Darwin massacre: Accused gunman had bikie links

 

THE  Northern Territory is reeling after a man went on a shooting rampage, killing four men and injuring a woman across five different locations in Darwin.

The suspected gunman is Darwin local Ben Hoffman, heavily tattooed and well known to local police. He has links to outlaw motorcycle gangs.

Television footage showed him on the ground after being dragged from under his white Toyota Hilux dual cab ute, kicking his legs at officers from the Northern Territory Police Territory Response Group.

Darwin locals have been left in tears as they recalled how he went on his "insane" shooting spree, killing people in his path.

Matthew James was standing in a carpark near the Palms Hotel when it all began, where he helped a woman who was shot.

"It was just surreal," he told Nine's Today program.

"All of a sudden there were these gunshots."

A man is held down by police in Darwin. Picture: Keri Megelus
A man is held down by police in Darwin. Picture: Keri Megelus

"Moments later someone came running towards me carrying this woman who was covered in blood and just basically put her at my feet and she was screaming that she had been shot.

"The guy that actually carried her up was pretty frantic at the time, saying he had opened the door and there was a gunman there with a shotgun and he proceeded to fire upon anybody inside the building."

Mr James told AAP the woman injured was hysterical.

"She was caught up in it, she said 'I've been shot, I don't know why, I don't have anything to do with anything', he said.

The woman told Mr James the shooter had been going from room to room, firing his gun and shouting the name of a man - Alex.

"It just seems so insane," Mr James said.

Witness Leah Potter told the ABC she also helped the woman who had been shot in the legs at the Palm Hotel before she was taken away by an ambulance.

"I was in the carpark (of a neighbouring hotel) when I heard what I thought were fireworks going off, really loud cracking, banging fireworks," she said.

"And then a man came running with a woman in his arms from next door which is the Palms Motel, which is the motel next to my motel, and he just dropped her on the footpath right in front of us.

"I ran and got some towels and wrapped up her legs, she had little holes all in her skin on both her legs and she was bleeding everywhere."

The NT News reports that Darwin recycling worker Johnny Reid was watching TV when he came into contact with the alleged gunman.

He said the door of his worksite unit in Woolner was knocked down at about 6pm last night.

"He busted in and looked right at me," he said.

"I looked at him and thought: 'f**k this is it'.

"I thought I was dead for sure.

"I asked him what he was doing but he went right past me and shot my mate.

"His body is still in there."

 

The  Palms Motel was the scene of the shooting. Picture: Keri Megelus
The Palms Motel was the scene of the shooting. Picture: Keri Megelus

 

A man who was at home with his young son on Gardens Hill Crescent, The Gardens, 500 metres from the Palms Motel, said he heard eight shots from the townhouse complex next door.

"Up to eight shots, a few different volleys three or four, then another three or four," he said.

"I thought it was firecrackers as we are coming up to Territory Day.

"It was really loud because it was so close."

The father said he did not know if anyone had been injured next door.

"It's shocking and a bit surreal," he said.

Chris Dalgleish, who was having a beer on the balcony of the Frontier Hotel pub across the road from the Palms Motel, said people heard shots and raced inside the pub when they realised it was a gun.

"Everyone started jumping inside, then locking doors and windows and went to the back corner," he told AAP.

He is described as caucasian and was wearing high-vis workwear. The 45-year-old is now in custody. He was released on parole in January.

He is expected to be charged on four counts of murder. His motive is still unclear.

Northern Territory's Police Commissioner Reece Kershaw said the suspect was wearing an electronic monitoring bracelet as he evaded officers through Darwin.

After being on the run for more than an hour, he called the NT Police Duty Superintendent and asked to be placed in protective custody, Mr Kershaw confirmed.

"We do believe he was trying to hand himself in," Mr Kershaw said.

"Unfortunately and sadly four people have lost their lives this evening."

NT Chief Minister Michael Gunner confirmed the death toll from the rampage was four after earlier reports that up to five people had been killed and that police did not believe the shooting was a terrorist attack.

 

THE ACCUSED GUNMAN'S PAST

The NT News reports he had been working for a local roofing company until he was recently sacked. His mother organised the job for him through a family friend earlier this year, after he was released on parole in January.

The man's former boss, who asked not to be named, said: "His mum rang me and said: 'Can you please help him? Give him a second chance in life'."

