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Ivan Milat is best known as the Backpack Killer, convicted of seven murders of backpackers in Australia.
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Milat's trial was set for June 1995, but the case was delayed by wrangles over legal aid, and finally went ahead in the full glare of international publicity in March 1996. Milat was charged with the seven murders, as well as the attack on Paul Onions, and pleaded not guilty to all charges.
Onions was the first prosecution witness, who was followed by testimony from the family members of the victims. Then followed detail of the hundreds of exhibits and scene of crime photos,
as well as expert witness testimony. The prosecution case took 12 weeks to present.
The defense called Milat to the stand; he denied any involvement in the killings, but performed poorly under cross-examination, making a bad impression on the jury. The defense tried to imply that other members of the Milat family had committed the crimes, and had then set Ivan Milat up, but the case presented was not credible.
On July 27, 1996, following a 15-week trial, the jury returned after 3 days of consideration, finding Milat guilty on all charges.
He was sentenced to 6 years imprisonment for the attack on Paul Onions, and seven consecutive life sentences for each of the murders. When asked if he had any comment, Milat continued to protest his innocence.
Milat was incarcerated in the maximum-security wing of Goulburn Prison, near Sydney. Milat has always maintained his innocence, and later staged self-mutilation attacks, and hunger strikes, in a bid to get his appeals heard.
In May 1997 authorities foiled a well-planned jailbreak attempt masterminded by Milat. His accomplice was found hanged in his cell the next morning.
In July 2001 his initial appeal against his sentence was denied.
Police maintain that Milat may have been involved in many more murders than the seven for which he was convicted. In the summer of 2001, Milat was ordered to give evidence at an inquest into the disappearances of three other female backpackers, but no case has been brought against him, due to lack of evidence. Similar inquiries were launched in 2003, in relation to the disappearance of two nurses and again in 2005, relating to the disappearance of hitchhiker Anette Briffa, but no charges have resulted.
On November 8, 2004 Ivan Milat gave a televised interview, in which he denied that any of his family had been implicated in the seven murders.
On July 18, 2005, Milat's former lawyer, John Marsden, who had been fired before the murder trial, made a deathbed statement, in which he claimed that Milat had been assisted by an unknown woman, in the killings of the two British backpackers.
On September 7, 2005 his final appeal was refused, and Milat is likely to remain in prison for the rest of his natural life.
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