|A.K.A.: "Backpack Killer"|
|Classification: Serial killer|
|Number of victims: 7 +|
|Date of murders: 1989 - 1992|
|Date of arrest: May 22, 1994|
|Date of birth: December 27, 1944|
|Victims profile: James Gibson, 19, and Deborah Everist, 19 / Simone Schmidl, 21 / Gabor Neugebauer, 21, and Anja Habschied, 20 / Caroline Clarke, 21, and Joanne Walters, 22|
|Method of murder: Stabbing with knife / Shooting|
|Location: New South Wales, Australia|
|Status: Sentenced to seven consecutive life sentences plus 18 years on July 27, 1996|
When a pair of trail runners discovered the decomposing corpses of Caroline Clark and Joanne Walters buried under sticks and leaves in Belangalo State Forest on September 19, 1992, it was only the beginning of what would eventually result in the capture of Australia's most famed serial killer. Over the next month searchers would discover five more bodies stowed away in the woods of the park, ending the mystery of the disappearances of foot travelers in the area.
The bodies discovered by the runners were identified as Clark and Walters, both of whom were British and traveling together on foot. They had last been seen over five months before. Soon the remains of hitchhikers James Gibson and Deborah Everlist, last seen near the forest in 1989, were found.
Almost a month later Simone Schmidl, a hitchhiker who disappeared in January of 1991, was discovered under the now-familiar pile of brush. When a pair of jeans found near Schmidl's body were found to be the property of yet another missing person, the searching continued. Predictably, the jeans' owner, German Anja Habschied, and her boyfriend Gabor Neugebauer were found nearby dead. The young couple had been missing since December of 1991.
Aside from the obvious similarities between the way all the victims had disappeared and been disposed of, their causes of death were a bit dissimilar.Clark had been stabbed in the chest area, Clark had been stabbed and shot in the head several times, Gibson had been repeatedly stabbed, Everist had been slashed in the face in additon to her stab wounds, Schmidl had also been stabbed, Habschied was decapitated, and Neugebauer had been shot in the head five times with the same weapon that killed Walters.
The stabbing victims all had a unique injury, though, a stab wound to the upper back that severed the victim's spinal cord and rendered them helpless. Also, many of the victims were partially undressed with their pants buttoned but not zipped. Evidence of crude bondage and strangulation was present in most of the cases.
Authorities were stumped by the case until 1993 when a man named Paul Onions identified Ivan Milat as the person who attacked him after picking Onions up near the forest three years before. Milat and his brother Richard were already suspects in the killings, though police knew that Richard had been at work on the days of the abductions.
Ivan Milat was soon charged with Onion's assault and all seven murders. Faced with some very damning evidence at trial Milat feebly tried to explain on the stand that he was the victim of an elaborate set-up perpetrated by his own family. Predictably, he was found guilty on all counts on July 27, 1995, and sentenced to prison for life.
Milat has stated plans to escape at every opporunity but thus far has not made good on the threat. He has, however, attempted to kill himself at least twice after swallowing such materials as razor blades and staples.
In June of 2001 Milat appeared at an inquest into the deaths of three women in 1978 and 1979. Robyn Hickie, 17, Amanda Robinson, 14, and Leanne Goodall, 20, all disappeared from an area north of Sidney under similar circumstances as Milat's known victims. Though Milat atended the inquest, he offered nothing to help investigators and denied having known the women or ever having picked up a hitchhiker in that area.
MILAT, Ivan Robert Marko
Australia's worst serial killer of modern times, Ivan Milat was the son of Croat immigrants, born in 1945. A nonsmoker who also shunned liquor, Milat worked as a highway construction worker and devoted his leisure time to motorcycle riding, off-road touring in a four-wheel-drive vehicle, and hunting. Friends assumed that his passion for stalking game was restricted to four-legged targets, but they were mistaken. Today, Milat stands convicted of seven murders committed between 1989 and 1992 and suspected of more dating back to the late 1970s.
Australia's two-year manhunt for the vicious "Backpack Killer" began in September 1992 when hikers found the decomposed remains of two women in the Belanglo State Forest, near Sydney, at a point called Executioner's Drop. The corpses were identified as 21year-old Caroline Clarke and 22-year-old Joanne Walters, British tourists last seen alive in Sydney on April 18, 1992, while thumbing rides to Adelaide. Autopsies revealed that both young women had been sexually assaulted; Walters had been gagged and stabbed to death, and Clarke was shot 12 times in the head.
The discovery of two corpses prompted a older search, and police soon found a shallow grave a few miles distant from the first site that contained the skeletal remains of Australians James Gibson and Deborah Everist. The two 19-year-olds had disappeared somewhere between Liverpool and Goulburn while hitchhiking to a conservation festival on December 9, 1989. Glbson's pack and camera were found beside a rural highway two months later, as if thrown from a passing car.
The search continued. In October, authorities found the remains of 21-year-old Simone Schmidl, a German visitor who disappeared on the same stretch of road between Liverpool and Goulburn, hitchhiking to Melbourne on January 21, 1991. Her glasses and camping equipment had later been found in the brush near Wangatta, a small town in Victoria. According to the medical examiner's report, Simone had been bound, gagged, and stabbed repeatedly.
The corpses of two more German tourists, 21-yearold Gabor Neugebauer and 20-year-old Anja Habschied, were found on November 4, 1992. The couple had last been seen alive 10 months earlier, on December 26, 1991, when they set off hitchhiking ftom King's Cross to Darwin and vanished without a trace. Their deaths bore all the signs of another sexual attack: Neugebauer was apparently strangled, then shot six times in the head; his girlfriend was nude below the waist and she had been decapitated, her head missing from the scene.
By that time, Australian police knew they had a serial killer at large. Published photos of the victims brought calls pouring in from locals who had seen them hiking through the countryside or thumbing rides, but none apparently had seen the killer-except, perhaps, for Paul Onions. A British subject from Birmingham, Onions heard about the "backpack murders" on television and recalled his own near miss with death outside Sydney in January 1990. Onions had bcen thumbing rides when he was picked up by the driver of a silver Nissan four-wheel-drive truck, who introduced himself as "Bill." A half mile north of the Belanglo State Forest, Bill had stopped and pulled a gun, declaring, "This is a robbery! " Onions had run for his life through the bush, bullets whizzing past his head, and managed to escape after a hectic chase. He recalled the gunman well enough to help police prepare a sketch, including the would-be killer's handlebar mustache.
Investigators, meanwhile, were reviewing their files on old sex crimes-including a December 1974 rape allegation filed against Ivan Milat, known to use the nickname "Bill." On May 22, 1994, a flying squad of 50 officers raided the property in Eagle Vale, a Sydney suburb, where Milat lived with a girlfriend. The raiders caught their man in bed, and a search of his home turned up evidence including firearms linked to the murders and camping gear stolen from the victims. (A sword, reportedly used to behead Ania Habschied, was found in a later search at the home of Milats mother.) Detectives suggested that Milat sometimes killed his victims and then used their skulls for "target practice" after they were dead, thus accounting for multiple head wounds.
On May 31, 1994, Milat was formally charged with seven counts of murder, plus the attack on Paul Onions and various weapons charges. (Two of his rifles, as well as a homemade silencer found by police in his possession, were banned by Australian law.)
At his fourmonth trial in 1996, Milat's attorney tried to undermine the prosecution's case by fingering alternase suspects, inciuding two of Milat's own brothers, Richard ánd Walter. Jurors rejected the ploy, convicting Ivan of all seven murders on july 27, but presiding justice David Hunt did tell the court, "In my view, ¡t is inevitable that the prisoner was not alone in that criminal enterprise." In the absence of further indictments, however, Milat was the lone recipient of six life sentences, plus an additional six-year term for the attempted murder of Paul Onions.
Milat echoed justice Hunt's opinion in February 1997 when he appealed his conviction on the unusual grounds that he did not act alone in the murder. No action has been taken to date on that appeal, but Milat was placed under tight security three months later after prison guards foiled a "meticulously planned" escape by Ivan and three other inmates. By November 1997, Milat had fired the attorney who fingered his brothers as suspects, representing himself in a new-and futile-appeal to the New South Wales Supreme Court.
Authorities in New South Wales believe that they have only scratched the surface of Milat's homicidas rampage. On March 22, 1998, detectives announced a new investigation into Milat's movements dating back to the late 1970s. According to press reports, he is suspected in the disappearances of six Newcastle women and an equal number of tourists, including visitors from Europe and japan.
One rare survivor, a 41-yearold Newcastle resident, has told police she was abducted and raped by Milat in 1978.
A second rape victim, attacked the following year, has also been reinterviewed in an effort to link Milat to the crime. The Newcastle disappearances-long presumed murdersdate back to 1979 when Milat was employed on a road crew working in the area. To date, no further charges have been filed.
Michael Newton - An Encyclopedia of Modern Serial Killers - Hunting Humans
Ivan Robert Marko Milat (born December 27, 1944 in Newcastle) is a serial killer who murdered several tourists and hitchhikers in the 1990s in New South Wales, Australia. The killings were dubbed the backpacker murders by the press at the time. Milat is currently serving a life sentence for the murder of seven hitchhikers, several of whom were international backpackers. He is of Croatian ancestry.
Ivan Milat had been acquitted on rape charges in 1971. His lawyer at this time, John Marsden, claimed in July 2005 that Milat was helped by a woman in his murder spree.
In September 1992 the bodies of British tourists Joanne Walters and Caroline Clarke were found buried in an area known as "Executioners drop".
In October 1993, two more bodies were discovered along the same stretch of the remote Belanglo State Forest. The bodies were identified as those of 19-year-old James Gibson and Deborah Everist, also 19. Both had gone missing in 1989. It then became apparent that a serial killer had been responsible for all these murders.
On 1 November the same year, a fifth body was found, identified through dental records as Simone Schmidl, a 20-year-old German national who had vanished in January 1991.
More than 300 police officers conducted a search of the area on November 4, and found two more skeletons, identified as the remains of 21-year-old Gabor Kurt Neugebauer and his 20-year-old girlfriend, Anja Susanne Habschied, German tourists who had vanished two years previously. Habschied had been decapitated. Police revealed that all victims had been killed by multiple stab wounds.
Forensic examinations of evidence gathered at the scene revealed cartridges from a .22 Ruger rifle near Clarke's body. These were tested against cartridges that had been taken from a farmhouse outside Sydney. A possible eighth victim was provisionally added to the list in November.
An examination of unsolved murders turned up the name of Diane Pennacchio, a 29-year-old mother whose body had been found in bushland in 1991. She had been stabbed to death and the body had been placed face down with hands placed behind her back near a fallen tree, as had those of the previous victims. A triangular canopy of sticks had been built over the bodies and covered with ferns.
It was not until the end of February 1994 that there was a breakthrough in the investigation. A 20-year-old woman stated to police that while backpacking in January 1990 in New South Wales she was offered a lift, which she had accepted. While in the vehicle the driver had behaved strangely, and she got out of the vehicle and ran into the Belangalo State Forest. As she ran, the driver fired shots at her, but missed.
A second witness, British tourist Paul Onions, told police that in 1990 he accepted a lift from a driver in the same area, who then produced a gun from the glove compartment of the vehicle. As he ran, the driver fired shots at him. Onions was able to identify the driver from police photographs and identify the vehicle.
In May 1994 police carried out dawn raids on seven properties, taking three men into custody. One of these men was 49-year-old Ivan Milat, who was charged with armed robbery and discharging a firearm; he was later to be charged with the murders. Another was Milat's brother Walter. During the raids police found a .22 calibre rifle that matched the type used in the backpacker murders.
Ivan Milat appeared in court for the initial robbery and weapon charges on May 23. He did not enter a plea. On May 30, following continued police investigations, Milat was also charged with the murders of seven backpackers. At the beginning of February 1995 Milat was remanded in custody until June that same year. In March 1996 the trial finally opened and, in July, he received seven life sentences, one for each of his victims....
Milat appealed against his convictions on the basis that the quality of legal representation he had received was too poor, and therefore constituted a breach of his common law right to legal representation, established in the landmark case of Dietrich v. The Queen. However, Gleeson CJ, Kirby P and Mahoney JA of the NSW Court of Criminal Appeal held that the right to legal representation did not depend on any level or quality of representation, unless the quality of representation were so low that the accused were no better off with it. The Court found that this was not the case, and therefore dismissed the appeal.
In 2004, Milat had an application to the High Court heard by Justice McHugh. The orders sought were that Milat be allowed to either attend to make oral submissions in an impending appeal for special leave to the court and that, alternatively, he be allowed to appear via video link. The application was dimissed on the grounds that the issues raised could be adequately addressed by written submission.
The grounds of his impending appeal were that the trial judge had erred by allowing the Crown to put a case to the jury unsupported by its own witnesses and had also put forward alternative cases to the jury, one of which had not been argued by the Crown. McHugh J indicated that this appeal may be defeated because it has been brought out of time.
In June 2006 Milat was embroiled in controversy when it was found that he had a television and toaster in his prison cell. Martha Jabour, leader of a group calling itself the Homicide Victim's Support Group, described the privileges as "an insult to the families of his victims". The privileges were quickly withdrawn after a media campaign stirred up the NSW Parliament and Department Of Corrective Services. After his privileges were withdrawn, he again threatened suicide, and was moved to a "safe cell" and placed under 24-hour video surveillance.
Other possible murders
In May 2005 Boris Milat (one of Ivan's older brothers) said in an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's Australian Story "wherever Ivan has worked, people have disappeared" He also said when asked how many people he thinks Ivan killed, "about 20 or so..."
At present there are about 6 unsolved murder cases where Ivan is a suspect.
Mark Whittaker and Les Kennedy (1998) Sins Of The Brother
The Backpacker Murders is a name given to serial killings that occurred in New South Wales, Australia during the 1990s. The bodies of seven missing young people were discovered partly buried in the Belanglo State Forest, 15 kilometres south west of the New South Wales town of Berrima. Five of the victims were international backpackers visiting Australia, and two were Australian travellers from Melbourne. Ivan Milat was convicted of the murders and is serving seven consecutive life sentences plus 18 years.
The term Backpacker murders specifically refers to the seven murders for which Ivan Milat was convicted. There is speculation that he may not have been alone when committing the murders, and that he could have committed up to a total of thirty-seven murders; if the latter is proven, Milat would become the most prolific killer in Australian history (ahead of Martin Bryant, who shot dead 35 people in the Port Arthur Massacre) and one of the most prolific serial killers ever.
The events depicted in the 2005 Australian horror film Wolf Creek were loosely based upon his crimes
First and second cases
On 20 September 1992 a group of orienteers discovered a decaying corpse while orienteering in the Belanglo State Forest. The following day, police constables Roger Gough and Suzanne Roberts discovered a second body 30 metres from the first. Early media reports suggested that the bodies were of missing British backpackers Caroline Clarke and Joanne Walters, who had disappeared from the inner Sydney suburb of Kings Cross in April 1992. However a German couple, Gabor Neugebauer and Anja Habschied, had also disappeared from the Kings Cross area sometime after Christmas, 1991 and Simone Schmidl, also from Germany, had been reported missing for more than a year. It was also possible that the bodies were of a young Victorian couple, Deborah Everist and James Gibson, who had been missing since leaving Frankston in 1989.
Police quickly confirmed, however, that the bodies were those of Clarke and Walters. Walters had been stabbed 9 times, and Clarke had been shot several times in the head. Despite a thorough search of the forest over the following five days, no further evidence or bodies were found by police. Investigators ruled out the possibility of further discoveries within Belanglo State Forest.
Third and fourth discoveries and body identification
In October 1993, a local man, Bruce Pryor, discovered a human skull and thigh bone in a particularly remote section of the forest. He returned with police to the scene and two more bodies were quickly discovered and identified as Deborah Everist and James Gibson. The presence of Gibson's body in Belanglo was a puzzle to investigators as his backpack and camera had previously been discovered by the side of the road at Galston Gorge, in the northern Sydney suburbs almost 100 kilometres to the north.
