Burning with hatred and revenge, people intent on killing Port Arthur gunman Martin Bryant applied for security positions at the hospital where he was held after the massacre, a police officer who guarded the infamous figure has revealed.
In the immediate aftermath of the 1996 atrocity, which left 35 innocents dead, police also received unconfirmed reports that suspects were flying from the mainland to take retribution on the 28-year-old.
The dramatic revelations come from former Tasmanian police officer Phil Pyke, who recorded his interactions with the reviled killer in 22 pages of handwritten notes that he has released to News Corp nearly two decades later.
Mr Pyke, who later retired from the force and now works in business development, tells how, as a police recruit, he first met Bryant three years before the massacre during a search for the killer’s 60-year-old father, Maurice, who had gone missing and would later be found to have committed suicide.
That day, Bryant was “seemingly unconcerned about the whereabouts of his father”. He spent parts of the day trying to ask female officers out on dates and later was “almost laughing” when his father’s body was found in a dam near the family home.
Mr Pyke recalled his memories when he was tasked on May 4, 1996, with guarding the notorious killer in a hospital ward in the days after the Port Arthur attack.
“I think that was a period of time that had a significant impact on me personally. I remember it every day and I remember the victims,” Mr Pyke told News Corp.
He spent only one day guarding Bryant in the hospital, and says he will never forget the “pure evil” look in his eyes.
“We were just exhausted and so we were asked who wants to go and spend some time guarding him. That was very hard, very difficult,” Mr Pyke said.
“Having worked down at the scene … it was extremely personally difficult to guard him and look after him.”
Mr Pyke wrote at the time about the heavy security in case someone wanted to kill Bryant, who he said he wouldn’t have protected “if anyone forced their way into the ward to harm him”.
“I made up my mind to protect the prison officers and nursing staff but not Bryant,” Mr Pyke wrote in his notes. “If anyone came through the door with firearms, they could have him.”
Mr Pyke said there was “nothing detailed” about the threats against Bryant’s safety, only unvalidated reports of people seeking retribution.
Concerns about Bryant’s security were part of the brief before his shift guarding the hospital ward with three other police officers, two prison officers and several security guards.
“There were suspicious people hanging around, wanting to get jobs (as part of the security of Bryant’s hospital room),” he said.
Bryant was arrested after starting a fire in a guesthouse at the end of an 18-hour standoff with police following the massacre of 35 people, most at the Port Arthur historic site.
He pleaded guilty to his crimes and was sentenced to life imprisonment without ever being eligible for parole.
He has spent most of the last 17 years as an inmate in the maximum security wing of Tasmania’s Risdon Prison. The dangerous nature of the prison was outlined in an inquiry two years ago as a result of growing violence and the swift relocation of 69 maximum security inmates to another detention centre.
Bryant was reportedly moved in recent years to the Wilfred Lopes Centre, a secure mental health unit for inmates with serious mental illnesses, though the Department of Justice will not reveal where he is being held.
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