Crimes That Shook Australia Episodes
Compelling documentaries exploring the biggest crimes to hit Australia. Through gripping, and often exclusive, interviews, drama reconstructions and archive, we reveal the crimes that shocked the nation.
Snowtown: The Bodies In The Barrels Murders
The Snowtown murders were so barbaric and shocking the Australian community still struggle to come to terms with what happened. But the trial that led to the horrific outcome began years earlier, when Police began a routine re-investigation of a missing person’s case in Adelaide. The more they looked into the case however, the more missing people they uncovered – and connected to all the missing people were two men – John Bunting and Robert Wagner.
As their investigation continued, the trial of missing people led them to a bank vault in Snowtown. Inside the vault, they found several barrels – all containing body parts. The arrest of Bunting, Wagner plus two associates Mark Haydon and Jamie Vlassakis unravelled the whole saga – a saga of torture, sadism and murder.
Between August 1992 and May 1999 John Bunting and Robert Wagner tortured and murdered twelve people (many of whom they knew) from Adelaide – stealing their money and forcing them to record messages to loved ones that were used to convince friends and relatives they were still alive.
The trial that followed was one of the longest and most publicised in Australian legal history. Bunting and Wagner were eventually found guilty and imprisoned, never to be released.
The programme features an exclusive interview with Paul Schramm who led the investigation as well as other Officers who also worked on the case. We investigate the psychology of John Bunting and meet the man who had the grim task of identifying the bodies in the barrels. In a world exclusive, the programme also includes footage as the police entered the vault for the first time.
The Bega Schoolgirl Murders
The Judge in the trial of killer Leslie Camilleri called it “the worst case of murder with which I have had to deal”.
In 1997, Leslie Camilleri and Lindsay Beckett abducted two teenagers: 14-year-old Lauren Barry and 16-year-old Nichole Collins. The girls were camping with friends only a few kilometres from home when they decided to leave the camp to visit friends. As they emerged from the bush they were picked up by Camilleri and Beckett. They were driven across the state of Victoria and subjected to 9 hours of rape and torture. After the harrowing ordeal, the two friends were stabbed to death and buried in scrubland near Fiddlers Green Creek. Their brutal and heart breaking deaths still shock the nation to this day. Camilleri was imprisoned with no chance of release. Beckett was sentenced to a minimum of 35 years in prison.
This documentary includes interviews with friends and relatives of the two girls including Lauren’s brother Nathan and friends Rebecca and Sarah (surnames withheld). The programme also includes a revealing interview with the detective who led the investigation, who details how the killers were tracked down and convicted of the notorious crime.
The Queen Street Massacre
On the 8th of December 1987, Queen St, in the heart of Melbourne’s CBD was rocked by news of a shooting. Disturbed loner Frank Vitkovic had entered the HQ of Auspost at 191 Queen Street and opened fire with a military grade rifle.
Vitkovic was a young student, studying at Melbourne University’s School of Law. On the morning of the shooting, he wrote in his diary that he was planning to die that day before calling in at the campus. When he announced to a member of staff that he had failed his exams, he rejected an offer of help before heading into the CBD saying ‘he had a job to do at the Post Office’.
He made his way into town and headed to Queen Street. The purpose of his ‘mission’ as he called it, was to shoot a former friend, Con Margelis, who he believed was responsible for all his failings. They were former tennis partners but had grown apart. Margelis hadn’t spoken to Frank in months and was unaware of the impending chaos.
As soon as he arrived at 191, Queen St, Vitkovic drew his weapon, aimed it at Margelis and fired. The weapon jammed and Margelis escaped. 8 other office workers wouldn’t be so lucky. For 17 minutes, he prowled the offices shooting at random. He had tried to modify his weapon so it would fire fully automatic – fortunately the modifications had failed and it jammed regularly. Despite that, he managed to fire over 40 rounds.
Only when he was tackled by workers did the shooting stop – Vitkovic wrestled himself free and threw himself out of a window to his death.
When Police visited his home, they found his diary where over a period of weeks, Vitkovic had honestly and brazenly talked about his feelings and how his frustration would culminate in the horrific act of violence.
In this revealing programme we talk to survivors of the massacre, police charged with managing the situation and also the psychologist who analysed Vitkovic’s diary to try and make sense of the tragedy. We also hear from Frank Vitkovic’s former friend Nick Murphy who paints a chilling picture of the young gunman.
In November 2010, David Auchterlonie joined friends Chase Day, Cohen Klein and Matthew Milat on a trip to Belango state Forest to celebrate his 17th birthday. It was a trip that would result in David’s murder.
