Three men committed to trial over bodies­in­barrels case

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The Independent Online

Three men charged with carrying out one of Australia's most gruesome mass killing sprees were ordered to stand trial Wednesday on 10 counts of murder.

Eight bodies were found stuffed into acid­filled plastic barrels in May, 1999 in a disused bank vault in Snowtown, 150 kilometers (90 miles) north of Adelaide, and two other bodies were found buried in the garden of an Adelaide house. It became known as the "bodies­in­barrels" case.

During a pretrial hearing, prosecutors said the victims were all either friends or relatives of the accused and had been suffocated or strangled. Many were dismembered after death, prosecutors said.

The accused had allegedly formed schemes to fraudulently collect the victims' welfare checks after their deaths.

John Justin Bunting, 34, Mark Ray Haydon, 42, and Robert Joe Wagner, 29, were each found to have a case to answer on 10 counts of murder after a seven­month pretrial hearing in the Adelaide Magistrates Court.

A fourth man, James Spyridon Vlassakis, 21, last month pleaded guilty in the Adelaide Supreme Court to four of the 10 murders and was sentenced to life in prison.

Magistrate David Gurry remanded the three accused in custody to appear in the Adelaide Supreme Court on Aug. 13.

Before the decision, lawyers for Bunting and Wagner said it had not been shown that their clients had a case to answer in respect to any of the charges. Counsel for Haydon argued that he had no case to answer in respect to two of the counts.