The Back Packer Murders

Darragh Scully

2004413

Justice and Forensic Science

Jus 3105

Edith Cowan University

Instructor: Wayne Snell


A man picks up a hitchhiker on the highway. They are getting along quite well, talking and laughing, when suddenly the car breaks down. "Damn,Ē says the driver "We'll have to hike through the woods to the garage to get someone to fix it." The hitchhiker commiserates and says, ďWell, these things happen. Let's get going. ďThey are hiking through the woods, when the driver says, ďDid you know these are the Belangelo woods. That murderer cut a guy's head off and buried it under that tree right over there!"Ö They continue through the woods a bit further, and the driver says, "See those bushes over there...Well that's where they found that girl's hands that the killer cut off and threw under there. ďNot long after, the driver says again, "This is where the murderer tied up a Swedish backpacker and cut her throat, while her boyfriend waited in the car." The hitchhiker is unnerved by all this and says "Would you mind not talking about it? You're giving me the creeps!!Ē Giving you the creeps!!" the driver says, ďI have to walk back to the car alone!". (Anonymous)

 

The back packer murders were one of Australiaís finest examples of the art of criminal profiling. It is an example of equivocal evidence analysis which drew on thousands of pieces of evidence that resulted from one of the largest criminal investigations in Australian history. This essay illustrates the way the case evolved and how detectives and Psychiatrists used the investigations strategies available to them to deduce Ivan Milat as there prime suspect. This led to his home being searched and irrefutable evidence being discovered that led him to be charged and then later convicted by a Jury for seven murders and the abduction of another who luckily escaped a similar fate. A number of areas ofthe forensic sciences were used to first gather evidence and then to analyse the evidence and all of these happened at different stages of criminal justice processes though each of them were equally important to the Prosecution process of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

††††††††††† The 7 murders began first with the disappearance of James Gibson and Deborah Everest. They were murdered that day on December 30 1989. They had been bound and both were stabbed numerous times. Gibson had been hog-tied with a pair of tights before being sexually interfered with. Gibson was stabbed in the back and Everist had a fractured skull. Interestingly there were no firearms used in this murder however bullets were fired into a tree approximately 25 metres from the bodies. Only 8 days later it happened again. Paul Onions was abducted while hitchhiking on the Hume highway. Onions managed to escape and reported the incident to the police. However the report didnít make it onto the computer system. Then on March the 13th Wendy Dellsperger found James Gibsonís ruck sack and reported it to the police who didnít feel that it was an important find at that stage.These two events affect the investigation process in the Justice system and will be discussed later given that had this report been taken more seriously the following 5 murders may have been prevented.

On the 24th of January 1990 Simone Schmidl disappeared from the Hume Highway. She was murdered and stabbed in the chest several times from behind. A knife wound to vertebrae number 4 would have caused paralysis however she may have also died from stab wounds to the lungs and heart though the blood didnít splatter it pooled into the chest cavity. Schmidl was gagged however weather or not Milat used Ligatures or not is unknown though this lone victim may have been easy to control without them. She was sexually interfered with by the murderer.On December 26 1991 Gabor Neugebaur and Anja Habshied were hitchhiking and then murdered my Milat. Gabor had been shot in the head. Anja had then been forced to kneel down and was decapitated with a US marineís military sword. Milat then removed the head as a souvenir or did he go back later when the heat was on? April 13 1992 was the day Joanne Davies and Caroline Clarke had been hitching on the highway. Joanne had been strangled with a ligature around her neck and stabbed several times in the back similar to the previous victims. Caroline had been sexually interfered with and had been shot in the head several times and stabbed at least once. Joanne was the first one found on September the 17th 1992. This was the beginning of one of the biggest murder investigations ever.A brief outline of the facts in the investigation can now be viewed in the following time line in table 1 (p. 4-5).


Table 1. The Backpacker Murderer Timeline.

year

month

day

details

1971

April

8th

Two women, Greta and Margaret decided to hitch hike to Sydney.A Gold Ford Fairlane picked them up. Ivan Milat the driver decided to rape them a knife point.

