Witnesses yesterday described the terror and confusion as the Port Arthur massacre took place around them.
Mr Les Gore, the owner of the Fox and Hounds tourist resort and tavern near Port Arthur, was serving counter lunches yesterday afternoon when he heard shots not far away.
"I though someone must have been shooting rabbits," Mr Gore told the Herald last night.
But minutes later, the reality of the shooting massacre at Port Arthur was sheeted home to Mr Gore when four blood-soaked people staggered into the hotel.
Among the group were two women -- one aged about 30, the other 40 -- both with blood pouring from wounds to their heads. There were also two men, both about 40, who had been shot in the arm and the chest.
"They just drove up to the front of the hotel and came in. We were all dumb-founded. I couldn't believe it, I was just horrified. I got some bandages and we helped them. One of the women was in very bad shape, but the other one was conscious.
"She just said to me she was glad she hadn't brought her son along with her."
It seems the four attended to by Mr Gore were shot during the third stage of the massacre.
The gunman began the spree at the Port Arthur Historic Site -- 3 kilometres south of the Fox and Hounds -- about 2pm, shooting people in a cafe and carpark.
Mr Geoff Myers, the manager of the Broad Arrow Cafe at the historic site, told 3AW radio station the man started shooting there while people were having lunch.
The gunman spoke to diners before opening fire, and unnamed witness told ABC television.
"He said 'there's a lot of WASPS around today -- there's not many Japs here, are there?' and then he started muttering to himself. And that's when all the gunshots started going off," the man said.
Another woman in the Port Arthur Historic Site thought the sounds of shooting were associated with the tourist attraction. "We heard gunshots but we thought it was part of the park.
"No-one sort of realised that it was happening and then of course everyone who was there with a group was worried sick that people in their group could have been hurt," she said. The gunman then moved towards the tollgates at the north of the site, where Mr Gore later saw five bodies.
"I saw them from about 50 metres away... I didn't want to get any closer."
Four elderly women in a car paid their toll to enter the site and encountered the gunman, who fired shots into the vehicle.
Mr Brent Holness -- who had returned home to Tasmania from Sydney to show his girlfriend, Kathy, around the sights -- saw the women's car later when it was taken to the nearby Tasmanian Devil Park.
"The windows were shattered and the bullets had torn through the metal -- I couldn't believe that no-one in the car had been hurt or killed," he said last night.
"Apparently the old women paid their toll and just drove in and there he was -- he fired at them and they reversed out as fast as they could."
Mr Holness had his own lucky escape. If Kathy had not persuaded him to stop at the animal park, they would have been at the site when the shooting took place.
Mr Gore said the gunman left the site and shot a girl [Zoe Hall] dead in her car outside the general store about 100 metres from the toll gates. He took her husband [Glenn Pears] hostage and then drove north along the Arthur Highway past the Fox and Hounds, before stopping about 200 metres past the hotel.
He then stepped out of the car and fired at moving vehicles, injuring the four people who took refuge in the pub.
The gunman was then believed to have moved further up the road, to the Seascape bed and breakfast guesthouse where he fired at guests and took at least one hostage.
An elderly woman who lives opposite the Seascape saw several ambulances rush into the complex. She was worried that her friends who owned the Seascape [David and Noelene Martin] might have been killed.
"I think they probably have been shot... they're not young people -- they're in their 60s and 70s."
The woman, who did not want to be named, said the first she knew about the shootings was when a friend from Hobart rang to ask if she was alright.
"Then I went out on the road and watched and the ambulances came by, and then the police came."
The elderly woman said residents had been calling each other to make sure they were safe. From talking to each other locals, she believed the shooting had started in the historical complex.
"I think he was going up the road, and he stopped and shot some people at Port Arthur post office and service station. I think some tourists who had stopped to get petrol were shot."
"Everybody's very worried, almost all of us have relations outside of town and so most people have gone to stay with them."
The woman, who has lived in Port Arthur for 40 years, said there were no local gun clubs, but added most of the farmers in the area had firearms.
By late afternoon thee were almost 400 people inside the Port Arthur Motor Inn being treated for injuries and trauma by hotel staff, a motor inn spokesman said.
"We've got multiple killings and multiple injuries -- we've got them all crowded in here and we're just trying to help people get through the stress of it," he said.
After the shooting, visitors were gathered in the carpark oustside the main office as staff tried to comfort them. The last of the helicopters flying the injured to hospital left the site about 4.30pm and police allowed visitors with urgent travel plans to leave soon after.
The public relations officer at Port Arthur, Ms Sue Hobbs, said last night the situation was getting worse for staff as more bodies were found. As soon as the shooting was heard, all visitors and workers had been kept indoors on the site and not allowed out.
Last night, Mr Gore was holed up in his other property, the Port Arthur Holiday World, after his 40-unit hotel was evacuated by police. Amid reports that the gunman had set fire to buildings, Mr Gore said: "I don't even know what's left. He might have burnt it down."
[images: The prison ruins (38x13)
"Tranquility shattered... Victims are rushed to Hobart hospital after the mass shooting in scenic Port Arthur." (19x14) ]