One of Australia's worst serial killers, Ivan Milat, has died aged 74.


Ivan Milat, widely known as one of Australia’s worst serial killers, has died in prison, aged 74.

In a statement, the NSW Department of Corrective Services said Milat died in the medical wing of Long Bay Correctional Centre at 4.07am this morning.

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.

Serving seven consecutive life sentences, Milat has been imprisoned since July 27, 1996. Despite overwhelming evidence, the man widely known as ‘The Backpacker Killer’ has always maintained his innocence.

Ex NSW detective talks about Ivan Milat: Will he ever confess? Post continues below. 

In a letter addressed to the Sun Herald and dated July 11, 2019, the 74-year-old said his life since his arrest “has been devoted wholly to prove my innocence… and the court judiciary who conspired to obscure the miscarriages of justice”.

Clive Small, author of Milat: Inside Australia’s Biggest Manhunt, and one of NSW’s most successful detectives, maintains that Milat confessed to him in 2007 during a brief encounter in prison.


Small was visiting the prison where Milat was incarcerated, when the serial killer confronted him and asked, “Why are you and my lawyer going around telling everyone that my sister Shirley was also involved in the murders with me?”

Speaking to The Sunday Project in August, Small recalled responding: “No I’ve never done that, I’ve never said your sister was involved with you because I know that you did the killings by yourself.”

The former detective said he got the “shock of [his] life” when Milat said, “Yes, so why are you telling people she was involved?”

Small told the panel, “I think he then realised what he said and shut up … so he’s confessed to me in that way that I have just described, not an official way and he didn’t repeat it after he realised what he said.”

There is also an allegation, according to Small, that Milat confessed to his mother, Margaret Milat, right before her death.

What did Ivan Milat do?

Milat has is convicted of seven murders of young people aged between 19 and 22. Their bodies were found partially buried in the Belanglo State Forest in New South Wales.

The killings took place between 1989 and 1993 and five of the seven victims were foreign backpackers.

Listen to True Crime Conversations, where we speak to Mark Whittaker about Australia’s most infamous serial killer. 

The first victims were found in September 1992, and the bodies were identified as missing British backpackers, 21-year-old Caroline Clarke and 22-year-old Joanne Walters. They had been last seen in Kings Cross.


More than 12 months later, in October 1993, a local man came across the bodies of Victorian couple, Deborah Everist and James Gibson, both who were 19 years old. They had been missing since 1989.

The discovery of their bodies led to a widespread and thorough search, that turned up the body of 21-year-old German backpacker, Simone Schmidl.

Nearby, police found the bodies of two more missing backpackers, also German, 21-year-old Gabor Neugebauer and 20-year-old Anja Habschied. They had been missing since Boxing Day 1991.

There have also been dozens of cases linked to Milat that bear similarities to his murders.

Ivan Milat’s time in prison

In 2009, Milat was rushed to hospital after cutting off his pinkie finger with a plastic knife in his prison cell.

The serial killer, who was sentenced to seven consecutive life sentences, put the severed finger into an envelope, which he planned to send to the High Court of Australia.

Before long, however, Milat was forced to call the prison officers for help.

Milat was taken to Goulburn Base Hospital, where medical staff were unable to reattach Milat’s little finger.

The next day, Milat was back in his prison cell with a bandaged hand.

“It’s the work of a desperate man and Ivan Milat is in the top echelon of desperate people,” John Dunthorne, the Corrective Services’ southwest region assistant commissioner said at the time, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

In 2001, Milat injured himself in prison once again.

In February 2001, Milat tried to inflict self-harm when he swallowed three disposable razor blades, staples and other metal objects.

Later that same year, he swallowed a spring from the toilet in his prison cell.

At the time, Milat was transported to hospital once again for treatment.

In 2011, Milat rapidly lost 25kg in a hunger strike over a PlayStation.

When his request for a PlayStation console was denied, the inmate refused all his meals.

In just days, he dropped from 85kg to 60kg before he gave up on the strike.

“There’s no inmate on my watch who would ever get anything close to a PlayStation, particularly Australia’s worst serial killer,” Corrective Services Commissioner Ron Woodham told The Sunday Telegraph at the time.

“I knew he’d start eating again because he likes his food too much. He can stage as many protests as he likes, but there’d be no point if he got one because he needs two hands to use it.”

For more:

“A story of unfathomable cruelty.” The incriminating photograph found in Ivan Milat’s home.