Ivan Milat was convicted of seven murders but now police think he was responsible for one more. The Backpacker Murders took place in the Belanglo State Forest, 2 hours south of Sydney. The bodies of seven missing people, aged between 19 and 22, were discovered partly buried there. Five of the victims were young backpackers on holiday and included 3 Germans, 2 Britons, and 2 Australians.
Croatian-Australian Milat was convicted and sentenced to seven consecutive life sentences plus 18 years. Police handling the case were so incompetent, he would still be out there today, if it wasn't for an Englishman, Paul Onions.
He had been backpacking in Australia several years before and accepted a ride from a man called Bill on 25th January 1980. When Bill pulled a gun on him and tried to tie him up, he escaped and ran for his life down the busy freeway, pleading with someone to stop. Against her better judgement, Joanne Berry did stop and Onions went straight to police and told them what happened.
As the years passed, back in the UK, Onions wondered why he hadn't heard from police in Australia so he rang them and discovered they had lost his report. The entire case was centred around Onion's testimony, who identified Milat as the man who had picked him up.
Although police believe Milat is responsible for many more murders up and down the coast, they can't prove it. But yesterday, former task force commander who led the investigation Clive Small thinks they can now prove there was an eighth victim - Peter Lecher, an 18 year old man Milat killed before turning his attention to young backpackers on holiday, trying to save money by hitchhiking on the freeway, close to where he was working on the roads.
It was on a Friday in November 1987 when Peter Letcher, an unemployed sawmiller, left Sydney to hitchhike to Bathurst, but he never made it. He was stabbed, shot, and covered with branches and left in the Jenolan State Forest, west of Sydney. When he went missing, Milat was working for the Department of Main Roads as a surface sprayer in the Jenolan State Forest area, 160 kms west of Sydney.
After a foiled escape plan, Milat was sent to Supermax in Goulburn. He swallowed razor blades, staples, parts of a toilet, and other metal objects and on 26 January 2009, he cut off his finger with a plastic knife, intending to send it to the High Court. In 2011 he went on a hunger strike and lost 25 kilos because they took his Playstation away.
His home is a 2m x 4m cell with a bunk, sink and toilet and spends 16 to 22 hours of every day alone.
You don't see many backpackers on the freeway looking for a free ride these days, memories of Ivan Milat still linger on.