Ivan Milat: The evidence, by the late investigator Brian Raven
Picture: Brian Raven wearing a red
top at a Justice Action demonstration against
Guantanamo Bay shortly before
his untimely death.
Brian Raven was a good friend and fellow investigator. Some years ago his body was found in his home in mysterious circumstances; he had been dead some weeks. I have not heard whether there has been a coronial inquiry. At the time of his death Brian was working on exposing corruption in a number of high profile cases. He set up a website regarding the evidence against Ivan Milat. This is Brian's take on the evidence against Ivan Milat.
THE BACKPACKER MURDER CASE
Between 29th December 1989 and April 1992 seven young hitchhikers disappeared off the Hume Highway as they travelled to destinations Australia wide. Three sets of couples were from as far afield as Germany and the UK and one set of couples were Australians attending an environmental rally in the border town of Albury. Two girls, the last disappearances, travelled together. On the 25th /1/1990, another UK hitchhiker was picked up at Casula after departing a train at Liverpool in the far west of Sydney.
The route was the Hume Highway corridor that snaked its way past the Southern Highlands. In proximity to the Belanglo turnoff the man driving the 4WD pulled to the side of the road and produced a weapon, a shot was fired in the ensuing struggle and Paul Thomas Onions fled towards an oncoming vehicle, flagging it down and making good his escape.
An occurrence pad entry would record some particulars of a description and we are led to believe a victims statement was taken. Yet it is not until the later discovery of bodies that authorities are alerted to the prospect of a serial killer. The first statement we are led to believe was lost after it was stored at Bowral police station. The second statement was taken by Task Force Air detectives and contained particulars that were so ample as to lead to one man, Ivan Milat.
Since that time a man has come forward who was also picked up by a man in a 4WD around the same time. (I am trying to find a link to his story).
The arrest of Milat for the Paul Onions offence took place on the 22 May 1994 at his home. Other family properties were searched. Detectives claimed items of property belonging to the backpackers were discovered.
So began one of Australias most controversial prosecution cases, with a large entourage of media that seemed joined in the process of ensuring Ivan Milat was found guilty. Allegations of impropriety by both detectives investigating the case and the crown prosecution case continue to attract major headlines.
On the 17/4/1996 K. Sissons was examined by the defence Terry Martin Q.C. during the backpacker murder trail. She gave evidence of her movement during the period 29/12/89 when she had hitchhiked with Mark Wilson to the Albury Festival. They had traveled the Hume Highway corridor that James Gibson and his girlfriend Ms Everist were also presumed to have travelled. The confest was largely a gathering of environmentalists organised by key green activists and was particularly concerned with with the ongoing forestry protests.
Ms Sisson gave evidence that though she looked for the young couple during her stay there she did not run into them. Gibson and Everist were two Victorians who had traveled up to Sydney to stay with friends at Sydney's Surry Hills. They became the first victims of Belanglo.
By late 1993 the evidence of the findings, coupled with other knowledge pointed to the group aspect. Things like the size of a tree placed over the body of one of the victims. A variety of weapons were used by the perpetrators included guns and knives. The method of the murders needed more than one person to maintain control in such dense terrain.
NOTE: Police from Task Force Air seized a Winchester .22 rifle from murder suspect WMK in 1994. It was said by the police that the Winchester was one of several rifles they were searching for that had been fired in Belanglo Forest. The rifle has never been heard of since.
Manoeuvering the vehicle in this terrain would need more than one person to keep control of the situation. The group aspect becomes clearer when it is known that cigarette butts, empty alcohol bottles were found at the scenes. Ivan Milat did not smoke or drink.
NB DNA found at the scene was tested fairly recently due to advances in technology and was found not to belong to Ivan Milat, any member of his family or any of the victims. Furthermore, DNA found on a recent murder victim matches the DNA found in Belanglo. This means a murderer involved in the Belanglo killings is still out there. Are police making a real effort to find them?
Task Force Air gravitated to placing an individual in the spotlight, building a profile around one person. They were intent on building a case on an individual entirely on the evidence of Paul Thomas Onions. This person of main interest was Ivan Milat and the nexus between these crimes was his criminal antecedent, from when he was a 20 years old young man. The group theory was mainly abandoned in pursuit of a softer target - an individual.
Two years ago one of the young women allegedly abucted by Ivan Milat on the road to Goulburn came forward and apologized to Milat family members for the trouble caused to them. She said that her statements and those of her girlfriend were not true. Yet this case was used by the media to demonise Ivan Milat so that people said It must be true - he's done it before. At the time this case was heard, the magistrate remarked that the evidence of the two women was not truthful. Ivan was found not guilty.