Immediately after arriving in the heart of the forest, Milat asked David to join him outside the car. He then produced a double headed battle axe which he swung at David, mortally wounding him. As he lay bleeding on the ground, David was subjected to abuse and taunts before Milat hit him in the head with the axe, killing him.
Chase Day witnessed the attack and went straight to the police. Milat and Klein were subsequently arrested and charged with murder after a mobile phone found at Cohen Klein’s house was forensically searched and Police discovered a deleted video file – Klein had recorded the entire murder.
As Police probed into the background of Matthew Milat, they uncovered a tale of chilling parallels with his Great Uncle Ivan Milat – the perpetrator of the infamous backpacker murders. He abducted, tortured and killed seven backpackers in a brutal killing spree for which he was sentenced to 7 life sentences. Mathew idolised his great uncle and wanted to share in his infamy. Justice Mathews sentenced Milat to a maximum of 43 years, Klein to a total of 32 years.
In this revealing documentary we speak to David’s family, Police officers and the psychologist who analysed Milat pre-trial. The programme also features chilling interviews with Chase Day, Cohen Klein and Matthew Milat in police custody where the whole terrifying story emerged.
In October 1997, Law student Anu Singh held two dinner parties to say goodbye to her friends after she had allegedly divulged to them that she and her boyfriend Joe Cinque were to die in a suicide pact. The dark plot would result in only Joe’s death. The twisted crime became notorious for its chilling cruelty and bizarre plot which led to Singh being found guilty of manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility. She was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment, but was released early in 2001.
In October 1997, 25-year-old Law student of the Australian National University Anu Singh, invited friends to two dinner parties and told them that a terrible crime would be committed. After the first dinner party, Singh made an aborted attempt to kill Joe. Her second attempt was tragically more successful, and Joe Cinque died two days later. The toxicology reports showed high levels of heroin and rohypnol in his body.
This programme features interviews with those close to the case including Joe Cinques parents Maria and Nino (who sadly passed away during the making of this programme), Nino and Maria’s Godson Robert Terrone, Psychiatrist for the Crown Dr. Michael Diamond, Forensic Psychiatrist Paul Mullen, Anu Singh’s Barrister Jack Pappas, Australian Federal Police Officer Greg Ranse and first responder Gina Kikos from ACT Fire and Rescue.
On the 22nd September 2012, ABC employee was enjoying a night out with friends. After leaving a bar on Sydney Road, Brunswick in the early hours of the morning to make the short walk home, she disappeared. The whole of Melbourne were shocked by her disappearance – how could a young woman simply go missing in their safe and friendly city. Suspicion immediately fell on her husband Tom but this quickly lifted when it was clear he had nothing to do with his wife’s disappearance. Despite a huge police search and a social media frenzy there was no sign of Jill. The only sighting was made on CCTV along Brunswick road the night she left the bar.
The breakthrough would come when police tracked her mobile phone signal and found that it had travelled out of Melbourne and pinged a phone tower. A search of freeway cameras identified a car belonging to Adrian Bayley – a prolific and convicted sex offender. After an intense interview with police, Bayley cracked and admitted murdering Jill Meagher. He took Police to a deserted country road were Meagher’s body was found in a shallow grave. She had been raped and strangled by Bayley.
He admitted murder before the trail but the ensuing publicity shone an uncomfortable light on the justice system in Australia. Tragically, Bayley was on parole when he killed Jill. He had broken the terms of that parole so should have been recalled back to prison. The system failed and he was left free to roam the streets.
In this programme we tell the tragic tale of Jill’s murder through interviews with journalists and ex detectives. We also speak to the psychiatrist worked with Bayley as a youngster as well as featuring an interview with the Chair of the Adult Parole Board who explains the sweeping changes made to the parole system in the wake of the terrible crime.
The Town of Albury on March 16, 1985 – A shop worker in a store saw a man exposing himself in a car outside. Her boss called the cops.
The Police arrived and arrested the man, as was routine , he was fingerprinted. Five days later, the s prints arrived at the central fingerprint bureau in Sydney. The detective noticed a scar on the little finger and it rang alarm bells. He has seen that print before.
So began the unravelling on one of Australia’s most shocking crimes. A trail that led to double murderer and multiple rapist Raymond Edmunds – a trail that spanned 2 states and almost 20 years.
In 1966, two teenagers Garry Heywood and Abina Madill went missing in Shepparton, Victoria. Initially the townsfolk thought it was a case of two youngsters running away – until Heywood’s prized car was found abandoned the next morning.
Their bodies were discovered in a field days later – they had been shot, beaten and Madill, raped. Abina’s boyfriend Ian Urquhart was the prime suspect – a cloud of suspicion that never lifted even after Ian’s untimely death years later.
