Ivan Milat is on his last legs. Earlier this month it was revealed that the 74-year-old man colloquially known as the Backpacker Killer has been diagnosed with terminal oesophagus and stomach cancer. His nephew, Alistair Shipsey, claims Milat has only a few weeks left to live. And New South Wales police are hoping to use that time to finally get some answers from the convicted serial killer, Australian Associated Press reports.
Milat was transferred from the Prince of Wales hospital in Randwick, east Sydney, to Long Bay jail in the city's south-west this afternoon: seated in a cage in one of two identical four-wheel drives while a New South Wales police helicopter hovered overhead, according to The Guardian. The convoy reportedly sped into Long Bay correctional complex without stopping. The high-risk prisoner will likely spend his final days in a secure ward at the Long Bay prison hospital.
It’s understood that NSW police were preparing to interview Milat about several crimes and unsolved homicides before he dies. The former road worker first came to the attention of authorities in the early 90s, when the bodies of two British tourists—Caroline Clark and Joanne Walters—were found decomposing in Belanglo State Forest, New South Wales. The bodies of five more victims—including German backpackers Simone Chmidl, Anja Habschied and Gabor Neugebauer, and Australian couple James Gibson and Deborah Everist—were subsequently discovered in 1993. And on May 22, 1994, Milat was hauled from his house in Eagle Vale, south of Sydney, and charged with murder. He later received seven life sentences—one for each victim.
Milat has always maintained his innocence, however, and never confessed to the string of murders for which he was convicted. As recently as May 1, he signed off letters to relatives with the signature “Ivan the innocent,” The Australian reports. Now though, with varying estimates being made as to how long he has left to live, NSW police are planning to interrogate Milat in the event that he changes his stance before he dies. Former NSW police assistant commissioner Clive Small, for one—the officer who led the taskforce that ultimately captured the killer—has publicly urged police to try and speak to him.
Milat has been linked to a string of unsolved cold cases, including the murder of 18-year-old Peter Letcher who was found dead in the Jenolan State Forest in January 1988. He’d been shot five times in the head, and the method of murder and disposal bore a striking resemblance to Milat’s other victims that were found in Belanglo State Forest. Last month, Peter’s father was contacted by the NSW Forensic and Analytical Science Service, who requested a meeting and suggested that his son’s murder would be reassessed.
There are suspicions that Milat was also involved in two other murders: that of 20-year-old Keren Rowland, who was found dead in a pine plantation in Canberra in 1971; that of 29-year-old hitchhiker Dianne Pennacchio who was found dead in the Tallaganda State Forest in 1991. Detectives investigating the Milat murders further identified 43 missing persons and 16 unsolved murders with similarities to the Peter Letcher case.
While police and the victims’ families cling to the hope that Milat will provide closure in his final days, however, many detectives past and present believe there’s almost no chance he’ll confess. Nonetheless, Corrective Services Commissioner Peter Severin told media this afternoon that he would "absolutely" facilitate the process of police speaking to Milat about some of his crimes.
"If police approach us for any reason to talk to prisoner Milat, or any other prisoner, we of course facilitate that," he said. "I personally would be very keen for Mr Milat to come forward with the information that he is still refusing to share with the people of New South Wales and the larger Australian community."
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