Posted: 1/6/2003 9:56:25 PM EDT
Outback killers tortured 10 victims
By Barbie Dutter in Adelaide
THE grisly details of Australia's worst serial killing began to unfold yesterday as a court was told how eight mutilated bodies were discovered dumped in barrels inside the vault of a disused bank in a tiny Outback township.
Police who broke into the locked bank vault at Snowtown, a tiny settlement 100 miles north of Adelaide, found putrid human remains, handcuffs and an electric-shock machine. The victims had either been strangled or asphyxiated, Adelaide magistrates' court heard on the opening day of committal proceedings in what has become known as the "bodies in the barrels" case.
Several were found with gags stuffed in their mouths. Others had ropes around their necks. Feet and limbs had been chopped off and there were burns on some of the bodies. A few days after the barrels were found, two more bodies were dug up from a backyard in a northern suburb of Adelaide, bringing the total number of victims to 10.
John Bunting, Mark Haydon and Robert Wagner are accused of murdering 10 people between December 1995 and May 1999. James Vlassakis is accused of five murders. All four refused to enter a plea.
The killings were allegedly carried out as part of a macabre social security fraud. Most of the eight men and two women killed had close associations - including, in some cases, family ties - with those accused of their murder. Elizabeth Haydon, was a mother of eight married to one of the accused.
Wendy Abraham QC, opening the prosecution case, said the four had collected the welfare benefits and disability allowances of their dead victims. They even impersonated some of those they had killed to conduct banking transactions or to deal with the social security office. Before being murdered, some of the victims were made to repeat scripted phrases, which were taped and left on the answering machines of their relatives and friends to divert suspicion from their disappearance, she said.
Most of the bodies were transported to Snowtown, which has a population of 500, from Adelaide. But David Johnson, the last to die, was murdered inside the bank building after being lured there by Vlassakis, his step-brother, on the pretext of going to buy a computer, it was claimed.
Police broke into the bank vault in May last year after interviewing a couple who were friends of the accused and had, for several weeks, allowed the barrels to be stored in a vehicle parked outside their Snowtown home.
Haydon explained away the foul odour emanating from the barrels by claiming they contained pickled kangaroo parts. The barrels were moved into the vault after the former bank building was leased by Bunting and Haydon in February 1999.
Miss Abraham said: "Once the vault was opened the police were met by a shocking smell from inside. In there were six plastic barrels which the police found contained a number of bodies. Also located in the bank and vault were . . . handcuffs, a set of knives, ropes and tape, a number of rubber gloves and a machine which was capable of giving an electric shock."
The court heard that four of the bodies were found with gags in their mouth held in place by tape wound around the head, and four still had ropes around their necks.
Miss Abraham said: "A number had been dismembered, with legs and feet removed from their bodies, or they had been cut. One had his hands handcuffed behind his back and his legs tied together. More than one of the bodies had marks consistent with burn marks."
The committal proceedings are expected to last several months.
This incident proves once again that firearms are not needed in a civilized society. These serial killers were not hindered in the least by the absence of guns. They still found a way to commit grizzly murders with other, more sensible weapons.
Originally Posted By kpel308:
That's just not right.[:D]