1971

April

9th

At approximately 2 am Greta persuaded Milat to buy a couple of soft drinks. He drove them to Goulburn shopping centre were Greta alerted the show owners who then helped the girls escape. Milat was arrested and charged however he beat the charges and was never convicted.

1977

?

?

Milat allegedly picked up Therese Tran and Mary Treglis at Camden Bridge. Milat took them along the Wombeyan caves road and then attempted to rape them. The girls panicked and struck out at him and escaped. They never reported it to the police until, late 1993 when Therese thong reports it to the task force.

1989

December

30

Last sighting of James and Deborah Everest.

1989

December

31

Michael James finds Ricoh Camera at in Galston Gorge. (didnít report it until 1990, march, 27 see below)

1990

Jan

?

Paul Onions was taken on the Hume Highway by Milat and Milat Held him at gun point. Onions escaped and reported it to Bowral Police. Milat tried to shoot him and missed though he threatened to kill him.

1990

Jan

5

James Gibson reported missing.

1990

march

13

Wendy Dellsperger finds ruck-sack in Galston Gorge with the name and phone number of James Gibson on it.

1990

march

14

Wendy Dellsperger calls James Gibson mom about the Rucksack after police fail to take finding seriously.

1990

march

27

Michael James sees newspaper report about Wendy finding rucksack and calls police to tell them about how he found a Ricoh Camera that belonged to James Gibson.

1990

April

29

Police search Galton gorge and fail to find any further clues.

1991

January

24

Simone Schmidl Disappeared after hitching a ride on Hume highway never to be seen again.

1991

December

26

Anja Habshied and Gabor Neugebaur last seen at the Original Backpackers in Victoria.

1992

April

13

Last Sighting of Joanne Davies and Caroline Clarke (Easter Saturday 1992)

1992

June

17

A missing personís media alert is put out across the nation for Davies and Clarke.

1992

September

17

Davies bodies discovered in Belangelo State Forrest.

1992

September

18

Clarke's bodies discovered in Belangelo State Forrest about 20 metres away.

1993

October

5

Bruce Pryor searches long acre fire trail and finds a femur bone and skull and calls the police. Police identify these as James Gibson and Deborah Everest.

1993

October

18

Alex Milat makes report to police about 2 suspicious vehicles filled with men with guns and 2 women bound and gagged.

1993

November

1

Police search Miners Despair, an abandoned coal mine and discover the remains of Simone Schmidl.

1993

November

4

Rod Lynch sets up the Net Map the computer generated criminal profiling system.

1993

November

4

Dr Bradhurst finishes the autopsy on Simone Schmidl corpse and at similar time receives a call that 2 more bodies were found. Police identified these to be the bodies of Gabor and Anja.

1993

November

13

Paul onions reports how Milat attempted to abduct him on Hume highway. He noted Milat's Merv Huges moustache.

1994

December

10

Therese Throng reports the incident in 1977. The girls identify both Ivan and his brother as the culprits and police decide it wonít stand up in court.

1994

may

 

Evidence being still being processed through Net map

1994

may

22

Police Raid Milatís home in Cinnibar street and uncover many vital clues linking him to the murders.

1994

may

22

Police raid the homes of Ivan Milatís Brothers and the home of Ivan's Mother and discover more evidence linking Ivan to the murders.

Ivan was arrested and charged and the forensic evidence was used to convict him.

Mercer (2002); Whittaker & Kennedy 1998.


