Ivan Milat: How his brother Alex was responsible for his downfall
When Alex Milat walked into Bowral police station in NSW's southern highlands in 1992, he did not know his tip would kickstart the investigation that led to the arrest and conviction of his brother Ivan as a serial killer.
Alex, one of Ivan Milat’s 13 siblings, claimed he and a friend saw two vehicles entering the Belanglo State Forest – where the bodies of seven young people linked to Ivan’s case would be discovered – containing about seven men along with two gagged and bound women.
Alex believed the two women could have been Caroline Clarke and Joanne Walters, two British backpackers who disappeared from the Sydney suburb of Kings Cross around the same time he saw them.
“I saw that the male passenger in the rear seat, next to the female, appeared to be aged in his mid-20s, a caucasian, fair complexion with brownish colour hair, which was neatly groomed and cut to the ears and neatly trimmed around the sides to the rear,” Alex’s statement read.
“He was clean shaven and appeared to be well dressed. From memory he was wearing an off-white colour, collar-style, long sleeve shirt ... At this time, I noticed his hands were not rough as if he was an office worker as opposed to a labourer and his hands were clean.”
The detailed description was first dismissed by police as fanciful, considering that both Alex and the people in his account were in moving vehicles.
Alex said he delayed reporting the sighting because he thought “it was just some young blokes taking some girls into the forest to have a good time”.
He said, “From my knowledge and experiences in that area I am aware of countless times when young men and women are observed driving around the forest looking like they’re lost or looking for somewhere they can have a good time and I didn’t think that this instant was any different.”
The police found Alex’s detailed report suspicious, as it didn’t match his hesitation to provide the information. That prompted them to look into the Milat family.
Out of all the Milat brothers, Ivan stood out due to his lack of alibi. He also lived near the forest and sold a Nissan car with a bullet left under the front seat shortly after the first bodies were found.
The second time Alex helped out with the investigation was when he notified the ABC about the massive clue inadvertently shown in its Four Corners report. An interview with Clive Small, the head of the manhunt taskforce, showed a whiteboard in the background that contained the word “Milat” – for Ivan Milat, who was chief suspect at the time.
The ABC removed the footage from further broadcasts, keeping Ivan in the dark and prompting Alex to continue monitoring his brother for the authorities.
The third time Alex put Ivan under the spotlight was a crucial moment that led the police to get a search warrant. Alex was being questioned for his brother’s case when his wife mentioned a backpack Ivan had given them as a gift.
The bag turned out to belong to German hitchhiker Simone Schmidl, one of the victims.
On May 22, 1994, Ivan was finally arrested at his home in Eagle Vale in a morning raid.
In July 1996, Ivan was sentenced to seven life sentences for the murders in NSW between 1989 and 1993 with no chance of parole.
Alex said carrying the same last name as his brother brought him a lot of trouble.
“I do [regret keeping the Milat name], I f*****g do,” he told Sunshine Coast Daily in 2015.
“The first day I should’ve changed my name, it would definitely have been a better life … It’d amaze you the problems I’ve had with having this name.”
He said he was not concerned about Ivan’s guilt.
“The decisions are made by somebody else, more than likely for political reasons,” Alex said.
“I don’t even worry about it [Ivan’s guilt]. I just try to live my life and enjoy it.”
Alex died in 2017 from a heart attack at the age of 76, while Ivan was diagnosed with terminal oesophagus and stomach cancer last week.
“I’ve been informed he's only got a couple of weeks to live,” Ivan’s nephew Alistair Shipsey told Ten News.