The real killer would remain hidden until the chance discovery of his fingerprints 20 years later.
A violent man who had raped and beaten his first wife and sexually abused his daughter, Edmunds was also responsible for a series of rapes in the 1970’s and early 80’s that led the police to dub the then unknown offender with a distinctive odour, “The Donvale Rapist”.
In this revealing documentary we speak to friends of Abina and the sister of Ian Urquhart. We also get a unique insight into the investigation from former detectives and the fingerprint expert whose diligent work caught the killer.
When Patricia Byers suggested to her partner John Asquith that they go on a weekend boat trip on Moreton Bay off the Queensland coat – little did he know that he would end up critically wounded, shot in the head by a .22 rifle.
After a romantic meal on deck, Asquith went to bed only to wake hours later with a bullet wound to his head and Byers nowhere to be seen – he found her on deck claiming pirates had boarded the boat and attacked them. Even to a non-sailor like Asquith this seemed odd –Moreton Bay was not known for piracy.
The subsequent police investigation would shed a disturbing light on the events. The attack on Asquith was not by pirates – it was by his supposed lover Patricia Byers. She had forged his signature, taking out multiple life insurance policies in his name. She would eventually end up in court, charged with attempted murder – she was sentenced to 12 years in prison after being found guilty.
But that wasn’t the end of the story. Byers had been involved with another man – another man who had disappeared several years previously. His name was Carl Gottgens and his family, after seeing the news about the Asquith trial, were growing worried. The subsequent investigation into the Gottgens case would unravel a web of lies and deceit – Byers had killed Gottgens and covered up the crime – portraying him as a love rat who left her for a new life in Thailand whilst at the same time asset stripping the man.
She was charged with murder and sentenced to life imprisonment for the crime. She has never revealed what happened to Carl.
The programme features interviews with detectives and legal experts who pieced together the case against Byers using a wealth of documents, many of which are exclusive to this programme.
The Walsh Street Massacre
The 1980’s in Melbourne were described by Police as being like the Wild West. There was an ongoing feud between bank robbers and cops but in 1988, the simmering tensions boiled over into an act of brutal savagery.
The events began on the 11th October 1988 when bank robber Graeme Jensen was shot by police who bungled his arrest (ironically for a crime he didn’t do). His fellow gang members saw it as a wilful act of murder by police and vowed revenge.
In the early hours of the following morning, they laid a trap for two young Police. Constables Steven Tynan and Damian Eyre responded to an abandoned car in Walsh Street where they were ambushed and murdered.
The subsequent investigation would result in a tale of lies, deception and even more violence. Gang members were shot by police as they attempted arrests and young gang members were charged with murder in an effort to force information out of them. The apparent breakthrough in the case came when the wife of gang leader Victor Pierce was convinced to turn on her husband and give evidence. She complied until the day before the trial when she changed her mind. The trial was fatally wounded and the 4 gang members charged with murder walked free. The crime remains unsolved.
Featuring interviews with detectives who worked the case, the family of the fallen officers and journalists who covered the story at the time, we reveal one of the darkest episodes to befall the Victoria Police.
On September 8th 2013, Morgan Huxley sat down for a drink at The Oaks Hotel in Neutral Bay. He’d been at a friend’s engagement party nearby and had decided on one last beer before bed. He was captured on CCTV leaving the bar in the early hours. His body was discovered the following morning by his flatmate. He’d been stabbed multiple times.
When friends and colleagues were quickly ruled out as suspects, Police turned to the CCTV cameras around the area. They quickly spotted a stranger following Morgan home. Enquiries at local businesses put a name to the stranger – kitchen worker, Daniel Kelsall.
Kelsall was interviewed but denied any involvement – he then contacted police to change his story saying he had been inside Huxley’s flat but that he was invited in. He spun a story about consensual sexual activity but police quickly ruled it out. Kelsall was charged with murder shortly afterwards
Psychiatric evaluation of Kelsall suggested a dark and twisted character with psychopathic traits. He has certainly never accepted any responsibility for the random and senseless murder
This chilling documentary features interviews with Kelsall’s former boss as well as the Detective who led the operation that caught him. We also feature the psychologist who studied Kelsall for the prosecution, as well as revealing the recordings of Police interviews conducted with him during the investigation.
The crime committed by Robert Farquharson has been etched on the minds of Australian’s since 2005. Farquharson drove his car into a dam off the Princes Highway near Winchelsea on Father’s day, drowning his three sons, Jai, 10, Tyler, 7 and Bailey, 2. After two trials, Farquharson was found guilty of murder with the prosecution confirming he killed his children to get revenge on his wife from whom he had recently divorced. Featuring interviews with Cindy Gambino, the children’s mother, plus detectives from the team charged with bringing Farquharson to justice, the programme reveals the true horror of this shocking crime.
