Following his arrest on May 22, 1994, Ivan Milat was sent to the Metropolitan Remand Centre at Long Bay Jail while awaiting trial.
Former prisoner Ian McDougall, who shared a cell with Milat for seven months, summed him up this way : “With Ivan you never had to worry about sleeping with your eyes closed. You share a cell with a bloke for 12 to 15 hours a day, you get to know them, their thoughts, their secrets. You develop a bond. He’s so typically average that he stood out from other prisoners, many of whom are on drugs or scheming and scamming. He was naive. Sometimes he would slap his thighs, then hold out his hands and shake his head at the sheer frustration of trying to explain his side of it. Let’s face it, our cell was in a bad neighborhood that included some very disturbed people. There were bashings, suicides, murders. Yet somehow Ivan had a very calming effect. All he would talk about was his family, his loved ones, what he ate, all straight out of the suburbs. Ivan Milat was suburbia.“
When Milat was taken to jail there were fears he could be killed, either by prisoners with families who detest the murder of innocents or those who wanted to make a name for themselves.
But they soon found Milat was not a monster foaming at the mouth, not a ranting psychopath, but a person in the everyday mould, “a bloody average hardworking Australian,” as one prisoner put out.
They showed him the ways of the jail, warning him not to discuss his case because in the prison system there are many informers, or “dogs” as they are called. They have been known to concoct stories about other prisoners in the hope that police and the courts will look kindly on them.
Prisoners began to help Milat prepare his defense. “We were not worried whether he was guilty or not guilty, just whether he would get a fair trial,” said McDougall, a former house painter who now helps prisoners cope with the justice system.
“We helped him with his solicitors. We knew the ones who were too friendly with police. We were worried about some of the NSW solicitors so we put him in contact with Andrew Bo, of Brisbane, who was seeing a prisoner at the jail at the time.“
After much jail politicing, Mr. McDougall set up a law library centre to assist remand prisoners, as well as organizing a program in which university law students voluntarily help with prisoners’ defenses.
Milat worked at the centre, his job running the photocopying machine. “We felt he could be trusted,” said McDougall.
There was much excitement in the jail when Who magazine published its infamous edition with Milat on the cover. Copies of Who were distributed throughout the remand centre.
Everyone wanted an autographed copy, even warders and the teachers who conduct classes within prison. Milat was a big name. More copies were brought in.
Those who wanted an autographed copy were told, “One day this man will be found not guilty and the magazines will remind you of how injustice system works. They will become a collector’s item.”
Source : The Sydney Morning Herald, July 28, 1996.