Fifth, sixth and seventh discoveries
On 1 November 1993 a skull was found in a clearing in the forest by police sergeant Jeff Trichter. The skull was later identified as that of Simone Schmidl from Regensburg, Germany. She had been last seen hitch hiking on 20 January 1991. Clothing found at the scene was not Schmidl's, but matched that of another missing backpacker, Anja Habschied. Simone Schmidl was found to have died from numerous stab wounds to the upper torso.
The bodies of Habschied and her boyfriend Gabor Neugebauer were found on 3 November 1993 in shallow graves 55 metres apart. They had, like the other victims, been shot and/or stabbed.
Search for the identity of the serial killer
There were similar aspects to all the murders. The killer had evidently spent considerable time with the victims both during and after the murders, as campsites were discovered close to the location of each body and shell casings of the same calibre were also identified at each site. Joanne Walters and Simone Schmidl had been stabbed, whereas Caroline Clarke had been shot numerous times in the head and stabbed post mortem. Anja Habschied had been decapitated and other victims showed signs of strangulation and severe beatings. Speculation arose that the crimes were the work of several killers, at least two, and Ivan Milat's sworn statement had suggested anywhere up to seven people were involved.
On 13 November, police received a call from Paul Onions in Britain. Onions had been backpacking in Australia several years before and had accepted a ride south out of Sydney from a man known only as "Bill" on 25 January 1990. South of the town of Mittagong, Bill pulled a gun on Onions who managed to escape, flag down Joanne Berry, a passing motorist, and report the assault to local police. Onions' statement was backed up by one from Berry, who also contacted the investigation, along with the girlfriend of a man who worked with Ivan Milat, who thought he should be questioned over the case.
Milat quickly became a suspect. Police learned he had served prison time and in 1971 had been charged with the abduction of two women and the rape of one of them, although the charges were later dropped. It was also learned that both he and his brother Richard worked together on road gangs along the highway between Sydney and Melbourne, that he owned a property in the vicinity of Belanglo, and had sold a Nissan Patrol four-wheel drive vehicle shortly after the discovery of the bodies of Clarke and Walters. Acquaintances also told police about Milat's obsession with weapons. When the connection between Onions and the Belanglo murders was finally made, Onions was asked to fly to Australia to help with the investigation.
On 5 May 1994, Onions positively identified Milat as the man who had picked him up and attempted to tie up and possibly shoot him.
Milat was arrested on 22 May 1994 at his home at Cinnebar Street, Eagle Vale, a northern suburb of Campbelltown, New South Wales after 50 police officers surrounded the premises. Homes belonging to his brothers Richard, Alex, Boris, Walter and Bill were also searched at the same time by over 300 police. The search of Ivan Milat's home revealed a cache of weapons, including parts of a .22 calibre rifle that matched the type used in the murders, plus clothing, camping equipment and cameras belonging to several of his victims.
Milat appeared in court on robbery and weapon charges on 23 May. He did not enter a plea. On 30 May, following continued police investigations, Milat was also charged with the murders of seven backpackers. At the beginning of February 1995 Milat was remanded in custody until June that same year. In March 1996 the trial finally opened. Milat's trial lasted fifteen weeks. His defence argued that in spite of the amount of evidence, there was no proof Ivan Milat was guilty and attempted to shift the blame to other members of his family, particularly Richard.
On 27 July 1996, a jury found Ivan Milat guilty of the murders. He was also convicted of the attempted murder, false imprisonment and robbery of Paul Onions, for which he received six years' jail each. For the murders of Caroline Clarke, Joanne Walters, Simone Schmidl, Anja Habschied, Gabor Neugebauer, James Gibson and Deborah Everist, Milat was given a life sentence on each count, with all sentences running consecutively and without the possibility of parole.
On his first day in Maitland Gaol, he was beaten by another inmate. Almost a year later, he made an escape attempt alongside convicted drug dealer and former Sydney councillor George Savvas. Savvas was found hanged in his cell the next day and Milat was transferred to the maximum-security super prison in Goulburn, New South Wales.
Ivan Milat appealed against his convictions on the grounds that the quality of legal representation he had received was too poor, and therefore constituted a breach of his common law right to legal representation, established in the landmark case of Dietrich v The Queen. However, Gleeson CJ, Kirby P and Mahoney JA of the NSW Court of Criminal Appeal held that the right to legal representation did not depend on any level or quality of representation, unless the quality of representation were so poor that the accused were no better off with it. The Court found that this was not the case, and therefore dismissed the appeal.
In 2004, Milat filed an application with the High Court and which was heard by Justice McHugh. The orders sought were that Milat be allowed to either attend to make oral submissions in an impending appeal for special leave to the court and that, alternatively, he be allowed to appear via video link. The application was dismissed on the grounds that the issues raised could be adequately addressed by written submission.
The grounds of his impending appeal were that the trial judge had erred by allowing the Crown to put a case to the jury unsupported by its own witnesses and had also put forward alternative cases to the jury, one of which had not been argued by the Crown. McHugh J indicated that this appeal may be defeated because it has been brought out of time.
On 26 January 2009, Milat cut off his little finger with a plastic knife, with the intention of mailing the severed digit to the High Court. He was taken to Goulburn Hospital under high security, however, on 27 January 2009, Milat was returned to prison after doctors decided surgery to reattach the finger was not possible.
This was not the first time Milat had injured himself while in prison. In the past, he swallowed razor blades, staples and other metal objects.
At first, the two orienteers thought the strong smell in the forest must be a dead animal. But as they drew closer to the boulder in the isolated gully, what had first appeared to be a kangaroo leg turned out to be a human elbow. And the fur that they though they saw sticking out of the leaves was, in fact, the hair on the back of a human head.
Their maps marked the spot as Executioner's Drop. It was 19th September 1992, and the mystery of Australia's missing backpackers was beginning to emerge in the Belanglo State Forest just 150km (90 miles) south-west of Sydney, Australia's largest city.
The next day, New South Wales police constable Suzanne Roberts found a second body pushed under a log just 30m (100 feet) from the first corpse. The bodies were soon identified as the remains of missing British hitchhikers Joanne Walters, aged 22, and her friend 21 year old Caroline Clarke.
The two girls had both been bound, stabbed and shot, suffering multiple wounds. There was also evidence of sexual assault and that the killer, or killers, had chain-smoked through the ordeal and taken their time. It was even feared that because their bodies were found lying in the same north-south direction, with their heads to the south, there could be some ritualistic element to the killings.
Both women were the last known victims of the man who'd become know across the world as the 'backpacker killer'.
Their remains were the first confirmation of the police's worst fear that a serial killer was operating near Sydney.
The eerie forest was to give up the skeletal and mutilated remains of five more young people and spark Australia's largest ever murder inquiry before their brazen killer would be tracked down. Yet it was the tragic story of Joanne and Caroline, and their parents' brave yet vain attempts to find them alive, which came to represent for many the true horror of the case.
The girls' names first came to public attention when police took the highly unusual step of interrupting the broadcast of an English-Australia rugby match in June 1992 to appeal for help in locating them. Officers in the missing persons bureau wanted the largest possible TV audience, hoping the girls, or someone who knew them, might have been watching the match. They also set up a toll-free hot-line in a bid to get new information, but there were no firm leads.
Welsh-born nanny Joanne and convent-educated Caroline, from Northumberland, had met in Australia, travelling on carefree working holiday visas, like thousands of other young backpackers each year. Many thumb their way across the continent, as all the guidebooks said as Australia was one of the friendliest and safest countries in the world for hitchhiking.
Joanne and Caroline had both travelled the country before sharing a rented flat in Sydney's Kings Cross district. Then they decided to hitch south to pick fruit. On Easter Saturday, 18th April, bother were last seen heading towards Kings Cross station carrying sleeping bags and a tent.
Two weeks later, Ray and Gill Walters began to get worried as they had not heard anything from their only daughter, who usually called home once a week. On 26th May, when Joanne's visa expired, they became even more alarmed and reported her disappearance to police in Wales, who informed their counterparts in Australia. Ian Clarke, a Bank of England regional director, and his wife Jacqueline were less concerned until Caroline failed to make any contact for her father's 58th birthday.
Two weeks later, Ray and Gill Walters began to get worried as they had not heard anything from their only daughter, who usually called home once a week. On 26th May, when Joanne's visa expired, they became even more alarmed and reported her disappearance to police in Wales, who informed their counterparts in Australia. Ian Clarke, a Bank of England regional director, and his wife Jacqueline were less concerned until Caroline failed to make any contact for her father's 58th birthday.
Both families travelled to Australia to search for their daughters and refused to accept suggestions that they could have met foul play. They preferred to think they might be staying with Aborigines on a remote desert station or even stranded somewhere in the vast outback.
'We never gave up hope,' said Ian Clarke. 'We dredged around thinking of every conceivable thing the girls could be doing where they couldn't get in touch; going out as girl Fridays on a yacht or working on a homestead without a telephone.'
In August, spurred on by the publicity the families had generated, the police began to make a connection between a series of missing person reports of foreign tourists in New South Wales and Queensland.
By the time Joanne and Caroline's badly decomposed bodies were found, five other backpackers were known to have vanished while hitchhiking on the busy Hume Highway that links Sydney and Melbourne. The first to disappear were two 19 year old Australians on their way to an environmental rally at the end of 1989. Then, during 1991, three German backpackers had also gone missing.
It was an emotional time, and a distraught Ray and Gill Walters faced the press to deliver a statement soon after Joanne's body was found. 'Who ever did this thing,' said Ray, speaking for many, 'I wouldn't call them sick, because sick people can be cured to an extent. These are evil minded people, and like dogs with rabies there is only one way - they have got to be put down and destroyed. There has got to be some system whereby we destroy those people for their evil genes.'
Time passed, but no specialist task force was set up to investigate links between the deaths and the disappearances. Three detectives were put on the hunt for the girls' killer, but in 12 months turned up next to nothing.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, the story was being reported in the British newspapers. And in Birmingham, Paul Onions, an air-conditioning engineer who had backpacked around Australia in 1990, was following events with particular interest. The gruesome details brought back a day he would rather have forgotten.
It was January 1990, that a man whom Onion regarded as the first 'real' Australian he had met had given him a lift. But further down the road, near the turn off to the Belanglo State Forest, the man pulled a gun and tried to rob him.
Onions had reported the incident to nearby Bowral police the very same day. He was not to know that not only had they failed to take any action, but they also lost his report. Four crucial years were to pass before the police and Paul Onions were to make contact again.
In late 1992, Father Stephen Gray conducted a moving memorial service in the heart of the forest for Caroline Clarke and Joanne Walters. 'We have come here today, where something wicked happened, so that this place can be peaceful again and its memories put out to rest.'
But it was not to be. On 5th October 1993, Bruce Pryor parked his jeep deep in the forest and started looking for firewood. He soon stumbled upon a human thigh bone and then an upturned skull. there were other human bones at the foot of a gum tree, just a few kilometres away from where the British girls' bodies had been found.
Police soon found the remains of 19 year old Deborah Phyllis Everist, who had last been seen on 30th December 1989, with her boyfriend James Gibson at a Sydney backpackers' hostel. The couple had told friends that they planned to hitch south down the Hume Highway to Albury for a conservation rally.
Pathologists were unable to determine the exact cause of Deborah's death because of the time that her body had been in the open. But there was evidence she had been hit with a sharp object, as well as stabbed in the head and body. Her black bra and pants had been removed and cut with a knife, she had been gagged and tied up with her own tights.
James's body was lying in the fetal position within 50 metres (160 feet) of his girlfriend. Like all the other remains, it was almost completely covered with sticks and branches to accelerate decomposition. he had suffered multiple stab wounds to the lungs, heart and liver, and a violent cutting blow to the spine which would have paralyzed him.
The most cursory examination of the four bodies showed the killings had been especially violent. Like all the remains recovered from the forest, none showed any signs of defensive wounds. Police now had no doubt they were hunting a serial killer and on 12th October 1993, special Task Force Air was established under the command of Superintendent Clive Small.
Twenty detectives were assigned to the team, along with crime scene specialists and forensic experts. Within three days specially trained sniffer dogs were brought in from Queensland, since Supt. Small feared the worst. An extra 60 police were seconded to begin a meticulous and methodical search of the five square kilometre (two square mile) strop where the four bodies had been discovered. 'The net is really Australia' said Supt. Small at the time. 'We have something like 17 million people. We start from there and work in.'
Then on 1st November, the skeletal remains of missing 20 year old German hitchhiker Simone Schmidl were found another five kilometres (three miles) to the east. Her body showed signs of having suffered multiple stab wounds. Simone was last seen on 20th January 1991, when, against the advice of her friends in Sydney, she decided to hitchhike down to Melbourne for a long planned reunion with her mother. Police immediately increased their numbers to 80 and widened the search area to cover more than 20km (12 miles) of fire trails. It was now apparent it would only be a matter of time before they found the bodies of the other missing young couple, German Anja Habschied, aged 20 and Gabor Neugebauer, aged 21.
In a chilling similarity to the other victims, they too were last seen at a Kings Cross Hostel planning to head out of town and hitch to Adelaide on Boxing Day 1991.
Detectives already had copies of dental records when their bodies were found on either side of a fire trail on 4th November, just one kilometre (half a mile) from Simone's. Again there was similar pattern of tying, stabbing and excessive force.
Gabor's body was found with a gag wedged between his teeth. He was still fully clothed and had been shot six times in the head. There was also evidence of strangulation.
Anja had been decapitated with a sword or machete while she was still alive and her head has never been found.
Forensic pathologist Dr Peter Bradhurst said the blow was consistent with her kneeling with her head bowed. 'What immediately comes to mind is the style of ceremonial execution,' he said.
Dr Bradhurst, who performed the autopsies on all seven of the victims, later said in court that it seemed to him that it 'was more than likely' the killer had not acted alone.
Just one day before the last bodies were discovered, the name Robert Ivan Marko Milat first came to the attention of the police task force. There was little real evidence, but a workmate had voiced his suspicions about Milat's obsession with guns. The tip off joined the one million plus leads provided by an Australian public horrified that their hospitable nation could witness such an outrage and desperate to help catch the killer.
As an outsider, Caroline's father Ian felt the reaction first hand. 'The overwhelming feeling from the people of Australia was of shame, a strong feeling of shame that something as dreadful as this could have happened in their country.'
Ivan Milat was born two days after Christmas in 1944. He was the fourth son of Stephen, a 44 year old Croatian immigrant, and his young Australian wife Margaret, who was barely half her husbands age. The family was to grow to 14 children, with Ivan roughly in the middle.
Ivan's father, who had served with the British Army in World War I, worked long hours as a wharf labourer and sometimes put in seven days a week. The family was nominally raised as Catholics but Mr Milat had little time for education or authority apart from his own.
'Dad was strict but fair,' remembered brother Wally Milat in an interview. 'If you came home and you'd been in any sort of trouble he'd just whack you to the ground... [he was] strict and ruled with an iron fist.'
When Ivan was aged four, his father decided to become a market gardener. The whole family was press-ganged into working, which included watering tomatoes up to two o'clock in the morning - but even so they only made a meagre living.
'It wasn't tough raising all the kids because we worked hard,' said Margaret, the 75 year old matriarch of the sprawling family. 'We never had trouble with Ivan, none of them really.'
The Milat clan lived in a three bedroom house near working-class Liverpool on the outskirts of Sydney. The children slept in triple-tiered bunks. Another son, Alex, remembers that having guns in the house was like having a spare pair of boots, and all 14 children learned to shoot.
Like most of the others, Ivan went to the local Patrician Brothers High School, where he was considered bright and good at maths and arts. 'Ivan was a bit smarter in the head than most of us,' remembered brother Alex.
But soon Ivan started regularly skipping classes, so he was moved and spent his early teenage years at Boys Town, an institution for overburdened families and their wayward sons.