Linked story: Terror on the Hume Highway
A SOUTH COAST POLICEMAN
Information concerning a suspect who had been a policeman on the NSW South Coast and the son of a senior inspector of police, caused a sensation when published in the Sydney Morning Herald during 1997.
There was no denial that he had been an early suspect, yet the question asked, is how he could have entered the suspects list with consideration to his hair colour and other personal particulars. How adequate was the police investigation when investigating one of their own. To have done so should have led to a deeper probe. They had not bothered to collect any of the items his fiancee had claimed were camping items. Among the property his fiancee said did not belong to him was a black leather jacket. She claimed she had identified the jacket from an ABC television special.
The young constable from Corrimal, Adam Brooks, had dressed himself in full uniform and killed himself at the Corrimal police station. Brooks father then gathered up his belongings at his fiancees home except for the black jacket which belonged to Gabor Neugebauer. Later, the fiancee was visited by Task Force Air detectives who told her that Adam was a suspect in the backpacker murder case. Police strangely did not pursue this line of investigation. The detectives were only interested in following up on Ivan Milat.
The serious question remains, if police had confirmed that Brooks was a suspect, and considering Onions original statement, how come a fair haired suspect later transfer to a dark haired man, Milat? Could this be why Onion's first statement disappeared.
Both Paul Onions and the other man picked up on the Hume Highway described a man around 6 feet tall. Clearly this could not have been Ivan Milat.
NSW POLICE VS HARRY BLACKBURN
The investigation was inadequate and shared similarities of policeman Harry Blackburn who was pursued as a suspect in 23 rapes.
A 1991 Royal Commission of inquiry headed By Mr. Justice Lee criticised poor investigation techniques used by police. He found there was fabricated evidence, a suspected media walk before the cameras. Proper DNA handling was lacking. The most disturbing feature was the police identification process and the inclusion of two suspect rapes into the investigation. The two women involved stated that they were coerced by detectives into swearing that Harry Blackburn was their rapist. They had attempted to state otherwise. The majority of the other victims said Blackburn was their attacker, but because of the two false accusers, all identification evidence was thrown out.
Whether or not the two alleged victims of Blackburn should have been heard is now a moot point. Would their evidence made a difference overall?
Harry was cleared and awarded a million dollars in damages.
What chance does a 47 year old road worker have against such forces.
BUNDANOON AND MR. PRYOR
Bundanoon resident Pryor had intimate knowledge of the Belanglo Forest where the victims bodies were discovered. He explained to police that he was looking for firewood at the time. He had stopped his vehicle, and walked between 10 and 15 metres off the road and discovered a skull He alerted another man near the entrance to Belanglo, and police quickly responded to his call.
Pryors alleged search for timber aroused suspicion in the minds of the defence. Bundanoon is situated in an area with firewood in abundance. When pressed, Pryor admitted that he had been in to Belanglo on other occasions, and that recent discoveries had grabbed his interest. Was his visit to the Forest due to something he had heard? Rumors and gossip are rife in such communities.
PAGE 49 OF POLICE NOTEBOOK
Around the time of the attack on Paul Onions, a young man fled from a four wheel drive south of the Belanglo turn off. The vehicle had stopped and he saw 3 men and a woman emerge from the bush. They were armed and coming toward him. He escapes and records the details to Bowral police. Task Force Air later dismiss his evidence as not being relevant to their backpacker inquiries. There is clear evidence that the police were reluctant to embrace the group killer theory. Was Paul Onions a victim of the group and fortunate to escape the tragedy that had happened to the other travellers?
However, this attack is the first inkling placing a woman at the crime scenes. It does go some way to explain the sexual nature inflicted upon some of the victims. Female jewellery had disappeared from the victims. Only commonplace camping items were discovered in later police searches.
THE REAL KILLERS' MODUS OPERANDI
Knowledge of Belanglo was essential for the killers to operate with confidence. They were able to enter and leave the forest at will. They were part of the everyday scene. Local rural residents would not notice anything extraordinary with the comings and goings of what would appear to be ordinary people doing ordinary things.
The Hume Highway running past the forest afforded the perpetrators to trawl for victims north or south of the forest. The pool of vehicles available to them was a bonus in that no single vehicle would stand out for identification purposes.
The key of their operation was that they were organised. One individual would make the trawl for a victim and then deliver that person or persons to a pre-arranged spot to his partners in this grisly enterprise.
