Serial killings that occurred in New South Wales, Australia during the 1990s, they were known as The Backpacker Murders. The bodies of seven
missing young people were discovered partly buried in the Belanglo State Forest, about 15 miles south west of the town of Berrima, New South
Wales. 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 an aditional18 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 acted alone when committing the murders, and that it's possible could have committed up to a total of thirty-seven murders; if that 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 Austrailian horror film, Wolf Creek is loosely based on the events that occured.
On 20 September 1992 a group of locals 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 meters 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
Police quickly confirmed that the bodies were actually those of Clarke and Walters. Walters had been stabbed 9 times, and Clarke had been shot
in the head serveral times. 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.
First and second cases
Third and fourth discoveries and body identification
In October 1993, Bruce Pryor, a local man 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
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, New South Wales, Bill
pulled a gun on Onions who managed to escape, flag down passing motorist Joanne Berry and reported 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.
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, 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, another inmate beat him severely. About a year later, he attempted to escape 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.
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.
Copyright 2012 More Than Horror. All rights reserved