The family was large and needed money - so, like his brothers, at age 15 Ivan left school and went to work on various building sites. All the boys went on to lives on heavy manual work. Guns and knives were part of the family's pastimes.
Ivan inherited his father's obsessive cleanliness and love of order, but by the time he was 17, Ivan was in trouble with the law for breaking into a house and stealing. In 1962, he was given six months in a juvenile institution for breaking and entering.
Over the rest of the 1960's four more jail terms would follow for breaking and entering, stealing and car theft. His mother blames those years on Ivan falling in with the wrong crowd.
However, the police, who were a regular sight at the Milat household, remember it differently. They said the brothers would never give each other up and were always covering for each other. The sheer number of sons also led to confusion.
In 1969, the family moved to the better off Sydney suburb of Guildford where Margaret still lives, It was there that Ivan's youngest sister Margaret was killed when a car driven by brother Wally was in a head-on accident near the family home. Ivan was one of the first on the scene and reportedly 'took it rough'.
Within a month of his sister's death in 1971, he was charged with raping one of two women he had picked up hitchhiking near Liverpool. It was near the point where, 20 years later, the backpacker victims would start to vanish.
There was a committal hearing, but Milat, who also faced two armed robbery charges, including one at a bank, jumped bail and fled to New Zealand, where he stayed until 1974. On his return he was re-arrested.
He was acquitted of the robbery charges and in a one day trial beat the rape charge after one of the victims changed her story. There was evidence that Milat, then aged 26, had tied up both women and threatened them with a knife, but, incredibly, the police task force investigating the backpacker murders never learned about the chilling similarities of the crimes until late in the day.
Years later, Milat confided to a friend that he was in fact guilty of pulling the bank job but a brother, who was also involved, took the rap.
By 1975, Milat was apparently respectable. He still lived with his parents, didn't drink or smoke, and was a workaholic interstate truck driver.
Ivan now met his future wife Karen, then 17, and pregnant to his cousin Mark. Soon, the couple were living together in a caravan in a garden and saving a deposit for a house. Ivan treated Karen's son Jason as if he was his own, and married Karen in the mid 1980's.
The family were not asked to the wedding, as they were in the midst of a feud. Milat's father had died of bowel cancer in the early 1980's and there was more tragedy when Ivan's brother David was permanently brain-damaged in a motorcycle accident.
By then, Ivan was working for the Department of Main Roads and was away for days at a time. The marriage under further pressure mainly due to Ivan's frugality.
It was alleged during the murder trial that it was at this time he had an affair with Maureen, the first wife of his brother Walter. There was also a violent side to the marriage, well hidden behind the obsessive neatness of the house-proud Milat. In his wife's words, he was becoming 'gun crazy' and often took to beating her.
Then, on St Valentine's Day in 1987, while Ivan was away at work, Karen packed up the house with the help of her mother and fled, taking all the furniture. He didn't see her again for seven years until Karen, then on a witness protection scheme, gave evidence against him at his committal hearing.
In 1989, Milat quit his regular job. He took to working under an alias to avoid tax and stop Karen claiming any of his income. The divorce went through and by the end of the year the two young hitchhikers, Deborah Everist and James Gibson, had gone missing.
The Belanglo State Forest is barely a two hour drive from the heart of Sydney. It is announced by a small sign and turn off alongside the Australia's busiest trunk road, the Hume Highway. Towards the end of 1993, it became the focus of the largest homicide inquiry in the nation's history.
Raw police recruits, state emergency workers and others were drafted in to comb wide swathes of the forest, often on hands and knees, for anything that could provide a clue. They were supported by nine analysts from the State Intelligence Group who cross-checked every shred of information and every possible lead.
The nation was horrified as police revealed the brutal nature of the murders. There was evidence that the killer, or killers, had become increasingly confident with every murder and had spent longer at each successive crime scene.
The commander of Task Force Air, Clive Small, by now a Chief Superintendent, revealed that the first three victims had been killed comparatively swiftly. But by the time Gabor Neugebauer was shot, and his girlfriend Anja Habschied beheaded, the killer had begun playing his own perverted games. 'The victims had been bound... and at some stage had been unbound and moved several hundred metres,' Chief Supt. Small would later tell Milat's committal hearing. 'Further, there were quite a number of spent shells, I believe about one hundred, which suggested there was a good deal of time firing weapons.'
Worse still, it appeared the killer had set up beer bottles on a tree stump to show off his marksmanship to the victims. It even seemed that Caroline Clarke and Joanne Walters had been made to undress and then dress again in a hurry. Caroline was then shot repeatedly in the head through her maroon sweatshirt. Joanne was stabbed 20 times through her top, which was later to become a significant exhibit in Ivan Milat's murder trial.
But at this stage, all that the police knew for certain was that the killer probably drove a four wheel drive vehicle to access the remote bush tracks, and had some knowledge of the forest. Meanwhile, ballistics experts found that the same gun was used to kill Gabor and Caroline - a US-made Ruger 10/22 rifle which was comparatively rare in Australia.
The investigation team also knew that the danger periods were during the holidays. All the backpackers vanished through Australia's long summer, the Christmas break and around Easter. They also though the use of rifles and knives suggested the killer was a hunter.
Because the travellers died in the same clothing they had worn on their fateful trips down the Hume Highway, it seemed they were probably killed the same day they went missing. This suggested the killer was living in or around the south-western region of Sydney.
There were plenty of theories but few hard facts. Psychologists helped draft a profile of the killer. 'It is fair to say that almost without exception people involved in this type of crime from unskilled or semi-skilled occupations,' said Supt. Small. 'I'm not trying to put a class thing on it, but I think they are the facts of the matter.'
On 5th November 1993, the New South Wales Government offered a reward of A$500,000 (about £240,000) for information leading to the killer's conviction - the largest bounty ever offered in the country. A free pardon was also offered to any accomplice not involved in the murders who would give the killer up.
Information lines were set up and within the first 24 hours, 5,100 calls were logged. The public response was enormous.
Investigators used a computer system called Netmap to chart the connections between the fragments of information about names, addresses, gun ownership, vehicles and times. The clues to catch the killer were there but it was not just a matter of finding them, they had to be matched together. Even satellite photographs were used to see how wet conditions had been on the days the backpackers vanished.
But in far away Birmingham, England, the trap was beginning to close. Paul Onion, aged 27, was beginning to brood about tabloid newspaper reports about the 'Forest of Death'. And details of his own brush with an armed robber on the same road three years earlier seemed more than just coincidence.
Onions contacted the Australian High Commission in London and, on 13th November 1993, was put in touch with Task Force Air, to whom he gave details of his attack and a full description of he assailant. However, it was to be five months before he heard from them again.
Meanwhile, the Milat name started to crop up in investigations. Police discovered a statement in their files from Ivan's brother Alex, who had contacted detectives in October 1993 with a strange story.
Eighteen months earlier, he claimed he had seen two women tied up in the back of two cars with a group of men near the Belanglo State Forest. But the details and dates did not match and the man Alex said he was with failed to corroborate the story fully. Police discounted Milat's statement.
Investigators also found a report from the wife of a worker at a building materials plant, detailing her suspicions about her husband's workmate. The tip off made in early October just after the second set of bodies was found, referred to a worker called Paul Miller. Police already knew he was actually Richard Milat, Ivan's younger brother.
During the murder trial it was alleged that after the British girls' bodies were discovered, Richard had told workmates, 'There's more out there. They haven't found them all yet.' On other occasions he allegedly went on 'They haven't found the Germans out there yet', and 'I know who killed the Germans.' This was months before any of the three German victims were discovered.
In a phrase which would come back to haunt him, Richard, although he denied making all the statements, was also quoted as saying 'Stabbing a woman is like cutting a loaf of bread.'
On 16th November, the 400 police in the Belanglo State Forest paused for on minute's silence out of respect for the dead. Their six week search of the area was now officially over.
By the end of the year police were making discreet inquiries about Ivan Milat at the NSW Road and Traffic Authority depot in Granville, Sydney. They found out the dates of his holidays and days off. They also approached Ivan's brother Walter at his home while checking gun licenses. But Ivan had got wind of the investigation and, unknown to detectives, began to stash his firearms in a secret alcove in Walter's home.
In January 1994 Senior Constable Paul Gordon followed up his theory that the backpackers were all hitchhiking when they met their murderer. He checked the records for attacks on travellers who had left the Liverpool area and came across Ivan Milat's acquittal in 1971 for the rape of two hitchhikers.
The noose was beginning to tighten. Milat was their number one suspect, but the task force still needed stronger evidence before they dared move. They mounted a major surveillance operation shadowing Milat's every move. Tradesmen's vans began to appear regularly near his home in Cinnabar Street, on a housing estate in Eagle Vale, in Sydney's south west district.
Then in April came the breakthrough. Paul Onions told police by telephone from England the full details of what happened while he was hitching south on the Hume Highway in January 1990. His attacker drove a white four wheel drive, called himself Bill and had a moustache like Australian cricketer Merv Hughes. He was also from a Yugoslav background, was divorced and worked on the roads. The description fitted Ivan Milat like a glove.
Onions was secretly flown to Australia on 2nd May and took police to the spot, near the Belanglo turnoff, where the man attempted to rob and abduct him at gun point. He was shown 13 photographs on a video of men matching his description and identified Ivan Milat. 'I remember the moustache,' he said. Milat's ex-wife Karen confirmed that Milat had made trips into the forest as far back as the early 1980's. At last the police were ready to move, and planned to raid seven properties owned by the Milat family.
On 21st May, three detectives from Task Force Air flew to Queensland to re-interview Alex Milat about his claimed sighting of two women in the forest in 1992. There his wife Joan handed them a backpack she said Ivan had given them saying it belonged to a friend who had returned to New Zealand and did not need it anymore. Subsequent tests showed it had once belonged to Simone Schmidl. Police were also alerted when Joan made some unsolicited comments about serial killers keeping 'trophies' from their victims.
That night Ivan was called by a relative in the nearby town of Bargo telling him police had been round asking about a silver Nissan four wheel drive he once owned. At 2am his brother William rang to say he too had been questioned about the car and his involvement in an armed robbery.
At 6.36am on Sunday, 22nd May, police called Ivan Milat's home and told him to come out with his arms outstretched. Milat claims he thought the call was a prank and ignored the order.
After a third call, he and his girlfriend, Chalinder Hughes, a public servant, came out to find 50 heavily armed police surrounding them. The investigators were confident they had their man at last. Now they just had to prove it.
Soon after his arrest, Ivan Milat was interrogated by detectives for three hours at his home. He was asked if he had ever used the name Bill; if he owned any firearms, and if he'd ever used a Ruger 10/22 rifle. He said no to each question.
The next day he appeared in Campbelltown Local Court charged with armed robbery and using a revolver with intent to commit an indictable offence in relation to Paul Onions. It wasn't until 31st May that he was formally charged with the murder of the seven backpackers, the attempted abduction of Paul Onions and several firearm offences.
From day one, Milat denied all the charges, but behind the scenes investigators were seizing a wealth of ballistics, scientific and physical evidence. The irony was that most of came from the ordinary brick suburban building worth around £100,000 that Ivan called home, and appeared to be macabre trophies of his exploits. Milat had had ample time to dispose of the evidence. So why didn't he?
The evidence found at 22 Cinnabar Street was startling in anyone's language. In Milat's bedroom they found 38 .22 cartridges in a tin and electrical tape similar to that found at the murder scenes. In a spare room was a manual for a Ruger 10/22, more ammunition and a Bowie knife, and in the laundry was a .32 Browning pistol with its ammunition.
Then, in a wall cavity were found parts of a Ruger trigger assembly, which tests showed was used in the murders. In a cupboard were more parts of the gun Milat denied that he ever owned, together with a map showing the Belanglo State Forest.
Police who had spent months getting nowhere on the investigation could not believe their luck. Soon they turned up a water bottle that had belonged to German victim Simone Schmidl and an Olympus camera that had belonged to Caroline Clarke. They also found small amounts of foreign coins from all the countries that the backpackers had visited en route to Australia.
More disturbingly, in the garage was a pillowcase containing five sash cords. One had bloodstains that DNA tests showed were consistent with blood belonging to a child born to Ian and Jacqueline Clarke. There was also a tent belonging to Simone and a home made silencer for a rifle.
Milat shared the house with his sister Shirley Soire. In her bedroom were found sleeping bags belonging to Deborah Everist and Simone Schmidl. In court it was alleged that Milat asked her dispose of a Colt .45 pistol which he had buried in the garden. It was claimed Ivan's brother Walter sold the weapon to a stranger and passed on the A$800 to Shirley.
Another key piece of evidence was a photograph of Milat's girlfriend Chalinder Hughes in a green and white Benetton top exactly the same as one that Caroline Clarke brought with her to Australia.
And there was more to come at the various homes of the Milat clan, whom anonymous callers to the police hotline had called a 'hillbilly family'. The family had remained close-knit over the years - especially the five brothers, Ivan, Wally, Bill, Alex and Richard, who shared a love of hunting, shooting and cars.
In Walter's home was an Anschutz .22 rifle and bolt of the type used at the murder scene of Anja Habschied and her boyfriend, as well as a pack that had been Simone's.
At Richard's property were Caroline Clarke's tent and bed roll. At Alex Milat's home in West Woombye, Queensland police were handed Simone's backpack. And at the Milat's mother's home in the Sydney suburb of Guildford (where Milat was living at the time of the murders) were found a T-shirt belonging to Simone and a Next brand T-shirt that Paul Onions formally identified as his.
It seemed as though the police had an open and shut case. But in fact, all the mounting evidence was still circumstantial. There was nothing which put Ivan Milat in the forest at the time of any of the deaths. And although there were a number of strong leads, some of the best would never be heard in a court of law.
Among such leads was the bizarre story that Alex Milat had told police as the second group of bodies was being discovered. He'd claimed that in Easter 1992, as he drove past the Belanglo State Forest on a dirt road, he had seen two girls tied up and gagged in the back seats of two passing four wheel drives.
Police were incredulous as Alex gave detailed descriptions of the men and the guns he said they were carrying, despite the fact that both vehicles were being driven at speed in the opposite direction. The friend Milat said he was with could only partly verify the story.
But later investigators discovered that the registration numbers Alex had gave them matched part of the registration of a car which his brother Ivan had once owned. Was it a round about tip off? Or was Alex trying to confuse police? He has since maintained he told the complete truth about what he saw in the forest.
Police were also intrigued by a 'confession' that Milat allegedly made to a former prisoner called Noel Manning, with whom he had shared a cell while awaiting his rape trial in 1974. Manning told police officers Milat had explained how he had raped a girl after stabbing her spine to paralyse her, so the victim could see the crime but couldn't stop it.
Although this was years earlier than the backpacker murders, three of the seven victims had been stabbed in the spine. And there was evidence all had been sexually assaulted. Manning told his story before the details of Milat's attacks were made public but was never able to repeat them in court. He died, in an apparent suicide, weeks before the trial began.
On Friday, 9th April 1971, the 26 year old Milat hit the road in his beloved 250 horse power Falcon V8. He was hunting for hitchhikers. At Liverpool he picked up two 18 year old girls wanted a lift to Melbourne. Bother were undergoing psychiatric treatment and were on Valium.
The girls dozed off and awoke on a dirt road where Milat produced knives and told them he was going to have sex with both of them. He brazenly promised, 'You know what I'm going to do? I'm going to kill you. You won't scream when I cut your throats, will you?' Milat then bound their hands and feet with nylon cord and raped one girl in the front seat. Later, they both escaped when he pulled into a gas station to buy them a fizzy drink.
Perhaps the episode was a twisted dress-rehearsal for what would follow years later. Or perhaps it was the regular but unreported pastime of a man who since the age of 17 had spent five years behind bars.