One victim, Simone Schmidl was abducted from Albury and taken back to Belanglo. Caroline Clarke and Julie Walters were taken by the gang after they had been alerted that they, Clarke and Walters had a drink with one of the members of the gang at a hotel in Bowral. Anja Habscheid and Gabor Neugabauer were taken as they were returning to Sydney. Gibson and Everist were heading for an environmental protest meeting. They were early victims and it is possible that their philosophy did not find favour with those whose jobs in the forest industry may be in jeopardy. Rural Australia was angry at anyone who supported forestry reform.
At the time of the trial police had photos of the two backpackers which placed them in Albury at the time the witnesses, employees of State Rail, saw them there. Police allowed prosecutor Mark Tedeschi to refute the sightings of the backpackers in Albury and to make out the witnesses were not reliable. This means that police perverted the course of justice. Did Tedeschi know this? As an intelligent man shouldn't he have known the Hilton Bombings were not committed by the accused persons, at the time he prosecuted that crime? If a barrister is aware the evidence he is presenting is likely to be false, does he not have a duty not to present such evidence to the court as 'truth'?
Items from some of the victims were found scattered far from the actual murder sites. Obviously, this was an attempt to throw any possible later investigation into directions other than the forest.
ALEX MILATS STATEMENT
At Easter, 1992, Ivans brother, Alex, contacted Bowral police reporting that he had observed and believed to be suspicious. He stated he had seen two vehicles entering the Belanglo Forest containing as many as seven men and two women. His statement was not treated as serious enough to warrant an immediate investigation.
Later, after the discovery of the bodies, Task Force Air also discredited Alexs statement. Alex strongly believes the girls he saw were Clarke and Walters. Sightings of these victims would become an unusual part of the trial of Milat. The attempts to discredit the sighting by Alex Milat led to his evidence not being thoroughly explored. It led to other sighting witnesses being branded as false sighters or mistaken. The movement of the victims had been theorised by Task Force Air, and that theory, false as it was, would prevail.
Alex Milat had identified two vehicles similar to many he had seen in the area over some time. He had seen one of the vehicles before that Easter sighting. He was disbelieved without good cause.
HONEYMAN AND BURNS EVIDENCE
The examination of Susan Adele Burns and Ms Myrna Honeyman. Their evidence consisted of sightings of the two hitchikers Clarke and Walters. They both had been traveling in the same vehicle on 21st April 1992. They were returning from work and they stopped and gave a lift to the young females. The girls were carrying backpacks. They left them at a service station at the top of Bulli Pass.
Ms Burns would later contact police after seeing a report on the missing girls on television. The time was easy to remember as it was the Easter long weekend when they encountered the girls. This time frame coincided with Alex Milats information.
Police took a statement from them both. No copy of their statement was given to them. Later, a video recorded statement was taken from them and a session with a hypnotist was arranged . They gave descriptions of the hitchhikers dress, accent, and other personal details. Task Force Air was unimpressed as it did not suit their fixation with the scenario they continued to pursue.
Burns and Honeyman were extensively cross examined and their evidence was being challenged that they were guilty of a false sighting. It was vital to the case against Milat that the movements of the backpackers remain within the limited boundaries set by the Paul Onions information.
The local press had been producing stories on the movements of the Backpackers around the Southern Highlands. The Blue Boar Inn at Bowral and a local Moss Vale pub were popular places of interest - but not for the police. I visited these hotels and spoke to staff and customers. Yes, the police had visited these watering holes but they showed little interest in tracing the movements of the victims at relevant times. To suggest that a local or locals would be part of the criminal enterprise did not fit the police hierarchy mind set.
ALBURY STATION SIGHTINGS
Mssrs Bennett and Adams, railway station workers at Albury became according to the crown, another false sighting. They had sighted Simone Schmidl. The sighting of Schmidl occurred on 21 January, 1992. She had been on her way to meet up with her mother in Melbourne. Mr Bennett was adamant in what he saw, and had passed on his sighting to Albury detectives. It took police hierarchy 18 months to respond to the information, when they faxed a poor copy of Simone's photo to Albury. This was remarkable that in such a high profile case they should be so slack. The police did not want,or need, any information that would place the victims out of the boundaries they had set. Another witness, a Mr Lewis, backed up the sighting of Simone. He had seen her at the side of the road at Albury.
Photographs of Simone in Albury confirm these sightings.
The book, Highway to Nowhere, by Richard Shears was an early publication on the backpacker case. He wrote material that had been previously unknown to the public. Shears would divulge that property discovered at Bright Victoria belonged to Simone Schmidl. Items handed to police included a pair of broad rimmed eye glasses and a sleeping bag.
He made reference to Australian police visiting Simone's mother in Germany for the purpose of identifying the glasses. The identification was inconclusive. Only the word of the visiting detectives is available. No statement from Mrs Schmidl was taken.
