Update: Ivan Milat, widely known as one of Australia’s worst serial killers, has died in prison, aged 74. Milat was diagnosed with terminal oesophageal cancer in May 2019, and was briefly treated at Prince of Wales Hospital, Randwick, before being returned to Long Bay Correctional Centre. He died in the medical wing of the prison on October 27.
For the past 20 years, backpacker killer Ivan Milat has been sending Amanda Howard letters from prison. Handwritten letters, up to 40 pages long. Sometimes he’s written about things like roadwork and gardens. But mostly he’s been trying to prove his innocence.
“It was a lot about ‘this evidence’, ‘that evidence’, ‘they said this in court’ and ‘they said that in court’, and he would put up his own legal fight against those points,” the true crime writer and novelist tells Mamamia.
So what’s Milat like? Howard, who’s co-writing a book with him, sighs.
“Ivan Milat is so dumb. His correspondence is very disjointed and often alludes to things. It takes you a while to understand what he’s saying. I’ve had a lot of people read some of the stuff I have from him and they all go, ‘I don’t know how you can read this. It’s really, really hard.’”
Once Milat wrote to her in “very poor” French.
“I think he hoped that maybe he could send out things that the prison couldn’t read. I said to him, ‘Yeah, not French.’ It wasn’t good.”
Milat, who has been convicted of seven murders, has terminal cancer. But he’s still claiming to Howard that he’s innocent.
“He will die with his last breath saying he didn’t do this,” she believes. “It’s going to be interesting if he does do an about-face, but I highly doubt it.”
Speaking of serial killers… Author Andrew Byrne takes us through the case of Christopher Wilder – the Australian serial killer responsible for the biggest man hunt in American history.
Howard’s post office box is full of letters from serial killers. She’s known as the Serial Killer Whisperer, but she’s not their friend, and she’s definitely not a serial killer groupie, although there are plenty of those. She’s been writing to serial killers, asking them questions, looking for information and insights, ever since she was a criminology student at university.
“Hadden Clark – he’s a US killer – I asked him, ‘Do you believe that there are innocent people in jail?’ and he said, ‘I’m not sure if there’s innocent people in jail, but I know that there are four people in jail for crimes I’ve done.’ So that goes straight to the police.”
The first serial killer who ever replied to Howard’s letters was Arthur Shawcross, known for being a cannibal.
“He used to find it funny to send things like a recipe where I was one of the ingredients: a spicy jambalaya, with a couple of pounds from my behind,” she remembers. “I had to keep reminding him that it was an interview situation.”
Many of them have tried to charm her, including Milat.
“Ivan Milat actually referenced in one of his most recent letters that he could smell my perfume on the letter – which is quite strange, because I don’t wear any, because I’m highly allergic to it.