With the recent made-for-television series, Catching Milat, Australia’s most prolific serial killer, Ivan Milat, has come back into the spotlight once more. The TV series is so popular, in fact, that Catching Milat, the story of Australia’s worst serial killer, recently beat the popular Eurovision 2015 contest when they went head to head on Sunday, May 24, according to SBS.
Milat was convicted of killing seven people between 1989 and 1992, five international backpackers visiting Australia and two Australians visiting New South Wales from Melbourne, Victoria. His victims were eventually discovered in graves across the Belangelo State forest, situated just 15 kilometers (9.3 miles) from the town of Berrima. As a result of this, Milat became known as the Backpack killer. Ivan Milat was eventually sentenced to seven consecutive life sentences as well as 18 years without parole, and is currently serving this time in the Goulburn Supermax jail.
Australian crime writer Amanda Howard has actually exchanged letters with Ivan Milat over a twenty-year period as she sought to delve into how the mind of a serial killer works. Howard first started corresponding with serial killers when she was in university, studying criminology. When she came up against information about serial killers during her degree that she knew was incorrect, she took the advice of a teacher and “went straight to the source.” Milat is not the only serial killer Howard has corresponded with, with her having penned letters to several across the globe. However, with Catching Milat recently screening on Australian television, her expertise has come to the forefront once more.
While Milat is considered Australia’s worst serial killer, Amanda Howard actually calls him a “thrill killer” since he would prey on victims opportunistically. When he came across victims, he would take them to the Belanglo State Forest in New South Wales, Australia, release them, and then hunt them down like animals.
Over the years, Ivan Milat has always claimed he is not a serial killer, protesting his innocence in the seven murders he was convicted of, something Amanda Howard has spoken in detail with him about. In fact, Howard believes that Milat is so convinced of his innocence, he would pass a lie detector test.
While Milat murdered most of his victims, one did escape the serial killer’s clutches. Paul Onions, an English backpacker, managed to escape from the serial killer and it was his statement to police later that helped in catching Ivan Milat in 1994. According to Australian magazine Woman’s Day, another couple also managed to wriggle free from the serial killer. Silvana and Michael were sleeping in their campervan in a Sydney car park when Ivan Milat knocked on their vehicle, posing as a police officer. When Milat told them to stay in their car while he walked back to his vehicle, Silvana didn’t trust him and insisted they flee the scene. If it had not been for her gut instinct, this couple may have also found themselves victims of the serial killer.
“This guy was so intimidating. He made you believe you had done something wrong. It was all about power and control.”
However, Catching Milat, while based on historical evidence of the serial killer, has been criticized by some police members as being historically inaccurate. Former assistant police commissioner Clive Small recently told a local radio station newspaper about many of the discrepancies he found.
“I can tell you that quite a number of the people on the taskforce and quite a lot of other people that were associated were very upset. And I think the show has also shown a fair deal of disrespect to the family and friends of the victims and I think that’s a bit unnecessary and upsetting.”
Regardless of how accurate the made for TV series Catching Milat was, it still managed to bring to light the chilling story of one of Australia’s worst serial killers.
Catching Milat has completed its screening on Channel 7 in Australia, but you can still view it via Yahoo! 7 TV.
[Image via Herald Sun]