One of the biggest questions relating to the events that took place on the 28th and 29th of April 1996 is the fact that nobody witnessed Martin Bryant at the Port Arthur Historic Site or its immediate surrounds. People who were there at the time say he was there, police say he was there, and officials say he was there.
However if the case went to trial, which despite numerous calls and petitions no trial has ever been conducted to determine the guilt of Martin Bryant, the police have NO hard evidence that Martin Bryant was inside the Broad Arrow Cafe, or at the parking lot, or on the road leading to the tollbooth, or at the tollbooth, or at the Port Arthur general store, or even along the highway.
Some witnesses who were at the site during the tragedy – but not all of them – saw a person discharging a firearm. Many when questioned directly both at the Port Arthur and Surrounding sites confirmed that they saw someone discharging a weapon however, no one could identify this shooter as Martin Bryant.
Out of all of the witnesses there was one who personally knew Martin Bryant and who saw the shooter/gunman. This was James/Jim Laycock and in his statement given to police on 10 May 1996 he stated: “I did not recognise this male as Martin Bryant.”
While police were being held at bay, being fired upon 250 times, at Seascape Cottage on that fateful Sunday afternoon Detective Peter Hesman was already showing a passport photo of Martin Bryant around to potential witnesses suggesting he was the gunman, and thus contaminating the scene and all witnesses police were about to interview.
“…on the afternoon of Sunday the 28th April 1996 I was shown a passport by Detective Peter Hesman which contained a photograph of Bryant as being the male who paid his entry fee at the tollbooth to me at around 1.10pm-1.15pm.” site employee Aileen Kingston said in her statement on 17 June 1996.
Many of the people who were at the site of Port Arthur that afternoon claimed they saw Martin Bryant, many of the witnesses were over 100 metres away at the old penitentiary, a distance that would make seeing facial features that they later described in detail indistinguishable. Graham Derek Collyer who was inside the cafe and looked into the face of the gunman before being shot and badly wounded gave a statement on 7 May 1996 in which he states “I still haven’t seen anything in the media about the person who shot me.”