In December 1993 Rod Lynch a detective in task force Eyre had set up a special computer system to analyse the murder data. The Milat case had thousands of pieces of information flooding in each day, and how this information related to the murders isnít so obvious and may keep the investigators minds focused on menial evidence analysis and still make no connections. These aberrant activities can be analysed with net map.For example net map may take information regarding offender behaviour and use it to link the offenderís behaviour to the scene. Open ended analysis techniques used to find origin points or behaviour and resting places or outcomes of behaviour is what net map is about. Parameters include important variables such as names, addresses, vehicles, times, dates and locations of all pieces of data. Net map analyses the connections between data sets such as communications, locations, and resting place of evidence. These connections are mapped out along a circle based on the strength of the relationship to a given event allowing better prioritization of leads (Brue, 2004). According to the creator of net map Rob Galloway (Gliddon, 2002); the data is referred to as non-linear data. The Data is ordered and then it produces a Spirograph profile of the data. When an anomaly shows up it is quite obvious to the eye for example, Net map found that Ivan Milat wasnít at work on the days the victims disappeared and that he worked in the area near the Hume highway and in the Belangelo region. The need to use a computer system in such a big case is only apparent when you consider the full extent of the information incoming to investigators. For example on the 4th of November 1993 a toll-free hotline was set up and in the next 24 hours 5119 calls were received with information into the case (Mercer, 1997). The computer system found only 3 that were useful accept instead of making the connection or it taking months or years the connection was made in a matter of days.

Caroline Clarkeís autopsy x-ray revealed spent bullets in her skull. Ten separate entry holes from small calibre weapon (.22) were found. Seven spent bullets were found in the head and skeleton. Dutton (1999) estimated that she had been shot at from 3 directions, left of the head, right side of the head and the back of the head. Six bullets had exited with four separate exit wounds. Two .22 Winchester cases were found metres from Clarkeís body. Metal detectors revealed another 8 cartridges. The Kaisn mechanical sieve procedure on dirt under where Clarkeís head had been found revealed three more spent bullets. (i.e. the three missing at the autopsy). The ten cartridges indicated ejection characteristics of the murder weapon. Comparative macroscopic examination of ten cases and eight bullets said they were fired from the same weapon. This weapon was a Ruger 10/22 Ruger self loading rifle. Weapon identification databases from the FBI give physical characteristics and rifle dimensions and this allows procedures that determine how the steel firing mechanism marks Brass and impressed or striated marks from firing pin, breech bolt face, extractor, ejector and chamber. The firing pin in Milatís Ruger leaves a distinctive crescent shaped mark. Gouge marks on the bullet were consistent with a silencer or other attachment to the barrel. These were likely caused by a misaligned attachment. Two breech face marks on the head of cases were caused by back firing gas that forces the cartridge against the chamber walls and against the bolt face. A number of other marks were also useful. Thus the murder weapon was one of 4.5 million as thatís how many of the Ruger weapon were sold in Australia.

Neugebaur was shot in the head with a small calibre .22. Anja's head was never found however so if she was also shot one can only have a stab! About 165 m south Neugebaur's body a Winchester winner brand .22 cartridge box of subsonic muzzle velocity was found. Subsonic ammunition is used for weapons with silencers. Dutton reports that this is the type of Ammunition produced by Winchester that would match the ammunition used in Clarkeís Murder. Over 100 cases were found in this area of which at-least 50 were the winner brand and had a crescent shaped firing pin impression in them. Comparative macroscopic examination confirmed the weapon used to murder Clarke was used to fire those 50 rounds. The cartridge cases however were badly eroded yet the striated markings on the cases had survived this. Thus a positive comparison was drawn from cases found at the Clarke scene and this one. The firing pin marks were also the same size and shape. The same barrel had been used to fire these rounds. The Eley cases found were analysed. At this stage this ammo had not been associated to any of the murders. The weathering on these cases over two years was scientifically analysed where the brass had weathered similarly to the 50 winner brand cases. This meant to Dutton that another weapon possibly linked to the murderer would turn up because they were left at the scene from the same Texas style target practice session.

