When a pair of trail runners discovered the decomposing corpses of Caroline Clark and Joanne Walters buried under sticks and leaves in Belangalo State Forest on Spetember 19, 1992, it was only the beginning of what would eventually result in the capture of Australia's most famed serial killer. Over the next month searchers would discover five more bodies stowed away in the woods of the park, ending the mystery of the disappearances of foot travelers in the area.
The bodies discovered by the runners were identified as Clark and Walters, both of whom were British and traveling together on foot. They had last been seen over five months before. Soon the remains of hitchhikers James Gibson and Deborah Everlist, last seen near the forest in 1989, were found. Almost a month later Simone Schmidl, a hitchhiker who disappeared in January of 1991, was discovered under the now-familiar pile of brush. When a pair of jeans found near Schmidl's body were found to be the property of yet another missing person, the searching continued. Predictably, the jeans' owner, German Anja Habschied, and her boyfriend Gabor Neugebauer were found nearby dead. The young couple had been missing since December of 1991.
Aside from the obvious similarities between the way all the victims had disappeared and been disposed of, their causes of death were a bit dissimilar.Clark had been stabbed in the chest area, Clark had been stabbed and shot in the head several times, Gibson had been repeatedly stabbed, Everist had been slashed in the face in additon to her stab wounds, Schmidl had also been stabbed, Habschied was decapitated, and Neugebauer had been shot in the head five times with the same weapon that killed Walters. The stabbing victims all had a unique injury, though, a stab wound to the upper back that severed the victim's spinal cord and rendered them helpless. Also, many of the victims were partially undressed with their pants buttoned but not zipped. Evidence of crude bondage and strangulation was present in most of the cases.
Authorities were stumped by the case until 1993 when a man named Paul Onions identified Ivan Milat as the person who attacked him after picking Onions up near the forest three years before. Milat and his brother Richard were already suspects in the killings, though police knew that Richard had been at work on the days of the abductions. Ivan Milat was soon charged with Onion's assault and all seven murders. Faced with some very damning evidence at trial Milat feebly tried to explain on the stand that he was the victim of an elaborate set-up perpetrated by his own family. Predictably, he was found guilty on all counts on July 27, 1995, and sentenced to prison for life.
Milat has stated plans to escape at every opporunity but thus far has not made good on the threat. He has, however, attempted to kill himself at least twice after swallowing such materials as razor blades and staples.
In June of 2001 Milat appeared at an inquest into the deaths of three women in 1978 and 1979. Robyn Hickie, 17, Amanda Robinson, 14, and Leanne Goodall, 20, all disappeared from an area north of Sidney under similar circumstances as Milat's known victims. Though Milat attended the inquest, he offered nothing to help investigators and denied having known the women or ever having picked up a hitchhiker in that area.