Milat had been convicted of several crimes throughout his life before his convictions for the murders of seven people in Australia. As one of fourteen children, discipline wasn’t instilled in any meaningful way because of his parents’ difficulty in raising such a large family. As children, He and his brothers repeatedly found themselves in trouble with law enforcement. The crimes eventually grew in seriousness as he grew older, to include unlawful entry, car thefts, and armed robberies.
In 1971, Milat was charged with the rape of two hitchhikers who say he held a knife on them as he committed the crime. Though there was evidence against him, the prosecution couldn’t establish a convincing case against him, which resulted in his acquittal.
It is unknown how many people he had killed before his conviction, but in what may have been a close first, Paul Onions was hitchhiking across Australia in 1990 in search of work when Milat picked him up. Milat eventually pulled a revolver out and threatened to kill him if he didn’t listen to what he had to say. Onions ran away and was picked up by another car that took him to safety.
Two of Milat’s first known victims, British backpackers Caroline Clarke and Joanne Walters, were found killed. Both women had been stabbed several times, and Walters was stabbed in a way that severed her spine, effectively paralyzing her. Evidence showed that after Milat severed her spine, he continued to attack her. Clarke was also stabbed repeatedly, and had also been shot in the head ten times. At the time of the discovery of the murders, police were unable to find the man responsible.
In October 1993, two more bodies were found. Post-mortem examinations revealed that the killings were connected with the two British backpackers found the year before. The two newly discovered victims had been stabbed repeatedly. Like Walters, the victims’ spines were cut, which would have paralyzed them as Milat continued his assault.
A mere month later, yet another victim of the serial killer was found, and had a severed spine as well, which showed police that they were, indeed, dealing with a serial killer.
Only three days later, two more victims were found. The male was killed by strangulation and gunshots, whereas the woman was missing her skull completely and police deduced a machete or a sword had chopped it off. It was only after these last two victims were found that the police admitted to the public they were searching for a serial killer.
Paul Onions came forward when he heard about the murders. After he identified Milat as his attacker, police raided Milat’s house and found sufficient evidence, such as sleeping bags and clothing belonging to the victims, to charge him with the murders. Also found in Milat’s home was a large, curved sword that investigators believed was the weapon used to behead one of Milat’s victims.
Milat pleaded not guilty for the seven murders and the assault on Paul Onions for which he was being charged.
In 1996, Milat was found guilty of all seven murders and the attack on Onions, and received seven consecutive life sentences. Milat maintains his innocence to this day.
In 1997, Milat masterminded a plot to escape from prison, but his plan failed.
Milat is suspected in the killings of six other women, but at this time no charges have been filed due to insufficient evidence.
Interestingly, Milat’s lawyer during the trial, who Milat fired when he suggested Milat plead guilty to the charges, said on his deathbed that Milat was aided by a female accomplice in the killings of the British backpackers.