Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Ivan Milat: The Last Ride


By December 1993, it was apparent that although an enormous amount of information had been compiled, the investigation wasnt progressing at an acceptable rate. Ten thousand "running sheets" had been assembled, mostly by hand. Of the thousands of calls received over the "hotline," police had produced a list of two thousand "persons of interest" that callers had suggested may have committed the crimes or had some knowledge of them.

The sheer volume of data overloaded the computer system. The program called T.I.M.S. (Task Force Information Management System) was made up of multiple databases that stored the information in various subject areas. However, it was unable to cross-reference more than a single inquiry because the system had not been designed to handle the volume and complexities involved in an investigation of such magnitude.

The decision was taken to introduce a new program, which would be more powerful and flexible enough to handle the task. This meant long weeks of data entry and compilation, which meant all data received in the mean time would have to be processed by hand. Detective Senior Constable Gagan, the senior analyst for the Task Force, assembled his team and began the long grueling process. Every file had to be read, assessed and set aside to be entered into an appropriate section of the data base at a later time.

One such file came to the attention of the analysis team because of the unusual surname of the person involved. The name was Onions, Paul Onions. They read the report and added it to the "lead" file for further attention. Several weeks later a similar report came to light. It was Joanne Berrys statement regarding the Onions incident. It, too, was filed for further attention.

Early in the New Year, thirty-seven detectives were working full time on the investigation, the main focus was tracking down the suspect firearm and ammunition used in the offences. Two of the new detectives assigned to the case, Senior Constables Gordon and McCluskey, were given the job of following up on a file that contained three separate leads. Gordon looked at the name on the file folder. "Milat."

Richard (l) and Ivan Milat
Richard (l) and Ivan Milat

Lynne Butler and Paul Douglas were interviewed and confirmed their earlier statements. The third lead was from the woman whose boyfriend had worked with Ivan Milat but as she hadnt given her name, Douglas decided to go to the company in question, "Readymix" and ask about Milat.

Richard and Ivan Milat had both worked there at one time. They learned that Ivan had been a hard worker and was highly respected. Richard, on the other hand, was remembered as being crazy and unpredictable.

Time sheets were requested for both men but when matched up later with the approximate times and dates of the offences, Richard was found to have been working on every occasion. However, his brother Ivan had been away from work when each of the murders had taken place. Gordon felt that Milat was fast becoming the prime suspect but when he raised the subject with his superiors he was told, "Get more evidence."

Gordon searched criminal records and found that Ivan Milat had been found guilty of committing various offences and had served several years in prison. None of the offences indicated that he was a potential serial killer. After digging further through the archives, he found something that really aroused his suspicion. In 1971, Ivan had picked up two girls hitch hiking from Liverpool to Melbourne and had allegedly raped one of them. Both girls testified that he was armed with a large knife and carried a length of rope. He was later acquitted when the prosecution case was dismissed as unproven.

Gordon and McCluskey again went to their superiors to request phone taps on Milats house and to have listening devices installed in his car. Clive Small refused. Gordon was not impressed. Small had made the correct decision. The law was very firm on the subject of electronic surveillance. It was only to be used when all other methods of acquiring evidence had been exhausted. He also knew, from long experience, that although one suspect stood out, to build a strong case they would have to investigate and eliminate any other suspects.

Several days later he assigned four detectives, including Gordon and McCluskey, to work full time following up the "Milat" leads and also arranged for a surveillance team, known as the "Dog Squad," to follow Milat and watch his house. The "Milat" team began the exhaustive task of interviewing, checking and crosschecking statements and amassing evidence. It was a task that would occupy them several months. For Detective Gordon it was a frustrating time but he was still quietly confident that they were close to their man.

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