There is the other side of the argument:
Much is made by the conspiracy theorists of the claim that Bryant was sent to prison for life without a trial, which would indeed be shocking and seemingly unprecedented. It's also misleading. Bryant plead guilty to all charges, so it didn't go to trial, like every case in which the defendant pleads guilty to all charges. Despite being of acknowledged low intelligence
, he was found competent to stand trial, a finding that has not been challenged. His lawyer persuaded him to plead guilty simply because the evidence against him was overwhelming; he had no realistic chance of getting off, and a guilty plea was the route to the best possible outcome for him. It was not a conspiracy against a patsy; it was his best legal option.
That Bryant was placed in solitary confinement for the first eight months of his sentence is said to be evidence that the government didn't want him to be able to reveal any truths about the conspiracy. It's possible this is the reason, but there are at least two other reasons that Bryant, and many other criminals like him, are kept in isolation. The first is that among his victims were children, murdered at close range for no reason. Prison inmates have a reputation
for not taking kindly to child killers, especially to those who need to use a gun to do it, and it's more than likely that Bryant would have been attacked or even killed in prison if not kept separated. Indeed, there were specific threats against him. Even his meals were prepared separately by special staff to prevent anyone from trying to poison him. The second reason is that he was on suicide watch and was in a special hospital ward suicide-proof cell, and for good reason; he's attempted suicide at least twice so far.
Some conspiracy theorists claim that Bryant displayed extraordinary combat skills that could only belong to a highly trained expert, and not to an intellectually challenged kid with no firearms experience. One noted
that the true perpetrator must be one of the top 10 or 20 shooters in the entire world. In fact Bryant displayed no special skills, killing nearly all of his victims within just a few meters, and some with the muzzle of his gun actually touching them. He missed all of his shots that were at any appreciable distance. Nor should it be surprising that the Port Arthur killer would be untrained; it's quite common for mass killings to be carried out by loners with no military connections or special training.
And then there are myriad small details on which some sources are unclear; for example, whether the knife with which Bryant killed Mr. Martin at Seascape was found in Bryant's bag in the Broad Arrow Cafe, or nearby. Some characterize discrepancies such as this as evidence that the knife must have been planted by police. There is also minimal publicly known evidence that physically places Bryant at the Port Arthur Historic Site at all on that day. There is speculation surrounding the appearance of an armed man on the roof of a building at Seascape cottage during the night. One need only scan through any of the many web sites promoting the idea that the Port Arthur massacre was a government conspiracy to find many such questions raised.
But there is an alternate explanation for all of these questions that satisfies the available evidence without the need to introduce a conspiracy. Whatever evidence might exist is evidence in a murder case. It is not necessarily available to the public. Whatever it was, it was described by Bryant's attorney as overwhelming, and was sufficient for the prosecutors to charge him. Bryant was caught red-handed during the siege; there is no plausible doubt that Martin Bryant is the person who held off the police overnight. Whatever physical evidence may have been gathered by investigators that supports the chain of eyewitness accounts, all the way back to Martin Bryant's yellow Volvo laden with weapons and recovered at the Port Arthur parking lot, is sealed. This evidence's apparent nonexistence may indeed be consistent with a coverup, but it's also exactly what we'd expect to find in the context of a murder investigation.
Once, Bryant's attorney took some photos of him in jail during a visit, which were then confiscated and destroyed by prison authorities. This incident is often pointed to as proof that some kind of coverup is taking place, along with assertions that nobody has ever been allowed to photograph Bryant; perhaps because it might be discovered that his physical description does not match that given by eyewitnesses. This is a goofy claim. Photos and video of Martin Bryant were widely published throughout the media following the incident, and are still all over the Internet to this day. Does it really make sense that a conspiring Australian government would think it was accomplishing anything by banning photographs of Bryant? The lawyer's photographs were destroyed because cameras are not permitted inside prisons without prior permission, for obvious reasons, and he had failed to request any such permission. Again, there is no conspiracy needed to explain these events.
So why do the conspiracy theories persist? Why are some people so quick to jump on board any bandwagon that presumes the existence of a hidden malevolent power? It's yet another manifestation of the way our brains are hardwired. We want to find patterns. We want to make connections between cause and effect. When something goes bump in the night and nothing is seen, our brains want to assign the blame to a ghost. When shapes in a photograph from Mars mimic a face, our brains conjure up a Martian civilization that must have carved it. When a natural disaster happens, we look to secret government research as the culprit. And when a lone gunman murders 35 people, it's natural for our brains to imagine an evil intelligence behind what happened. Psychologists call this agency detection. The caveman who errs on the side of caution and assumes that every rustle in the grass is a saber-toothed cat is more likely to survive than the one who casually dismisses it as a harmless breath of wind.
As aggravating (or even offensive) as they might be, conspiracy theories like the Port Arthur massacre are the naturally evolved result of our brains failing on the side of caution. In this case it's wrong, and in many other cases too. But if we always assume that the Martin Bryants of this world are troubled loners acting completely on their own, evolutionary theory says that one day the saber-tooth will get us. We have to always look at the facts.