaze of glory.

DEBORAH CORNWALL: In a new book on Martin Bryant, journalist Robert Wainwright and Paolo Totaro
have returned to the tragedy 13 years on, piecing together the jigsaw of forces that led to the
making of a mass murderer.

ROBERT WAINWRIGHT, AUTHOR: There are a myriad of reasons that all come together in one terrible
moment.

DEBORAH CORNWALL: The authors interviewed five of the world's leading forensic psychiatrists,
posing the question: was Bryant born a killer, or could he have been stopped?

PAOLO TOTARO, AUTHOR: There were signposts all the way along. When I was a child, he responded
violently; he hit, he pinched, he was unpleasant, he said horrible things.

DEBORAH CORNWALL: Right from the start, Bryant's blond good looks had been strangely at odds with
the dull, spiteful boy who had no friends.

ROBERT WAINWRIGHT: People who met him saw this strikingly handsome blond, blue-eyed strapping young
man and expected something mildly intelligent out of his mouth when he spoke. Instead, they got a
simpleton.

DEBORAH CORNWALL: Bryant's psychiatrist Professor Paul Mullen says his parents always knew he was
different but refused to accept it.

PAUL MULLEN: He never did receive the kind of support and help which you would hope would be
offered to an intellectually disabled young child.

DEBORAH CORNWALL: As a toddler, Bryant's mother had tied him to a leash in an effort to control
him. But his parents' decision to send him to a normal school made Bryant's life hell - and theirs.

PAUL MULLEN: What you are left with by the time you reached adolescence was a very - a mixture of a
very angry young man, who'd been bullied and rejected, plus a young man who still had a grandiose
sense of his own worth.

DEBORAH CORNWALL: Bryant's father Morris would spend his whole life trying to keep his son out of
trouble, even giving up his job as a wharfy to set up a small vegetable growing business with
Martin. But in the end, it wore him out.

PAOLO TOTARO: His father committed suicide, from what we understand, from the sheer burden of
trying to keep this kid, who he loved, but he knew was - could become dangerous, on a leash.

DEBORAH CORNWALL: Just 10 months before his father's death, Bryant had also lost another great
supporter, Helen Harvey, a local eccentric and heiress to the Tattersall's fortune.

PAUL MULLEN: She was a lady who clearly was looking for a child substitute. And what better child
substitute than Martin Bryant, who had the emotional and intellectual age of a five-year-old. And
essentially she adopted him.

DEBORAH CORNWALL: Bryant was suddenly a very wealthy man, but lonelier and more dangerous than
ever.

PAUL MULLEN: So what this young man did was to use his money to buy himself long-haul international
airfares and he was literally flying backwards and forwards to the UK so that he could fix on some
poor soul in the next business class seat to have a conversation with.

DEBORAH CORNWALL: Bryant's doomed attempt to find new friends would continue for two more years,
all the way up to the last hours, even minutes, before the massacre. Heading towards Port Arthur,
he'd made five stops along the way, buying small things he didn't need, like tomato sauce and a
cigarette lighter.

ROBERT WAINWRIGHT: It emerges that what - one of the reasons that he was stopping was that he was
hoping that something or somebody would turn him around, would give him a reason not to go ahead
with what he had planned. A kind word. It ended, apparently, over a cup of coffee with a tourist -
the man ignored him. And for Martin Bryant, the world had been given its last chance.

DEBORAH CORNWALL: Bryant was ultimately captured after police negotiators stalled on his demand for
a helicopter.

POLICE NEGOTIATOR ('A Current Affair'): Have you done any training to become a pilot?

MARTIN BRYANT: No.

POLICE NEGOTIATOR: I'm sorry?

MARTIN BRYANT: You can buy a helicopter. I've got the money. Don't you understand? I've got the
money. I've got all the wealth I want.

POLICE NEGOTIATOR: Alright.

MARTIN BRYANT: Right?

POLICE NEGOTIATOR: OK.

MARTIN BRYANT: What's the time now?

DEBORAH CORNWALL: Previously unpublished interviews between Bryant and his lawyer John Avery
revealed he had no memory of his crimes, but later revelled in reading the witness statements.

PAOLO TOTARO: He didn't register blood. You could see that there was no empathy, that the horror of
what occurred around him was like a cartoon for him.

DEBORAH CORNWALL: Since his incarceration, there've been scant details on Bryant's life. Kept in
isolation, he has made six known suicide attempts and refuses nearly all visitors, even his mother.

PAUL MULLEN: Martin Bryant of today is an obese, shambling shell of a human being, who lives his
life largely in isolation, saying little, enjoying nothing. Even the most vindictive and
revenge-minded citizen could not wish for a punishment greater than Martin Bryant is now suffering.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Deborah Cornwall with that report.