Remembering the horror of the Port Arthur massacre

DETECTIVE Sergeant John Capewell will relive the horror of the Port Arthur massacre when he speaks at Inside Story on Thursday night.

Detective Sergeant Capewell has served Victoria Police for more than 30 years with his resume boasting work at busy suburban police stations, the drug squad and 14 years work with the special operations group.

Detective Sergeant Capewell led Victoria Police's tactical contingent at the Port Arthur shootings and will give behind-the-scenes insight at the Blue Ribbon Foundation Inside Story fundraiser at the Kangaroo Flat Sports Club on Thursday.

"I'll be speaking about the special operations group's response to the Port Arthur tragedy and managing the arrest of Martin Bryant down there," he said.

"I was what they called the deputy tactical commander so basically I oversaw all the tactical operations of the special operations going down there.

"We actually worked with Tasmania Police's special operations group to secure the premises and all that type of thing."

Martin Bryant, a 28-year-old from New Town, a suburb of Hobart, ended the lives of 35 people when he went on a killing spree at the historic Port Arthur prison colony in April 1996.

The Port Arthur massacre remains one of the deadliest shootings worldwide committed by a single person.

Among those killed were Nanette Mikac and her two young children Madeline and Alannah.

The Madeline and Alannah Foundation was established by the girls' father Walter Mikac and is a national charity with the belief that all children should have a safe and happy childhood without being subjected to any form of violence.

"It does affect you, the tragic loss of life, especially when the stories came out about Alannah and Madeline," Detective Sergeant Capewell said.

"That was just devastating."

Detective Sergeant Capewell said the Port Arthur massacre was one of the biggest cases he'd worked on.

"There are a lot of others that have been more dangerous and the like," he said.

"But on a pure tragedy point of view, then yes, it's one of the bigger ones.

"It affected all the guys who went down there.

"The psychologist told us it was a good thing that he survived so the victims could get some answers.

"During the night we were shot at over 100 times.

"What happened, there were some little lights that would come on in our proximity so he'd have a ping away at those lights."

Detective Sergeant Capewell has shared his story at numerous events such as Inside Story.

"I suppose the benefit of events like this is just developing that rapport with the community and the community getting an understanding as to what police have to go through sometimes," he said.

"It helps people understand and why we might not always be upbeat.

"There's always stories going on behind the scenes that people just don't know about.

"It's also about giving the community a little bit of a glimpse about how an investigation pans out."

It does affect you, the tragic loss of life, especially when the stories came out about Alannah and Madeline.

Detective Sergeant John Capewell

Detective Sergeant Capewell will take temporary leave of his post in September to walk more than 360 kilometres to visit sites where 10 members of Victoria Police died and another six were seriously injured in the course of their job.

The March2Remember will take a week and will see Detective Sergeant Capewell walk from Shepparton to Melbourne.

“This is my way of paying tribute to police colleagues who died or were injured on the job, simply working to deliver a safer Victoria,” he said.

“I’ll be raising funds for the Blue Ribbon Foundation, which honours the memory of those police officers through the support of worthwhile community projects in Victoria.”

The route will take Detective Sergeant Capewell to Stringybark Creek where the Kelly gang murdered three policemen, Kalkallo where a crazed gunman shot two others and Melbourne sites such as Walsh Street and Russell Street.

Detective Sergeant Capewell will be carrying a cylinder with the names of the 157 police officers who died in the line of duty.

“I’m planning to meet many survivors of these tragic incidents, and the operational police who were first on the scene,” he said.

The walk will conclude at the start of the police march on Blue Ribbon/National Police Remembrance day on the 29 September at the police memorial in St Kilda Road.   

For more information about the March2Remember visit or visiting the March2Remember Facebook page.

For more information about Inside Story call the Kangaroo Flat Sports Club on 5447 1214.


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