Ivan Robert Marko Milat
The Backpacker Killings was a name given to the serial killings that happened in New South Wales, Australia during the 1990's. The bodies of seven missing people from the age of 19 to 22 were found partly buried in the Belanglo State Forest, 15km south west of the New South Wales town of Berrima (on the outskirts of Sydney). 5 of the victims were backpackers visiting Australia, 3 from Germany, the other 2 from England and 2 Australian travellers from Melbourne
Ivan Milat was convicted of the murders and is serving seven consecutive life sentences plus 18 years.
Modus Operandi (Mode of Operating)
- Most of the victims were found with the zipper on their pants undone, but the button was still fastened.
- The female victims usually had their shirts and bras pushed up to around their shoulders, which indicates that they were most likely molested.
- Some of the female victims were found with no underwear or pants, but condition that the remains were found made it difficult to know if the victims had been raped.
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 just after Christmas in 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, Melbourne in 1989.
Police quickly confirmed that the bodies were those of Caroline and Joanne. Joanne had been stabbed 14 times, and Caroline had been shot several times in the face. After a thorough search of the forest over the next 5 days, no further evidence or bodies were found.
In October 1993, a local man, Bruce Pryor, found a human skull and a thigh bone in a very remote section of the forest. He returned with the police soon after and 2 more bodies were quickly found 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 found by the side of the road at Galston Gorge, in the northern Sydney suburbs almost 100km to the north." - Police investigators
On the 1st of November in 1993, a skull was found in a clearing in the forest by police sergeant, Jeff Trichter. The skull was later identified as Simone Schmidl from Germany. She was last seen hitch hiking on the 20th of January, in 1991. Clothing found at the scene were not Simone's, but matched that of another missing backpacker, Anja Habschied. Simone Schmidl was found to have died from numerous stab wounds to her upper chest.
The bodies of Anja and her boyfriend Gabor Neugebauer were found on the 3rd of Novermber in 1993 in the shallow graves 50m apart. They had, like the other victims, been shot and/or stabbed. Anja was decapitated, while Gabor was shot in the face several times.
The evidence found at 22 Cinnabar Street (Ivan's current home) was shocking for everyone. In Ivan'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 they found parts of a Ruger trigger, which tests showed was used in the murders. In a cupboard were more parts of the gun Ivan 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 found a water bottle that had belonged to 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 before heading 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 Caroline Clarke. There was also a tent belonging to Simone and a home made silencer for a rifle.
Ivan shared the house with his sister Shirley Soire. In her bedroom, they found sleeping bags belonging to Deborah Everist and Simone Schmidl. Another key piece of evidence was a photograph of Ivan's girlfriend at the time, Chalinder Hughes in a green and white top exactly the same as one that Caroline Clarke brought with her to Australia.
And there was more to come at the several other homes the Milat family had owned. The family had remained close over the years - especially the five brothers, Ivan, Wally, Bill, Alex and Richard, who shared a passion for 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 cigarette 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 given 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 also a T-shirt that Paul Onions identified as his.
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 the leads was the bizarre story that Alex Milat had told police as the second group of bodies was being found. He stated that in Easter of 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 4WD.
Police were surprised when Alex gave detailed descriptions of the men and the guns he said they were carrying, despite the fact that both vehicles passed in the opposite direction. The friend Alex 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 Alex trying to confuse the police? He still tells the police that he told the complete truth about what he saw in the forest.
Bloodstains on sash cords: DNA match!
- Forensic Testing: to help identify suspects or victims in a criminal investigation
- They found DNA from the murder scene which matched to one of the missing victims, Caroline Clarke. They then found bloodstains on sash cords in Ivan's garage. When they tested that DNA, it was a match also!
- Legal issues, able to take parents DNA or family.
- If they aren't sure who they might be, it would be hard to find a match.
- Degrades over a while.
It is a current practice but it is a relatively new one.
Despite his bad start, Ivan settled into prison life in a cell in A wing. Several months later, on the 17th of July, he was involved in an 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 Belanglo Forest.
The next day George Savvas was found hanged in his cell. To this date, Ivan Milat has not been charged for his part in the escape attempt.
Ivan Milat to this day continues to profess his innocence. He 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, Ivan was already isolated from other prisoners in the maximum-security wing of Goulburn jail. He has indicated that he will attempt escape at every opportunity.
While in prison, Ivan Milat turned to self-mutilation in an attempt to jumpstart his appeal to the High Court in Sydney. He hoped that by swallowing razor blades, staples and a spring from a toilet mechanism, and periodically starving himself, he would get the judges attention and maybe get the process moving a little faster.
Many, especially the victims families, were relieved by the courts decision because it would ensure that Ivan would spend the rest of his natural life behind bars. There was little doubt that if he were ever released early he would likely kill again and again. Of course, Ivan denies that he is capable of ever doing such a thing and continues to profess his innocence in the seven murders for which he was earlier convicted.