The Snowtown Murders
Key Player Profiles
At the time of writing, Chart police remain cautious in releasing information. One suppression order hanging over the case still prevents public identification of one victim. However, mostly through the recollections of neighbours and relatives, sketches of a few key personalities have already developed.
Though little has so far come to light about John Bunting, back stories have emerged for alleged co-offenders Mark Ray Haydon and Robert Wagner, along with some insights into alleged victims Elizabeth Haydon and Barry Lane.
Mark Haydon had lived with his father in Elizabeth East, a northern suburbs address only a few kilometres away from the 'death house' at Waterloo Corner Road, Salisbury. The Haydons had lost Mark's only brother in a car accident years earlier. Neighbours remembered Haydon as a "quiet person" who used the name Mark Lawrence and often spent time working on his car. While apparently unemployed, Haydon enjoyed frequent and numerous visitors, many of them "rough and rugged." Nonetheless, neighbours said, the Haydons' address was never noisy or disruptive.
Around 1995, alleged victim Elizabeth Sinclair moved in with the Haydons, becoming Mrs Elizabeth Haydon some two years later. A neighbour's impression of her was "a bit slow, but...happy-go-lucky.."
Mr Haydon senior left the Elizabeth East address in 1998. His son told neighbours that he'd gone into a nursing home. Since learning of the Snowtown case and its alleged financial motivation, the same neighbours have asked police to verify the aged Mr Haydon's whereabouts.
In September 1998 Mark Haydon sold the run-down house to a developer and moved to Smithfield Plains, a neighbouring northern suburb. It was from that address, late last year, that Mrs Elizabeth Haydon disappeared.
On Sunday evening, the 22nd of November 1998, Mark Haydon arrived at the home of Elizabeth's brother Garion Sinclair. Garion and his wife Rae, who lived about 5 kilometres south of the Haydon's home in Smithfield Plains, had been hosting Elizabeth's sons, aged 11 and 12 respectively, for the weekend. The Sinclairs had anticipated both the Haydons collecting the children, but Mark came alone.
Before removing the boys, Haydon allegedly told Garion Sinclair that following an argument on the weekend, Elizabeth had left him. The following day, he claimed that his wife had run off with "one of her boyfriends" to places unknown, after taking money from her husband and father-in-law's joint bank account. In a third retelling to Garion a few days later, Haydon allegedly stated that after visiting his father in the nursing home, he'd returned to his house to find that Elizabeth had disappeared.
The only consistency throughout these alleged accounts, was Haydon's disinterest in reporting his wife's supposed flight, act of theft, or disappearance to the police. Garion and Rae Sinclair weighed the 3 contradictory stories against what they knew of Elizabeth, and grew suspicious. On November 25th, 1998, Garion Sinclair filed a missing persons report with Adelaide police, adding pieces to a jigsaw puzzle he knew nothing about.
In addition to Mark Haydon's suspect accounts of her departure, Elizabeth's history and circumstances in 1998 also make Garion's reaction understandable. Elizabeth Haydon was born as Verna Sinclair, the youngest child of six. Family members have related that she had a difficult life. A series of unhappy relationships -most of them short - left Elizabeth with six daughters and two sons, from a number of different fathers.
But by 1998, it appeared that Elizabeth's life had turned a corner. She'd shown renewed determination to care for her sons, and after meeting Mark Haydon through a friend in her ceramics group in 1994, Elizabeth had embarked on the longest relationship she'd had. Tragically, her delayed season in the sun was not to last.
Alleged killer Robert Wagner and alleged victim Barry Lane had lived together at Bingham Road, Salisbury North, a block away from the "death house" at Waterloo Corner Road. Recently reported neighbourhood anecdotes offer some insights into their lifestyle.
Dying his hair blonde and renaming himself "Vanessa," Barry Lane often wore pink shorts in summer. Because of this flamboyant dress sense and a reputation for paedophilia convictions, Lane was occasionally persecuted by local children. Though their abuse was mainly verbal, Lane and Wagner's house was sometimes splattered with eggs.
Perhaps in reaction, the duo built a two metre high iron fence around their semi-detached home and kept four Doberman Pincher dogs. Neighbours described Lane as "outgoing," but noted that he was obviously "suffering from serious back pain." Both men received Disability benefits from Australian Social Security, now called Centrelink.
In a sensational report carried by the Sydney Morning Herald, Barry Lane's mother Sylvia spoke about her son's involvement in the chain of murder and money. Mrs Lane described Barry living in fear since helping to conceal a murder eight or nine years ago. She also spoke of him being threatened by the others involved. Wagner, meanwhile, was described by his former neighbours as brooding, somewhat dependant on Lane, and unable to read or write. Both men, however, were quite well regarded by some in their street, who expressed disbelief at Wagner's murder charge.
One antisocial tendency attributed to Robert Wagner by acquaintances or neighbours briefly attracted international media attention. Allegedly, Wagner was a white supremacist, who told neighbours that he "and his friends" shared a hatred of gays and Asians, and that he had joined the group National Action. A brief report in the UK paper The Weekly Telegraph described Wagner's computer screensaver as reading 'Adolf Hitler is alive.' But so far, Chart Police have consistently signalled disinterest in this possible motivation for the alleged murders. And in contrast to this neo-Nazi image, one elderly neighbour recalled Wagner and Lane going out and buying food for his pets. Another remembered the pair playing "church music" at home.
Significantly, several neighbourhood anecdotes simply mention a regular visitor to Lane and Wagner's place: co-accused John Justin Bunting. Former local student James Couzener, 17, is the cousin of Clinton Trezise. "I was 12 when Cliff [Clinton] disappeared. We thought he had just run away," he told reporters. Couzener also confirmed that it was common local knowledge that Lane, aka Vanessa, was a paedophile. Chart police have established that for a time, Barry Lane was in a relationship with missing person Clinton Trezise.