"First they took away his guns, then they killed him."
Jones provided no details. Listeners were left only with the impression that "Crocodile Dundee" had his firearms confiscated, rendering him totally vulnerable, and was later murdered by the same people who did the confiscating.
I think I've found the source of Jones's information about the case: This article at Keep and Bear Arms. Written shortly after the incident, it strongly implies that far from "descending into madness", Rodney Ansell was responding in a predictable and understandable way to Australia's gun-control laws, and that he tried to shoot his way past a police roadblock merely because he didn't want to be busted with two firearms that were not licensed to him. In other words, if the government hadn't interfered with his right to bear arms, Rod Ansell probably wouldn't have snapped.
As I soon learned, the Ansell case is far, far more complicated than that.
For many years, Rod Ansell was a buffalo hunter in Australia's rugged, remote Northern Territory, known as the Top End. In 1977, when he was 21 years old, he made a solo trip to the Kimberlys with little more than his two dogs, a small dinghy, and a rifle. No one knows exactly what he was doing there. He claimed he was fishing, but later confided to friends that he was poaching crocodiles. At any rate, his boat overturned near the mouth of the Victoria River. A whale had bumped it, he said. He lost most of his supplies, but was able to swim ashore with his rifle and his dogs. "Not lost, but stuck", Ansell spent the next two months struggling to survive in the bush along the Fitzmaurice River, hunting for food. He was eventually found and rescued by members of the McCall family, who were cattle-driving in the area.
What a Croc
Most Aussies were not impressed by Ansell's strange story. They wondered why he hadn't simply followed the Fitzmaurice back to civilization. Years later, after his disintegration, fellow bushman Terry Halse remarked, "For years he's got away with his bullshit story about getting lost in the Kimberleys."
However, Ansell's ruggedness drew international attention. In 1981 British journalist and TV host Michael Parkinson interviewed him in Sydney for his BBC program Parkinson. Parkinson was charmed by Ansell's apparent backwardness; he was confounded by the bidet in his hotel, and preferred his sleeping bag to the bed.
TV writer/producer Ken Shadie found the Parkinson interview with Ansell so intriguing that he and talent manager John Cornell decided to turn Ansell's story into a vehicle for Cornell's primary client, TV comedian Paul Hogan. The three men scripted Crocodile Dundee, the story of a pretty, sophisticated American journalist wowed by the mad bush skills of a tough-but-lovable Aussie named Mick Dundee. She brings him to New York City as a kind of souvenir/conversation piece, a la Pocahontas, and the movie focuses on Mick's hilarious attempts to adapt to American urban life. Like Ansell, "Crocodile" Dundee had a tendency to embroider tales of his adventures.
Crocodile Dundee unexpectedly became the second highest-grossing film of 1986, and won that year's Golden Globe for Best Picture, as well as a Best Supporting Actress award for American actress Linda Kozlowski.
Kozlowsi and Hogan later married. The Mick Dundee character was so popular that Hogan milked it right into the 21st century, filming two Crocodile sequels and becoming a spokesperson for the Subaru Outback. If not for Steve Irwin, he might still be the world's favourite Aussie tough guy.
Meanwhile, the real Crocodile Dundee wasn't faring so well. Though his story of wilderness survival had been turned into a documentary titled To Fight the Wild and a book of the same name, winning him a measure of celebrity, Rod Ansell simply wasn't as famous as his fictional counterpart. Paul Hogan's production company had even forbidden him from starting up a "Real Crocodile Dundee Adventure Tour".
In the early '90s he and wife Joanne van Os were forced to give up Melaleuca Station, their small ranch near Darwin. They attributed this to financial difficulty stemming from the Northern Territory's BTEC buffalo program; Ansell claimed he had not been sufficiently compensated for loss of income resulting from the program's slaughter of diseased wild buffalo. However, subsequent Melaleuca manager Tony Searle says Ansell allowed mimosa plants to overrun the ranch. When the problem got out of hand, he simply walked away from it.
In 1992, Ansell was convicted of stealing 30 cattle and was fined for assaulting Mainorou Station manager John Harrower. He had threatened Harrower with a steel bar. Ansell was now divorced from Joanne, who remained in Darwin to raise their sons Shaun and Callum.
In 1999, Ansell was living at an Aboriginal camp on Urapanga station, several hundred kilometres east of Mataranka, with a young girlfriend named Cherie Hewson. He spent most of his time walking the few horses he owned.
Friend Dwyn Delaney was helping Ansell and Hewson plan an expedition on horseback through Arnhem Land, in the footsteps of the famed 19th-century explorer Lugwig Leichhardt. But Delaney and other friends had noticed that Ansell's behaviour was becoming increasingly odd and erratic. In November '98 he asked his lawyer to distribute any BTEC compensation among his relatives.
He was growing his own pot and taking lots of methamphetamines. No one knows precisely when his addiction to speed began, but it seems his drug use continued to escalate until the end of his life. The speed made him paranoid and volatile. He began to complain about being stalked by Freemasons, and became preoccupied with stories of cults and Satanism. In the summer of '99 he and Cherie abandoned their shack at Urapanga station to set up a remote bush camp.