Dutton identified the components of a weapon hidden at Milatís home as belonging to a Ruger 10/22 self loading rifle. There was tons of evidence found though some of this evidence was crucial. There was the fired cartridge case found in Milatís bedroom that was discharged from the same gun used to murder Clark and Neugebaurís. Then there was the home made silencer that when tested produced marks similar to the bullets found in Clarkeís head. Test firing some of the cartridges using the bold assembly found in Milatís wall cavity was however the most significant finding of Duttonís investigation. The exhibit bolt assembly was fixed to the Ruger 10/22 rifle from the weapons library. Test firing consisted of firing the bullet into the water recover tank. This tank allows the bullets to be recovered for examination undamaged though it gives pristine markings form being fired through the barrel bore. Dutton was ecstatic at this because he was 100% sure of this finding and believed the markings had been duplicated meaning this was the bolt assembly used to murder Clark and Neugebaur. The findings were thus a positive ID of the breach bolt assembly as fitted to the rifle used in Clarkeís murder. Then there was the Positive ID of cases from two scenes by chamber marks only. The barrel of the rifle however was never recovered. Dutton was not sure about his initial findings with the exception of one so he asked Superintendent Prior who was the Authority on Ruger 10/22 weapons. His findings were similar to Duttonís however he was more confident in that all the findings were more than just consistent they were absolute. He found that all Winchester fired cases from Clarke and Neugebaurís scenes, the single case from Milatís home, the 4 cases from Buxton and the 4 cases from Barallier were all discharged from the same rifle. 2 of the Eley cases from the Neugebaur scene had been fired with the Anschutz bolt assembly found in the search of Milatís brotherís house.††††

When Milatís home was searched a number of other pieces of evidence was found. One item was Simone Schmidl's water bottle. Milat had attempted to conceal the identity of the bottle by scratching out the name. Detectives had noticed that there was scratching and that there was something written there in what appeared to be a felt tip pen however what was written had been obliterated. The technique to detect obliterated writings in such a case is done by and Australian invention, the Poli light (Whittaker & Kennedy, 1998). The Poli light utilized the infra red range of light from the 14 light bands it has in its range. The infra red light was able to detect from the inside of the plastic bottle that absorbed the ink that the bottle had the name Simi encrypted on it. Another piece of evidence was a sash cord with blood on it found in Milatís carport. This piece of cord was identified as the same cord used in the ligatures in the murders. Clarke's parents gave blood and a DNA test produced a positive match. In fact it was stated by Hunt J that the results of the DNA were to be interpreted as positive in that the odds of the blood belonging to another individual was 1 in 185000. This and other evidence was so damning that the Jury returned 8 guilty verdicts (for more evidence see appendix). Milat is now serving 7 consecutive life sentences and will be imprisoned for the rest of his natural life. He still insists he was set up and is innocent.

Clearly Milat is an evil man. There was a time when evil people would be executed. Milat was given the opportunity to write in a column and he made a fatal error. This is what he wrote "When working alone in the open, a medium sized backpacker can be restrained easily by using a clove-hitch around the neck, running the rope along side the flank and forming a double loop tie-off under the left foot. The backpacker can then be easily brought to ground for subsequent sadistic rituals by pulling on the rope at a 45 degree angle". Milat plagiarised the work as well and changed some of the words to fit his fantasy. In years past Milat would have gotten the death penalty. Now the Justice system takes at least $265 per day from the tax payer to keep this person in prison and as if the initial investigation didnít cost enough as it was. Clearly this is an amazing piece of forensic science.

 

References

 

Brue, D. (2004) Magna Data: An Australian scientist leads the way in linking reams of data to fight crime. The bulletin: news week April 21st

 

Dutton, G., (1999) Belangelo Forest 'Backpacker' murders: forensic firearms evidence. Australian Police Journal, 53(3) Sept 1999; 145-173.

Gliddon, J (2002) Non-linear rhythm. The bulletin: news week January 16.

 

Mercer, N. (2002) Fate: Inside the backpacker murders investigation. Sydney: Random House.

 

Whittaker, M and Kennedy, L. (1998) Sins of the Brother: The definitive story of Ivan Milat and the Backpacker Murders.Australia: McMillan

 

The Bug: Milat sacked as bug columnist http://www.thebug.com.au/milat.html (cached)

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