Hundreds of visitors were milling around Tasmania's top tourist attraction when a blond beach hunk rolled up in a Volkswagon with a surfboard on its roof.
After chatting for a few moments with some of the visitors to the former penal colony at Port Arthur, the young man strolled into the Broad Arrow Cafe.
It was 1:45pm and the cafe was crowded with diners.
Suddenly, he reached into a sports bag, pulled out a rifle... and began shooting.
Five minutes later, he left behind a bloodbath and emerged to continue firing -- spraying tourists and passing vehicles before torching buildings on the site.
Then he climbed into a car and drove to a nearby hotel to continue the carnage.
It was there that most of his victims died. "They fell like ninepins," said local Hobart Mercury newspaper editor Ian McCausland.
Before opening fire in the cafe, the man -- a schizophrenic -- was said to be talking "quite lucidly", but then began muttering in a sinister way.
One witness heard him say: "There are a lot of WASPS (white, Anglo-Saxon Protestants) around here today. How many Japs are there?" There was panic as the first shots rang out.
Some people ran. Others stood, frozen with fear.
Survivor Phillip Milburn told how the gunman picked his victims with chilling precision.
"He wasn't going, 'bang! bang! bang!' It was 'bang!' and then he'd pick someone else out and line them up and shoot them."
Clutching his semi-automatic rifle and leaving the cafe a bloodbath of the dead and dying, the man strode outside.
Wendy Scurr, working at the entry desk of the cafe, said: "He left the site, shooting as he went -- shooting everybody he could see."
Marching up to two buses, he sprayed them with bullets, leaving several passengers and a driver dead.
Then he set fire to several buildings.
Witness Karen Jones told how a weeping mum pleaded hysterically for her shot baby to be taken to hospital.
"There was a little girl who had been killed. The friend we were with helped to take a stretcher in and the mother was saying, 'You have to get my baby to hospital, quick, quick'. But she was already dead."
Karen added: "As the gunman made off, they [?] all the tollgates blocked [?] because he just went there and shot everyone arriving in their cars."
The gunman drove to Fox and Hounds hotel where dozens more tourists were enjoying a lunchtime drink.
He walked into the bar at 2:45pm and without waiting, began shooting.
"That's where most of the people were killed," police spokesman said.
Editor McCausland said: "It's appalling. The carnage was horrific."
A quarter of an hour later, at 3pm, as police reinforcements rushed to the area, the gunman was holed up in a guest house called Seascape Cottage, about three miles from Port Arthur.
The couple who own it, and an Australian guest were taken hostage.
Paramedics and emergency helicopters came under fire as they tried to carry away the dead and wounded.
Police negotiators, trying by phone link to persuade the man to give himself up said he came from the island's capital, Hobart, and had a history of mental illness.
Canadians and Japanese were beleived to be among the dead.
No Irish people were among the victims.
Tasmania is a popular stopping-off place for European backpackers touring Australia and New Zealand.
Cops were baffled by the psychopathic killer's sick motive.
They speculated that he was a surf fanatic who was infuriated by Japanese businessmen buying up vast tracts of Australia's Gold Coast and turning them into private beaches.
[images: "Safe: A wounded victim is rushed into hospital at Hobart" (10x9.5)
"Lifesaver: A paramedic loads a wounded man into a helicopter" (11x10)
"Emergency airlift: The gunman opened fire as rescue holicopters moved in to take away the wounded" (18x13)
"Stand-off: Guest house where the killer holed up" (9x6)
"Rescue bid: Police move in on gunman's hideout" (9x7)
"Bloodbath: The Broad Arrow cafe at Port Arthur, where the sick madman began his massacre" (16x8) ]