FORMER detective inspector John Warren still recalls Walter Mikac sneaking into the Port Arthur massacre crime scene the following day and asking him permission to kiss his dead wife goodbye.
``Watching him going through his grieving process was a harrowing experience,'' Mr Warren said.
Mr Mikac lost his wife Nanette and his daughters Alannah, 6, and Madeline, 3, in the tragedy.
The following day, unbeknownst to officers on scene, Mr Mikac ducked the police tape and Mr Warren found him hunched over Nanette’s body.
``His reaction to seeing his wife and two daughters had an effect on a lot of officers,'' Mr Warren said.
``He told me he wanted to kiss his wife for the last time.''
Now retired and living on Queensland’s Gold Coast, Mr Warren's experience with the Port Arthur massacre was unique.
Most recently, Mr Warren featured on Seven's Sunday Night broadcast of the 1996 police interview with Martin Bryant - an interview Mr Warren co-conducted with fellow former detective inspector Ross Payne.
The duo hit a roadblock with Bryant, who refused to take the interview seriously and even joked about the tragedy.
``I got extremely agitated at his reaction when I showed him a photo of the girls (Alannah and Madeline Mikac). I was very upset about it. We had to take a break in the interview after,’’ Mr Warren said.
``We could never establish a motive - any reason why he did what he did. That in itself we found very frustrating.''
But Mr Warren's association with Port Arthur runs much deeper, having also been the inspector in charge of the operation on the day.
When asked what comes to mind when he reflects on the ordeal, Mr Warren said:
``That is a question that encompasses a lot because of the severity of it - what we did, what we saw. I'll never forget it. We were lucky to survive, I guess.''
Mr Warren and Bryant first met the night after the massacre while Bryant was in intensive care at the Royal Hobart Hospital.
``He made out that he was asleep the entire time... He never opened his eyes.
``Strangely enough during our first long interview with him in prison he knew who I was.''
Today, Mr Warren has managed to put the horror behind him.
``One morning I was getting ready and there was something on the TV about (Bryant)... It brought back all these memories.
``I don't personally dwell on it much. When you're a police officer you come across a lot of things that can have an effect on you if you dwell on them.
``If you choose not to dwell on it, it can stop you from going crazy.''
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