In terms of Australia‘s serial killers, Ivan Milat is arguably the most notorious. Ask any Australian who grew up in the 90s, and they’ll have some vague memory of the chilling Backpacker Murders and Ivan Milat’s eventual conviction for the brutal murders of seven young travellers.
Milat would pick up the travellers on various roads in NSW, taking them into Belanglo State Forest near Berrima before brutally torturing and kill them. The murders occurred during the years 1989 – 1993, with the first victims found in 1992 by some people running in the forest. The bodies were discovered to be Caroline Clarke and Joanne Walters, who were last seen in Sydney‘s Kings Cross in April 1992. However, police at the time were also looking for a German couple, Gabor Neugebauer and Anja Habschied, as well as Simone Schmidl, another German tourist who had all been missing for a year.
Over the next year, Belanglo would also be revealed to be the murder and burial site of Gabor, Anja and Simone – as well as Melbourne couple Deborah Everist and James Gibson.
With the help of Paul Onions, a British backpacker who narrowly escaped murder at the hands of Milat, police eventually connected the seven victims to the serial killer, and he was given seven consecutive life sentences as well as 18 years without parole on 27th July 1996.
But the extent of Milat’s murders and how he was able to commit them has always been the subject of rumours and mystery. There’s the suggestion he was responsible for the disappearances of several young women along a highway near Newcastle in the 70s. In 2001, he was ordered to give evidence at an inquest into the disappearance of three female backpackers, although no case was brought against him due to lack of evidence. Even recently, there was speculation he was involved in Teacher’s Pet subject Lyn Dawson‘s disappearance.
And then there’s John Marsden, Milat’s former lawyer – who gave a deathbed confession alleging that Milat was assisted by his sister, Shirley Soire, in the murders of Clarke and Walters. Milat however, has always denied his family was involved in the murders. In fact, he hasn’t confessed to the murders at all.
So what’s the truth? New developments continue constantly when it comes to the Backpacker Murders, although former detective Clive Small, who headed up Task Force Air, the police team that worked on the murders, told True Crime Australia there are no “outstanding matters” relating to the case anymore, after hair found in Joanne Walters’ hand, thought to be from an accomplice, was discovered to be her own.
But certain pieces of evidence indicate that someone else may have been present at the murders. Could someone have helped Milat carry out these horrific crimes?