27 Oct 2019

Australian serial killer Ivan Milat dies in Long Bay prison

9:09 am on 27 October 2019

Ivan Milat, Australia's most notorious serial killer who was serving seven life sentences for the murders of seven backpackers, has died aged 74.

Undated file photo shows Ivan Milat who was sentenced to life imprisonement 27 July for the murders of seven backpackers in Sydney.

Ivan Milat sparked one of Australia's largest police investigations after seven bodies were found in a shallow grave in a forest near Sydney. Photo: AFP

Milat was diagnosed with terminal oesophagus and stomach cancer in May.

He had been transferred for advanced pain relief treatment to Sydney's Prince of Wales Hospital on 11 October. He died in the medical wing of Long Bay jail this morning.

He had been treated at the same hospital earlier this year after being moved from Goulburn Supermax jail, where he had been in solitary confinement.

Milat was arrested in 1994 following one of the biggest police investigations in Australian history, after seven bodies were discovered in shallow graves in the Belanglo State Forest, south-west of Sydney, between 1992 and 1993.

His victims were all hitchhikers travelling south along the Hume Highway near Liverpool in western Sydney. They had disappeared between 1989 and 1992.

They were Deborah Everist and James Gibson, both 19, from Victoria, Simone Schmidl, 21, from Germany, Anja Habschied, 20, and Gabor Neugebauer, 21, a couple also from Germany, and Caroline Clarke, 21, and Joanne Walters, 22, from Britain.

Two of the victims had been shot multiple times in the head, as if used for target practice. One had been decapitated.

Court documents state that all but one of the victims had been subjected to "sexual interference, either before or after death".

Milat, who was convicted in 1996, never admitted to the murders.

A life of brutality

Ivan Robert Marko Milat was born on December 27, 1944 in Guildford, western Sydney, to a Croatian father, Steven, and an Australian mother, Margaret.

He was the fifth of 14 children, brought up in a brutally violent, financially strapped home.

The Milat boys were keen hunters and gun enthusiasts, and were frequently in trouble with police.

By age 17, Milat had been sent to juvenile detention for six months on burglary charges, beginning an adulthood in and out of prison for various theft offences.

Charges against him took a more sinister turn in 1971, when he was accused of abducting two 18-year-old female hitchhikers, threatening them at knifepoint and raping one of them before they escaped.

He was acquitted in 1974, however, after his lawyer, John Marsden, discredited the women by accusing them of being lesbians, such were the prejudices of the time.

In 1990, he picked up British hitchhiker Paul Onions, then aged 24, in Casula, near Liverpool, introducing himself as "Bill".

Mr Onions managed to escape after Milat pulled a gun on him and was rescued by a passing car and taken to a police station.

Remarkably, Onions' account was not followed up by police at the time.