Ivan Milat

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Ivan Milat
Ivan Milat.jpg
Milat's 1971 mug shot
Ivan Robert Marko Milat

(1944-12-27)27 December 1944
Died27 October 2019(2019-10-27) (aged 74)
Other names"Bill"
The Backpacker Killer
The Backpacker Murderer
EmployerRoads & Traffic Authority
Known forBackpacker murders
Criminal statusDeceased
Conviction(s)7 counts murder (27 July 1996)

1 count attempted murder (27 July 1996)
1 count false imprisonment (27 July 1996)

1 count robbery (27 July 1996)
Criminal penalty7 life sentences without parole (murder)

6 years' imprisonment (attempted murder)
6 years' imprisonment (false imprisonment)

6 years' imprisonment (robbery)
Span of crimes
State(s)New South Wales
Weapons.22-calibre Ruger 10/22
Bowie knife
Date apprehended
22 May 1994
Imprisoned atLong Bay Correctional Centre (2019)

Goulburn Correctional Centre (1997-2019)

Maitland Gaol (1996-1997)
Ivan milat signature.png

Ivan Robert Marko Milat (27 December 1944 – 27 October 2019[1]) was an Australian serial killer who was convicted of the backpacker murders in 1996. Milat, commonly known as the "Backpacker Murderer", assaulted, imprisoned, robbed and subsequently murdered two men and five women in New South Wales between 1989 and 1993. Milat's modus operandi was to approach unsuspecting hitchhikers along the Hume Highway under the guise of providing them transport to areas of southern New South Wales then sometime during the journey he would take his victims into the Belangalo State Forest where he would incapacitate and then murder them.

Early life[edit]

Ivan Milat was the son of a Croatian emigrant and labourer, Stjepan Marko "Steven" Milat (1902–1983), and an Australian, Margaret Elizabeth Piddleston (1920–2001), who married when she was 16.[2][3][4] Milat was the fifth of their 14 children,[5] and the growing family first lived in Bossley Park before relocating to Liverpool. Many of the ten 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.[6] By 17, he was in a juvenile detention centre for theft, and at 19, was involved in a shop break in.[6] 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 sentenced to two years hard labour.[6] In September 1967, aged 22, he was sentenced to three years for theft.[6] In April 1971, he was charged with the abduction of two 18-year-old hitchhikers and the rape of one of them.[7] 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.[6] 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. He took on a job as a truck driver in 1975, and by the time of the Belanglo State Forest crimes, Milat had worked on and off for 20 years for the Roads & Traffic Authority all over the state.[6]

Backpacker murders[edit]


By the time of the first Belanglo State Forest discoveries, several backpackers had been reported missing. One case involved a young Victorian couple from Frankston, Deborah Everist (19) and James Gibson (19), who had been missing since leaving Sydney for ConFest, near Albury, on 30 December 1989.[8] Another related to Simone Schmidl (21), from Germany, who had been missing since leaving Sydney for Melbourne on 20 January 1991.[8] Similarly, a German couple, Gabor Neugebauer (21) and Anja Habschied (20), had disappeared after leaving a Kings Cross hostel for Mildura on 26 December 1991. Another involved missing British backpackers Caroline Clarke (21) and Joanne Walters (22), who were last seen in Kings Cross on 18 April 1992.[9]

Discovery of victims[edit]

A sign at the entrance to the Belanglo State Forest

On 19 September 1992, two runners discovered a concealed corpse while orienteering in Belanglo.[10] The following morning, police discovered a second body 30 metres (98 feet) from the first.[11] Police quickly confirmed, via dental records, that the bodies were those of Clarke and Walters.[8] A search of the area failed to uncover any of the other missing backpackers.

