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Victims Slain Still in Cafeteria, Some in Front of Half-Eaten Lunches

April 29, 1996

PORT ARTHUR, Australia (AP) _ Their last moments frozen in grisly testament to a gunman’s carnage, 20 people were left today where they were slain at a Tasmanian cafe, some sitting upright in front of half-eaten lunches.

Police had not yet moved the bodies for fear of disturbing evidence of Australia’s worst modern-day massacre.

``Some of the deceased were sitting there as if they were enjoying their meals,″ police Superintendent Jack Johnston said. ``Their meals were still on the table. Blood was everywhere.

``What I saw inside the restaurant was exactly like the product of war. It was horrifying.″

Police escorted reporters along a bloody trail today, one day after a gunman slaughtered at least 34 people at a colonial prison settlement. Along the road and pathways, blood-soaked blankets marked the sites where victims fell.

The gunman, described as 29-year-old local man, went to the Port Arthur prison site Sunday afternoon, driving a mustard-yellow Volvo hatchback with a surfboard strapped on top.

He spoke lucidly to several tourists as he walked toward the Broad Arrow Cafe with a tennis bag that held a high-powered rifle.

``He said, `There’s a lot of WASPs around today, there’s not many Japs here, are there?′ and then started muttering to himself,″ a survivor, who was not identified, told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio.

``Then he walked inside and that’s when all the gunshots started going off.″

Twenty people died in the cafe.

``I just lay there and all I could hear was the gun and screaming. The only thing that went through my head was `The next one’s for me,‴ said a Melbourne woman, who asked not to be identified.

``It was as though he just went around and picked off anyone who came in sight,″ she said. ``There were people just sitting there in their chairs where they’d been eating _ dead.

``After it was over there was a weird sort of calm, as if no one could believe what they were seeing.″

Emerging from the restaurant, the killer turned his rifle on tourists near a bus outside, killing four more people, including the bus driver.

He picked off others as they arrived in cars and shot at people running from the scene.

``He wasn’t going `bang-bang-bang-bang’ _ it was `bang’ and then he’d pick someone else out and line them up and shoot them,″ witness Phillip Milburn told Australian radio.

The gunman began to drive off, but stopped at a toll-booth entrance when he saw a mother walking with her 6-year-old daughter, and a younger daughter in her arms.

He shot the mother and 3-year-old girl dead. The older girl ran to hide behind a tree, but he killed her, too.

The gunman drove on until he encountered four men in a BMW near the toll booth. He killed them all and stole their car. Their bodies lay sprawled along the roadside near a sign promoting ``Ghost Tours.″

Driving about a half-mile on to a gas station, he fired into a Toyota Corolla, killing the driver. Her blood soaked deep into the sheepskin seat covers.

The woman’s husband was forced from the car and into the trunk of the stolen BMW. The gunman then drove north to the Fox and Hounds resort, where he shot and killed at least two people.

``There is a lady dead in a car at the top of our drive,″ cafe owner Phillip Kelly told TV Channel 10.

The gunman then drove to a bed and breakfast where he barricaded himself with the inn’s two owners and the kidnapped man.

Throughout the night, shots rang out as he fired at police surrounding the building and at helicopters ferrying victims from the area. At the old convict settlement, officers stood guard over bodies in the moonlight.

At 8 a.m. today, smoke began to emerge from the inn. Within a half-hour the gunman ran out, his clothes on fire, and was captured by police. Police expected to find all three of the hostages’ bodies inside the charred ruins of the inn, which would raise the death toll to 35.

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