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Milat's 1971 mug shot
Ivan Robert Marko Milat
27 December 1944
|Died||27 October 2019 (aged 74)|
The Backpacker Killer
The Backpacker Murderer
|Employer||Roads & Traffic Authority|
|Known for||Backpacker murders|
|Conviction(s)||7 counts murder (27 July 1996)|
robbery (27 July 1996)
|Criminal penalty||7 life sentences without parole (murder)|
Span of crimes
|State(s)||New South Wales|
|Weapons||.22 calibre Ruger 10/22|
|22 May 1994|
|Imprisoned at||Long Bay Correctional Centre (2019-d)|
Goulburn Correctional Centre (1997-2019)
Milat was the son of a Croatian emigrant, Stjepan Marko "Steven" Milat (1902–1983), and an Australian, Margaret Elizabeth Piddleston (1920–2001), who married when she was 16. Milat was the fifth-born of their 14 children. Many of the 10 Milat boys were well known to local police, and Milat displayed antisocial behaviour at a young age, leading to a stint in a residential school at age 13. By 17, he was in a juvenile detention centre for theft, and at 19, was involved in a shop break in. In 1964, he was sentenced to 18 months for a break and enter, and a month after release, he was arrested for driving a stolen car and was sentenced to 2 years hard labour. In September 1967, aged 23, he was sentenced to 3 years for theft. In April 1971, he was charged with the abduction of two 18 year-old hitchhikers and the rape of one of them. While awaiting trial, he was involved in a string of robberies with some of his brothers, before faking his suicide and fleeing to New Zealand for a year. He was rearrested in 1974, but the robbery and kidnap cases against him failed at trial with the help of the Milat's family lawyer, John Marsden. Taking on a job as a truck driver in 1975, he met a 16-year-old girl who was then pregnant by his cousin, whom he married in 1983. She left him in 1987 due to domestic violence and they divorced in October 1989. By the time of the first crimes, Milat had worked on and off for 20 years for the Roads & Traffic Authority all over the state.
The backpacker murders were a spate of serial killings that took place in New South Wales, Australia, between 1989 and 1993, committed by Ivan Milat. The bodies of seven missing young people aged 19 to 22 were discovered partially buried in the Belanglo State Forest, 15 kilometres (9.3 mi) south-west of the New South Wales town of Berrima. Five of the victims were foreign backpackers (three German, two British) and two were Australian travellers from Melbourne.
Arrest and trial
On 26 February 1994, police surveillance of the Milat house at Cinnabar Street, Eagle Vale commenced. Police learnt that Milat had recently sold his silver Nissan Patrol four-wheel drive shortly after the discovery of the bodies of Clarke and Walters. Police also confirmed that Milat had not been working on any of the days of the attacks and acquaintances also told police about Milat's obsession with weapons. Milat's brother, Bill, who often had his identity used by his brother for work or vehicle registrations, was questioned by investigators. When the connection between the Belanglo murders and Paul Onions' experience was made, Onions flew 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 assault him.
Milat was arrested at his home on 22 May 1994 on robbery and weapon charges related to the Onions attack after 50 police officers surrounded the premises, including heavily armed officers from the Tactical Operations Unit. The search of Milat's home revealed various weapons, including a .22-calibre Anschütz Model 1441/42 rifle and parts of a .22 calibre Ruger 10/22 rifle that matched the type used in the murders, a Browning pistol, and a Bowie knife. Also uncovered was foreign currency, clothing, a tent, sleeping bags, camping equipment and cameras belonging to several of his victims. Homes belonging to his mother and five of his brothers were also searched at the same time by over 300 police, uncovering a total of 24 weapons, 250 kg of ammunition, and several more items belonging to the victims.
Milat appeared in court on 23 May, but he did not enter a plea. On 31 May, Milat was also charged with the seven backpacker murders. On 28 June, Milat sacked his defence lawyer, Marsden, and sought legal aid to pay for his defence. Meanwhile, brothers Richard and Walter were tried in relation to weapons, drugs and stolen items found on their properties. A committal hearing for Milat regarding the murders began on 24 October and lasted until 12 December, during which over 200 witnesses appeared. Based on the evidence, at the beginning of February 1995, Milat was remanded in custody until June that same year.
On 26 March 1996, the trial opened at the Supreme Court of New South Wales and was prosecuted by Mark Tedeschi. His defence argued that, in spite of the evidence, there was no non-circumstantial proof Milat was guilty and attempted to shift the blame to other members of his family, particularly Richard. 145 witnesses took the stand, including members of the Milat family who endeavoured to provide alibis, and, on 18 June, Milat himself. On 27 July 1996, after 18 weeks of testimony, a jury found Milat guilty of the murders. He was given a life sentence on each count without the possibility of parole. He was also convicted of the attempted murder, false imprisonment and robbery of Onions, for which he received six years' jail each.
Incarceration and appeals
On his first day, when arriving at Maitland Gaol, Milat was beaten by another inmate. Almost a year later, on 16 May 1997, he made an escape attempt alongside convicted drug dealer and former Sydney councillor George Savvas. The plan failed and Savvas was found hanged in his cell the next day, and Milat was transferred to the maximum security section at Goulburn Correctional Centre in Goulburn, New South Wales.
In November 1997, Milat appealed against his convictions due to a breach of his common law right to legal representation, as established in Dietrich v The Queen. However, the New South Wales Court of Criminal Appeal dismissed the appeal. In 2004, Milat filed an application with the High Court of Australia that he be allowed special leave to appeal on new grounds. The application for leave was ultimately dismissed, affirming the Court of Criminal Appeal's decision to disallow his initial appeal. On 27 October 2005, in the NSW Supreme Court Milat's final avenue of appeal was refused. In 2006, two other application attempts were rejected as well, as was one in November 2011.
In 2001, following the opening of the High Risk Management Corrections Centre (Supermax) at Goulburn Correctional Centre, Milat was transferred from the maximum security section of the prison into one of its 45 new units.
In 2006, a toaster and TV given to Milat in his cell caused a public outcry. On 26 January 2009, Milat cut off his little finger with a plastic knife, with the intention of mailing it to the High Court of Australia to force an appeal. He was taken to Goulburn Base Hospital under high security; however, on 27 January 2009 Milat was returned to prison after doctors decided surgery was not possible. Milat had previously self-harmed in 2001, when he swallowed razor blades, staples and other metal objects. In May 2011, Milat went on a 9-day hunger strike, losing 25 kilograms in an unsuccessful attempt to be given a PlayStation.
Milat was one of fourteen children.
Health and death
In May 2019, Milat was transferred to the Prince of Wales Hospital, Randwick, and was subsequently diagnosed with terminal oesophageal cancer. Following his treatment he was transferred to the Long Bay Correctional Centre to continue his custodial sentences.
On 9 August 2019, a terminally ill Milat was moved to a secure treatment unit located at the Prince of Wales Hospital following the loss of 20 kilograms in previous weeks; Milat was also exhibiting a high temperature. His status, however, was reported as not life-threatening.
On 27 October 2019, Milat died at 4:07 am within the hospital wing at Long Bay Correctional Centre. Milat's cause of death is yet to be determined, however NSW Corrective Services have confirmed that as Milat was in custody at the time of his death a coronial inquest will be held. He was 74 years old.
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