In any case, Milat was caught on the road after a police chase. He always claimed that the women consented to sex and in 1974, after a poor performance from the victim, a NSW Supreme Court jury believed him. Milat was a free man and didn't appear in court again until 1994 when he stood charged with the backpacker murders. A seasoned detective on Task Force Air who put Milat through intense interrogation said, 'Ivan is the coolest man I have ever interviewed.'
It now appeared there was a pattern emerging in Milat's attacks. Although Ivan seemed to have had several girlfriends, there were just two major relationships in his life and the timings of bother were crucial to the commission of his crimes.
Ivan was introduced to his future wife Karen in October 1975. It was a time of apparent stability in his life. He had five jobs in 18 years and all his bosses described him as the ideal employee. Although their relationship was turbulent, Ivan and Karen appeared happy together and they were married in 1984.
But then, in 1987, Karen walked out on her husband. On 13th July 1989 they were divorced. Six months the first two backpackers went missing. For a period of two and a half years, between January 1990 and April 1992, Milat became a ruthless, cold blooded and sadistic killer who scoured the Hume Highway looking for victims. Then the murders stopped just as suddenly as they begun.
Perhaps it was the unlikely relationship that Ivan Milat struck up with 43 year old divorcee Chalinder Hughes, the Indian born and English educated registrar at the Federal Human Rights and Equal Opportunities Commission. Two years later, after there had been no more attacks, she was in his bed when the armed police raided Milat's house in Cinnabar Street.
There was one more coincidence that pointed to a link between the murders and Milat's emotional state. After Milat's arrest, police checked all unresolved rapes to see if he was involved. There was just one case in 1984 when two Asian girls hitching down the Hume Highway were picked up and taken to the Belanglo Forest. A man they later identified as Milat demanded, 'Okay girls, which one of you wants to go first?' The young women managed to escape and hid in the Forest while Milat prowled around looking for them. Police found that the date coincided with one of Milat's temporary break-ups from Karen.
The evidence mounting against Milat was certainly sensational, but his trial proved to be even more dramatic than anyone could have expected.
Justice David Hunt warned the jury of eight men and four women, who had been whittled down from the 1000 originally sent notices to appear, that the case would be emotional - he might also have added confusing, confounding and contradictory.
Seventeen weeks later, when he came to his summing up, Justice Hunt said that in 17 years as a judge he had never known a case when the prosecution and defence cases had varied so much. 'Indeed, you may have wondered at times whether the barristers were each talking about the same case,' he commented.
The committal of Ivan Milat at Campbelltown Local Court in Sydney's south west district, that began in October 1994, had revealed the prosecution's huge weight of evidence against the road worker. Now, after 15 months of delays caused by legal aid arguments, it would soon be time for the defence to play their surprise trump card - which left some believing Ivan could after all be an innocent party.
The trial of Regina Vs Ivan Robert Marko Milat began on Tuesday 26th March 1996 at the historic St James Road Court in the heart of Sydney, with more than a hint of the horror which was to come. Crown Prosecutor Mark Tedeschi QC started by outlining the attempted abduction of Paul Onions who, he said, Milat intended killing purely for psychological gratification.
He then graphically explained the injuries that were suffered by the seven victims of the killer. 'The backpackers were killed in ferocious and sustained attacks during which vastly more force was used than necessary to kill them. These killings were for killing's sake.'
Though it was bogged down in essential detail the Crown case was simple. The physical evidence found at 22 Cinnabar Street linked Milat with all four groups of bodies found in the forest, and the modus operandi of the killer showed that whoever did on murder did them all.
The jurors had the chance to see for themselves the sites where the bodies of the seven backpackers were discovered. On 18th April the Belanglo State Forest was closed to the public to protect the anonymity of the jury and the court adjourned to examine the area.
The prosecution took three months to make their case. But among all their damning ballistics and forensic evidence it was the testimony of two very different witnesses that probably convinced the jury there could be no reasonable doubt.
The first was Karen Milat, aged 37, who rarely looked at her ex-husband as she recalled four different trips to the Belanglo State Forest with Ivan in 1983. On two occasions he had gone to shoot kangaroos and finished one off by cutting its throat. The other two times they just drove around and had a picnic.
Despite Milat's claims he had never been to the forest, Karen told the court how he seemed to know his way and never used a map. 'Ivan jut liked guns,' the woman now under witness protection explained. 'Ivan knew how to handle them and was confident about handling guns.' She also confirmed that Ivan was known by many aliases, including Bargo Bill.
The second key witness was Paul Onions, who had escaped from Milat in 1990 and whose identification of him in 1994 from police photographs helped lead to his arrest. Mr Onions, now aged 30, told the terrifying story of how Milat had pulled a revolver on him while he was hitching south along the Hume Highway. Milat said it was a robbery but Onions saw some rope sticking out of his bag.
'It was just a bag with dirty coloured rope. I saw the rope and that scared me more than the gun... I undid my seat belt and jumped straight out of the vehicle.' he told the court. Onions tried to flag down passing cars as Milat chased him and fired a shot at him. 'I heard the gun go off. I just froze and then I started dodging and weaving as best I could.'
'It was just a bag with dirty coloured rope. I saw the rope and that scared me more than the gun... I undid my seat belt and jumped straight out of the vehicle.' he told the court. Onions tried to flag down passing cars as Milat chased him and fired a shot at him. 'I heard the gun go off. I just froze and then I started dodging and weaving as best I could.'
When no cars stopped, Onions said he was about to give up when he felt Milat's hand on his shirt. He struggled and managed to get away. 'Once I broke free, I thought the next vehicle that comes over the hill I'm just going to stand in front of it, even if it runs me over, that's it.'
But the young engineer was lucky. He stopped a passing van, jumped inside and locked the door. 'The people inside were saying "Get out, get out" and I said "This man has got a gun, I'm not going anywhere."' Onions, who had left all of his belonging in Milat's vehicle, said the last thing he remembered seeing was a 'stupid grin' on the face of the man who'd just tried to gun him down.
It was the 13th week of his trial that Milat climbed into the witness box and swore to tell 'the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth'. He could have made an un-sworn statement from the dock but to the surprise of many choose to give evidence and, more importantly, to face cross-examination.
Dressed in a navy blue suit, Milat coolly answered the questions of his counsel Mr Terry Martin. He denied having any knowledge of or involvement in any of the deaths or the abduction of Paul Onions. He admitted having up to 30,000 rounds of ammunition for Chinese made rifles at his home but had no idea how the vital Ruger rifle parts came to be hidden there. He claimed the had never been to the Belanglo State Forest, contradicting the sworn evidence of his former wife. And he had no explanation as to how any of the victims' property came to be in his and his brothers 'homes.
It was soon after this that what many regard as the turning point came under cross-examination from Crown Prosecutor Mark Tedeschi, to whom the ever-cool Milat just kept up his denials."
'So,' the Queens Council began, 'you ask the jury to accept that someone broke into your locked house, despite the burglar alarm, planted a Ruger rifle bolt in the ceiling of your garage, dropped the weapon's receiver in one of your boots in the hall cupboard - making sure both gun parts were painted in the same camouflage colours you use on your firearms - then left a single fired cartridge, linked to the murder of Ms Caroline Clarke, in a plastic bag on the bed in a spare room?'
The usually cocky Milat could only answer, 'They must have.' It was a low point for the defence case from which they never fully recovered.
There were only a half dozen witnesses for the defence in the entire trial and conspicuous by their absence were Milat's sister Shirley Soire, with whom he shared the Eagle Vale home, and his mother, Margaret Milat. The witnesses that Milat's side did call presented him as a good neighbour who was always willing to help, but the damage had already been done to his reputation.
In his final address, Crown Prosecutor Mark Tedeschi said it was Milat's 'incredible arrogance and unbelievable self confidence' which led him to keep his victims' camping gear and parts of a murder weapon at his home. He said Milat not only fitted the physical description given by Onions but that his four wheel drive and a revolver with copper-tipped bullets also matched the traveller's testimony. Milat also often visited Lombardo's shops at Casula where Onions was offered his fateful ride.
'It is my submission there is only one person in the whole of Australia who matches all of those descriptions - the man, the car, the equipment, and the place - and that is the accused.' He concluded, 'It's almost as though the accused left a fingerprint in the forest because of the incredible coincidence of all the items being linked to him.'
Then Milat's counsel made a strategic concession and raised a terrifying theory which has continued to haunt the case. Terry Martin said there was a reasonable possibility that one, or both, of Ivan's younger brothers could have committed the murders and then planted the evidence on their sibling. Ivan himself had testified that he had no knowledge of whether his brothers were involved in the offences.
Both Richard Milat, a labourer, aged 40, and Walter Milat, a self-employed builder aged 44, had featured prominently in the trial. But both had denied having anything to do with, or any knowledge of the backpacker crimes - despite the victims' property being found at their homes.
'There can be absolutely no doubt that whoever committed all eight offences must be within the Milat family, or very, very closely associated with it. Blind Freddy can see that,' Mr Martin said in his final address. He said if there was any doubt that Ivan was the guilty party he should be given the benefit of that doubt.
But in closing, the defence left the jury with a tantalizing question. 'Do you think that a person capable of those most brutal crimes would give two hoots about planting gear on a brother? Do you not think a person guilty of that behaviour would do anything to avoid conviction?'
Mrs. Milat was not called by the defence to give evidence, but shortly before the end of the trial, she told a newspaper reporter that her whole family was not guilty of any crime. 'But if Ivan is innocent, then they'll go and arrest Richard,' she said. 'They are both innocent. They were living here when those murders were meant to happen. I did all their washing. There was no blood. They're good boys.'
Then Justice Hunt began to sum up the evidence which had taken 62 days, involved 145 Crown and nine defence witnesses and concerned 420 exhibits. The sheer weight of minute detail had filled more than 3,500 pages of transcript. He asked the jury to put aside any sympathy they might have for the victims or their families, many of whom were present throughout the gruelling days of testimony. And, he reminded them, 'suspicion is not a substitute for proof beyond a reasonable doubt'.
There was still no definite evidence that placed Milat at the murder scene. But the judge told the jury, 'Circumstantial evidence may be compared to rope, a thick piece of cord made up of a number of strands of fibre. Not one of those strands alone may have very much strength, but when those strands are taken together the strength of the rope may be very great.
The image was appropriate, as the jury evidently considered they had enough rope to hang Milat. On Saturday, 27th July 1996, after a four month trial and 20 hours of deliberation spanning four days, the jury returned. As the foreman stood to read out guilty verdicts to all charges, Mrs. Gillian Walters, the mother of the murdered Welsh backpacker Joanne Walters, gasped from the public gallery.
Milat did not react as he was immediately sentenced to jail for the term of his natural life. The whole nightmare seemed over for the grieving families and an outraged Australia - but there were more disturbing surprises to come.
In passing sentence, Justice Hunt stated that Milat's 'callous indifference to the suffering' of his victims was almost beyond belief. And he suggested the only motive ever raised in the court for Milat's reign of terror, that the backpackers had been savagely and cruelly attacked for 'psychological gratification of the prisoner'. The judge then stated what police investigators, the families of the deceased and public feared most. 'It is inevitable that the prisoner was not alone in that criminal enterprise,' he said.
Manfred Neugebauer, the father of one of the German victims, remains convinced that Milat was not alone: 'Gabor was 1.86m (6 foot 1 inches) tall and very strong. When we sometimes went into the forest to cut firewood he would cut huge logs and carry whole stumps. It would have taken two men to kill him.'
'I think we've got the awful prospect that there is someone out there on the streets who shouldn't be on the streets,' said Caroline's father Ian, soon after the verdict was handed down.
Dr Peter Bradhurst, the forensic pathologist who conducted all seven autopsies, said throughout that he thought it likely there was more than one person involved. The theory of multiple killers was supported by evidence that two rifles had been used at one death scene and shots had been fired from different directions. Evidence was also given that the branches used to cover the bodies were too heavy for one man to lift.
Different methods were used to kill two pairs of victims. Caroline Clarke had been shot ten times in the head while Joanne Walters had been stabbed 14 times. Gabor Neugebauer was shot six times in the head and strangled, but his girlfriend Anja Habschied had been decapitated.
Police also considered it unlikely with six victims travelling in pairs, Milat could have restrained them alone during the bumpy drive into the Belanglo State Forest. They also could not explain why cigarette butts and liquor bottles were found at the grave sites when Milat neither smoked nor drank.
After the trial the chief suspects were Ivan's brothers Richard and Wally, who had been named in court by Milat's own counsel.
In a remarkable television interview shortly after the trial, Richard Milat, who had allegedly told workmates that stabbing a woman was 'like cutting a loaf of bread', denied that he had any links with the murders. 'I've got no fears. I don't reckon they will arrest me. If they thought it was me they'd have me now, wouldn't they,' he said. 'I'm not going inside for anything I did... I never killed nobody so why should I go there?'
Wally Milat denied involvement and refuted the theory that there were two killers. 'Whoever is doing [the killings] is sick. Even if it's my brother it's really sick. There's only one. There's not a busload of them going around doing it. There's only one.'
Soon after Ivan's conviction, Sydney's Daily Telegraph released tapes of a secretly recorded conversation in which Richard Milat discussed details of the killings, just days after his brother's arrest.
The tape, last 72 minutes, was recorded in a Sydney pub in 1994, during a covert police operation involving a family friend of the Milat's called Phillip Polglase.
He went undercover for three months following Ivan's arrest, after telling police Milat had earlier informed him of his killing spree.
The tape was said to show the extraordinary insight that Richard Milat had into the mind of the killer. He told his mate, who was wired for sound, that there must have been more than one person involved or how would the 'big German' have had a broken arm, jaw and back.
Richard Milat told how there would be 'heaps more bodies' and spoke about 'some skinny fuckin' pommy backpacker' who police believe to be Paul Onions. Richard also admitted he had scant defence. 'So I am a lunatic. I'm not worried about it, I don't worry if they come 'n' arrest me for fuckin' killing all those backpackers too... there is very little defence on me, sayin' where I was, where I was at.'
Half way through Milat's committal hearing in November 1994, Polglase was killed in a head on collision with another car near his home in the country. Police found there were no suspicious circumstances.
The Sydney Morning Herald newspaper then published a story about information concerning a 'hunting party' of three or more local men who may have been involved in some of the murders. One of these was a man said to fit the profile of the killer prepared before Milat's arrest. He was described as a violent loner with an alcohol and drug problem who owned several weapons including a Bowie knife, a awn off shotgun and a .22 Ruger rifle similar to the one used in the killings.
Another member of the 'hunting party' also lived near Bowral, not far from the forest, and was described as a woodsman with a gun fetish who had spent tie in psychiatric institutions. Soon after the British girls' remains were discovered, he claimed to a prospective employer that he knew where more bodies were buried in the forest. This man was interviewed by police but dismissed as a suspect.
A disturbing allegation was raised by one of Milat's former cellmates suggesting he might have started killing in the early 1970's. Noel Manning spent eight weeks in a cell with Milat in 1974 and heard endless stories of rape, murder and torture.
Manning was then 18, serving 12 months for stealing and assault, and said that none of Milat's stories were ever the same.
'I was terrified... he talked about how he would stake people out on the ground, cut them open and let them bleed. The stories went on and on, male, female, boy, girl, he never spoke about the same person twice and the stories were non stop every night,' recalled Manning. He gave a lengthy statement, which a police source said was plausible and was supported by the way in which some of the backpackers had died.
But Manning, who was then facing fraud charges, never lived to see the trial. He committed suicide a few weeks before it began. Even so, detectives began looking into the files of five women who went missing in the late 1970's and 1980's near wear Milat was working.
Police also began re-examining the files of 15 other missing persons who had disappeared while hitchhiking in New South Wales and could also have been victims of Milat. On 8th August 1996, an investigation team began searching an area of the Blue Mountains, 100 miles west of Sydney, for what they feared could be a second burial ground.