In October 1993, however, a local man searching for firewood discovered bones in a particularly remote section of the forest.[12] He returned with police to the scene where two bodies were quickly discovered and later identified as Gibson and Everist. The presence of Gibson's body in Belanglo puzzled investigators as his camera and backpack had previously been discovered at Galston Gorge, over 120 kilometres (75 miles) to the north.[9][8]

On 1 November 1993, a skeleton was found in a clearing along a fire trail in the forest during a police sweep.[13] It was later identified as that of Schmidl.[9] Clothing found at the scene was not Schmidl's, but matched that of another missing backpacker, Habschied.[8] On 4 November 1993, the bodies of Habschied and Neugebauer were then found on a nearby fire trail in shallow graves 50 metres (160 ft) apart.[14]

Search for a serial killer[edit]

Examination of the remains showed evidence that some of the victims had been tortured and did not die instantly from their injuries.[15] In response, on 14 October 1993, Task Force Air, containing more than 20 detectives and analysts, was set up by the NSW Police.[16] On 5 November 1993, the NSW government increased the reward in relation to the killings to $500,000.[16] After developing their profile of the killer, the police faced an enormous volume of data from numerous sources.[17] Investigators applied link analysis technology, and as a result, the list of suspects was narrowed from a short list of 230 to an even shorter list of 32.[18] Speculation arose that the crimes were the work of several killers,[19][20] given that most of the victims had been attacked while as pairs, had been killed in different ways, and buried separately.

On 13 November 1993, police received a call from Paul Onions (24) in the U.K. On 25 January 1990, Onions had been backpacking in Australia and, while hitchhiking from Liverpool station towards Mildura, had accepted a ride south out of Casula from a man known only as "Bill".[21][22] South of the town of Mittagong, and less than 1 km from Belanglo State Forest, Bill stopped and pulled out a revolver and some ropes stating it was a robbery, at which point Onions managed to flee.[23][24] Onions flagged down a passing motorist, Joanne Berry of Canberra, and together they described the assailant and his vehicle to the Bowral police.[25] On 13 April 1994, detectives re-found the note regarding Onions' call. Onions' statement was corroborated by Berry, along with the girlfriend of a man who worked with Milat.[26]

Arrest and trial[edit]

Police surveillance of the Milat house at Cinnabar Street Eagle Vale commenced on 26 February 1994.[6] 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.[27] Police also confirmed that Milat had not been working on any of the days of the attacks[28] and acquaintances also told police about Milat's obsession with weapons.[29][30] When the connection between the Belanglo murders and Onions' experience was made, Onions flew to Australia to help with the investigation.[31] On 5 May 1994, Onions positively identified Milat as the man who had picked him up and attempted to assault him.[32]

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 house.[28][33] 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.[34] Also uncovered were items belonging to several of his victims.[34][35] Homes belonging to his mother and five of his brothers were also searched,[36] uncovering several more items belonging to the victims.[34]

Milat appeared in court on 23 May, but he did not enter a plea.[37] On 31 May, Milat was also charged with the seven backpacker murders.[34] Milat sacked his defence lawyer, Marsden, on 28 June and sought legal aid to pay for his defence.[34] Meanwhile, brothers Richard and Walter were tried in relation to weapons, drugs and stolen items found on their properties.[34] A committal hearing for Milat regarding the murders began on 24 October and lasted until 12 December, during which over 200 witnesses appeared.[34] Based on the evidence, at the beginning of February 1995, Milat was remanded in custody until June that same year.

The trial opened at the Supreme Court of New South Wales on 26 March 1996 and was prosecuted by Mark Tedeschi.[38] 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.[38] One hundred and forty-five witnesses took the stand, including members of the Milat family who endeavoured to provide alibis. On 18 June, Milat gave evidence himself.[39] On 27 July 1996, after 18 weeks of testimony, a jury found Milat guilty of the murders.[33][40] 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.[41]

Incarceration and appeals[edit]

On his first day, when arriving at Maitland Gaol, Milat was beaten by another inmate.[42] Almost a year later, on 16 May 1997, he made an escape attempt alongside convicted drug dealer and former Sydney councillor George Savvas.[43] 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.[44]

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.[45] 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.[46][47] On 27 October 2005, in the NSW Supreme Court[48] Milat's final avenue of appeal was refused.[49] In 2006, two other application attempts were rejected as well, as was one in November 2011.[39]

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.[50] In 2006, a toaster and TV given to Milat in his cell caused a public outcry.[51][39]

Health and death[edit]

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.[52] 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.[53] Milat had previously self-harmed in 2001, when he swallowed razor blades, staples and other metal objects.[52] In May 2011, Milat went on a nine-day hunger strike, losing 25 kilograms in an unsuccessful attempt to be given a PlayStation.[54]

