The face of serial killer Ivan Milat

The face of serial killer Ivan Milat - from the cover of my book Highway to Nowhere

On one of the many times I visited the Belanglo State Forest, south of Sydney, Australia, a priest stood in a shaft of sunlight in September 1992 and told a small group of people, including the parents of two British women whose bodies had been found there, that they had gathered to cleanse away evil.

Something wicked  had happened there, but evil, said the priest, did not have the last word. No-one knew that not far away the bodies of five other young backpackers lay undiscovered – until they were found a year later. But that, police were convinced, was all. Road worker Ivan Milat was arrested, convicted and sentenced to seven life sentences.
But evil has persisted. Another body has been found. The skeleton of a woman. The forest is refusing to allow us to forget Milat’s deeds, although we do not know yet whether this still-unidentified person is another of  his victims.
From his jail cell Milat, now 65, is taunting police by refusing to reveal whether he has a hand in the death of the woman, whose body was found just outside a vast area that police had searched in the early 90s after the last of his seven victims had been found.
The priest’s ceremony among the trees all those years ago had been conducted for the memory of Milat’s latest captives, British women Joanne Walters and Caroline Clarke, both 22. Lying undiscovered for another year were the bodies of James Gibson and Deborah Everist from Melbourne; Gabor Neugebauer and Anja Habschied from Germany; and Simone Schmidl, also from Germany.
Milat was eventually arrested after British backpacker Paul Onions managed to escape from his vehicle and give police details of his attacker – although it was several months before they moved in on Milat’s house and took him into custody.
Police always suspected Milat had killed more people who have been
reported missing, but no other bodies were found in the Belanglo
forest – until the dramatic discovery last Sunday of yet another skeleton by a group of trail-bike riders.
Local detectives have formed Strike Force Hixson to investigate the
discovery and are being assisted by the New South Wales Homicide
‘The investigation is still in its infancy and it’s early days and
far too soon for us to know exactly what’s happened,’ said
Superintendent Quarmby.
‘Obviously there is a lot of speculation surrounding this discovery
but we definitely will not be jumping to conclusions. There are many
lines of investigation to explore.’
And so we wait. We wait for the autopsy, we wait for an identification, we think of the family and friends who will eventually learn that the woman in the forest is one of theirs. And we wonder, too, if the forest will offer up even more of its dead…