Milat gets seven life terms for backpack murders - World - News - The Independent

Milat gets seven life terms for backpack murders

Four years after the bodies of Caroline Clarke and Joanne Walters were found in the Belanglo State Forest, south of Sydney, Ivan Milat, a 51-year-old road worker, was found guilty yesterday and sentenced to seven life prison terms for the murders of the two British women and five other young backpackers. Milat was sentenced to a further six years for kidnapping Paul Onions, another British hitch-hiker, who escaped after being threatened with a gun in 1990.

The British women's parents, Ian and Jacqueline Clarke from Northumberland, and Ray and Jillian Walters from Wales, gasped as the verdicts on Australia's most gruesome serial killings, the "backpacker murders", were pronounced in the New South Wales Supreme Court after the jury of seven men and four women had deliberated for more than four days. An eighth man on the jury withdrew after he received a death threat from a man who said: "If you find him guilty you're dead."

The Clarkes, the Walters and the families of the other backpacker victims, three from Germany and two from Australia, had sat through the trial since it began in March, during which the details of their children's violent deaths in the forest were recounted in chilling detail.

Yet, as they prepared to fly back to Britain yesterday, the Clarkes and Walters were left with the knowledge that Milat was almost certainly not the sole killer. Mr Justice David Hunt, the presiding judge, accepted the prosecution's case that Milat probably acted with an accomplice. Sentencing, the judge said the case against Milat was overwhelming, and that any other verdict "would have flown in the face of reality".

The judge added: "The jury's verdicts mean that the prisoner was involved, either alone or in company, in a criminal enterprise to pick [the backpackers] up and then to murder them all. In my view, it is inevitable that the prisoner was not alone in that criminal enterprise."

Mr Clarke said he found disturbing the prospect that another killer could be still on the loose. "If it's the case that another murderer hasn't been caught, we have the awful prospect that there is someone else on the streets who should not be on the streets," he said. "There is a clear message to backpackers that it isn't as safe as they think it is."

Mr Clarke urged other backpackers not to be deterred by what happened to his daughter. "Our kids were desperately unlucky," he said. "Ninety- nine per cent of backpackers have a wonderful time. Keep coming, but be careful."

The question now is whether police will declare the case closed or continue their search for a second killer. Suspicion still centres on the Milat family. Ivan Milat is the fifth oldest in a family of 14, of Yugoslav origin, some of whose members live in the suburbs on the south-west outskirts of Sydney, near where the backpackers were picked up as they hitched lifts along the Hume Highway, the main trunk road linking Sydney and Melbourne.

During the trial, Terry Martin, Milat's barrister, argued that Milat was not the killer, but that whoever it was "must be in the Milat family or so closely related to it that it doesn't much matter". He suggested that it was more likely to be Milat's two younger brothers, Richard, 40, a labourer, or Walter, 44, a building tradesman, or both of them. The pair denied being involved.

The Milat brothers are gun-lovers. Between them, they amassed an arsenal of weapons and crates of ammunition.

Onions became a vital witness when he identified Milat as the man who picked him up then threatened him with a gun on the Hume Highway in January 1990. In the end, though, most of the circumstantial evidence that police uncovered pointed to Milat. The bolt and trigger assembly of a Ruger 10/22 semi-automatic rife, used to shoot Miss Clarke and one of the German victims, was found hidden in a wall cavity of Milat's house.

Lying around the same house, police also found a water bottle, a cooking set and a sleeping bag that belonged to Simone Schmidl, another German victim. Perhaps the most telling evidence was found when police raided Milat's garage and arrested him in May 1994: a pillow case containing sash cords, similar to those with which the bodies in the forest had been tied up, and one of them stained with the blood of Ms Clarke.

Miss Clarke, 21, and Miss Walters, 22, both nannies, became travelling companions in Australia in 1992. Both kept in touch with their parents in Britain by phone. The calls stopped after 18 April 1992, when they left a backpackers' hostel in inner Sydney to hitch-hike south. Their bodies were found in the Belanglo forest five months later. Miss Clarke had been shot 10 times in the head and Miss Walters had been stabbed 14 times.

Milat's other victims met their deaths in a similar manner: being picked up on the Hume Highway, overpowered, driven into the forest and then disposed of, probably after being tortured. Australians James Gibson and Deborah Everist, both 19, were stabbed. Miss Schmidl, 21, was stabbed. German Anja Habschied, 20, was decapitated and her boyfriend, Gabor Neugebauer, 21, was strangled and shot.

Mr Justice Hunt was apparently shaken by the case. Before pronouncing sentence yesterday, his voice faltered as he said: "They would obviously have been absolutely terrified and death is unlikely to have been swiftly applied. It is perhaps possible to imagine a worse case, but these murders must unhesitatingly be labelled as falling within the worse class of case."

News
Paper trail: the wedding photograph found in the rubble after 9/11 – it took Elizabeth Keefe 13 years to find the people in it
newsWho are the people in this photo? It took Elizabeth Stringer Keefe 13 years to find out
Arts and Entertainment
Evil eye: Douglas Adams in 'mad genius' pose
booksNew biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Sport
FootballFull debuts don't come much more stylish than those on show here
News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Kim Kardashian drawn backlash over her sexy swimsuit selfie, called 'disgusting' and 'nasty'
fashionCritics say magazine only pays attention to fashion trends among rich, white women
Arts and Entertainment
TVShows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Arts and Entertainment
Hit the roof: hot-tub cinema east London
architectureFrom pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
Travel
travel
News
The ecological reconstruction of Ikrandraco avatar is shown in this illustration courtesy of Chuang Zhao. Scientists on September 11, 2014 announced the discovery of fossils in China of a type of flying reptile called a pterosaur that lived 120 millions years ago and so closely resembled those creatures from the 2009 film, Avatar that they named it after them.
SCIENCE
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Matisse: The Cut-Outs exhibition attracted 562,000 visitors to the Tate Modern from April to September
art
Life and Style
Models walk the runway at the Tom Ford show during London Fashion Week Spring Summer 2015
fashionLondon Fashion Week 2014
News
Kenny G
news
News
peopleThe black actress has claimed police mistook her for a prostitute when she kissed her white husband
Life and Style
techIndian model comes with cricket scores baked in
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SEN Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Bristol: Supply special needs assistants Jobs i...

Nursery Nurse

£7 - £8 per hour: Randstad Education Bristol: Nursery nurse jobs in Chippenham...

Science Teacher required for a lovely Ramsgate Secondary School

Competitive Salary: Randstad Education Group: Randstad Education is working in...

SEN Teacher

£120 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Are you an SEN Teacher loo...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week