Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Ivan Milat: The Last Ride

Two More Bodies

News of the discovery of additional bodies in the forest spread quickly. TV network helicopters hovered overhead. Reporters and film crews were lined up at the access road trying to gain entry. They speculated as to the identities of the latest victims. "Was it the German couple or maybe the couple from Victoria?" they asked detectives at the scene. The investigators said nothing. Their minds were occupied with their own questions. Had they called off the search too early? Were they searching the wrong areas? How many more bodies were there?

One of the searchers found a floppy black felt hat near one of the gravesites. The Sydney missing persons office was contacted and a review of files indicated that it may have belonged to James Gibson, a young Victorian who was last seen hitchhiking south of the forest in company with a female friend, Deborah Everist, also from Victoria. They had been missing since 1989. Police had earlier discounted Gibson as a possible victim after his backpack and camera had been found lying beside the road 78 miles north of Belangalo in another small forest area called "Galston Gorge."

James Gibson, victim
James Gibson, victim

Police were puzzled.  If one of the victims was Gibson, how did his property get to the other side of Sydney?

Further investigation of the report indicated that when the pack and camera had been found, they had been leaning against a guardrail, in plain view, on the side of a busy road. Were they placed there by the killer in an attempt to divert attention from the southern forest?

Deborah Everist, victim
Deborah Everist, victim

Crime scene police worked into the night to complete their preliminary investigation and left the scene under heavy police guard. The following day, scientific officers Grosse and Goldie returned to the gravesites in company with Dr. Bradhurst and a forensic odontologist, Dr. Chris Griffiths. Both of the bodies were skeletons; however both were incomplete. Several bones had been scattered across the site, possibly by animal activity. Beside the first body, Grosse found a silver fob chain, a bracelet set with semi precious stones and a silver crucifix. Given the find and the smaller size of the skeleton it was presumed to be female.

The second skeleton was larger and still had a pair of white sneakers laced to the feet. Dr. Griffiths examined the skull and, after cleaning dirt from it, compared the teeth with a dental chart that had been supplied to police earlier.

It was a positive match. The body was that of James Gibson. Positive identification of the second body would come later but police were almost certain that it was Deborah Everist. The remains were carefully removed and taken to the Sydney morgue for reconstruction and post mortem examination. As well as the skeletons, several bags of decayed matter from the immediate area were also taken. It was not known for sure if they contained vegetable matter or decayed clothing or both. One of the items from James Gibsons remains was easy to identify; it was the complete zipper from a pair of jeans. The zip was open; the top button still fastened.

The following day Dr. Bradhurst began the task of reconstructing the skeletons in anatomical order. The bones had been boiled in a special solution to clean the skeleton and make any injuries easier to identify.

Dr. Bradhurst began with what was left of James Gibson. The decayed matter that accompanied his remains was sifted and found to contain several hand and foot bones, some jewelry and buttons.

As the remains began to take shape, the extent of the wounds became clearer. One stab wound had penetrated the mid-thoracic spine, slicing upwards through three vertebrae, splitting the canal holding the spinal column. As with the previous bodies, the wound would have paralyzed the victim first. To do so much damage to a young healthy body would have taken great physical strength.

Two stab wounds had punctured the breastbone, with cuts to the ribs indicating two more wounds to the left and right sides of the front of the chest and two more in the upper back. Seven major wounds marked the skeleton. Many more could have penetrated the body without touching bone. The stab wounds in the breastbone were measured; they were very close to the size of the wounds inflicted to Walters and Clarke.

The second smaller skeleton was in a poorer condition. Part of the jaw was broken away. Several fractures were found at the back of the skull. Four slash marks to the forehead, two on each side, were not deep enough to have been fatal but had etched into the skull at the hairline. A further stab wound had penetrated the lower back close to the spine.

While Bradhurst was completing his examination, crime scene analysts were combing the gravesites for further clues. Thirty feet from the body they found a black bra with a stab wound through one of the cups. Later a pair of gray tights was found under leaf litter close to the female gravesite. They had been tied with a loop at either end, possibly used as a primitive restraint. Later that day, the female remains were confirmed by dental charts as being those of Deborah Everist.

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