In May 2019, Milat was transferred to the Prince of Wales Hospital, Randwick, and was subsequently diagnosed with terminal oesophageal cancer.[55] Following his treatment he was transferred to the Long Bay Correctional Centre to continue his custodial sentences.[56] 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.[57] On 27 October 2019, Milat died from oesophagus and stomach cancer at 4:07 a.m. within the hospital wing at Long Bay Correctional Centre. He was 74 years old.[58]

Prior to his death, Milat wrote a letter to his family requesting that his funeral be paid for by the New South Wales Government. The request was denied by NSW Corrections Minister Anthony Roberts. Instead, Milat's body was cremated with the full reimbursement of costs to be paid from his prison account.[59]

Other developments[edit]

On 8 November 2004, Milat gave a televised interview on Australian Story, in which he denied that any of his family had been implicated in the seven murders.[60]

A miniseries on the Seven Network, Catching Milat, screened in 2015 and focused on the members of "Task Force Air" who tracked Milat.[61] It was loosely based on the book Sins of the Brother by Mark Whittaker and Les Kennedy.[62][63]

A book by Milat's nephew, Alistair Shipsey, The Milat Letters (ISBN 1785547844) was released in 2016.[64][65] In December 2018, Australian author Amanda Howard was writing a book on his crimes, based on her correspondence with Milat.[66]

Milat's great-nephew Matthew Milat and his friend Cohen Klein (both aged 19 at the time of their sentencing) were sentenced in 2012 to 43 years and 32 years in prison, respectively, for murdering David Auchterlonie on his 17th birthday with an axe at the Belanglo State Forest in November 2010. Matthew Milat struck Auchterlonie with the double-headed axe as Klein audio-recorded the attack with a mobile phone.[67][68]

In May 2015, Milat's brother Boris Milat told Steve Aperen, a former homicide detective who serves as a consultant with the Los Angeles Police Department and the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, that Milat admitted responsibility for another shooting: that of taxi cab driver Neville Knight, in 1962. After conducting polygraph tests with Boris Milat and Allan Dillon, the man convicted of Knight's shooting, Aperen is convinced that Milat did in fact shoot Knight.[69]

Personal life[edit]