On the 14 July 2001, British couple Peter Falconio and Joanne Lees stopped on the Stuart Highway in the Northern Territory after a man flagged down their car. This man, later identified as Bradley Murdoch, shot Falconio before tying Lees up. She managed to escape while Murdoch was distracted, hiding in nearby bushes for five hours until she was able to run out into the road and flag down a truck driver who took her to safety. Falconio’s body has never been found. The subsequent trial and media furore would stun the nation as well as raising questions about the strength of the allegations against Murdoch.
The Strathfield Massacre
The Strathfield massacre in Sydney on the 17th August 1991 will be forever remembered as one of Australia’s most shocking gun crimes. A lone gunman, Wade Frankum, entered a shopping mall one afternoon, had a cup of coffee and observed shoppers going about their business. Moments later, he stabbed a teenage girl next to him before opening fire on unsuspecting shoppers for ten minutes. The devastation left eight dead and six wounded. Before police arrived, he took his own life. Officers later found a collection of violent literature and films at his home – the only clue into why this killer took all those innocent lives. The crime provoked fierce debate on the country’s gun laws.
Five year old Darcey Freeman suffered a horrific death at the hands of her father on the 29th January 2009. Driving her to her first day at school, he stopped the family car on the Westgate Bridge and callously threw her off the side, in full view of her two older brothers. He then returned to his car and drove to the law courts in central Melbourne where he handed himself in, pleading with officials to take his boys off him. In a trial that gripped the nation, the jury had to decide if Freeman was ‘mad or bad’.
The Russell Street Bombing
On Easter Thursday in 1986, a car bomb exploded outside the Russell Street Police HQ in central Melbourne. Constable Angela Taylor was caught by the full force of the blast and succumbed to her wounds 21 days later in hospital. She was the first serving female Australian Police officer to be killed in the line of duty. The subsequent investigation into the bombing would change the face of forensic inquiries and lead to the apprehension of a gang or armed robbers with a vendetta against the Police. The programme includes interviews with Angela’s parents, officers who carried out the investigation and survivors of the attack, many of whom haven’t spoken of their experiences before. The episode also features previously unseen footage of the scene in the aftermath of the explosion.
The murder of Raechel Betts
Raechel Betts was a young woman from the Melbourne suburbs whose life spiralled out of control after she began selling drugs on behalf of a male acquaintance. Tragically this man, unbeknownst to Raechel, was a double murderer who had slipped through the parole system and was free to kill again. In August 2009, her remains washed up on a Phillip Island beach. Her body had been dismembered. Featuring interviews with Raechel’s friends and family as well as the detective who led the investigation, we tell the tragic tale of Raechel’s life and death plus examine the failings in the system that allowed a killer to murder an innocent woman.
Hoddle Street Massacre
In August 1997, Hoddle Street in Clifton Hill, Melbourne became the scene of utter carnage as disgraced Army cadet, Julian Knight shot and killed seven people and injured countless more. He was given 27 years minimum sentence and despite several legal petitions, the Victorian government has said it is unlikely he will be released. Featuring interviews with survivors, Police officers and emergency responders we tell the true of story of the massacre. The programme also features chilling footage of Knight’s Police interview as well as footage of the moment he was taken back to the scene and explained what he had done.
Gerard Baden Clay
Allison Baden Clay was a beauty queen with a successful real estate husband. They lived in Queensland with their three young children. In 2012, Allison’s body was discovered in a creek, ten days after being reported missing by her husband. In July 2014, Gerard Baden Clay was found guilty of murder after a protracted trial. He appealed the verdict and in 2015, to widespread outcry, his conviction was downgraded to manslaughter. The crime has shone an uncomfortable light on the prevalence of domestic violence in Australia.
On 19th August 1992, Andrew Garforth waited by his car for the regular school bus to drop off nine year old Ebony Simpson just 400m from her home. As she walked towards her house he grabbed Ebony and threw her in the boot of his car. Garforth then took Ebony to a remote location, at which he sexually assaulted her, tied her up with wire and threw her into a dam where she drowned. Shortly after her disappearance, a large team set out in search of the little girl and Garforth attempted to cover his tracks by joining them. Locals reported seeing Garforth’s car following the school bus on a number of occasions and the police invited him to come in for questioning. Miraculously he admitted to the murder almost immediately and led police to Ebony’s body on August 21st, going to such lengths as to show them the horrifying manner in which he threw her body into the water. Ebony’s distraught family took some solace when Garforth was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole in 1993.
