In April 1994, a colleague of Ivan Milat, Don Borthwick, was interviewed by the Task Force Air. He arranged for the officer to conduct the interview at his office, Borthwick and Pengilly Asphalt Pty Ltd in St Clair. Said it was a routine enquiry. Ivan was one of many people they were looking at. They asked what he was like; how much control Borthwick had over his movements at the RTA. They asked him about his work attendance. They were pretty casual. Borthwick thought it was all bullshit. Not Ivan. He didn’t tell them what he was thinking, but he made it clear from his tone that they had the wrong bloke. Fifteen years working with someone, you get to know them, and Borthwick knew Ivan wouldn’t be tied up in something like this.
About two days later, they ran into each other on a night job at Gordon shopping centre. Borthwick couldn’t keep mum about it. It was so far-fetched. ‘Come over and have a yak, mate, when you get the chance,’ he said.
Ivan finished up on the profiler about 1 a.m. and wandered over.
‘The cops have been around asking questions about ya,’ Borthwick told him.
‘About the backpackers?’
‘It’s all over the yard at Readymix,’ Milat told him. ‘They been talkin’ to management. They’re trying to pin this on me, Donny. They’ve got nothing on me. They’re putting a lot of time in for nothin’.’
‘Geez, I hope so.’
Milat gave him that big grin of his. ‘Nah, I’ve got nothin’ to worry about, mate. I’ve done nothin’.’ Borthwick was amazed at the coolness, the complete lack of concern.
‘Why you?’ He asked.
‘I don’t know what they’re on about, mate. I’m fine…They tried to get me once for these bank robberies we did, too…We used to go and waste all the money on molls and get the best hotel rooms for the night…They must still be trying to get me.’
Mick Milat had already told Borthwick he’d been in on some robberies, but this was the first he’d heard about it from Ivan. ‘We let Mick drive,’ Ivan said, ‘and he couldn’t drive for shit.’
One night, the boys working at RTA noticed a woman. Everyone reckoned she was a plain-clothes cop.
One of the boys said, ‘Ivan, that car’s been there all night, they’ve got to be coppers.’
‘Yeah, ah huh, they’re watching me. They’re keeping an eye on me.’
Noel Wild, who had driven the prime mover which pulled Ivan’s profiler, had left the RTA and was working for an oil company. He got a call in the truck from Paul Gordon who wanted to have a talk. Wild thought it was a mate of his from Queensland having a go at him. Didn’t seem like a cop.
‘No, I’m Paul Gordon from Task Force Air.’ Wild had never heard of it. ‘We’re investigating the backpackers murders,’ Gordon explained.
‘Look, if you’re a fair dinky, I’ going to Castrol out at Guildford. I should be there about quarter past, half past two. I’ll meet you out there.’
Wild still thought it was a joke. He got there late and Gordon jumped up into the rig and started asking about the knives and guns. Wild told him how Ivan saw himself as some soldier-of-fortune type.
‘How did you get onto him?’ Wild asked.
‘We’ve been checking him out for a while. He’s one of many that we’re interested in.’
Wild mentioned, by the way, that Ivan had brought one gun in. ‘We were standing alongside Duck Creek where we worked, and he fired a shot into the creek with the silencer. It was a .22’ That got the copper excited. He wanted to know where he’d fired it exactly. They might be able to link him to the scene. But Wild could only give a general direction.
Wild had mixed feelings about Ivan. A lot of blokes were frightened of him, of his reputation. But Wild never saw him actually threaten anybody, except a couple of times in the truck someone would cut them off and he’d lean out abuse Christ out of ‘em, then sit back in and laugh about it.
Wild didn’t keep in touch with him after leaving the RTA, but Ivan rang him once to tell him Rolf Breitkopf died. ‘We just come back from his funeral.’
‘Thanks for telling me.’
‘You left and I never had the chance to ring you.’
‘Oh, well. You still going with that Cylinder?’
‘You should come up for a barbecue one night.’
‘Yeah, all right.’
So they made a date months down the track and it just happened to be shortly after the cops visited that Ivan and Chalinder came over.
Seven or eight people were there.
They sat down under the pergola and somehow the subject got on to the backpacker case so Wild couldn’t help bringing it up: ‘The police have been to see me about you and your guns.’
‘Oh, well, they haven’t been to see me,’ Ivan said with his way of pulling his chin into his chest and shrugging his shoulders with hands turned out.
Somebody else mentioned a few more things about the case, but Ivan never said boo. Chalinder was sitting right opposite. Noel and his wife thought she would have heard, but she never said anything either. She was always very quiet. She was more interested in the garden and the plants around the pergola.
Ivan had never been demonstrative with Chalinder. He’d never told her he loved her but, around the end of the previous year, as all the bodies started turning up, the relationship seemed to her to become a little more intense. He talked about unconditional love and how you had to accept someone and trust them. He didn’t go into any great depth. That was just him.
Source : Sins of the Brother by Mark Whittaker and Les Kennedy.