In 1971, Ivan Milat was accused of the rape of Margaret Patterson but walked free following a 1-day trial.

Following this event a pattern can be clearly identified. It might be coincidental, but there is a strong possibility that it is one key to his subsequent rampage.

Milat entered into two stable relationships with women. While they lasted, he was passive, or at least his murderous impulses were subdued or in control. The killings began when the first relationship broke up and they ended when the second relationship began.

In between, from December 1989 to April 1992, Milat was a cunning, cruel and perhaps maniacal killer, the most dangerous man in Australia. 

Then he stopped.

Karen Merle Duck was aged 16, six months pregnant and living at home with her mother when her brother introduced her to Milat in October 1975. Milat, 31, was driving Mack trucks to Goulburn and Brisbane. He had lived with his mother in Guilford, the Milat family home, since they moved from Moorebank in the late 1960s.

Two weeks later, Karen and Milat started going out. Karen later gave birth to a son, Jason. Early in 1977 Milat moved in with Karen at her mother’s house, later moving to a caravan at Mrs Milat’s home at Guilford.

Karen later gave a description of Milat : medium height, well muscled from weightlifting and hard work, olive skin, pale blue eyes, black hair with long sideburns and moustache.

Milat was now working as a ganger with the than Department of Main Roads. He had five jobs in 18 years and all his bosses described him as an ideal employee.

He had few friends at work, and did not seem to seek them. Mr Noel Wild, 53, who worked with Milat from 1975, said : “Ivan was a loner. He’d sit alone at lunch, reading a book on guns, war trucks, four-wheel drives. He always had a huge Bowie knife. But I’ve seen Ivan work 24 hours, no problem. You could depend on him; he wouldn’t let you down.

His emotional ties with his family were deep, particularly with his brothers, Wally, Bill, Alex and Richard, who shared his passion for guns and vehicles. They went hunting on Wally’s property at Wombeyan Caves and Alex’s place at Buxton. After Milat’s arrest, Wally and Richard were both fined and put on good behavior bonds for possession of prohibited and unlicensed weapons.

According to Karen, he spent a lot of time driving in Belanglo State Forest. He took Karen and Jason there four times and on the last trip he shot two kangaroos, slitting the throat of one.

“Ivan was gun crazy,” Karen said.

“He would clean his guns all the time.”

He would “shoot at anything he could find…a target on a tree, cans, anything he could see.” Milat carried the revolver or pistol with him in the car, “even to the pictures or his mother’s house.”

Ivan and Karen married on February 20, 1984. Workmates were unaware that Jason, now aged 7 or 8, was not Milat’s son. Milat referred to him affectionately as “the young bloke.”

But the relationship was in trouble and Karen walked out for the last time early in 1987.  She has not seen Ivan since, apart from in court. She is under police protective custody.

After the break-up, Sheriff’s officers made several appearances at “the yard”, seeking Milat for maintenance payments. 

Ivan would look them in the eye and tell them he wasn’t Ivan Milat,” a workmate said.

One night in February 1988, he drove to New Lambton, a suburb of Newcastle, and hurled incendiaries into the garage at the home of Karen’s parents, burning it down. He told at least one workmate that it was a warning to get the sheriff off his back.

Once again, Milat went to live with his mother at Guilford, as he always had when he was in trouble. It was from this home that Milat went out killing hitchhikers.

During the trial, defense counsel, Mr Terry Martin, said the Milat home was the “focal point” through which equipment taken from the victims passed, later to be dispersed.

Mr Martin argued that is was “reasonably possible” that Richard Milat killed the seven backpackers, either alone or perhaps with his brother, Wally. Richard and Walter denied any part in the killings.

Karen and Milat were divorced on July 13, 1989. On December 30, 1989, Deborah Everist and James Gibson were last seen.

The seventh and last victim disappeared in April 1992. Two months later, Milat met Indian-born Chalinder Hughes and began a relationship.

The contrast was obvious to all who met them. Ms Hughes is a small, quiet woman who is registrar at the Federal Human Rights and Equal Opportunities Commission; well-educated, she speaks with an English accent.

Milat was barely educated, spoke ungrammatically and roughly and had difficulty with her name, calling her ‘Cylinder’.

There is one other piece of evidence which points to Milat going on a rampage when he was outside a relationship.

After his arrest, police began checking all unsolved rapes in the area to see if any involved Milat. They made only one connection.

In 1984, two Asian girls hitchhiking to Canberra were picked up and driven to Belanglo State Forest by a man who demander : “Ok, girls, which of you wants it first?”

They fled, hiding in the forest while he drove up and down the road, looking for them. They identified Milat from photographs.

The date coincided with one of his break-ups with Karen.

Important points not related in the article : It wasn’t following a break-up, but when he raped Margaret Patterson in 1971, it was not long after he lost his younger sister in a tragic car accident. It follow the pattern of Ivan losing control after a traumatic event (break-up or losing his sister). Another point not mentioned in the article : following his divorce with Karen in 1987, Ivan resumed his affair with Marilyn who had then divorced Ivan’s brother, Boris. Marilyn wanted Ivan to commit himself to the relationship but he refused so she broke-up with him. The killings started shortly after.

Source : The Sydney Morning Herald.

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