Ivan Milat: The Last Ride
The first item found in Ivans house was a postcard. He was asked who it was from. He replied that it was from a friend in New Zealand. It began with the words, "Hi Bill." Ivan was asked if he was also known as "Bill." He replied, "No, it must have been a mistake." When a bullet was found in one of the bedrooms, police asked Ivan if he owned any firearms. He said that he didnt. When asked about the bullet, he said it was left from when he went shooting with his brother. The rooms were searched one at a time. In the second bedroom, two sleeping bags were found in a wardrobe. They were later identified as belonging to Simone Schmidl and Deborah Everist.
In one of the other bedrooms, a bag was found containing several personal items that indicated that it was Ivans workbag. He confirmed that fact to police. Also in the bag was a Bowie-style knife, 12 inches long. In the same bedroom was a technical manual for the road-making machine that Ivan operated at work. Inside it was a small book that sparked Duttons interest. It was an owner's instruction manual for a Ruger .22 caliber rifle. Ivan refused to comment on the find.
A photo album contained a photograph of a Harley Davidson motorcycle and a holster. In the holster was what looked to Dutton like a Colt .45 handgun. It was the type that Onions had described. A box of .45 ammunition was later found in Ivans bedroom. One other framed photograph showed Chalinder Hughes wearing a striped Benneton top. It was identical to a top that Caroline Clarke owned.
The garage, which was attached to the house, was next. On a rack of portable shelving against a wall, a nylon sleeping bag cover was found. It contained a rolled tent. Wrapped around the tent was a purple headband identical to the one found around Simone Schmidls skull. Also in the bag was a homemade silencer. When Milat was taken into the garage and asked about the bag, he stated that he had never seen it before.
The ceiling of the garage had a "man-hole" which opened into the roof cavity. One team member climbed a ladder to search it. Nothing was found until the insulation material was removed. Tucked inside one of the wall cavities was a plastic bag. It contained what looked like gun parts. Dutton was summoned and identified the parts as being a complete breech block assembly, a trigger and a magazine. All were from a Ruger .22 rifle. Another object was below it in the cavity but was beyond reach. Finally, after unsuccessfully trying to retrieve it, police resorted to cutting a hole in the adjoining wall and found that it was the rotary magazine from the same weapon.
Milat was taken from the house and conveyed to Campbelltown police station where he was questioned. The entire interview was recorded on both video and audio tape. During the interview, Milat was evasive and uncooperative. The interview finished an hour later and Ivan was then charged with the robbery and attempted murder of Paul Onions.
Back at his house, police had found electrical tape, cable ties and a bag of yellow and blue ropes similar to those found at the crime scenes. After searching more thoroughly inside a bedroom wardrobe, another part of the Ruger rifle was found hidden inside a leather work boot.
More camping and cooking equipment was found in the kitchen pantry, belonged to Simone Schmidl. The police had hoped that they would find some evidence linking Milat to the murders, but were completely unprepared for the amount of property that was found.
As the search progressed, more items came to light: a camera, which proved to be Caroline Clarke's and a water canteen which had a scratched area on it as though a mark had been erased. Later, subjected to light analysis, the name "Simi" could be clearly seen. A fully loaded Browning automatic pistol was found wedged under the washing machine.
At the other locations, more evidence was found. Rifles, shotguns, knives, crossbows and an incredible amount of ammunition. Nearly all the camping gear belonging to the victims was found in the raids. The most disturbing find of all was unearthed in a locked cupboard in the house of Margaret Milat, Ivans mother. A long curved cavalry sword.
Gerald Dutton, the ballistics expert, had been working on the case since the first fired cases and bullets had been recovered from the forest. He worked long hours examining all the ballistic evidence and was eventually rewarded for his diligence. The fired cases and several of the bullets matched the Ruger .22 rifle that was found in Ivan Milats home.
Ivan Robert Marko Milat was charged with the murders of the seven backpackers and was committed to stand trial. At a bail hearing, several weeks after the arrest, Ivan dismissed his lawyer after being advised by his counsel to plead guilty. Ironically it was the same lawyer that had won him an acquittal during the 1971 alleged rape trial. The trial was set down for June 1995. But Ivan Milat did not stand trial in June. In fact it was almost a year before the case came to court. It was delayed while Milats lawyers argued with the state's Legal Aid office over their rate of pay. Eventually they accepted the original offer and were ready to go to trial.