Demons of war haunted Cairns siege gunman
Ex-soldier Khrys Vignes was haunted by the demons of war before he died in a hail of bullets in a shootout with heavily armed police commandos in a crocodile-infested swamp on the outskirts of Cairns.
The 30-year-old former Telstra worker, who served a tour of duty with the Australian Army overseas, went down in a blaze of gunfire after he refused to surrender to police during a wild 10-hour-long rampage on Sunday.
Family and friends yesterday told The Courier-Mail how the fun-loving outdoorsman had suffered PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) and turned to illicit drugs after shooting at a machete-wielding pirate on active service.
"It haunted him,'' a family friend said.
"He came home injured with a dislocated knee and mental demons, he'd seen things he could not unsee, and he bottled it all up inside.
"Until, somehow, it all exploded and he lost his mind, and this was his way of going out.''
His final act came when he tried to break into a Telstra tower, rammed three police cars in a wild car chase, injured a police officer, deliberately set his vehicle loaded with ammunition on fire, and shot at police and a helicopter.
For ten hours, in a Rambo-like scenario he kept a huge cordon of police at bay as he fired off shots with a high-powered rifle, clad in a camouflage top, hiding in thick mangroves and swimming up crocodile-inhabited Thomatis Creek.
He was shot dead in a volley of up to 20 rounds as he raised his weapon to shoot when heavily armed tactical response officers in a police boat sprung him waist-deep trying to cross a creek.
"His erratic behaviour was completely out-of-character, it just snowballed,'' the friend said, speaking on behalf of family.
"This has nothing to do with coronavirus, he was a caring, loving peacemaker whose life went off the rails.
"This is a call to arms for anyone who is suffering mental illness in these strange times to speak out and ask for help.''
It is unclear why he tried to break into a Telstra tower at Palm Cove or why he had such a large cache of weapons and ammunition in his Toyota Hilux.
Police refused to speculate on whether he was preparing a lone wolf terror attack or if he was high on drugs.
Vignes, of Mossman, was known to police with a history of high-speed traffic offences and drug abuse.
He was an avid pig hunter, and in one Instagram post, can be seen posing with his rifle and a dead camel.
In other images supplied by his family, he can be seen posing in uniform and with fellow members of the Pilbara Regiment, an Army Reserve regional force surveillance unit, in Western Australia.
Originally published as Demons of war haunted Cairns siege gunman