There are confusing accounts of exactly what happened on August 3-4, 1999. Ansell's friend Peter Woods says that Ansell contacted him on the 3rd, worried that his sons had not yet arrived for an expected visit. He had encountered two bow-and-arrow hunters near his camp, and for some reason suspected that these men were Freemasons intending to harm him and/or his children. He was disturbed by the fact that the men were wearing goggles, possibly night-vision goggles.
Other accounts have Ansell drinking with a friend in the hours before his rampage.
What isn't in dispute is that Cherie and Ansell travelled to Darwin in Peter Woods's truck sometime on August 3rd. They ended up on Kentish Road, a quiet farm region roughly 60 kilometres south of the city. Ansell had two firearms with him, a 12-gauge shotgun and a bolt-action rifle. Neither gun was licensed to him.
That evening, Ansell fired several shots into a farmhouse, then crossed the road and harassed the family of Brian Williams by shooting out their floodlights, firing randomly at their house, and raving about Freemasons until neighbor Dave Hobden tried to intervene. Ansell fired through the windshield of Hobden's truck, sending shattered glass into one of the man's eyes, then continued to fire on him as Hobden made his escape.
As Ansell attempted to flee in his truck, Brian Williams confronted him with a baseball bat. Ansell shot him. The bullet tore off one of the Williams's fingers.
Williams, Hobden, and the residents of the farmhouse across the road told police they had never seen Rod Ansell before in their lives.
Later, Ansell returned to the Williams house and fired on it again. By that time, police had set up a roadblock at the south end of Kentish Road in the hopes of snaring the deranged shooter who had injured two men.
Around 10:30 PM, Sgt. Glen Huitson and Constable Jim O'Brien were dismantling the roadblock, assuming the gunman had left the area by some other route (which would have been very easy to do). But seconds after a motorist stopped at the roadblock to ask Sgt. Huitson for directions, gunfire exploded from the shrubs at the side of the road. A bullet grazed the motorist's backside before slamming into Huitson's abdomen, just below his bulletproof vest. The shots had come from Ansell, who had crawled up to the roadblock with both of his guns.
Minutes after Huitson was shot, Ansell fired on a Territory Response Group that arrived to help. The group's two Troopercarriers had collided in the melee and one of them had flipped, so Ansell was firing on the officers as they scrambled out of their overturned vehicle. It was at this point that Jim O'Brien shot Ansell, killing him instantly.
Police, and the rest of the world, were left to wonder why Ansell chose not to simply go around the roadblock.
Glen Huitson was a well-liked and respected officer, a "bush cop" known for his fairness and professionalism. Married since 1993, he had a 3-year-old and a baby at home. He died one hour after being shot without warning by the real-life Crocodile Dundee, a paranoid and unstable speed freak.
For the record, Shaun and Collum Ansell were not abducted by Freemasons nor anyone else.
The Bottom Line
Criticism of Australia's 1996 National Firearms Agreement centers on the banning of assault rifles, flame-throwers, Howitzers, etc., and on the requirement that gun owners have a "Genuine Reason" for ownership that excludes self-protection. However, aside from from these, existing state laws are not overly restrictive. Virtually anyone over 18 can own a gun.
The notion that Rod Ansell went on a rampage solely because he wouldn't be allowed to own a rocket launcher is absurd, and it's clear to me that people who attribute Ansell's crimes to gun control are not fully informed about the case. For instance, "gsvol" at a Tennessee Vols fan forum comments that Ansell, "died in a shootout with Australian police who had come to confiscate his unregistered firearms... A police sergeant was also killed in the incident; the number of "peace officers" injured while invading old 'Croc' in his natural domain is unknown, but likely he took down several. I don't mean to imply glee over the death and possible additional injuries; after all, they were 'just doing their job' like the obedient Nazi's [sic] tried at Nuremburg." The same capsule account can be found elsewhere online.
A lot of the misinformation and hyperbole about the case seems to be coming from two sources: retired Cuban-American physician Miguel Faria, and Vin Suprynowicz (author of the Keep and Bear Arms essay already mentioned).
By most accounts, Rod "Crocodile Dundee" Ansell was once a proud specimen of Australian manhood. Then he devolved into a drugged-up paranoid, and shot Sgt. Huitson and others with someone else's guns because he believed goggle-wearing Shriners were stalking him.
If Rod Ansell is your showcase example of why Australians should be allowed to own military-grade weaponry, I beg you to consider finding someone else. You're making other, far more sensible, supporters of gun rights look bad.
- "How the Dundee Myth Died in One Mad Day" by Paul Toohey, The Australian, 8/7/99. Reproduced here. Retrieved 2/23/09.
- Transcript of Australian Broadcasting Corporation's Four Corners broadcast "Crossroads", 9/27/99. Retrieved 2/23/09.
- Transcript of Australian Broadcasting Corporation's Stateline interview with Joanne van Os, 7/10/05. Retrieved 2/23/09.
- "'Crocodile Dundee' man alleged killer" Australian Broadcasting Corporation broadcast transcript, 4/8/99. Retrieved 2/23/09.
- "Rod Ansell, the Real Crocodile Dundee" at ColinHewitt.com. Retrieved 2/23/09.
- Wikipedia entry Gun Politics in Australia. Retrieved 2/23/09.
- Wikipedia entry on Crocodile Dundee. Retrieved 2/23/09.
- Crocodile Dundee at the Internet Movie Database