Jason Alexander Downie
On 8th November 2010 in the town of Kapunda in Adelaide, Jason Downie broke into the home of his best friend’s girlfriend, Chantelle Rowe. She and her parents Andrew and Rose were asleep when he entered the house with the intent to sleep with Chantelle, having been attracted to her for some time and frustrated that she didn’t reciprocate his affections. Alerted to an intruder in the house, Andrew Rowe confronted Downie but was stabbed at least 29 times and eventually died. Mrs Rowe also woke up and discovered what had happened. Downie attacked her and killed her in the same way. After witnessing the attack on her parents, 16 year old Chantelle hid under her bed in terror, but Downie proceeded to stab her to death. When their bodies were found Downie showed no remorse but instead was seen to be grieving, laying flowers outside the Rowe family home. When traces of his DNA and semen connected him to the frenzied attack, he was arrested and sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum of 35 years.
Peter Norris Dupas
On 19th April 1999, convicted criminal Peter Dupas posed as a new client of psychotherapist Nicky Patterson in Northcote, Victoria. Having made arrangements for his first appointment, the 28 year old welcomed Dupas into her home under the pretence that she would be giving him counselling for depression. Dupas attacked Nicole with a knife and after killing her he mutilated her body before removing anything that he thought might connect him to the crime. Fortunately, Dupas did not find Nicky’s diary which included the telephone number he had used to contact her. With a history of violent sexual behaviour, police quickly arrested him and searched his house in which they found evidence connecting him to her death. He was sentenced to life in prison with no possibility of parole in August 2000, and was later found guilty of the separate murders of Margaret Maher and Mersina Halvagis in 1997, being given two more life sentences.
The Port Arthur Tragedy
On 28th April 1996, 28 year old Martin Bryant committed 35 murders in the historic town of Port Arthur, a popular tourist destination of Tasmania. On that Sunday morning, the psychologically unstable young man travelled to Seascape guest accommodation and shot both owners whom he had known previously. He then drove to the tourist site of Port Arthur and ate a meal before opening fire on unsuspecting tourists in the Broad Arrow Cafe. In a tirade of irrational behaviour, Bryant used his AR-15 semi-automatic rifle to end the lives of over 20 people in a matter of seconds. He then drove to various points in the surrounding area, chasing innocent victims and shooting them point blank range – including women and children. Bryant continued his rampage and took a hostage back to Seascape, where police attempted to negotiate with his only demands for an Army helicopter to take him to an airport. At some point during the negotiations Bryant killed the hostage. He was eventually caught when he set fire to the accommodation and ran out of the house suffering from burns. With some reluctance Bryant pleaded ‘guilty’ and was sentenced to 35 life sentences without parole for each of his victims. This painful event has gone down in history as one of the world’s deadliest killing sprees by one individual alone.
Derek Ernest Percy
On the 20th July 1969, Derek Percy approached 12 year old Yvonne Tuohy and friend Shane Spiller whilst playing at their local beach in Warneet, Victoria. He grabbed Yvonne and tried to get Shane to come with him, but Shane managed to defend himself. Yvonne was taken in Percy’s car to a remote location where he sexually assaulted her, murdered her and savagely mutilated her body. Shane quickly reported several things he had noticed about Percy’s car, including a naval sticker which led police to the local Navy base HMS Cerberus. When police tracked down the owner of the car, they located Percy washing his clothes and arrested him. Eventually he admitted to the crime and calmly led police to Yvonne’s body. Controversially, Percy was found ‘not guilty’ on reasons of insanity but was considered too dangerous to ever be released. Since then Percy has been a strong suspect in a number of murders and disappearances of other children all over Australia including 7 year old Linda Stilwell who went missing from St Kilda beach in 1968. He was known as Australia’s most notorious child killer until his death in prison in July 2013.
Katherine Mary Knight
Katherine Mary Knight lived in the small town of Aberdeen, NSW. She was a family woman who was also known to have a violent past and a bad temper. In the early hours of February 30th 2000, Knight attacked her de facto husband John Price by stabbing him repeatedly until he bled to death in his hallway. One day earlier, Price had gone to court and taken out an Apprehended Violence Order against her. Knight’s experience as an abattoir worker and her obsession with knives then allowed her to skin his body, decapitate him and cook parts of his body to serve to his relatives. After noticing John missing from work, his employer notified police and one of the most horrific crime scenes in Australian history was to be uncovered. Police found Knight asleep in bed, having taken several sleeping pills. She was the first Australian female to be sentenced to life imprisonment without parole and her papers were marked ‘never to be released’.