Soon after Milat's conviction, police had also re-opened the murder case of 18 year old Peter Letcher, whose badly decomposed body was found by bush walkers in Jenolan State Forest in January 1988. There were certainly striking similarities to the backpacker victims. Letcher was last seen alive the previous November when he had hitched away from his home at Busby in south-west Sydney.
A coroner's report revealed that Letcher had been shot several times in the head and killed in a similar manner to the backpackers. But meticulous search of the area with metal detectors failed to turn up any new evidence or any further bodies.
Meanwhile the police kept their files open on the Belanglo State Forest killings, while several members of the Milat clan complained that they were still under surveillance and that they believed their phones were being tapped.
Ivan Robert Marko Milat began the rest of his life in a small 3m x 5m (10 feet x 15 feet) sandstone cell in Maitland Bay, north of Sydney. Officials almost immediately classified him as an A2 maximum security inmate, the third highest classification a prisoner can be given. He was initially only allowed one visitor per month.
IVAN MILAT: THE LAST RIDE
By Patrick Bellamy
It was a glorious spring day, perfect for a day out in the forest. Ken Seily stood in a clearing looking slowly about him, breathing the clear, fresh country air. It was a far cry from the pollution and stress of Sydney, two hours to the north, where he lived and worked. This was the time of the week that he looked forward to the most, when his orienteering club met for their weekly run.
Normally, Ken bushwalked or ran the orienteering courses alone but on Saturday, 19th September 1992, the club had organized a training day along some of the many trails that criss-crossed the forty thousand acres of the beautiful Belangalo State Forest. Ken thought the forest had never looked so good. Everywhere around him was the lush green vegetation of towering Eucalypt trees and native shrubs, bordered by commercial pine plantations. A stark contrast to the blackened desolation normally left after the many bushfires that had swept through the area in recent times.
After a short navigational briefing, Ken and his running partner, Keith Caldwell, set off on the first leg of the run. The sport is not unlike rally driving, where the object is to run a pre-determined course within a specified time, reaching and recording various check points on the way. By early afternoon, they were deep in the forest close to one of the most spectacular land marks of the area, "Executioners Drop." So called because of its sheer fall into a deep, wooded gorge.
After recording their previous control points, staggered roughly half a mile apart, they took bearings on the next, Control Number Four, designated by a large boulder. Approaching the boulder, Ken smelled something bad. As he got closer the smell became more intense. He thought it was probably a rotting animal carcass. The forest provided a home to many wild animals. Kangaroos, wallabies and even the elusive dingo, roamed free, virtually unhindered my human intervention.
Dismissing it from his mind, Ken concentrated on his navigational bearings and was about to move on when Keith called to him from the far side of the boulder, "Can you smell that?" he asked. The smell got stronger as they approached the western side of the boulder.
Beneath a small overhang they found a mound of debris, approximately 7 feet long and 2 feet high. Stepping closer to the pile of branches and decaying leaves, the two men, braving the smell, saw what appeared to be a bone and a patch of hair. They weren't sure it was human until they saw part of a black T-shirt. They both walked slowly around the mound until they got to the northern end of it, where they stopped, staring down at the ground, trying to comprehend what they had found. Protruding from the pile of brush was the heel of a shoe.
By this time it was 3.45 p.m. Soon the forest floor would be in darkness as the sun dipped lower in the sky. They carefully marked the location on their map, 800 feet south west of 'Long Acre Fire Trail,' one of the many access trails in the area. A decision had to be made, back track the way they had come in or complete the course, which would take them out of the forest and bring them closer to their cars.
They decided the latter choice would be quickest. Half an hour later, they rejoined their friends and quickly related the experience. They all agreed that the authorities should be informed as soon as possible. Contacting Emergency Services by mobile telephone, Seily, a gentle, softly spoken man, was asked by the operator, 'Is this an emergency?' When he replied, 'Not really,' he was disconnected.
Several phone calls later, he was finally connected with the duty officer at the local police station in Bowral, a pretty little town, nestled in the Southern Highlands of New South Wales. Seily identified himself and told the officer, "I've found a body in the Belangalo Forest." He wasn't sure if they had taken him seriously. It wasn't long before he saw that they had.
Uniform police arrived just as the light was beginning to fade. They were shown the way to the sighting by torch light, marking the way with reflective tape. Local detectives arrived soon after and requested a crime scene unit from Goulburn, the next major town to the south. Lighting was organized for the scene and not long after, regional detectives from the homicide squad arrived. A call was made to the office of detectives in Sydney's Kings Cross, as well as the Missing Persons Bureau, as they were known to be investigating the disappearance of several backpackers who were last seen heading south.
No one at the scene that day realized that the body that had been found would lead to the biggest murder investigation in Australia's history. Nor would they know the extent of pain and suffering, that was shared by a small group of people from different parts of the world.
Searching the area the following day, two police constables, Roger Gough and Suzanne Roberts, found a second body. It was partially covered by a log just 100 feet east of the first. A shoe and part of a lower leg were visible below a mound of leaves and branches, that was roughly the same size as the first.
Early media reports suggested that the bodies were the remains of two British backpackers, Caroline Clarke and Joanne Walters. They had been missing for five months after leaving Kings Cross to travel south together looking for work. Police were yet to make a positive identification.
In Australia and across the world, several families hearing of the grisly discovery, contacted the authorities for more accurate information.
In Germany, Manfred and Anke Neugebauer listened anxiously to the news, wondering if the bodies found were those of their son Gabor and his girlfriend Anja who had disappeared without trace after leaving a Kings Cross backpacker's hostel just after Christmas Day, 1991.
Herbert Schmidl, in his home in Regensburg, near Munich, listened also hoping that neither body was that of his only daughter Simone, who had been missing since leaving Sydney in 1991.
Several hundred miles south of Belangalo, in Frankston Victoria, Pat Everist, wondered if it was her daughter Deborah and her friend, James Gibson that were laying dead in the forest. They had been missing since 1989.
Late in the afternoon of Sunday, 20th September, police confirmed that the bodies were, in fact, those of Caroline Clarke and Joanne Walters. Joanne's parents, Ray and Jill Walters had already been in Australia for a month prior to the discovery, searching in vain for some trace of their daughter. The police tracked them down in Sydney to give them the bad news.
Police telephoned Ian and Jacquie Clarke, in England and informed them that the second body was Caroline's. The timing of the call was indeed fortunate. Shortly after the phone call, a local radio station carried the story of their daughter's death.
As the investigation proceeded it became apparent that the murders were committed with a high degree of violence and cruelty.
Joanne Walters had been stabbed viciously in the heart and lungs with one wound so deep that it had cut deep into her spine. Caroline Clarke had also been stabbed and shot in the head multiple times.
Homicide detectives, Inspector Bob Godden and Sergeant Steve McClennan were appointed to take charge of the investigation. After his initial evaluation of the crime scene, McClennan speculated that because the bodies had been found in an isolated area, it was possible that the killer lived near by. Crime scene detectives worked around the clock, analyzing and photographing every inch of the murder scene. Joanne Walters' body still had jewelry on both hands and she was wearing blue jeans and black shoes. Curiously the zip of the jeans was undone but the top button was still fastened.
Fourteen feet from where Caroline Clarke's body lay, six cigarette butts were found, they were all of the same brand. Someone had obviously spent quite a bit of time at the scene. Not far from them, a fired .22 caliber cartridge case was recovered and next to it a piece of green plastic the size of a large coin.
Ballistic specialists scanned the area with metal detectors and found nine more cartridge cases 12 feet from Clarke's body. From the ground directly below her head three bullets were recovered. Detectives from the Ballistics Squad were confident that, given the condition of the bullets and the spent cases, they would be able to identify the gun that fired them. A further 120 feet from the murder scene, a fireplace had been built from house bricks.
A strange thing to find deep in a forest.
Over the next five days, forty police searched a corridor 500 feet wide and one and a half miles long and did not find any more bodies, nor did they find the camping gear and personal items belonging to the two girls. Following the search, police told the media that they had virtually ruled out the possibility of finding other bodies in the forest. It was an announcement that would prove to be premature and cause a great deal of embarrassment to the New South Wales Police Department.
Cause of Death
Dr. Peter Bradhurst, the forensic pathologist assigned to the case, had the unpleasant task of performing the autopsies. The badly decomposed remains of the two girls had been carefully removed from the forest and transported to the morgue in Glebe, an inner suburb of Sydney.
The first stage of the forensic investigation was to weigh and x-ray Joanne's body in search of bullets or other metallic objects. There were none. Caroline's body was next and the x-rays revealed that, even though her body was decomposed to a much greater extent than Joanne's, it clearly contained what the radiographer described as 'radio opaque' objects. To be more precise, four bullets.
Next, Dr. Bradhurst began the external examination, methodically checking the entire body for physical evidence. Joanne's shirt and hands showed traces of dark hairs. The rotted remains of a cloth used as a gag were removed from her mouth, as were other cloth samples at the throat, suggesting strangulation. An internal examination showed no signs of vaginal or anal penetration, but given the poor condition of the body tissue, it was very difficult to tell. Hair and nail samples were taken for matching with other samples found. A vaginal swab was also taken, as sperm samples can remain in a body for weeks or even months.
Joanne's chest showed three stab wounds to the right side, one to the left side and a further stab wound to the neck. When the body was rolled over, the full extent of what could only be described as a 'frenzied' attack became clear. A further two wounds were found to the left side, five more to the right and two to the spine at the base of the neck. Fourteen wounds in all were recorded and measured. The internal exam revealed that five of the stab wounds had cut the spine. Dr Bradhurst speculated that any of the spinal wounds could have been delivered prior to the fatal blows thereby rendering the victim totally helpless.
Two ribs had been totally severed. The hands and arms showed no "defensive wounds," that normally occur when the victim attempts to ward off a knife attack. This, coupled with the remains of the gag and neck ligature, indicated that the killer was completely in control during the murder. The wounds measured 1 1/2" by 1/4" with the profile of a Bowie knife or similar style blade.
The arms of Caroline Clarke's body where stretched above her head, which had a red cloth wrapped around it. Bullet holes were clearly visible in the decaying cloth. The cloth was carefully removed and the extent of the injuries became evident. A total of ten bullet holes riddled the skull. Only four exit wounds were found.
Four complete .22 caliber projectiles were recovered from inside the skull. The front of the face and the jaw were shattered, possibly damaged by exiting bullets. She had one single stab wound to the upper back identical to the wounds of the first victim.
The bullets from the body were cleaned and passed on to Sergeant Gerard Dutton, the ballistics expert who was present at the post mortems. He was confident that they, like the other bullets and fired cases collected from the scene, would lead to the identity of the weapon used. A reenactment at the scene later revealed that the gunshot wounds were consistent with having been fired from three different directions, however all ten fired cases were found close together. Sergeant Dutton suggested that the killer may have stood in the one spot and fired the shots, stopping to move the victims head between volleys. In short he had used her for "target practice."
In an unusual step, Professor John Hilton, the head of forensic medicine, released details of the findings to the large group of reporters, who had gathered outside the morgue. Not accustomed to giving media conferences, he spoke in a faltering, hesitant voice. Even though he was an experienced pathologist, and forensic scientist, he was obviously disturbed by the extent of the injuries and the sheer brutality of the attack.
Profile of a killer
Weeks after the discovery of the two bodies, Detectives Godden and McLennan had amassed an array of physical evidence, but were no closer to gathering any real clues as to the identity of the person responsible. There had been several alleged sightings of the girls prior to the discovery and even a few after the time the girls had died. The trail was already cold when police became involved. Now it was becoming colder.
In attempt to try to shed new light on the investigation, Dr. Rod Milton, a forensic psychiatrist with over twenty years' crime scene experience, was asked to consult on the case. Dr. Milton had previously aided police in the hunt, and subsequent arrest, of John Wayne Glover, the "North Side" serial killer, who had bashed and strangled six elderly women in 1989. The "profile" that Dr. Milton had provided to police was incredibly accurate except for the age. Milton had suggested that the killer would be a teenager, based on historical data which indicated the most serious offences against aged victims were committed by persons under twenty. His analysis, although slightly inaccurate, led to Glover's capture. Glover was fifty-nine years of age at the time of his arrest.
The detectives drove Dr. Milton to Belangalo at his request. As he explained to them, even though he had access to the detailed police reports and photographs, he needed to view the crime scenes for himself so that he could 'get a feel' for the way that the killer had approached his victims. He stepped from the car and walked to the two grave sites in turn. After wandering slowly around the area for some time, he sat quietly in the middle of the scene and thought about why the killer had chosen that particular site. Why did he leave the victims the way he did, what was his motivation?
His first thought was that the killer was familiar with the area.
From experience he knew that killers very rarely operate in unfamiliar surroundings. This wasn't a crime of opportunity but rather a planned murder. Walking between the two graves, he quizzed the police on the details of the investigation. What was found and where? He pondered the variations between the two deaths.
Caroline Clarke was killed in a cold and calculating fashion. The way that the article of clothing had been wrapped around her head indicated that the killer had done so to "depersonalize" her. The angle of the shots suggested that the first bullet may have been fired while she was kneeling. Her clothing was intact, except for her front fastening bra, which was unclipped. The clothing on her lower body was in place at the time of death. This indicated to Milton that her killing was not sexually motivated but more in the style of an execution.
The single stab wound to her body, he believed, was inflicted after death as a final example of the killer's control over the victim, or perhaps the work of an accomplice. In fact prior to Dr. Milton's involvement, Police thought the murders to be the work of more than one killer. The manner in which Miss Clarke's body was 'laid out' with the arms above the head also suggested control and planning on the part of the killer, with the victim 'acting out' the role of 'supplicant' after death.
In comparison, Joanne Walter's body and burial site indicated rage and uncontrolled frenzy. The disarray of the clothing, Milton thought, indicated more of a sexual attack. The shirt and bra had been pushed up, but the clasp was still fastened. The zipper of the jeans were undone but the top button was done up. No panties were found on the body or in the area.
Milton theorized that because the shoes were still on and laced up, the jeans had not been taken completely off. It was more likely that they were dragged down to enable the killer or killers, to commit a sexual act. Before or after death. The underwear may have been cut off and taken as a "trophy."
When asked by police for a possible motive, the basis of most homicide investigations, Milton uttered a single word. "Pleasure." He believed that if there were two killers involved, one would be older and dominant, the other although equally sadistic, would tend to be more submissive. He suggested that they could be brothers, sharing a common interest in guns and hunting and had probably been involved in other sexually related crimes either together or separately.
Later at his Sydney office, Dr. Milton recorded his "profile" in point form.
The main offender he believed would:-
* Live on the outskirts of a city in a semi-rural area.
* Be employed in a semi-skilled job probably out of doors.
* Be involved in an unstable or unsatisfactory relationship
* Have a history of homosexuality or bi-sexual activity.
* Have a history of aggression against authority.
* Be aged in his mid thirties.
At no time did Dr. Milton give any indication that the deaths were the work of a serial killer.
As the end of the year drew closer, the investigation team dwindled in size as the resources were redirected to other crimes. They knew that they would need some startling piece of evidence or a stroke of luck if they were to solve the riddle of the Belangalo killings.
One Man's Obsession
Bruce Pryor had been into the Belangalo forest many times over the years collecting firewood. It had become a special place for him. He knew many of the trails, yet there were still many parts of it that he had not seen.
As a local, he had been watching the reports of the killings with more than a passing interest and, as a parent, he felt deeply for the families of the girls. He couldn't clear it from his mind and during many trips to the forest he found himself searching areas that he hadn't been to before without knowing why.
The official search had been called off many months before and the investigation was almost non-existent. The last mention of the case had been a public meeting in the Bowral Town Hall that had been organised by police as a means of jogging the memories of local residents, as they still believed that the killer lived close to the forest.
The meeting mentioned other young 'backpackers' who were still unaccounted for. For days after, the thought of more young bodies in the forest tormented him, interrupting his work and his sleep.
