STORY OF A RIFLE USED IN A MASSACRE

On June 23 1996 almost one month after the Port Arthur massacre a Queensland newspaper published a front page story about a Victorian gun collector who believed in his heart that he had once owned the rifle used in the Tasmanian massacre.

Mr. Drysdale, a member of an old and respected farming family told Victorian police and a senior member of the Tasmanian Police Port Arthur Taskforce, Inspector John Maxwell, that he was convinced that the rifle he had handed in at a previous amnesty was identical to that used in the massacre. His rifle had been valued by police and they gave him $1700 compensation.

He told police that a mark on the barrel of the Port Arthur weapon described to him by Inspector Maxwell, matched a mark on his rifle made by his gunsmith.

"My rifle also had a collapsible stock and a Colt sight, just as the massacre weapon has," he said.

"I did the right thing and handed the weapon in and if the police put it back into the Australian community I would be disgusted.

"They told me it would be sent overseas and used for military purposes."

A spokesman for one of Australia's largest firearms importers said that the firearms matching the Port Arthur weapon were as "scarce as hen's teeth" and the chances of two identical weapons with almost identical serial numbers being imported were "next to nothing".

Police dismissed Mr Drysdales's claims saying that although the serial number of his weapon is close to that of the Port Arthur rifle and the descriptions match, their records show that his rifle was destroyed on March 9 1994, 14 months after it was surrendered to police at Yea.

However senior Victorian police admitted that police did not keep records of the dates on which particular firearms were destroyed.

A shaken Mr Drysdale said that Victorian police had ordered him not to speak to the media.

"They instructed me to say nothing about my gun or this meeting until they released details of an internal police investigation", he said.

Victorian Assistant Police Commissioner Graham Sinclair insisted that Mr Drysdale's rifle had been destroyed.

A spokesman said, "Our records show that it was destroyed in April 1994". However minutes from a confidential police district commanders conference on June 11 stated that police were concerned that not all weapons sent to Simsmetal for destruction were actually destroyed.

The minutes stated that "The situation with destruction is that FSL (Forensic Science Laboratory) books a day at Simsmetal and the weapons are taken away on a conveyor belt to the breaking machine".

"The problem with this includes the weapons falling off the conveyor belt, leaving the sight of police before destruction and that the firearms are destroyed by a third party."

On June 16 Mr Sinclair admitted that police had sold a number of surrendered AR15 rifles to a Bendigo arms dealer.

Despite the footage shown on television of guns being destroyed before the eyes of their owners many collectors who handed their guns in by order after the Port Arthur massacre said that they did not see them destroyed as promised.

After an interview with police, Drysdale was ordered by them not to talk to reporters any further.



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