In 1975, Milat met a 16-year-old girl who was pregnant by his cousin.[6] They married in 1983 and had one daughter of their own.[70][71] However, she left him in 1987 due to domestic violence and they divorced in October 1989.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Brown, Malcolm; Feneley, Rick (24 November 2010). "Life never a picnic for the dirt-poor, troubled Milat clan". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 1 April 2017.
  2. ^ Brown, Malcolm; Feneley, Rick (24 November 2010). "Life never a picnic for the dirt-poor, troubled Milat clan". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 26 January 2018.
  3. ^ Kennedy, Les (28 November 2010). "Does crime run in the Milat family tree?". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 25 January 2018.
  4. ^ "Margaret Elizabeth Milat – HeavenAddress Resting Place". www.heavenaddress.com. Retrieved 21 August 2017.
  5. ^ Kennedy, Les (21 July 2005). "Milat case stalked by uncertainty". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 25 January 2018.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Case 109: Belanglo (Part 3)". 6 April 2019.
  7. ^ "Ivan Milat Biography". The Biography Channel. A+E Television Networks, LLC. Retrieved 10 January 2014.
  8. ^ a b c d e "Case 109: Belanglo (Part 1)". Casefile: True Crime Podcast. 23 March 2019. Retrieved 31 March 2019.
  9. ^ a b c Meacham, Steve (24 April 2006). "Friends born of sorrow". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 13 January 2014.
  10. ^ Lennon, Troy (19 September 2017). "Twenty five years ago the first victims of Backpacker Killer Ivan Milat were found in Belanglo Forest". The Daily Telegraph.
  11. ^ Whittaker, Mark; Kennedy, Les (10 November 2007). Sins of the Brother: The Definitive Story of Ivan Milat and the Backpacker Murders. Pan Macmillan Australia. pp. 267–268, 322. ISBN 978-0-330-36284-9. Retrieved 13 January 2014.
  12. ^ Brown, Malcolm (2000). Bombs, Guns and Knives: Violent Crime in Australia. Sydney: New Holland. pp. 148–153. ISBN 1-86436-668-0.
  13. ^ "Timeline". Crime & Investigation Network. AETN UK. Retrieved 13 January 2014.
  14. ^ "The nine bodies found in Belanglo forest". The Australian. AAP. 22 November 2010. Retrieved 13 January 2014.
  15. ^ Nunn, Gary (27 October 2019). "The 'backpacker killer' and unanswered questions". Retrieved 27 October 2019 – via www.bbc.com.
  16. ^ a b "Case 109: Belanglo (Part 2) cebo". Casefile: True Crime Podcast. 30 March 2019.
  17. ^ Mouzos, Jenny. "Investigating Homicide: New Responses for an Old Crime" (PDF). Australian Institute of Criminology. Australian Government. p. 5. Retrieved 13 January 2014.
  18. ^ Mena, Jesús (2011). Machine Learning Forensics for Law Enforcement, Security, and Intelligence. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press (Taylor & Francis Group). ISBN 978-1-4398-6069-4.
  19. ^ Hickey, Eric W. (22 July 2003). Encyclopedia of Murder and Violent Crime. SAGE Publications. p. 313. ISBN 978-0-7619-2437-1. Retrieved 14 January 2014.
  20. ^ Maynard, Roger (30 January 2011). "Did Australia's backpacker killer have an accomplice?". The Independent. Retrieved 13 January 2014.
  21. ^ Starick, Paul (22 October 2015). "Belanglo State Forest once again the home of nightmarish murder". The Advertiser. Retrieved 26 January 2018.
  22. ^ Newton, Michael (1 January 2006). The Encyclopedia of Serial Killers. Infobase Publishing. pp. 178–179. ISBN 978-0-8160-6987-3. Retrieved 13 January 2014.
  23. ^ "Backpacker murders: How backpacker Paul Onions survived a close encounter with evil Ivan Milat". Herald Sun. 15 May 2015. Retrieved 26 January 2018.
  24. ^ Oliver, Robin (26 July 2006). "Born to Kill – Ivan Milat". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 11 January 2014.
  25. ^ Murray, David (31 January 2010). "Backpacker who escaped Ivan Milat to return to Australia". The Courier-Mail. Retrieved 13 January 2014.
  26. ^ Small, Clive (19 April 2014). "On the trail of a ... serial killer". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 26 January 2018.
  27. ^ Marriott, Trevor (4 September 2013). The Evil Within – A Top Murder Squad Detective Reveals The Chilling True Stories of The World's Most Notorious Killers. John Blake Publishing. p. 21. ISBN 978-1-78219-365-4. Retrieved 10 January 2014.
  28. ^ a b Bellamy, Patrick. "Ivan Milat: The Last Ride". TruTV. Time Warner Inc. pp. 12–13. Archived from the original on 10 January 2014. Retrieved 10 January 2014.
  29. ^ Lennon, Troy (19 September 2017). "Twenty five years ago the first victims of Backpacker Killer Ivan Milat were found in Belanglo Forest". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 26 January 2018.
  30. ^ Chapman, Simon (2013). Over Our Dead Bodies: Port Arthur and Australia's Fight for Gun Control (PDF). Sydney University Press. p. 163. ISBN 978-1-74332-031-0. Retrieved 10 January 2014.
