The Horrific Case Of The Snowtown Murders

In 1999, police in Snowtown, Australia, made a shocking discovery when they found eight barrels containing bodies in an old bank vault. The case quickly became known as the "Bodies In Barrels Murders" and later “the Snowtown Murders.” The killings were eventually attributed to John Bunting, Robert Wagner, James Vlassakis, and Mark Haydon, who had all worked together as a team of serial killers for years.

The police investigation eventually determined Bunting and the other men had murdered 12 people. Many of the victims were men, and most were tortured prior to their deaths.

In the list below, we'll explore how John Bunting recruited a team of men to help him kill over the course of seven years during the 1990s.

  • John Bunting Had A History Of Violence Prior To His First Murder

    Born on September 4, 1966, John Justin Bunting was reportedly friendly and charming when he wanted to be; however, he reportedly showed signs of violence from an early age. He allegedly had an interest in weaponry and eventually began harming neighborhood animals, even killing a friend's dog. While working at a slaughterhouse, he told coworkers he enjoyed killing animals.

    At nearly 26 years old, Bunting committed his first murder when he killed 22-year-old Clinton Trezise in August 1992. Bunting later claimed Trezise was a child predator who Bunting often referred to as “Happy Pants.”

    Bunting buried Trezise in a shallow grave, but his body wasn't found until two years later on August 16, 1994. At the time, police had no idea who the killer was.

  • Bunting Targeted Gay Men And People He Believed Were Pedophiles

    When Bunting was 8 years old, he was beaten and sexually assaulted by a friend's older brother. This event reportedly led Bunting to develop a deep hatred not only of pedophiles, but also of gay men and anyone he considered “weak.”

    In a spare room of his home, Bunting had what he called a “rock spider wall,” which was a wall covered with pictures and names of men, all connected by string. The wall was named after the slang term “rock spider,” used in Australia to refer to pedophiles. In most cases, there was no substantive evidence that any of these men had committed crimes against children, and Bunting's assumptions were largely based off rumors.

  • Bunting Recruited Robert Wagner, James Vlassakis, And Others To Be Accomplices In His Murder Spree

    John Bunting became friends with Robert Wagner and Wagner's girlfriend, Vanessa Lane, in 1991. Bunting eventually moved in with the couple and convinced them to assist in his killings.

    Bunting then married Elizabeth Harvey and, through her, met her son, James Vlassakis. Vlassakis would help with and suggest later killings. Mark Haydon also lived nearby and became friends with Bunting; he, too, was eventually drawn into the murders.

    In addition to these four main players, Bunting had other accomplices. Bunting's wife, Elizabeth Harvey, also assisted in at least one of the murders. Thomas Trevilyan was initially part of the gang as well but later became a victim. Jodie Elliott was a relative of Mark Haydon and reportedly helped collect money after the killings.

  • Bunting Knew Many Of The People He Killed

    Victims of the Snowtown murders were often the friends and family of the murderers themselves. For example, Bunting murdered Wagner's partner, Vanessa Lane, after the two broke up due to her involvement in earlier murders.

    Other victims, including Gavin Porter and Thomas Trevilyan, lived with Bunting leading up to their deaths. Like Lane, Trevilyan had also assisted with body disposal in previous killings.

    In addition to murdering his alleged friends, Bunting was tried for the murder of his ex-girlfriend Suzanne Allen, whose body was found buried in the backyard of Bunting's former home; however, the jury was deadlocked, and Bunting was never convicted for her murder.