Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Ivan Milat: The Last Ride

Cause of Death

Dr. Peter Bradhurst, the forensic pathologist assigned to the case, had the unpleasant task of performing the autopsies. The badly decomposed remains of the two girls had been carefully removed from the forest and transported to the morgue in Glebe, an inner suburb of Sydney.

The first stage of the forensic investigation was to weigh and x-ray Joannes body in search of bullets or other metallic objects. There were none. Carolines body was next and the x-rays revealed that, even though her body was decomposed to a much greater extent than Joannes, it clearly contained what the radiographer described as radio opaque objects. To be more precise, four bullets.

Joanne's T-shirt shows the frenzy of the knife attack
Joanne's T-shirt shows the frenzy of the knife attack

Next, Dr. Bradhurst began the external examination, methodically checking the entire body for physical evidence. Joannes shirt and hands showed traces of dark hairs. The rotted remains of a cloth used as a gag were removed from her mouth, as were other cloth samples at the throat, suggesting strangulation. An internal examination showed no signs of vaginal or anal penetration, but given the poor condition of the body tissue, it was very difficult to tell. Hair and nail samples were taken for matching with other samples found. A vaginal swab was also taken, as sperm samples can remain in a body for weeks or even months.

Joannes chest showed three stab wounds to the right side, one to the left side and a further stab wound to the neck. When the body was rolled over, the full extent of what could only be described as a frenzied attack became clear. A further two wounds were found to the left side, five more to the right and two to the spine at the base of the neck. Fourteen wounds in all were recorded and measured. The internal exam revealed that five of the stab wounds had cut the spine. Dr Bradhurst speculated that any of the spinal wounds could have been delivered prior to the fatal blows thereby rendering the victim totally helpless.

Two ribs had been totally severed. The hands and arms showed no "defensive wounds," that normally occur when the victim attempts to ward off a knife attack. This, coupled with the remains of the gag and neck ligature, indicated that the killer was completely in control during the murder. The wounds measured 1 " by " with the profile of a Bowie knife or similar style blade.

The arms of Caroline Clarkes body where stretched above her head, which had a red cloth wrapped around it. Bullet holes were clearly visible in the decaying cloth. The cloth was carefully removed and the extent of the injuries became evident. A total of ten bullet holes riddled the skull. Only four exit wounds were found.

Four complete .22 caliber projectiles were recovered from inside the skull. The front of the face and the jaw were shattered, possibly damaged by exiting bullets. She had one single stab wound to the upper back identical to the wounds of the first victim.

The bullets from the body were cleaned and passed on to Sergeant Gerard Dutton, the ballistics expert who was present at the post mortems. He was confident that they, like the other bullets and fired cases collected from the scene, would lead to the identity of the weapon used. A reenactment at the scene later revealed that the gunshot wounds were consistent with having been fired from three different directions, however all ten fired cases were found close together. Sergeant Dutton suggested that the killer may have stood in the one spot and fired the shots, stopping to move the victims head between volleys. In short he had used her for "target practice."

In an unusual step, Professor John Hilton, the head of forensic medicine, released details of the findings to the large group of reporters, who had gathered outside the morgue. Not accustomed to giving media conferences, he spoke in a faltering, hesitant voice. Even though he was an experienced pathologist, and forensic scientist, he was obviously disturbed by the extent of the injuries and the sheer brutality of the attack.

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