  31. ^ Small, Clive (19 April 2014). "On the trail of a ... serial killer". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 26 January 2018.
  32. ^ Brown, Malcolm (2000). Bombs, Guns and Knives: Violent Crime in Australia. Sydney: New Holland. pp. 148–153. ISBN 1-86436-668-0.
  33. ^ a b "Timeline". Crime & Investigation Network. AETN UK. Retrieved 13 January 2014.
  34. ^ a b c d e f g "Case 109: Belanglo (Part 4)". Casefile: True Crime Podcast. 13 April 2019. Retrieved 10 June 2019.
  35. ^ "Ivan Milat". Crime & Investigation Network. Foxtel. Archived from the original on 10 January 2014. Retrieved 10 January 2014.
  36. ^ Kidd, Paul B. (1 August 2011). Australia's Serial Killers. Pan Macmillan Australia. p. 344. ISBN 978-1-74262-798-4. Retrieved 13 January 2014.
  37. ^ Spielman, Peter James (31 May 1994). "Suspect charged in seven murders". The Dispatch. AP. Retrieved 13 January 2014.
  38. ^ a b "The Trial". Crime & Investigation Network. AETN UK. Retrieved 13 January 2014.
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  40. ^ Walker, Frank (23 May 2004). from=storylhs "Milat's brother claims police still treating him as murder suspect" Check |url= value (help). The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 5 September 2020.
  41. ^ Newton, Michael (2006). The Encyclopedia of Serial Killers. Infobase Publishing. pp. 178–179. ISBN 978-0-8160-6987-3.
  42. ^ "Skeleton key to unlock Ivan Milat mystery?". Herald Sun. AAP. 30 August 2010. Retrieved 10 January 2014.
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  44. ^ "Skeleton key to unlock Ivan Milat mystery?". Herald Sun. AAP. 30 August 2010. Retrieved 25 January 2018.
  45. ^ Regina v Milat [1998] NSWSC 795 (26 February 1998).
  46. ^ Milat v The Queen [2004] HCA 17, (2004) 205 ALR 338; (2004) 78 ALJR (24 February 2004).
  47. ^ "Serial killer Milat loses conviction appeal". The Sydney Morning Herald. AAP. 28 May 2004. Retrieved 20 May 2017.
  48. ^ R v Milat (backpacker murders) [2005] NSWSC 920 (27 October 2005).
  49. ^ "Serial killer's appeal is refused". BBC News. 7 November 2005. Retrieved 2 June 2015.
  50. ^ "Australia's worst serial killer Ivan Milat has died aged 74". News.com.au. 27 October 2019. Retrieved 29 October 2019.
  51. ^ "Milat gets TV, toaster returned to cell". The Sydney Morning Herald. 14 July 2006. Retrieved 10 June 2019.
  52. ^ a b "Medics unable to reattach Milat's finger". The Sydney Morning Herald. AAP. 27 January 2009. Retrieved 27 January 2009.
  53. ^ "Serial killer Ivan Milat cuts off finger in High Court protest". News.com.au. 27 January 2009. Retrieved 10 January 2014.
  54. ^ Bashan, Yoni (15 May 2011). "Ivan Milat on hunger strike over Playstation". News.com.au. Retrieved 17 May 2011.
  55. ^ Cormack, Lucy (15 May 2019). "Serial killer Ivan Milat unlikely to return to supermax after terminal cancer diagnosis". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 16 May 2019.
  56. ^ "Ivan Milat moves to Long Bay jail hospital from Prince of Wales". 28 May 2019. Retrieved 5 July 2019.
  57. ^ "Serial killer Ivan Milat transferred to Sydney hospital from jail". The 7.30 Report. 9 August 2019. Retrieved 9 August 2019.
  58. ^ "'Rot in hell': Australia's most notorious serial killer Ivan Milat, 74, dies". SBS News. Retrieved 3 January 2020.
  59. ^ "Ivan Milat's dying request refused". ABC News. 10 November 2019. Retrieved 3 January 2020.
  60. ^ Stewart, John (8 November 2004). "Milat says brothers innocent". ABC News. Retrieved 2 June 2015.
  61. ^ Blundell, Graeme (16 May 2005). "Catching Milat revisits backpacker murders". The Australian. Retrieved 9 January 2017.
  62. ^ "Pan Macmillan website".
  63. ^ "Author website".
  64. ^ Shipsey, Alistair (2016). The Milat Letters. ISBN 978-1785547843.
  65. ^ Murray, David; Cortis (16 May 2019). "Serial killer Milat 'has little chance of survival'". The Australian. Retrieved 16 May 2019.
  66. ^ Begley, Lucy Cormack, Patrick (18 May 2019). "'He's very confident of going to heaven': the letters of Ivan Milat". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 26 June 2019.
  67. ^ Wells, Jamelle (9 June 2012). "Milat relative gets 30 years for axe murder". ABC News. Retrieved 10 January 2014.
  68. ^ Dale, Amy (8 June 2012). "Matthew Milat sentenced to 30 years jail for 'cold blooded' murder". News.com.au. Retrieved 10 January 2014.
  69. ^ Lees, Philippa (3 May 2015). "Detective Says 'No Doubt' Over Ivan Milat Claim". Yahoo! News. Retrieved 2 June 2015.
  70. ^ "Dailytelegraph.com.au | Subscribe to The Daily Telegraph for exclusive stories". www.dailytelegraph.com.au. Retrieved 27 February 2020.
  71. ^ Kennedy, Les; Whittaker, Mark (10 November 2007). Sins of the Brother. Pan Macmillan Australia. ISBN 978-1-74262-404-4.