Sydney's `serial killer' on trial

Sydney (Reuter) - An Australian court will begin selecting a jury amid tight security today for the trial of a Sydney roadworker accused of committing the country's most notorious serial killings.

Ivan Milat, 51, is charged with the murder of seven young backpackers, including two British and three German tourists, whose mutilated remains were found buried in a forest 60 miles south-west of Sydney between September 1992 and late 1993.

All the victims were repeatedly stabbed or shot in the head and their bodies dumped in the Belanglo State Forest. Their murders shocked the nation and sparked a massive police investigation that led to Mr Milat's arrest in May 1994

A court source said tight security would be in place for the trial and metal scanners would be used at public entrances to the court building.

Mr Milat has pleaded not guilty to murdering Joanne Walters and her British friend Caroline Clarke, both 22; Germans Simone Schmidl, 20, Gabor Neugebauer, 21 and Anja Habschied, 20; and Australians James Gibson and his girlfriend Deborah Everist, both 19.

He also denies kidnapping an English hitchhiker who told a preliminary hearing in late 1994 that Mr Milat drove him to the edge of the Belanglo forest in 1990 and held him at gunpoint before he escaped.

The Englishman, who may not be identified, is the prosecution's star witness. No witness to the murders has been found.

The trial is expected to be one of Australia's longest murder hearings and will begin with the task of choosing a jury able to devote six months to the case.

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