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Twisted Mind of Ivan Milat

Updated on August 8, 2015

Australian Robert Marko Milat is serving seven consecutive life sentences, plus 18 years at a maximum-security prison at Goulburn, New South Wales, Australia. He was convicted of brutally murdering seven backpackers, aged 19 to 22, in the Belango State Forest during the 1990s. They became known as “The Backpacker Murders.”

Their corpses were discovered at various times partially buried in the state forest, about nine miles south west of New South Wales. Two of the victims were British, two were German and two were from Melbourne.

He was born December 27, 1944 in rural Guildford, to a large close-knit Yugoslav family who stayed pretty much to themselves. Ivan was in and out of minor scrapes with the law from the age of 17 committing such crimes as housebreaking, car thefts and armed robberies. In 1971 he was tried for the alleged rape of two female hitchhikers, but lacking sufficient proof the charges were dropped.

Ivan was described as a handsome, physically fit young man, who had a strong interest in hunting and firearms. Following his trial, family members revealed he had displayed psychopathic tendencies from an early age. The actual number of murders he committed may never be known since from the start Ivan has claimed he is innocent.

However, there was one lucky man who managed to escape the clutches of death at Ivan’s hands. That was British backpacker Paul Onions. Onions was hitchhiking south from Sydney on January 25, 1990 searching for employment when Ivan pulled over and offered him a lift.

At first Ivan, who had introduced himself as “Bill” seemed friendly enough. But, as the miles went by Onions began to get an impression there was something just not right about the man. It was confirmed when “Bill” suddenly pulled his car to the side of the road and began cursing, making obscene racial remarks and talking nonsense.

Onions decided it was time to get out but Ivan pulled out a revolver. Despite the threat of being shot Onions bolted from the vehicle leaving his backpack, which contained all his possessions. Luckily he was able to flag down a passing motorist who took him to the nearest police station. Onions returned to Sydney unaware of the true identity of the man he had inadvertently encountered or what he was capable of.

It was in mid September, 1992 the first of Ivan’s victims were discovered in an area of the state forest known as “Executioners Drop.”They were British backpackers, Caroline Clarke and Joanne Walters. Walters had been stabbed 35 times and Clarke had been shot several times in the head. Both had been missing since May. They were found by orienteering enthusiasts. Orienteering is a competitive sport in which participants navigate their way to various checkpoints using a map and compass.

In October 1993, a local man, came across a human skull and thigh bone in a secluded remote part of the forest. He immediately notified local authorities. After combing the scene two more bodies were discovered. They were identified as Deborah Everist and James Gibson. Gibson's body in this location puzzled investigators as his backpack and camera had been discovered earlier in the northern Sydney suburbs about 62 miles away.

A month later another skull was found by police. The skull was identified as that of Simone Schmidl from Germany. She had last been seen hitchhiking in January 1991. Again the police were baffled. Clothing found at the scene did not belong to Schmidl but were those of another missing backpacker, Anja Habschied. It was determined Schmidl died from numerous stab wounds to the upper torso.

Shortly thereafter, the bodies of Habschied and her boyfriend Gabor Neugebauer were found in shallow graves about 155 feet apart. They likewise had, been shot or stabbed. Habschied was also decapitated, while Neugebauer had been shot in the face several times.

All of the murders had similar characteristics. Each had been deliberately posed face-down with their hands behind their backs and hidden covered by a frame of sticks and ferns. All had suffered multiple stab wounds to the torso and it was apparent whoever had committed the acts had dallied a while during and after the murders. Some however, also showed the unmistakable signs of being strangled. Speculation arose the crimes might have been the work of several killers, at least two,

More light was shed on the crimes when police received a call from Onions in Britain, telling them about his encounter with “Bill.” Onions' statement was backed up by the motorist who had stopped to help following Onions’ ordeal. Additionally, the girlfriend of a man who worked with Ivan suggested he should be questioned.

Ivan quickly became a suspect after investigators reviewed his police file. When the connection between Onions and the Belanglo murders was finally made, Onions was asked to fly over and assist in the investigation.

Onions identified Ivan Milat on May 5, 1994, as the man who accosted him in 1990. Ivan was arrested on May 22, 1994 at his home after 50 heavily armed police officers surrounded the premises. Homes belonging to other family members were also searched for further evidence. The next day Ivan was hustled into court on robbery and weapon charges. Later that month authorities had enough evidence to take the case to trial. Ivan was kept in custody until the trial opened in March 1996. It lasted 15 weeks at which time a jury found Ivan guilty on all counts of murder. He was given a life sentence on each count, to run consecutively without the possibility of parole. He was also convicted of attempted murder, false imprisonment and robbery of Paul Onions.

On his first day of imprisonment he was beaten by another inmate. About a year later, he attempted to escape along with a convicted drug dealer and he was transferred to a maximum security prison.

In January 2009, Milat cut off his little finger with a plastic knife, for what purpose is not clear. However, it wasn’t the first time he had injured himself while in prison. He swallowed razor blades, staples and other metal objects, apparently in an attempt to be declared insane.

In 2011 Milat went on a hunger strike. He wanted a “PlayStation.” He didn’t get it.


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    • LongTimeMother profile image

      LongTimeMother 4 years ago from Australia

      Hi jy3502. I made reference to Ivan Milat in the comments section of my hub about why children should be taught to tell lies as part of their safety plan. Those poor backpackers died brutal deaths in a remote area where nobody was around to help them. I have long suspected that telling a lie to get Milat to take them back to a populated area could have been the only strategy that might possibly have helped once they realized they were in danger.

      I picked up international backpackers during those years and warned them about the Backpacker Murders. How many of them took my advice to start catching buses instead, I'll never know. It was a frightening time and Australia was greatly relieved when he was arrested.

      I'm sharing this hub with my followers in case any of them are interested in the Milat story. Thanks for writing it. I knew I'd never be able to recount the facts without expressing my personal outrage and disgust. :(