He set out one morning with no real intention of going to Belangalo but found himself drawn to the area. He turned down a track that he had been to before but instead of driving to the end of it as he usually did, he turned into a small side track called the "Morice Fire Trail." He drove down it and came to a "T" intersection. He knew the right arm led to a track called "Cearly's Exit Fire Trail," but he had never been down the left hand track. The track soon opened up onto a bare rocky area. To one side of it was a small fireplace, built from bush rocks.
He got out of his vehicle and wandered slowly around the area still not sure of why he was there. In a clearing about 150 feet from his car, he stopped and stared at the ground, his heart pounding in his chest. There at his feet was a large bone. It looked human. He shook his head trying to think clearly; maybe it was from a kangaroo. Tentatively he lifted the bone and measured it against his own thigh; it was the same length. One end of the bone had teeth marks on it; maybe it was an animal bone. He lay the bone back down where he had found it and walked further ahead.
He walked up an incline scanning the ground hoping to find the rest of a kangaroo skeleton. At the top of the ridge, he turned and walked back to his car but changed direction slightly, walking through an area overgrown with weeds. A flash of white caught his eye. Parting the tangled undergrowth, he saw a sight that raised the hair on the back of his neck.
The lifeless eye sockets of a human skull stared up at him. It was small, possibly an older child or a female. Part of the lower jaw was broken away and, as he looked closer, he saw a thin cut in the forehead. It looked like a knife wound.
He was unsure what to do next. Afraid that no one would believe him, he took the skull back to his car and wrapped it in a cloth and drove out of the forest. As he neared the entrance, he saw a vehicle near a small hut that was used by the orienteering club. Bruce approached the hut and spoke to John Springett, a local builder who was doing maintenance on the hut. "Do you have a phone here?" He asked. "I have a mobile in the truck, why what's up?" Bruce told him of his discovery. "We better call the police." John got a phone book from the clubhouse and Bruce rang Bowral Detectives. He got no answer. He tried the police station instead. "I've found parts of a skeleton in Belangalo forest," he told them.
Half an hour later, two uniformed officers arrived at the hut. "What have you got for me?" one of them asked. "It's in the car," Pryor answered. He led them to his vehicle and unwrapped his find. The young constable, obviously the one who had taken the call, seemed surprised that it really was a skull. He placed a radio call to the duty detectives, Peter Lovell and Steven Murphy, who arrived shortly after. They asked Pryor to show them where he had found the skull.
After studying the area for a short time, Detective Murphy walked further on. 120 feet into the forest, he stopped and looked down. He walked back to where his partner stood talking to Bruce Pryor about the skeleton. "There's a pair of sandshoes sticking out of a pile of brush back there," he declared casually. They both looked warily at Pryor, curious as to why he came to this particular location. Several radio calls later, the search was back on.
Two More Bodies
News of the discovery of additional bodies in the forest spread quickly. TV network helicopters hovered overhead. Reporters and film crews were lined up at the access road trying to gain entry. They speculated as to the identities of the latest victims. "Was it the German couple or maybe the couple from Victoria?" they asked detectives at the scene. The investigators said nothing. Their minds were occupied with their own questions. Had they called off the search too early? Were they searching the wrong areas? How many more bodies were there?
One of the searchers found a floppy black felt hat near one of the gravesites. The Sydney missing persons office was contacted and a review of files indicated that it may have belonged to James Gibson, a young Victorian who was last seen hitchhiking south of the forest in company with a female friend, Deborah Everist, also from Victoria. They had been missing since 1989. Police had earlier discounted Gibson as a possible victim after his backpack and camera had been found lying beside the road 78 miles north of Belangalo in another small forest area called "Galston Gorge."
Police were puzzled. If one of the victims was Gibson, how did his property get to the other side of Sydney?
Further investigation of the report indicated that when the pack and camera had been found, they had been leaning against a guardrail, in plain view, on the side of a busy road. Were they 'placed' there by the killer in an attempt to divert attention from the southern forest?
Crime scene police worked into the night to complete their preliminary investigation and left the scene under heavy police guard. The following day, scientific officers Grosse and Goldie returned to the gravesites in company with Dr. Bradhurst and a forensic odontologist, Dr. Chris Griffiths. Both of the bodies were skeletons; however both were incomplete. Several bones had been scattered across the site, possibly by animal activity. Beside the first body, Grosse found a silver fob chain, a bracelet set with semi precious stones and a silver crucifix. Given the find and the smaller size of the skeleton it was presumed to be female.
The second skeleton was larger and still had a pair of white sneakers laced to the feet. Dr. Griffiths examined the skull and, after cleaning dirt from it, compared the teeth with a dental chart that had been supplied to police earlier.
It was a positive match. The body was that of James Gibson. Positive identification of the second body would come later but police were almost certain that it was Deborah Everist. The remains were carefully removed and taken to the Sydney morgue for reconstruction and post mortem examination. As well as the skeletons, several bags of decayed matter from the immediate area were also taken. It was not known for sure if they contained vegetable matter or decayed clothing or both. One of the items from James Gibson's remains was easy to identify; it was the complete zipper from a pair of jeans. The zip was open; the top button still fastened.
The following day Dr. Bradhurst began the task of reconstructing the skeletons in anatomical order. The bones had been boiled in a special solution to clean the skeleton and make any injuries easier to identify.
Dr. Bradhurst began with what was left of James Gibson. The decayed matter that accompanied his remains was sifted and found to contain several hand and foot bones, some jewelry and buttons.
As the remains began to take shape, the extent of the wounds became clearer. One stab wound had penetrated the mid-thoracic spine, slicing upwards through three vertebrae, splitting the canal holding the spinal column. As with the previous bodies, the wound would have paralyzed the victim first. To do so much damage to a young healthy body would have taken great physical strength.
Two stab wounds had punctured the breastbone, with cuts to the ribs indicating two more wounds to the left and right sides of the front of the chest and two more in the upper back. Seven major wounds marked the skeleton. Many more could have penetrated the body without touching bone. The stab wounds in the breastbone were measured; they were very close to the size of the wounds inflicted to Walters and Clarke.
The second smaller skeleton was in a poorer condition. Part of the jaw was broken away. Several fractures were found at the back of the skull. Four 'slash' marks to the forehead, two on each side, were not deep enough to have been fatal but had etched into the skull at the hairline. A further stab wound had penetrated the lower back close to the spine.
While Bradhurst was completing his examination, crime scene analysts were combing the gravesites for further clues. Thirty feet from the body they found a black bra with a stab wound through one of the cups. Later a pair of gray tights was found under leaf litter close to the female gravesite. They had been tied with a loop at either end, possibly used as a primitive restraint. Later that day, the female remains were confirmed by dental charts as being those of Deborah Everist.
The Task Force
Superintendent Clive Small was deputized by Comissioner of Police Tony Lauer to take over control of the investigation. His first task was to combine the individual groups of detectives involved in the investigation into one cohesive unit. Small was an experienced detective with a reputation for being thorough, and, more importantly, objective. He was well respected in the department and the courts for his dedication, his ability to separate the facts from the bulk of erroneous information and to present those facts in a meticulously detailed fashion.
The investigation was officially named "Task Force Air." The name was intended to be "Eyre," named after a salt lake in the centre of Australia, in keeping with the department's tradition of using geographical place names. The name had been subsequently misspelled in a press release as "air" and quickly became the official title.
Small appointed as his second in charge the equally talented and meticulous, Detective Inspector Rod Lynch. Lynch's job was to set up and coordinate the Sydney headquarters of the investigation while Small, based near the forest in Bowral, would oversee the onsite investigation.
Lynch was faced with a challenge almost from the beginning. The building that was allocated as his headquarters was a converted factory that had once been the home of Sydney's Criminal Investigation Branch. Having lain idle since the C.I.B. had relocated to larger premises, it was in a bad state of repair. It had no phones, air conditioning, computers, furniture and the plumbing was substandard.
After solving these and other logistical problems, he began recruiting detectives for the task of following up on the many thousands of pieces of information that had already been received. The next task was to set up a public hot-line in cooperation with the media, which would appeal to the general public for any information regarding the events in the forest. From his broad experience in major investigations, Lynch knew that this would increase his team's workload dramatically but would be the most valuable resource of "real evidence," as opposed to the "circumstantial evidence" that had already been collected.
Small called off the examination of the forest for several days to enable him to view maps and surveys of the area and plan a more expansive search of the general area. Chief Inspector Bob May from the Tactical Support Unit was put in charge of the search team. He divided a map of the main forest area into grids, every inch representing 750 square feet. Forty officers walked each grid side by side, examining every inch of the forest floor. If anything of interest was found, they would shout "find" and scientific police would come forward, take photographs, mark the position on the map and bag any evidence found.
The search was further enhanced by teams of dogs that had been specially trained to detect the presence of phosphorous and nitrogen in the soil. A decaying body will emit traces of these chemicals long after death. The dogs had been used extensively in the United States to "sniff out" old Civil War graves.
Meanwhile another search was under way. The bullets and shell casings taken from the scene, having been positively identified as being from a "Ruger" repeating rifle, were the only positive leads that could link the killer to the scene. From their inquiries, police learned that over 50,000 such rifles had been imported into Australia between 1964 and 1982. The manufacturers provided a list of their distributors in Australia, who in turn provided a list of the gun shops who had purchased them. While gun shops were required by law to keep a record of each firearm sold, there was no such legal requirement for any subsequent "private" sales of the firearms. Police were faced with a "needle in the haystack" scenario.
A list of all such weapons owned by residents in the areas surrounding the forest was drawn up with the intention of impounding the rifles for test firings in an attempt to find a match. The plan was leaked to the press, which infuriated investigators, as they believed that the killer, upon hearing the news, would dump the murder weapon.
Members of the local gun club were contacted and their weapons examined. One of the members told the detectives that a friend of his had witnessed something suspicious in the forest the previous year. Police later contacted the man who gave them an incredibly accurate description of two vehicles, one a Ford sedan and the other a four-wheel drive that he saw driving down one of the trails into the forest.
He told them that as the first vehicle passed him, he looked in and saw a man driving and in the back seat were two other men. Between them was a female with a cloth tied around her head like a gag. In the second vehicle were two men, one driving and the other sitting in the back next to another female who was also bound. He gave police detailed descriptions of all the occupants including clothing, coloring and approximate ages. He stated that at the time, he had written down the details of the numberplate of the second vehicle on a scrap of cardboard but had since lost it. Police typed out an official statement and asked him to read it and, if he agreed with the details, sign it. He signed his name "Alex Milat."
How Many More?
Twenty-six days had passed since Deborah Everist's body had been found in the forest. The searchers were tired. They had covered most of the allotted search area and were now entering the final gridded section three miles east of the last grave. Confidence was running high to the point that the police public relations section were already compiling a press release expressing the opinion that no further bodies would be found in Belangalo Forest.
The search team leader, Sergeant Jeff Trichter, led the searchers into a small clearing. A pair of pink women's jeans and a length of blue and yellow rope lay in plain view. Next to them was an empty .22 bullet packet. The find was not unusual as a lot of strange items had been found that were seemingly unrelated. Moving deeper into the clearing they found more articles. Empty drink cans riddled with bullet holes, a length of wire bent into loops, cartridge cases and empty bottles. At the edge of the clearing, Sergeant Trichter saw something that fired warning signals into his brain. A primitive fireplace.
Knowing that the final part of the search was going to be intensive, Trichter decided to give his men a lunch break and spend the rest of the day in the area. No sooner had they resumed when one of the men called 'find.'
The line stopped and Trichter walked to the edge of the rocky outcrop where Senior Constable Rullis stood with his arm raised. It was a bone and it looked human. Ten feet further on at the base of a pile of timber lay a skull. The sight was marked and the crime scene squad was summoned by radio.
Beyond the timber lay the, now familiar, pile of sticks and brush. Protruding from one end of it was a large bone inside a brown leather 'hiking' boot. Searchers spread out and scoured the area around the grave but no further remains were found. John Goldie, the senior crime scene investigator, identified the remains as female. She appeared to be alone.
A distinctive purple headband was found on the skull. That and the clothing found near the body, after comparisons with missing persons reports, indicated that the skeleton was all that remained of missing German girl, Simone Schmidl. The other items mentioned in the report, a large backpack and other camping equipment, were not found. Dr Chris Griffiths, the forensic odontologist, was summoned to the scene and shortly after he arrived with his file of dental charts, the body was officially identified as Simone.
This young adventurous girl who her family and friends had called "Simi," had been last seen on January 20th, 1991, in Liverpool, west of Sydney, hitch-hiking south. The confident and seasoned traveler who had seen much of the world ended her days in a lonely forest thousands of miles away from the safety and security of her home.
In Germany, Simone's parents heard the news in the worst possible way -- on the radio. They contacted German police for confirmation and, even though Australian authorities had advised them of the discovery, the German police department did not confirm the identification until more than two weeks after Simone's remains had been flown home and buried.
The original press release was aborted and another sent out in its place.
It basically said that police now believed that there were more bodies in the forest. Speculation was rife that the next bodies found would be those of the two Germans, who were still unaccounted for.
Simone's body was found still partially dressed with her shirt and underclothing pushed up around the neck. A pair of green shorts hung on the pelvis with the cord ties undone. Several items of jewelry and two coins were found next to the body. The pink jeans were not Simone's, but matched the description of a pair worn by another German girl, Anja Habschied. She and her boyfriend Gabor Neugebauer, had been missing since December 1991.
Two days later, as the search continued, the remains were transported to Sydney for the post mortem. Dr. Bradhurst examined the almost complete skeleton. He had no doubt that it was the work of the same killer.
There was no injury to the skull. The chest and back showed numerous stab wounds to the left and right sides, front and back, including the "tell-tale" knife thrusts to the spinal area, which had severed the spinal column completely. No sooner had he completed his grisly task than he was summoned back to the forest. The message was simple, "We've found two more."
Dr. Bradhurst and Dr. Griffiths were conveyed to the scene by police helicopter and taken to the site of the new graves which lay 150 feet apart at the very edge of the prescribed search area denoted on the map as "Area A."
Dr. Griffiths had in his possession the dental charts for the boy, Gabor. The charts for his companion, Anja, had not arrived from Germany. Gabor's remains were under a pile of brush partially covered by a large log. It took several burly police officers to lift it away from the grave.
Dr. Griffiths confirmed Gabor's identity. His skeleton was complete with the remains of decayed clothing evident, including a pair of jeans with the zip opened and the top button fastened. The second body, although not officially confirmed as Anja's, was that of a young female. The upper clothing was bunched up around the shoulders and no lower clothing was found on or near the body. The pink jeans had been found some distance away. The female skeleton had one striking feature, the head and the first two vertebrae were missing. No other wounds were evident.
On closer examination Dr. Bradhurst deduced that the head had been severed from the body cleanly by a sharp instrument, possibly a machete or sword. The angle of the cut indicated that the victim had probably been in a kneeling position with her head down when the cut was made. It showed all the signs of some form of "ritual" decapitation.
The Task Force Commander, Clive Small, gave a short media interview near the gravesites. He told reporters that following the discovery of the new bodies that they were now looking for a "serial killer." It came as no surprise. The media had been reporting that opinion since the investigation began.
Back at the morgue, Dr. Bradhurst examined Gabor's remains. The mouth contained two gags. One that had been tied across the mouth using a "reef" knot. The other had been placed in the mouth prior to the other being tied. Even though Bradhurst had performed all of the autopsies, he still retained the details of them all in his mind. One thing that didn't escape his attention was the fact that this gag was tied with a different knot. The last gag used, the one on Joanne Walter's body, had been tied in a simple overhand, or "granny" knot.
The size of the cloth in the mouth cavity made strangulation very likely. Supportive to this theory was the fractured hyoid bone in the throat, which is usually an indication of manual strangulation. The jaw was fractured in several places. The skull showed six bullet entry wounds, three from the left rear and the others from the lower rear. One exit wound was found on the right side. Gerald Dutton the ballistics investigator on the case, was present when the examination of the skull took place. Four bullets were recovered from inside the skull. A fifth bullet was recovered from the bones of the upper body.
