“There is no reason to doubt the correctness of the verdict”
The Backpacker Murders began in the autumn of 1992. On Sunday 20 September a decaying corpse was found in the Belangalo State Forest at an area called Executioner’s Drop. The next day the remains of two British backpackers, Caroline Clarke and Joanne Walters, were found 30 m (97 ft) from the first body by PC Roger Gough and WPC Suzanne Roberts. The girls had disappeared from Sydney five months earlier. Joanne had been stabbed nine times and Caroline had been shot in the head several times. A year later, two more bodies were discovered and identified as Deborah Everist and James Gibson. The discovery puzzled police because Gibson’s backpack and camera had been found at Galston Gorge, 90 km (60 mi) north.
On 1 November 1993 Sergeant Jeff Trichter found a skull, later identified as that of German tourist Simone Schmindl, who had last been seen hitch-hiking on 20 January 1991. The clothes at the scene did not belong to Simone Schmindl, but to another missing person, Anja Habschied. Habschied and her boyfriend, Gabor Neugebauer, were found in shallow graves on 3 November 1993. They had disappeared on Christmas Day 1991. Oddly, none of the victims had died the same way.
On 13 November 1993, Briton Paul Onions rang the New South Wales police to tell them his extraordinary story. On 25 January 1990 he had been hitch-hiking near Mittagong, New South Wales when a man who said his name was Bill picked him up. As they were driving, Bill pulled a gun and tried to shoot Onions but missed. Onions identified the man from police mugshots on 5 May 1994 as Ivan Milat, a convicted rapist.
Seventeen days later, Milat was arrested by 50 policemen at his home at Cinnebar Street, Campbelltown, New South Wales. In his house was evidence linking him to the attacks. On 30 May he was charged with seven murders.
Berrima, New South Wales, Australia
Milat’s trial opened on 26 March 1996 and lasted four months, before the jury convicted him on 27 July. Milat was given seven life sentences, and six years for the attack on Paul Onions. In 1997 he tried to escape from Maitland Jail and was sent to a high security prison at Goulburn, New South Wales.
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There are some who dispute Ivan Milat’s guilt. However, in July 2001, Judge William Gummow refused an appeal by Milat. He said, “There is no reason to doubt the correctness of the decision by the New South Wales Criminal Court of Appeal.”