Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Ivan Milat: The Last Ride

The Search

Searching the area the following day, two police constables, Roger Gough and Suzanne Roberts, found a second body. It was partially covered by a log just 100 feet east of the first. A shoe and part of a lower leg were visible below a mound of leaves and branches, that was roughly the same size as the first.

Early media reports suggested that the bodies were the remains of two British backpackers, Caroline Clarke and Joanne Walters. They had been missing for five months after leaving Kings Cross to travel south together looking for work. Police were yet to make a positive identification.

In Australia and across the world, several families hearing of the grisly discovery, contacted the authorities for more accurate information.

In Germany, Manfred and Anke Neugebauer listened anxiously to the news, wondering if the bodies found were those of their son Gabor and his girlfriend Anja who had disappeared without trace after leaving a Kings Cross backpacker's hostel just after Christmas Day, 1991.

Herbert Schmidl, in his home in Regensburg, near Munich, listened also hoping that neither body was that of his only daughter Simone, who had been missing since leaving Sydney in 1991.

Several hundred miles south of Belangalo, in Frankston Victoria, Pat Everist, wondered if it was her daughter Deborah and her friend, James Gibson that were laying dead in the forest. They had been missing since 1989.

Caroline Clarke, victim
Caroline Clarke, victim

Late in the afternoon of Sunday, 20th September, police confirmed that the bodies were, in fact, those of Caroline Clarke and Joanne Walters. Joannes parents, Ray and Jill Walters had already been in Australia for a month prior to the discovery, searching in vain for some trace of their daughter. The police tracked them down in Sydney to give them the bad news.

Police telephoned Ian and Jacquie Clarke, in England and informed them that the second body was Carolines. The timing of the call was indeed fortunate. Shortly after the phone call, a local radio station carried the story of their daughter's death.

As the investigation proceeded it became apparent that the murders were committed with a high degree of violence and cruelty.

Joanne Walters, victim
Joanne Walters, victim

Joanne Walters had been stabbed viciously in the heart and lungs with one wound so deep that it had cut deep into her spine. Caroline Clarke had also been stabbed and shot in the head multiple times.

Homicide detectives, Inspector Bob Godden and Sergeant Steve McClennan were appointed to take charge of the investigation. After his initial evaluation of the crime scene, McClennan speculated that because the bodies had been found in an isolated area, it was possible that the killer lived near by. Crime scene detectives worked around the clock, analyzing and photographing every inch of the murder scene. Joanne Walters body still had jewelry on both hands and she was wearing blue jeans and black shoes. Curiously the zip of the jeans was undone but the top button was still fastened.

Fourteen feet from where Caroline Clarkes body lay, six cigarette butts were found, they were all of the same brand. Someone had obviously spent quite a bit of time at the scene. Not far from them, a fired .22 caliber cartridge case was recovered and next to it a piece of green plastic the size of a large coin.

Ballistic specialists scanned the area with metal detectors and found nine more cartridge cases 12 feet from Clarkes body. From the ground directly below her head three bullets were recovered. Detectives from the Ballistics Squad were confident that, given the condition of the bullets and the spent cases, they would be able to identify the gun that fired them. A further 120 feet from the murder scene, a fireplace had been built from house bricks.

A strange thing to find deep in a forest.

Over the next five days, forty police searched a corridor 500 feet wide and one and a half miles long and did not find any more bodies, nor did they find the camping gear and personal items belonging to the two girls. Following the search, police told the media that they had virtually ruled out the possibility of finding other bodies in the forest. It was an announcement that would prove to be premature and cause a great deal of embarrassment to the New South Wales Police Department.

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