"He wasn't coming in to work and I basically said a few days ago - I told him 'you have to go elsewhere, you have to start looking for other work and start over'."

"I can't see how I this could have happened."

The alleged shooter drove a white Toyota Hilux ute borrowed from a friend's plumbing company during the rampage, and sources told The NT News the alleged shooter fell into a bad crowd during a stint in a Darwin rehab clinic.

Witnesses told the ABC the man walked into the Palms Motel in the Darwin suburb of Woolner while holding a pump-action shotgun and shot at a hotel room door before fleeing the scene.

A police vehicle can be seen on the empty Stuart Highway at the McMinn Street intersection where it is believed police stopped the alleged gunman. Picture: AAP
A police vehicle can be seen on the empty Stuart Highway at the McMinn Street intersection where it is believed police stopped the alleged gunman. Picture: AAP

The alleged shooter then allegedly fled the motel scene down to an apartment complex on Garden Hills Crescent in The Gardens, where one person is believed to have been killed.

The alleged shooter was eventually caught by heavily armed police, who were wearing body armour and carrying rifles.

 

Prime Minister Scott Morrison says there is no indication that the shoiting is a terrorist attack.  Picture: Natasha Emeck/NT News
Prime Minister Scott Morrison says there is no indication that the shoiting is a terrorist attack. Picture: Natasha Emeck/NT News

They surrounded his car in the middle of an intersection before he was tasered.

The shirtless man was writhing around on the ground and screaming as a number of officers moved to restrain him.

The suspect had remained at large for approximately an hour, with road blocks in place around the city.

 

PM SENDS MESSAGE OF CONDOLENCE

Speaking at London's Savoy Hotel, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said it was a "terrible act of violence".

"I want to extend my deep condolences and sympathy to all the people in the Territory, particularly in Darwin," he said.

 

Police Commissioner Reece Kershaw said the alleged gunman had been out on parole after being freed from jail in January. Picture: Keri Megelus
Police Commissioner Reece Kershaw said the alleged gunman had been out on parole after being freed from jail in January. Picture: Keri Megelus

"This is a very tight community and I know they will be rocked by these events. Our advice is this is not a terrorist attack. There is nothing to suggest that is the case whatsoever.

"The true motivations of this criminal and violent act will become better known. There is a person in custody and they will work through those processes.

"In the meantime. I think it's important that every one in Darwin everyone in the Territory understands the thoughts of Australians wherever they are … they will be thinking very much of their fellow Australians in the Territory."

Police cordon off a block of units where a person was shot by a gunman in the suburb of The Gardens in Darwin. Picture: AAP
Police cordon off a block of units where a person was shot by a gunman in the suburb of The Gardens in Darwin. Picture: AAP

 

EYEWITNESSES REVEAL WHAT THEY SAW

The NT News reports that Darwin recycling worker Johnny Reid was watching TV when he came into contact with the alleged gunman.

He said the door of his worksite unit in Woolner was knocked down at about 6pm last night.

"He busted in and looked right at me," he said.

"I looked at him and thought: 'f**k this is it'.

"I thought I was dead for sure.

"I asked him what he was doing but he went right past me and shot my mate.

"His body is still in there."

Witness Leah Potter told the ABC she helped a woman who had been shot in the legs at the Palm Hotel before she was taken away by an ambulance.

"I was in the carpark (of a neighbouring hotel) when I heard what I thought were fireworks going off, really loud cracking, banging fireworks," she said.

"And then a man came running with a woman in his arms from next door which is the Palms Motel, which is the motel next to my motel, and he just dropped her on the footpath right in front of us.

"I ran and got some towels and wrapped up her legs, she had little holes all in her skin on both her legs and she was bleeding everywhere."

A man who was at home with his young son on Gardens Hill Crescent, The Gardens, 500 metres from the Palms Motel, said he heard eight shots from the townhouse complex next door.

"Up to eight shots, a few different volleys three or four, then another three or four," he said.

"I thought it was firecrackers as we are coming up to Territory Day.

"It was really loud because it was so close."

The father said he did not know if anyone had been injured next door.

"It's shocking and a bit surreal," he said.

Chris Dalgleish, who was having a beer on the balcony of the Frontier Hotel pub across the road from the Palms Motel, said people heard shots and raced inside the pub when they realised it was a gun.

"Everyone started jumping inside, then locking doors and windows and went to the back corner," he told AAP.



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