Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Snowtown Murders


On 3rd July, 1999, Robert Joe Wagner, 27, John Justin Bunting, 32 and Mark Ray Haydon, 40, were jointly charged with 10 counts of murder. Previously, they had been charged with the alleged murder of a "person unknown."

Also charged was James Spyridon Vlassakis, 19, on charges of murdering a person who was not named. That person, allegedly, was the final victim of the other men.

No charges were laid over the death of Clinton Trezise, 22. Investigation into his death is continuing.

Documents tendered to the court allege that the murders took place between January 1, 1995, and May 21 this year, at Snowtown, Salisbury North and places as yet unnamed. The defendants were remanded to reappear in October.

In July, 2002, one of the four men charged with the Snowtown murders, 22-year-old James Vlassakis, pleaded guilty to four counts of murder in the Adelaide Supreme Court. In handing down a life sentence with a 26-year non-parole period, the judge said that if Vlassakis had not co-operated with police and authorities then he would have received a non-parole period of 42 years.

The trial of the remaining three men charged with 12 murders is expected to take place later in 2002.

In November, 2000, the court began to hear the evidence against the four men charged with what may be the largest serial killing in Australian history. Three of the men — Haydon, Wagner and

Bunting — were charged with 10 counts of murder. The three men remained silent during the opportunity to plea, which was interpreted as a not-guilty plea. Vlassakis was charged with five counts of murder and reserved his plea.

Because of a suppression order by the court, very little is publicly known about this case. However, some grisly details were beginning to emerge. When police found the eight bodies in the bank vault, they realized that victims had been tortured, then murdered by strangulation or asphyxiation.

The Telegraph in the U.K. reported: "Several were found with gags stuffed in their mouths. Others had ropes around their necks. Feet and limbs had been chopped off and there were burns on some of the bodies.... The killings were allegedly carried out as part of a macabre social security fraud.....Wendy Abraham QC, opening the prosecution case, said the four had collected the welfare benefits and disability allowances of their dead victims. They even impersonated some of those they had killed to conduct banking transactions or to deal with the social security office. Before being murdered, some of the victims were made to repeat scripted phrases, which were taped and left on the answering machines of their relatives and friends to divert suspicion from their disappearance, she said. Also located in the bank and vault were . . . handcuffs, a set of knives, ropes and tape, a number of rubber gloves and a machine which was capable of giving an electric shock." Miss Abraham said: "A number had been dismembered, with legs and feet removed from their bodies, or they had been cut. One had his hands handcuffed behind his back and his legs tied together. More than one of the bodies had marks consistent with burn marks."


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