Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Ivan Milat: The Last Ride

One Man's Obsession

Bruce Pryor had been into the Belangalo forest many times over the years collecting firewood. It had become a special place for him. He knew many of the trails, yet there were still many parts of it that he had not seen.

As a local, he had been watching the reports of the killings with more than a passing interest and, as a parent, he felt deeply for the families of the girls. He couldnt clear it from his mind and during many trips to the forest he found himself searching areas that he hadnt been to before without knowing why.

The official search had been called off many months before and the investigation was almost non-existent. The last mention of the case had been a public meeting in the Bowral Town Hall that had been organised by police as a means of jogging the memories of local residents, as they still believed that the killer lived close to the forest. The meeting mentioned other young backpackers who were still unaccounted for. For days after, the thought of more young bodies in the forest tormented him, interrupting his work and his sleep.

He set out one morning with no real intention of going to Belangalo but found himself drawn to the area. He turned down a track that he had been to before but instead of driving to the end of it as he usually did, he turned into a small side track called the "Morice Fire Trail." He drove down it and came to a "T" intersection. He knew the right arm led to a track called "Cearlys Exit Fire Trail," but he had never been down the left hand track. The track soon opened up onto a bare rocky area. To one side of it was a small fireplace, built from bush rocks.

He got out of his vehicle and wandered slowly around the area still not sure of why he was there. In a clearing about 150 feet from his car, he stopped and stared at the ground, his heart pounding in his chest. There at his feet was a large bone. It looked human. He shook his head trying to think clearly; maybe it was from a kangaroo. Tentatively he lifted the bone and measured it against his own thigh; it was the same length. One end of the bone had teeth marks on it; maybe it was an animal bone. He lay the bone back down where he had found it and walked further ahead.

He walked up an incline scanning the ground hoping to find the rest of a kangaroo skeleton. At the top of the ridge, he turned and walked back to his car but changed direction slightly, walking through an area overgrown with weeds. A flash of white caught his eye. Parting the tangled undergrowth, he saw a sight that raised the hair on the back of his neck.

The lifeless eye sockets of a human skull stared up at him. It was small, possibly an older child or a female. Part of the lower jaw was broken away and, as he looked closer, he saw a thin cut in the forehead. It looked like a knife wound.

He was unsure what to do next. Afraid that no one would believe him, he took the skull back to his car and wrapped it in a cloth and drove out of the forest. As he neared the entrance, he saw a vehicle near a small hut that was used by the orienteering club. Bruce approached the hut and spoke to John Springett, a local builder who was doing maintenance on the hut. "Do you have a phone here?" He asked. "I have a mobile in the truck, why whats up?" Bruce told him of his discovery. "We better call the police." John got a phone book from the clubhouse and Bruce rang Bowral Detectives. He got no answer. He tried the police station instead. "Ive found parts of a skeleton in Belangalo forest," he told them.

Half an hour later, two uniformed officers arrived at the hut. "What have you got for me?" one of them asked. "Its in the car," Pryor answered. He led them to his vehicle and unwrapped his find. The young constable, obviously the one who had taken the call, seemed surprised that it really was a skull. He placed a radio call to the duty detectives, Peter Lovell and Steven Murphy, who arrived shortly after. They asked Pryor to show them where he had found the skull.

After studying the area for a short time, Detective Murphy walked further on. 120 feet into the forest, he stopped and looked down. He walked back to where his partner stood talking to Bruce Pryor about the skeleton. "Theres a pair of sandshoes sticking out of a pile of brush back there," he declared casually. They both looked warily at Pryor, curious as to why he came to this particular location. Several radio calls later, the search was back on.