Three held over hiker killings

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The Independent Online
AUSTRALIAN detectives have arrested three men in connection with the 'backpacker murders', the country's most sensational serial killing. The victims were seven young hitch-hikers, including two British women, whose bodies were found in the dense Belanglo State Forest south of Sydney.

The British victims, Caroline Clarke and Joanne Walters, both 22, were discovered in the forest in September 1992. They had vanished after setting out together from Sydney to hitch-hike to Victoria, apparently to take jobs picking fruit.

Between those discoveries and last November, the forest yielded the remains of five more bodies - of three Germans and two Australians who had gone missing between December 1989 and April 1992. All had been stabbed repeatedly and their bodies covered with twigs and leaves. Clarke and one of the Germans had also been shot with a .22 rifle.

In the past six months the trail had seemed to go cold. But early yesterday hundreds of police raided seven houses in suburban Sydney and towns south of the city.

Superintendent Clive Small, the head of a special task force of 35 detectives investigating the murders, said one of those arrested was a 49-year-old man who had been charged with an armed hold-up on 25 January 1990 near Belanglo Forest.

He was refused bail and is due to appear in court today in Campbelltown, on the outskirts of Sydney.

The other men, aged 38 and 42, were arrested in raids in the town of Hill Top and charged with offences relating to firearms, drugs and deception. They were both released on bail and are due to appear in court late next month in Moss Vale, another town near the Belanglo Forest.

Police said a 24-year-old Englishwoman was helping detectives with their inquiries. She was not identified, but she is reported to have been a tourist who claims to have been abducted at the time of the armed robbery.