The man accused of the Northern Territory’s worst mass shooting will be charged with four counts of murder, after being held under guard in a Darwin Hospital, police said in a press conference this morning.
Ben Hoffmann, 45, was on parole after being released from prison when he allegedly used a pump-action 12-gauge shotgun to kill four men and seriously injure a woman on Tuesday evening.
NT police commissioner Reece Kershaw said police had pulled the suspect over about 10.52am the day of the shooting at Arnhem Highway, Humpty Doo, for doing 94km/h in an 80km/h zone.
“He was not displaying any adverse behaviour,” he said. “There nothing out of the ordinary (when he) was observed by police officers.”
Mr Kershaw said he was “very satisfied with our approach” in letting the alleged gunman go for speeding.
He said it was a “possibility” the accused was seen with a firearm at the time, but that was still under investigation.
“You have got to treat everyone fairly, and police officers have reasonable suspicions,” he said. “They didn’t have any at that point in time.”
The alleged gunman was given an infringement notice for speeding.
It comes as a 52-year-old man was killed in the shooting has been identified as a New Zealand citizen — who is understood to be a security guard at Darwin’s casino.
“Based on what we do know currently, it is highly likely that two of those victims were known to him and the other two were not,” Mr Kershaw told reporters
He said that the Buff Club and Jolly St victims were most likely the ones known to the alleged shooter.
Mr Kershaw added that suspect showed signs of being under the influence of ice when he was arrested after the shooting, and cops found ammunition, a shotgun and a knife in his car.
The ammunition the gunman allegedly used in the attack was bought legally by a “third party”, police said.
Witnesses and NT Police say the gunman was looking for a man named “Alex” when the shooting began. Police later established “Alex” was in fact interstate at the time.
When asked what the relationship between the accused and Alex was, Mr Kershaw said: “There may or may not have been an issue relating to a female involved in this, so there was a number of issues that were actually avenues of inquiry that we are following in relation to that.”
Mr Kershaw added that drugs may have been another motive behind the attack.
Police believe the accused did not know the 23-year-old female victim.
The violent event has raised questions about why Hoffman was released in January after serving a non-parole period of four years of his six-year sentence, given his extensive criminal history.
His latest alleged act of violence, while wearing an electronic monitoring device, took place over an hour in areas around Darwin.
Chief Minister Michael Gunner has asked for a report from the Parole Board on Hoffmann and another review of all people currently on parole and on electronic monitoring.
NT Commissioner for Corrections Scott McNairn said his department had recommended Hoffmann get parole.
“We take reasoned decisions in terms of how we balance risk and those individuals are thoroughly risk assessed before we make any decision,” he told said.
Hoffman had previously breached parole by breaking curfew, for which he was given a 14-day custodial sentence in late April.
When Hoffmann was jailed in 2015, his victim Hussain Garling – who was bashed with a baseball bat in front of his infant son – told the court he “needs to be put away for a very long time, because he will do worse to someone next time”. Of the 103 people on parole in the NT, 46 are also being electronically monitored.
The parole report and the review is expected to be completed by the end of next week.
The deadly violence started at 5.39pm Tuesday at the Palm Motel where Hoffmann allegedly shot and killed taxi driver Hassan Baydoun, 33, who was on a meal break.
Mr Baydoun’s cousin Abdallah Salman said his relative did not know the shooter and was accidentally caught up in the shootings as the alleged gunman went from room to room firing his gun and shouting for Alex.
A 22-year-old woman at the Palm Hotel was shot in the legs and remains in hospital in a stable condition.
Over the next hour, the shooter went on to kill 52-year-old casino security guard Rob Courtney at a home in Jolly Street, Woolner, a 75-year-old in Gardens Hill Crescent and a man, 57, in the car park of the Buff Club in Stuart Park. Hoffmann was tasered and arrested and taken to hospital.
The pump action 12-gauge shotgun used in the shootings might have been stolen, police said.