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Forensic Sci Int. 2002 Dec 4;130(2-3):174-82.

Forensic odontology lessons: multishooting incident at Port Arthur, Tasmania.

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  • 1Department of Forensic Pathology, Royal Hobart Hospital, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia. paulenys@netspace.net.au


On Sunday 28 April 1996 a lone gunman killed and injured many people at the historic penal settlement ruins at Port Arthur in South Eastern Tasmania, Australia. Thirty-two victims were shot dead and 19 were injured in a short time inside a cafe and along the roadway leading to the site entrance. The gunman then took one hostage to a nearby guest house which was occupied by a married couple. Police stood siege during the night. Early the next day the cottage began to burn and a man suspected to be the gunman eventually ran unarmed from the building with his clothes alight and was arrested. The house burned to the ground. Three bodies were later located in the burnt ruins. Forensic odontology played a role in the retrieval of evidence and identification of the incinerated victims. Lack of antemortem dental records for one victim necessitated the reliance on a single CT scan radiograph for matching with the remains. Fire scene procedures, evidence collection and other issues were reviewed. The overwhelming scale of this tragedy and its adverse effects on the Tasmanian community, especially the victims' families and survivors, cannot be overestimated. While acknowledging this, it is important that lessons are learnt from tragedies such as these. This paper is presented with a view to assisting forensic odontologists in the investigation of complex incidents.

Copyright 2002 Elsevier Science Ireland Ltd.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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