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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Gunman Nabbed After Shooting Down 34

PORT ARTHUR, Australia -- A gunman who slaughtered at least 34 people at a busy tourist site was captured Monday after he bolted in flames from an inn he set ablaze with three hostages inside.


The gunman, whom police identified as a 28-year-old with a history of psychological problems, had opened fire with a semiautomatic rifle Sunday on tourists at the ruins of a colonial prison on Tasmania.


Police sources and Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio named him as Martin Bryant, a former resident of Hobart.


It was the worst mass shooting in Australia this century.


"Various massacres would pale into insignificance when you look at what has happened in Tasmania," said Tasmanian Police Commissioner John Johnson.


Police indicated they expected to find the bodies of the three hostages inside the inn, which the gunman set fire to after a 12-hour standoff.


Late Monday, two bodies were found, raising the death toll to 34. Police believe a third body is still in the burned-out wreckage.


Witnesses said Bryant muttered racially tinged remarks before the shooting began.


The arrest ended an overnight stand-off at the bed and breakfast, where the gunman barricaded himself with the cottage's two owners and a guest and fired at police.


"His clothing was on fire, and he started taking his clothing off," said the police officer in charge, Superintendent Bob Fielding.


He dropped two assault rifles as he fled the cottage in Tasmanian Devil Park.


Exploding ammunition in the burning house prevented officers from rapidly searching it to learn the fate of the hostages.


"It doesn't look very good," Fielding said.


Those killed in and about the Port Arthur historic prison complex included two Malaysians and an Indian, but most of the victims were Australians, among them two sisters aged 6 and 3 along with their mother, witnesses and police said. Eighteen were injured.


Witnesses said the gunman, described as a blond surfer-type, drove up to the prison in a Volkswagen with a surfboard on top and mingled casually in the crowd at the old prison complex.


"He said, 'There's a lot of WASPs [White Anglo-Saxon Protestants] around today, there's not many Japs here, are there?' and then started muttering to himself and then walked inside and that's when all the gunshots going off," one witness told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio.


Then he pulled a rifle from a tennis bag and started shooting methodically at visitors.


"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 Broadcasting Corp. radio.


He moved on to a local pub, shooting more people, before fleeing to the nearby Seascape bed-and-breakfast cottage at about 5 p.m. Sunday. By early Monday, more than 200 local and special police units had surrounded the guest house.


Police tried to negotiate by phone with the gunman, who fired at them with two heavy caliber military-type rifles, Deputy Police Commissioner Richard McCreadie said.


Bryant was taken to Royal Hobart Hospital for treatment for burns, but he did not have any gunshot wounds.


He will probably be charged with multiple murder Tuesday or Wednesday, police said.


Under Australian law, they may not speculate on his motives until he comes to trial.


Tasmanian reporters said the man had a history of psychiatric problems. His father died a year or two ago, they said.


Hostages David and Sally Martin, the 60-ish couple who owned the guest house, were apparently friends of his father.


The third hostage was a man kidnapped by the gunman at a gas station where he commandeered a car.


The murderous rampage began on a quiet Sunday afternoon at one of Tasmania's most popular tourist attractions, the historic ruins of the brutal Port Arthur penal colony, where England sent its toughest prisoners from 1830 through 1877.