Dutton had found no fired cases near the body and the angle and alignment of the entry wounds versus the exit wounds indicated that seven bullets had been fired into the skull. When found, the skull had been laying on its side but, after searching the soil under the grave, no spent bullets were recovered. Gabor had not been killed at the gravesite. Later, several fired bullets and empty cartridge packets would be found near the new graves. Over ninety fired cases were found scattered around the area. After examination under a comparison microscope, the cases and bullets were positively identified as the same as those found at the Walter's site.
The ballistic evidence showed conclusively that the same weapon that murdered Joanne Walters had been used only 200 feet from Anja and Gabor's remains. Dr. Bradhurst completed the examination of Anja's skeleton and found no other evidence of additional wounds.
Most horrifying was the fact that the seven had died in various ways. They had been either beaten, strangled, shot, stabbed and decapitated and almost certainly sexually molested in some way, male and female alike. Given the extent of the injuries and the various methods used to inflict them, the investigation team deduced that the killer, or killers spent more time with each victim as the crimes progressed. This fact indicated that, apart from being cruel and sadistic, the perpetrator was a calculating and confident individual.
The Sole Survivor
Paul Onions had arrived in Australia eager to see the country about which he'd heard so much. He stayed at a modest backpacker hostel in Sydney's Kings Cross, spending his time seeing the sights and generally having a good time partying with friends. As his money dwindled, his thoughts turned to part time work. His visa was good for six months but his money looked like it was running out before that time expired. He asked around the city but found casual work hard to come by.
One of his friends suggested fruit picking. After making further inquiries, he learned that most of the work on offer was in the 'Riverina' district, several hundred miles to the south. He decided to save the cost of the fare by taking the train to Liverpool, south west of Sydney and hitchhiking from there. On 25th January 1990, he set out early for the station and was soon standing on the side of the Hume highway in Liverpool waiting for a ride.
The heat was searing as he stood trying to flag down a suitable southbound vehicle. His only possessions were a small pack containing a Sony Walkman, a camera and several items of clothing. He walked south trying desperately to thumb a ride. Stopping at a small shopping centre, he bought a drink and was seriously contemplating returning to the hostel when a fit, well-muscled man approached him and asked, in a distinctive Australian accent, "You need a lift?"
Paul told him his destination and accepted his offer of a ride gladly. The two men climbed into the stranger's four-wheel-drive vehicle and headed south. The first thing Paul noticed about the man, apart from his muscular build, was his long "Zapata" styled moustache. They talked for a while and Paul introduced himself and the man told him his name was "Bill."
Paul's new found friend was full of questions:
"Where you from?"
"When are you due back?"
"Who knows you're here?"
"What's your occupation?"
So many questions but "Bill" seemed friendly enough so Paul answered them. "Bill" told Paul that he worked on the roads, was from a Yugoslavian family, lived near Liverpool and was divorced. They drove for an hour and "Bill's" demeanor began to change. His language became more aggressive and critical. He became agitated and launched into a racist tirade about "gooks" and "pommies" and shortly after became morose and refused to talk.
By mid afternoon after leaving the southern town of Mittagong, Paul noticed that "Bill" was acting strangely, varying his speed and looking in the rear view mirror every few seconds. Paul, feeling tired and drained from the trip, began to feel uneasy. "Bill" leaned forward adjusting the radio and said, "I think I'll pull over and get some tapes from the back." As they pulled up on the side of the freeway, Paul looked down and noticed a tray full of tape cassettes in the front console between the seats.
As "Bill" got out, Paul decided to get out as well. "Get back in the car," "Bill" told him, his voice full of menace. Not wanting to alarm him any further, Paul complied. As soon as they got back in the car "Bill" reached under the driver's seat, pulled out a large black revolver and pointed it at Paul.
"This is a robbery," he said. Again he reached under the seat and produced a coil of rope. Paul, highly alarmed, tried to reason with "Bill."
"What's going on? What are you doing?" he asked.
He was told in a firm but controlled manner, "Shut up and put your seat belt back on." Paul, scared out of his wits, started to obey but instead grabbed for the door handle and leapt to the ground. Paul ran away from the car hearing the words, "Stop or I'll shoot," from behind him.
Panicking, he ran into the oncoming traffic causing cars to swerve alarmingly trying to avoid this "madman" on the road. Briefly he looked back expecting to see "Bill" chasing him. Instead, he saw him standing casually by his vehicle grinning. "Get back here, you," he called. Paul managed to flag down a van. As it slowed, he ran to the grass dividing strip in the middle of the highway. "Bill" lunged at him from behind, tackling him to the ground. Paul managed to break free and ran to the van and threw himself in front of it. The driver, Joanne Berry, a local resident, slammed on the brakes and before she could protest Paul leapt inside the van screaming, "He's got a gun, help me!"
Joanne, against her better judgement, drove away. In the car were her sister and four children. She feared for their safety and was about to ask him to get out. She looked into his face and seeing his look of terror, decided to take him to the nearest police station which was in the opposite direction. As she turned the van around, she noticed the other man running back to his car. He looked like he was carrying something. Anxious to put some distance between them, she accelerated rapidly.
When they reached Mittagong police station, it was closed. They drove on to the next town, Bowral. Paul related his story to Constable Janet Nicholson at the front desk, describing his attacker, the vehicle and the pack he had left behind. He detailed its contents including his passport and return ticket to England. After filling out a detailed report, Constable Nicholson circulated the man's description and the details of his vehicle via radio and advised Paul to return to the hostel. He explained his financial predicament and was given twenty dollars. She explained to him that without a registration number they had very little chance of locating the suspect vehicle. He went to the British High Commission when he returned to Sydney, to replace his passport and to borrow additional funds. He got the passport, but no cash. A woman waiting behind him felt sorry for him and gave him twenty dollars. He was amazed at her generosity.
Weeks later, after deciding to stay in Australia, he found a well paying job. His girlfriend arrived from England shortly after and they traveled around the north of Australia for a few weeks, then left for home. After arriving home, Paul attempted to settle back into a normal life but over the next year had trouble sleeping and developed a string of mysterious illnesses.
Several years later, Paul learned of the discovery of the bodies near where he was attacked. The thought chilled him to the bone as he relived the incident in his mind.
Back in Australia, the investigation was still dragging on. Over two hundred police still searched the forest. At the task force headquarters, thousands of calls regarding the events in Belangalo poured in every week. Two such calls in particular were interesting. One was from a woman who claimed her boyfriend worked with a man who she thought should be checked out. He owned a property near the forest, drove a four-wheel-drive and owned a lot of guns. His name was Ivan Milat.
The second call was from Joanne Berry who described the time that she had picked up Paul Onions after his attack. These, like the other calls, had to be recorded and entered onto an extensive computer database, which was becoming increasingly overloaded. In short, they were buried under the weight of the many crank calls and alleged sightings.
Paul Onions called the Australian High Commission and was given the 'hotline' number of the task force. On 13th November 1993, he told the officer who answered the telephone the details of his attack in 1990 and was asked why he hadn't reported it then. When he replied that he had, he expected the officer to ask him where and when and the name of the officer he spoke to. Instead he was thanked for the information and the call was terminated. When he didn't hear any word weeks later he decided that his report was of no value and did his best to clear his mind of it.
The official search of the forest was suspended on the 17th November 1993.
No more bodies or additional evidence had been found.
By December 1993, it was apparent that although an enormous amount of information had been compiled, the investigation wasn't progressing at an acceptable rate. Ten thousand "running sheets" had been assembled, mostly by hand. Of the thousands of calls received over the "hotline," police had produced a list of two thousand "persons of interest" that callers had suggested may have committed the crimes or had some knowledge of them.
The sheer volume of data overloaded the computer system. The program called T.I.M.S. (Task Force Information Management System) was made up of multiple databases that stored the information in various subject areas. However, it was unable to cross-reference more than a single inquiry because the system had not been designed to handle the volume and complexities involved in an investigation of such magnitude.
The decision was taken to introduce a new program, which would be more powerful and flexible enough to handle the task. This meant long weeks of data entry and compilation, which meant all data received in the mean time would have to be processed by hand. Detective Senior Constable Gagan, the senior analyst for the Task Force, assembled his team and began the long grueling process. Every file had to be read, assessed and set aside to be entered into an appropriate section of the data base at a later time.
One such file came to the attention of the analysis team because of the unusual surname of the person involved. The name was Onions, Paul Onions. They read the report and added it to the "lead" file for further attention. Several weeks later a similar report came to light. It was Joanne Berry's statement regarding the Onions incident. It, too, was filed for further attention.
Early in the New Year, thirty-seven detectives were working full time on the investigation, the main focus was tracking down the suspect firearm and ammunition used in the offences. Two of the new detectives assigned to the case, Senior Constables Gordon and McCluskey, were given the job of following up on a file that contained three separate leads. Gordon looked at the name on the file folder. "Milat."
Lynne Butler and Paul Douglas were interviewed and confirmed their earlier statements. The third lead was from the woman whose boyfriend had worked with Ivan Milat but as she hadn't given her name, Douglas decided to go to the company in question, "Readymix" and ask about Milat.
Richard and Ivan Milat had both worked there at one time. They learned that Ivan had been a hard worker and was highly respected. Richard, on the other hand, was remembered as being crazy and unpredictable.
Time sheets were requested for both men but when matched up later with the approximate times and dates of the offences, Richard was found to have been working on every occasion. However, his brother Ivan had been away from work when each of the murders had taken place. Gordon felt that Milat was fast becoming the prime suspect but when he raised the subject with his superiors he was told, "Get more evidence."
Gordon searched criminal records and found that Ivan Milat had been found guilty of committing various offences and had served several years in prison. None of the offences indicated that he was a potential serial killer. After digging further through the archives, he found something that really aroused his suspicion. In 1971, Ivan had picked up two girls hitch hiking from Liverpool to Melbourne and had allegedly raped one of them. Both girls testified that he was armed with a large knife and carried a length of rope. He was later acquitted when the prosecution case was dismissed as unproven.
Gordon and McCluskey again went to their superiors to request phone taps on Milat's house and to have listening devices installed in his car. Clive Small refused. Gordon was not impressed. Small had made the correct decision. The law was very firm on the subject of electronic surveillance. It was only to be used when all other methods of acquiring evidence had been exhausted. He also knew, from long experience, that although one suspect stood out, to build a strong case they would have to investigate and eliminate any other suspects.
Several days later he assigned four detectives, including Gordon and McCluskey, to work full time following up the "Milat" leads and also arranged for a surveillance team, known as the '"Dog Squad," to follow Milat and watch his house. The "Milat" team began the exhaustive task of interviewing, checking and crosschecking statements and amassing evidence. It was a task that would occupy them several months. For Detective Gordon it was a frustrating time but he was still quietly confident that they were close to their man.
To strengthen his investigation team, Superintendent Small began to assemble a team of experts to examine the motives and "state of mind" of the type of person that would have committed these hideous crimes. Knowing that the end result of the long and protracted saga, that the case had become, would be a trial of epic proportions, Small wanted the opinions of several experienced professionals to further enhance and support the weight of evidence.
The police psychiatrist, Dr. Rod Milton was essential to the proceedings. Since the beginning of the case, he had studied and reviewed every shred of information as it came to hand. He watched carefully as his original profile began to take realistic shape.
Small's second choice was Dr. Richard Basham, the Dean of Anthropology at Sydney University. Basham, an American, had assisted police previously with investigations of Asian crime in Australia. His forte was psychological anthropology but he was well versed in experimental and clinical psychology. Milton and Basham were wary of each other at first, but came to respect each other's abilities very quickly. Another member was Bob young, a trained sociologist and computer analyst. His expertise was in research methods and was very experienced in the handling of large amounts of data.
Small still believed that the killer lived somewhere in the southern highlands, the region that incorporated Belangalo. His plan was to organize a "door to door" survey of the entire area, in search of the murder weapon. The panel disagreed. They reasoned that police resources were stretched to the limit as it was. Most of them felt, particularly Basham, that the person and or weapons that they sought was mentioned somewhere in the mountain of information that had already been received.
As the group reviewed some of the files, one particular statement (Alex Milat's) was mentioned. Small told them of the depth of detail it contained and suggested that the person who gave it must possess a "photographic" memory. Basham suggested that to retain such detail could also mean that he might have been part of the events that he had recalled so well. It was an interesting theory. Basham also was of the opinion that more than one person was involved, probably a brother. When part of the ballistic evidence was presented, the panel discussed the scratches that were found on some of the spent projectiles, possibly caused by a crude silencer.
"Well, a silencer could mean that this man is living in a fantasy world," Basham said. "He probably owns a motorcycle too. He considers himself an outlaw."
Milton agreed. He went back to the "brothers" theory. "We could be looking for a group of brothers who spend their time in the forests shooting cans and wounding animals and generally "showing off with each other."
Small's ears pricked up. "We have a family just like that on file," he said.
"Well watch them closely," Basham replied, "One or more of them could be who you are looking for."
The discussion turned to the probable location of the killer. Milton suggested that the killer might not live in the immediate vicinity but may visit the area regularly and could even own or rent a property near by. After studying maps, they deduced that the killer would most probably live in an area to the North, close to the Hume highway. The fact that all of the victims had, at some stage, been seen at or near Liverpool and their bodies found in Belangalo forest strengthened that theory.
The members of the panel were unaware of the interest the police were taking in the Milat family, in fact their name hadn't been mentioned during the briefing. Small knew that they still had a long way to go to build a case but couldn't help thinking how closely the Milat family matched the theories.
The painstaking search for supportive evidence continued through to March 1994. The "Milat" team obtained records of all premises and vehicles that the Milats had owned in the past. They found that three of the Milat brothers owned a small property on the "Wombeyan Caves" road, twenty five miles from Belangalo. In addition, one vehicle found was a silver "Nissan Patrol" four-wheel-drive that had been owned by Ivan Milat.
The new owner was interviewed and showed police a bullet that he had found under the driver's seat. It was .22 caliber and was later analyzed and found to be consistent with the empty boxes found in "Area A" and cartridge cases found at the Clarke and Walters gravesites. Milat had sold the vehicle two months after the bodies of the two English girls had been discovered.
Detective Gordon and his team were uncovering numerous pieces of evidence but still needed something to tie it all together. Additional evidence that would put Ivan Milat and his vehicle in the area at the time of the offences. They tried using the "new" computer database in the hope of finding the match that they were looking for, but after entering keywords such as "silver four-wheel-drive," "Liverpool," and "hitchhiker," no matches were found. The system was better than the previous one but was still not capable of providing the information that was required.
They began the unenviable task of sorting through the boxes of reports by hand, some still not entered into the database. The job took weeks. Finally on 13th April, Gordon found the note regarding Paul Onions' call to the hotline five months earlier. He read the report describing the events of January 1990 and as he read he realized that if this man was a credible witness, his testimony could give them the link that they were looking for. Onions' statement described the vehicle, the area where the attack was committed, and the driver. Gordon took his newfound evidence directly to Superintendent Small.
Small was furious, how had such an important piece of evidence been overlooked? He immediately called for the original report from Bowral police but it was missing from their files. Fortunately, Constable Nicholson had taken a full report in her notebook, which provided more details than the original statement. Knowing that Richard and Ivan Milat were similar in appearance, police checked the two men's work records and confirmed with their employers that Richard had been working on the day of the attack but Ivan had not.
In addition, while checking Ivan's work records they found that he had been working in the "Galston Gorge" area at the time when James Gibson's pack had been found. Several of Ivan's work mates were interviewed and told of his interest in guns. One friend of Ivan's, Tony Sara, told police that Milat had owned a motorcycle and a four-wheel-drive Nissan and kept an "arsenal" of guns at his house. He told them the story of the time he and Ivan were on the way to a job and drove past the Belangalo Forest.
"You wouldn't believe what's in there," Ivan had said, but when Sara pressed him for details, Ivan just smiled and said nothing more.
