In 1999, police in Snowtown, Australia, made the horrifying discovery of eight dismembered bodies in barrels. These killings became known as the Snowtown Murders, one of the most famous cases of serial killers in Australia. These murders were attributed to John Bunting, Robert Wagner, James Vlassakis, and Mark Haydon. Of course, some people are morbidly curious about these killings, and if you're one of these people, then read on. Just be aware that what you read here is definitely not for the faint of heart.
There haven't been many Australian serial killers who have murdered as prolifically as Bunting and his gang, nor as heinously. Their victims were their own family members and friends, who they often torturing them before death. Most of the killers have never shown remorse and the little town has forever been scarred. As you learn more about these murders in Snowtown, keep in mind that these killers are all behind bars and still alive. There may be more victims that authorities do not know about yet.
Many Victims Were Killed In Their Own Homes
One particularly terrifying aspect of these killings is that many of the victims were not kidnapped and killed elsewhere, as many serial killers do. Instead, the murderers often chose to kill people within their own homes. Elizabeth Haydon, Gary O'Dwyer, Troy Youde, and perhaps some of the others were all killed in their place of living, or were at least attacked and tortured there.
What's more is that the group of killers would vandalize the homes of their victims, as well as the homes of anyone they thought might be gay or a pedophile. They showed no fear of intruding or disrupting someone else's privacy, and did so easily without getting caught. Those that were not killed in their homes were often lured willingly to Bunting's house, where they were tormented and murdered before their bodies were dismembered and stuffed into barrels.
Bunting Hated Gays And Pedophiles
Bunting hadn't exactly had an easy life while growing up. He was born without a sense of smell and at the young age of eight, he was brutally beaten and sexually assaulted by a friend's older brother. It is likely this that set him on a path of harboring a deep hatred for pedophiles and gays. Later down the line, he would use this hatred as an excuse to begin killing.
His first victim, Clinton Trezise, was one he accused of being a pedophile. After he had invited the man over for a social visit, he accused him of crimes against children. Then, he bashed in Trezise's head with a shovel before disposing of his body. Bunting would later refer to Trezise as "Happy Pants," but there is no actual evidence that Clinton was a pedophile.
Bunting's hatred of gays didn't extend to any actual crimes. He considered them "dirty" and in one room of his home, he created what he called a "rock spider wall, " where he kept a web of pictures and names of people he suspected were gays. "Rock Spider" is a slang term in Australia for pedophiles, and he referred to all gays as such.
They Knew The People They Killed
It's not common for prolific serial killers to kill people they know or are close to, because it brings investigators knocking at their doors. If someone you know dies, police tend to question you, and that can lead to you becoming a suspect or giving away a hint as to what happened to them. But in this case, the gang went out of their way to get to know the people that they killed and, often times, these people were friends or family for quite some time before Bunting ever made the call that they needed to be killed. Some even lived with Bunting for a time, such as Gavin Porter and Thomas Trevilyan.
The killers got close to Trezise before they killed him. Wager dated Barry Lane for a spell before killing him, too. Thomas Trevilyan had even assisted in a previous murder before Bunting decided he was the next mark. Many of the people they killed had psychiatric problems or mental disabilities, which made them easy targets, and meant that they were not missed as quickly. But even then, some of these individuals had known the killers for years, or even their whole lives. For example, Elizabeth Haydon was the wife of one of the killers and David Johnson was the stepbrother of Vlassakis.
Vlassakis Helped Kill His Own Half-Brother And Stepbrother
A few of the victims were actually family members, particularly family of James Spyridon Vlassakis. James was only in his teens at the time and easily fell under Bunting's spell. He was quick to offer up people for him to kill. Bunting had married Elizabeth Harvey, James's mother, and the two quickly began to spend a lot of time together.
Without a present father in his life, James turned to Bunting as a father figure and began to trust him and make attempts to impress him. When Bunting said he hated gays and pedophiles, James was quick to agree. He even confided that his half-brother, Troy Youde, had molested him when he was only 13 years old. Bunting responded by setting up Youde's murder. The group visited Youde's house, dragged him from his bed, tormented him, then killed him and disposed of his body. David Johnson, James's own stepbrother, later became a victim as well.