Simones father was called as a witness at the trial, but no mention of the items found at Bright was ever mentioned. During earlier committal proceedings some attempt was made to ascertain if the items were in fact Simones. If the items were property of the backpacker, it would put a dent in the Liverpool link. Senior detectives denied that such items ever existed. Ivan Milat continues to state that these items were found at his home on the day of his arrest.
The items were found twice: at Bright and then at Ivan Milats home. This can mean only one thing: police planted them there.
Bicycle riders Stephen Mangan and Michael Jones found dumped property belonging to the backpacker Gibson. A Ricoh camera was passed on to police on 31st December, 1989. Backpacks belonging to Gibson and his partner were later found by a motorist and passed on to police.
The significance of these findings was closely similar to the finding at Bright, Victoria. The items were discarded to throw any later investigations away from the Southern Highlands.
The crown attempted to prove that Ivan Milat had been working in the Dural-Galston Gorge area and that he had the opportunity to place the items there. But then, there was the problem of the items discovered at Bright. All of the items were dumped from the police case. The Casula-Liverpool link to the killers was entrenched in the police mind set, that they refused to take into account the possibility they were mistaken. Vital clues and witnesses were being dismissed.
An application by the defence to have trial by a single judge was denied, as was an application to have the Paul Onions matter heard separately. The media laid seige to the court and some protected witnesses were filmed coming to and from the court.
Ian Lloyd Q.C. was replaced by Mark Tedeschi Q.C. after Lloyd had leaked information to the press concerning Milat's past. These matters were a grave concern for the defence team, but should have also been of concern for the administration of justice in NSW.
Only a full enquiry could prove that the police had an agenda directed at Ivan Milat.
To our knowledge the juror who had been threatened was genuinely afraid. The police made very little effort to follow up on this matter.
1. The Benetton top was purchased from a Sydney retail outlet. This evidence was known to both the crown and the defence. The Benetton top worn by Ivan's girlfriend was not of the same design as the one worn by the murder victim.
2. Property belonging to Simone Schmidl were taken from the home of a Ms Murphy at Guildford.
3. Property belonging to Simone Schmidl was found at Bright, Victoria. Some of these items were later re-found (planted) at the home of Ivan Milat.
4. The blue day pack allegedly belonging to Simone Schmidl discovered at Walter Milats home could not have belonged to her. A family photo of the backpack was taken prior to Simones death.
5. Arresting detectives were captured by the television news carrying fully formed cartons into the Milat home.
Where did all the backpacks come from? Caroline Milat says 'Out of the back of a police car.' These backpacks held up in court were in fact new and unused. Police did not even say they were the backpacks belonging to the murdered people. They stated only as each item as held up, This is a backpack SIMILAR to the one owned by...etc.
6. Ivan and Richard Milat explained to police the origin of some items at both their homes.
7. Simone Schmidls mother was not examined nor a statement taken from her regarding certain items.
8. The incompetent handling of the DNA evidence. This was detrimental to the defence case. No description was led as to the colour of the hairs found in the hand of one of the victims.
9. The loss of Paul Onions original statement coupled with the original Joanne Berry statement. These statements were made at separate police stations. Neither the police or the witnesses retained a copy of the original statements. This is suggestive that there was hiding or destruction of these documents.
10. To depict sighting credible witnesses as false was designed to undermine and mislead the evidence that supported a different pattern than the police theory.
11. The police failed to video record the search of the Milat residences. This reflects on the integrity of the police searches.
12. If the second statement by Paul Onions was so credible, why was Ivan Milat not arrested sooner? Indeed, in how did police link an attack on Paul Onions with the Backpacker Murders? There is no proof that there was a definite link. The Paul Onions attack may have been random. There's a huge jump in credibility to believe that 1) Paul Onions was attacked on the Hume Highway 2) Therefore he was an intended victim of the Belanglo murderer.
13. Only one item of evidence was produced with a fingerprint on it. For the police and crown to suggest that Ivan wiped all of the items free of prints or wore latex gloves was ludicrous considering the amount of property concerned.
14. Forensic evidence showed neither the Bowie knife or the blunt sword found at Ivans mothers place could have been used in the attacks on the victims.
15. A vital witness, Jock Pittiway, gave Alex Milat a backpack. PIttiway also gave a trailer load of items to Richard Milat. Pittiway should have been investigated by police.
Police planted the bolt of a Ruger rifle and a Ruger rifle handbook in Ivan Milat's home. An expert employed by police later stated bullets fired through that bolt were the ones found in Belanglo. This is not true. In order to establish which gun a bullet came from you need the BARREL of the gun. Of all the guns belonging to Milat family members not one of them was a murder weapon.
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