At the end of April, Paul Onions received an important telephone call from Australia. Detective Stuart Wilkins told him that he was an important witness in the "backpacker" case and could he fly to Sydney as soon as possible? He was totally confused. From the beginning he had felt that the Australian police had no real interest in him or his story. Now all of a sudden, he was their "star' witness." What had taken them so long?
A week later, he was being driven out of Sydney towards Liverpool by police who wanted him to "get his bearings," before they interviewed him further. As they drove through Liverpool, he pointed out the small shop where he had met "Bill." The shop, a newsagency, was called Lombardo's.
After they had driven further south on the expressway, Onions told them, "This is wrong. We went through a town."
"You must be mistaken," they answered. "There's no towns on this road."
Police later discovered that at the time of the attack on Onions, January 1990, the expressway had not been completed and the Hume Highway had originally gone through the centre of Mittagong.
As they approached the attack site Onions began to feel uneasy. He detailed the conversation, his voice trembling as he spoke about the tapes, the gun and the rope. He pointed out approximately where he had escaped. It was less than a mile from the entrance to the forest.
The next day he was shown a video "line up" of a group of suspects. For purposes of identification, each image was individually numbered one to thirteen. Onions was left alone to view the images as many times as he liked. He was told to take his time. He felt strange. Four years had passed since the attack and here he was looking for the man who did it. He looked through the tape again and again. Two images seemed to stand out, numbers four and seven. He kept looking.
A short time later, he called the detectives and pointed to the single image on the screen, "That's him, number four."
"Are you sure?"
He was spooked by their question. "I better take another look."
He ran through the tape several times more and finally declared, "Yes I'm sure. The man who attacked me is number four."
Paul Onions had positively identified Ivan Milat.
Small was immediately informed and, after consultation with Lynch, he made his decision. They now had sufficient evidence to arrest Ivan Milat for the assault on Paul Onions. As well as the arrest warrant, they applied for search warrants of Ivan Milat's home in Eaglevale, a suburb just off the Hume highway and a few short miles from Liverpool. On the premise that Ivan hadn't acted alone, police also applied for search warrants to search the houses of Ivan's mother and his brothers, Richard, Walter and Bill. The property near the forest was also to be searched, as was the home of Alex Milat, who had moved to a town called Woombye, which was located several hours drive north near Brisbane, Queensland.
All warrants were granted.
The logistics of organizing multiple raids across two states were daunting. Over three hundred police would be involved. To maintain secrecy most of them would not be informed of the location and timing of the raids until just before the event. The raid on Ivan's house was code named "Air-1."
As Ivan Milat's hours of work were erratic, it was decided to raid his house at 6:30 a.m. on 22nd May 1994, a Sunday. Fifty police, including members of the heavily armed "State Protection Group," general duties officers and police negotiators, were assembled at 2 a.m. at Campbelltown police station. Campbelltown was halfway between Liverpool and Ivan's house.
Present at the early morning briefing, besides Small and Lynch, was Dr Rod Milton. He briefed the chief negotiator, Wayne Gordon, on how best to approach Ivan, who was to be contacted by telephone after the premises had been surrounded. Milton suggested that Gordon use a firm and authoritative tone, as he believed that Milat would try to take control of the situation. Surveillance police had reported that Ivan's girlfriend, Chalinder Hughes, was also in the house. The plan was to calmly ask them to come out of the house, affect the arrest and search the premises.
At precisely 6:36 a.m., the team was in place. Detective Gordon dialed Ivan's number. A male voice answered. When asked if he was Ivan Milat, he answered, "No." Gordon confirmed the address. It was correct. Gordon then introduced himself and advised Ivan that police were stationed around the property, were in possession of a search warrant, intended to gain entry and search the premises in relation to an armed assault. He advised Milat to come out with his girlfriend and surrender to police. Ivan mumbled something and hung up.
After several minutes, nothing had happened. Mindful of the guns that Milat was known to possess, police were reluctant to storm the house. The presence of his girlfriend was also a prohibitive factor. Gordon again dialed the number and spoke to Milat a second time. When Gordon asked him why he hadn't come out as requested Ivan replied that he thought it was a joke. Gordon convinced him that it was no joke.
Several minutes later, the front door of number 22 Cinnabar Street, Eaglevale opened and Ivan Milat and Chalinder Hughes stepped onto the front lawn and were taken into custody by two members of the State protection group. Several more of the group entered the house and "swept" the house for other occupants.
After the premises were secured, the search began. Ivan was handcuffed and advised of his rights. He was also advised that he was to be questioned in relation to seven bodies that had been recovered from the Belangalo state forest. In reply Milat said, 'I don't know what you are talking about.' The "specialist" search team was comprised of Gerald Dutton, the ballistics expert, Andy Grosse, the senior crime scene investigator and two other detectives. They began a methodical search of the four-bedroom house.
At the other premises, the additional raids had gone smoothly. Police were beginning to search each of the homes at virtually the same time.
The first item found in Ivan's house was a postcard. He was asked who it was from. He replied that it was from a friend in New Zealand. It began with the words, "Hi Bill." Ivan was asked if he was also known as "Bill." He replied, "No, it must have been a mistake." When a bullet was found in one of the bedrooms, police asked Ivan if he owned any firearms. He said that he didn't. When asked about the bullet, he said it was left from when he went shooting with his brother. The rooms were searched one at a time. In the second bedroom, two sleeping bags were found in a wardrobe. They were later identified as belonging to Simone Schmidl and Deborah Everist.
In one of the other bedrooms, a bag was found containing several personal items that indicated that it was Ivan's workbag. He confirmed that fact to police. Also in the bag was a Bowie-style knife, 12 inches long. In the same bedroom was a technical manual for the road-making machine that Ivan operated at work. Inside it was a small book that sparked Dutton's interest. It was an owner's instruction manual for a Ruger .22 caliber rifle. Ivan refused to comment on the find.
A photo album contained a photograph of a Harley Davidson motorcycle and a holster. In the holster was what looked to Dutton like a Colt .45 handgun. It was the type that Onions had described. A box of .45 ammunition was later found in Ivan's bedroom. One other framed photograph showed Chalinder Hughes wearing a striped Benneton top. It was identical to a top that Caroline Clarke owned.
The garage, which was attached to the house, was next. On a rack of portable shelving against a wall, a nylon sleeping bag cover was found. It contained a rolled tent. Wrapped around the tent was a purple headband identical to the one found around Simone Schmidl's skull. Also in the bag was a homemade silencer. When Milat was taken into the garage and asked about the bag, he stated that he had never seen it before.
The ceiling of the garage had a "man-hole" which opened into the roof cavity. One team member climbed a ladder to search it. Nothing was found until the insulation material was removed. Tucked inside one of the wall cavities was a plastic bag. It contained what looked like gun parts. Dutton was summoned and identified the parts as being a complete breech block assembly, a trigger and a magazine. All were from a Ruger .22 rifle. Another object was below it in the cavity but was beyond reach. Finally, after unsuccessfully trying to retrieve it, police resorted to cutting a hole in the adjoining wall and found that it was the rotary magazine from the same weapon.
Milat was taken from the house and conveyed to Campbelltown police station where he was questioned. The entire interview was recorded on both video and audio tape. During the interview, Milat was evasive and uncooperative. The interview finished an hour later and Ivan was then charged with the robbery and attempted murder of Paul Onions.
Back at his house, police had found electrical tape, cable ties and a bag of yellow and blue ropes similar to those found at the crime scenes. After searching more thoroughly inside a bedroom wardrobe, another part of the Ruger rifle was found hidden inside a leather work boot.
More camping and cooking equipment was found in the kitchen pantry, belonged to Simone Schmidl. The police had hoped that they would find some evidence linking Milat to the murders, but were completely unprepared for the amount of property that was found.
As the search progressed, more items came to light: a camera, which proved to be Caroline Clarke's and a water canteen which had a scratched area on it as though a mark had been erased. Later, subjected to light analysis, the name "Simi" could be clearly seen. A fully loaded Browning automatic pistol was found wedged under the washing machine.
At the other locations, more evidence was found. Rifles, shotguns, knives, crossbows and an incredible amount of ammunition. Nearly all the camping gear belonging to the victims was found in the raids. The most disturbing find of all was unearthed in a locked cupboard in the house of Margaret Milat, Ivan's mother. A long curved cavalry sword.
Gerald Dutton, the ballistics expert, had been working on the case since the first fired cases and bullets had been recovered from the forest. He worked long hours examining all the ballistic evidence and was eventually rewarded for his diligence. The fired cases and several of the bullets matched the Ruger .22 rifle that was found in Ivan Milat's home.
Ivan Robert Marko Milat was charged with the murders of the seven backpackers and was committed to stand trial. At a bail hearing, several weeks after the arrest, Ivan dismissed his lawyer after being advised by his counsel to plead guilty. Ironically it was the same lawyer that had won him an acquittal during the 1971 alleged rape trial. The trial was set down for June 1995. But Ivan Milat did not stand trial in June. In fact it was almost a year before the case came to court. It was delayed while Milat's lawyers argued with the state's Legal Aid office over their rate of pay. Eventually they accepted the original offer and were ready to go to trial.
Ivan Milat sat passively in the courtroom as the jury filed in for the first day of the biggest murder trial in Australia's criminal history. The presiding judge, Justice David Hunt, asked the crown prosecutor to begin. Mark Tedeschi QC (Queens Counsel) made a brief opening statement during which he told the jury that Ivan Milat would be proven guilty of seven cruel murders, whether he had accomplices or not. He wasted no time in calling his first witness, Paul Onions.
Milat stared at him as he took the witness stand, the hint of a faint smile on his lips. Onions positively identified Milat as the person who attacked him. Tedeschi led him through his evidence and Onions waited for Milat's defense counsel, Terry Martin, to attack his testimony during cross-examination. The attack did not come. A few points of identification were challenged, but not the scrutiny that he was expecting.
After Onions stepped down, the parents of each of the victims were called to the stand one at a time. The courtroom was hushed as they spoke about the last time they seen their children alive. Some suppressed sobs and others struggled to control the seething anger that they felt when they looked into the eyes of the "monster" that stood accused of murdering their children.
The list continued as the evidence was presented: 356 exhibits and hundreds of photographs all had to be explained in detail. The days crawled by in the hot and stuffy courtroom as each witness was called. The public galleries were full every day. Members of the media from all over the world jostled for position in the crowded press gallery, knowing that the case was big news.
When the T-shirt that Joanne Walters last wore was displayed, bearing numerous cuts, front and back, the courtroom fell silent. So too when Dr Bradhurst took the stand to describe the injuries inflicted on each of the victims. The most dramatic moment was when he was shown the sword found at Ivan's house. He suggested that it was very likely the type of weapon used to decapitate Anja Habschied.
The enormous weight of evidence and the long list of witnesses took weeks to present. Gradually, during cross-examination of the prosecution witnesses, the defense tactics unfolded. They were determined to convince the jury that Ivan was not responsible for the murders but instead implied that his brothers, Richard and Walter, committed the crimes and implicated him by "planting" the evidence at his house. Twelve weeks and 145 witnesses later, the prosecution completed its presentation of a strong case.
The first witness called by the defense was Ivan Milat. Martin led him through the accusations that had been made. His defense was simple: he denied everything. During cross-examination, Tedeschi proved merciless.
He pursued Milat on every point. When asked how he came to be in possession of the property belonging to the victims he answered, "Someone's trying to make me look bad."
He faltered after Tedeschi reminded him that the gun parts that he said were put in his home by someone else, were painted in camouflage colors in the same fashion as his other hunting equipment. Tedeschi pointed out that it was an amazing coincidence, considering that Milat had already admitted that the paints used were in fact his. On the sixty-fourth day of informed and the juror excused from further proceedings.
In the trial's fifteenth week, after all the evidence has been presented and argued against, the final summations begin. Tedeschi told the jury of Ivan Milat's arrogance in believing that he would get away with the attack on Onions and the abduction and murder of seven young people -- an arrogance that prevented him from disposing of the property belonging to his victims. His address ran for three days as he spelled out the many pertinent facts that indicated that Ivan Milat was the killer, none of which had been suitably explained by his defense.
Martin began his summing up by telling the jury that obviously someone in the Milat family was responsible for the murders, but not his client. He tried to explain away the damning evidence as a conspiracy against Ivan by his own brothers. He began to narrow down his attack, suggesting that Richard made the comments about the murders to his friends at work and "may" have been in a position to commit all eight crimes, even though he was at work at the times of the offences. He ended his comments in the same vein: his client Ivan Milat had been set up.
Justice Hunt took two days to summarize the evidence for the jury. At 2:42 p.m. on the 24th July, he sent the jury out to consider their verdict. Three days passed, still no verdict. Meanwhile the Milat family, confident of an acquittal, made plans for a celebratory dinner. A strange ritual considering Ivan's defense was based on the implication of members of his own family.
On Saturday, 27th July 1995, the remaining jurors filed into the courtroom to deliver their verdict. Justice Hunt asked Ivan to stand as the by the jury foreman read the verdicts. As each of the eight charges were read the verdict was the same. Guilty. Ivan Milat was asked if he had anything to say.
He replied, "I'm not guilty of it. That's all I have to say."
The sentences were then handed down. For the attack on Paul Onions, six years' imprisonment. For the remaining seven counts of willful murder, a life sentence for each. Ivan Milat was sentenced to prison "for the term of his natural life."
On the Sunday following his conviction, Ivan was transported to a maximum-security prison in Maitland, south west of Sydney. After the normal prison induction of showers and the issue of bedding, Milat was "welcomed" to the jail in a manner that he could not have expected. While waiting in line to be assigned to a cell, he was approached by a tall, well-built inmate and punched to the ground.
Despite his bad start, Ivan settled into prison life in a cell in A wing. Several months later, on the 17th July, he was involved in a foiled escape attempt that was masterminded by George Savvas, a former city councilman who was serving time for drug trafficking. Ironically, Ivan was immediately transferred to the high security wing of Goulburn jail, only a few short miles from Belangalo Forest.
The next day Savvas was found hanged in his cell. To this date, Ivan Milat has not been charged for his part in the escape attempt.
As a follow up to the Milat story, several reporters approached members of Ivan's family for interviews. Some of them refused; others demanded money.
Richard Milat, when asked by the press if he feared he would be arrested in relation to the murders, replied, "not really, if they wanted me they'd have me by now." Margaret, Ivan's mother, was shocked by the sentence handed down on her son, but told reporters, "if he did these crimes then he deserves to be punished."
Other reporters tracked Ivan's brother Boris down to a secret location, where he was supposedly "hiding" from his family. When asked if he thought that Ivan was innocent, he answered, "all my brothers are capable of extreme violence, given the right time and place individually. "He continued, "the things I can tell you are much worse than what Ivan's meant to have done. Everywhere he's worked, people have disappeared, I know where he's been.'
He then asked the reporters if they thought Ivan was guilty, they replied that they did. "If Ivan's done these murders," he told them, "I reckon he's done a hell of a lot more."
"How many?" they asked.
His reply was disturbing. "About twenty eight."
Ivan Milat to this day continues to profess his innocence. He has formed a support group that lobbies the government for his release.
Ivan Milat was moved to solitary confinement after prison officers found a hacksaw blade hidden in his cell. The searchers, using a metal detector, found the blade inside a packet of biscuits. At the time of the routine search, Milat was already segregated from other prisoners in the maximum-security wing of Goulburn jail. He has indicated that he will attempt escape at every opportunity.
Several books have been written on Ivan Milat and the "Backpacker" murders. Two of them, Sins of the Brother by Mark Whittaker and Les Kennedy (Pan Macmillian Australia, 1998) , and Fate by Neil Mercer ( Random House Australia, 1997), were used as reference for this story.
You can order the book Sins of the Brother directly from the Australian Online Bookshop
Several newspapers including The Sydney Morning Herald and the Australian also provided extensive coverage of the case.