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Due to the graphic nature of this episode, listener discretion is advised this episode contains discussions of murder, sexual assault, pedophilia, torture, body mutilation, suicide and animal cruelty and death that some listeners may find disturbing. Extreme caution is advised for listeners under 13. On November 5th, 1997, a truck driver was making us run through the suburbs of Adelaide Hills in South Australia. He wasn't far from the town of Kersbrook when he happened to turn his head at just the right moment.


He driven this route dozens, if not hundreds of times. So by now, he knew the scenery well. But on this day, glancing down a short embankment, the driver caught a fleeting glimpse of something new, something that definitely shouldn't be there.


The driver radio at his office and asked them to call the police. He'd just seen a dead body hanging from a tree.


It was the first sign that evil had stirred in South Australia and nothing would ever be the same.


Hi, I'm Greg Olsen.


This is Serial Killers, a Spotify original from podcast. Every episode we dive into the minds and madness of serial killers. Today, we're taking a look at the horrific Snowtown murders of South Australia, otherwise known as the bodies and Beryl's murders.


I'm here with my co-host, Vanessa Richardson.


Hi, everyone. You can find episodes of Serial Killers and all other Spotify originals from podcast for free on Spotify or wherever you listen to podcasts.


In 1999, Australia was rocked by the gruesome discovery of eight bodies stuffed into barrels hidden in an abandoned bank vault in the remote hamlet of Snowtown. The bodies, which left a deep scar in the small town, were the handiwork of a small group of men with twisted hero complexes and a penchant for torture.


Today, we'll look at John Bunting, the ringleader of this gang of sadistic killers, and examine the dark motivations that led them to murder. Next time, we'll hear about the group's evolving M.O. and watch as police slowly uncover the worst murders Australia has ever known. We've got all that and more coming up.


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To many of us, it seems natural to aspire for more to reach for the things we didn't have growing up, the desire to prove yourself greater than the sum of your parts seems instinctual, a vital piece of humanity's evolution.


Then again, some people are content right where they are. They want nothing beyond the world they've always known except perhaps to rule it.


John Bunting was born into a life you would envy. Growing up in the inner city suburb of Inala in Brisbane, Bunting lived in an environment of high crime and unemployment rates. The working class suburb near Australia's east coast was largely made up of public housing and was home to many immigrant families.


Though Buntings 1960s, childhood wasn't the kind dreams are made of.


He was an only child, so his parents were able to devote what they had to their son's happiness. That said, no parent can protect their child from everything life throws at them.


It's unclear when, but at some stage, when he was young, Buntings suffered an illness that left him without a sense of smell, though it seems unlikely that a lack of smell influenced the man he would become. It certainly played a role in his later crimes. So it's important to note that now even more important was a traumatic event.


When Bunting was around eight years old while at a playdate, Bunting and his friend were physically and sexually assaulted by the friend's older brother, according to Bunting. The attack lasted some time and only ended when the boy's father came home.


As far as we can tell, Bunting didn't tell his parents about the attack at the time, and the older brother in question died in a motorcycle accident soon after. Because of that, it's hard to confirm with certainty that the story is true.


If it is, the incident undoubtedly had a profound impact on buntings developing world view.


Venice is going to take over and the psychology here and throughout the episode. Please note Vanessa is not a licensed psychologist or psychiatrist, but she has done a lot of research for this show.


Thanks, Greg. It's well documented that experiencing any kind of abuse during childhood can have lasting negative consequences on survivors lives. In a 2018 article published in Frontiers in Psychology, a team of researchers working at universities in Israel pointed out the effects of childhood sexual abuse, or CSA has on the developing brain of particular interest is the evidence that shows a strong correlation between the effects CSA has on the human psyche and those caused by traumatic brain injuries.


As we've discovered in previous episodes, a history of traumatic brain injuries can be an indicator of violent behaviour. It's unsurprising, then, that CSA can be considered a strong predictor of lifetime psychopathology. If Bunting really was attacked as a child, then it likely left lasting trauma scars that stayed on his psyche and affected every part of his life.


It might have been this traumatic incident that influenced buntings sadistic tendencies. As a young boy, he dropped Insects' into chemicals to watch how quickly the various corrosives would kill the creatures. He delighted in watching the bodies dissolve before his very eyes.


As he grew up, buntings, interests and hobbies shifted, and he developed a fondness for weapons. He seemed fixated on all manners of weaponry, including making his own. He reportedly took the gun powder from fireworks to create his own makeshift rocket mortars.


This passion for firearms led the teenage bunting down a rabbit hole of gun collecting and research. Eventually, his interest led him to World War One, books he picked up from the library. This later led him to German history, Naziism and white supremacy.


Somehow, Buntin got his hands on a copy of Mein Kampf and even painted a swastika on his car, though his horrified mother painted over it.


It was around this time as he slowly devoured racist literature that buntings dislike of paedophiles festered according to those who knew him. Bunting reviled anyone he even suspected of preying on children and seemed unable to distinguish these predators from gay men. It is, unfortunately, a common and misguided homophobic trope.


It goes without saying that being gay and pedophilia are not in any way related. In fact, research shows that the overwhelming majority of sexual assaults against children, including boys, are perpetrated by straight men.


But either no one told Bunting that or he had no interest in believing it because the two concepts were inextricably linked in his mind, he reportedly liked to brag about knowing where local gay men lived and indicated that he wanted to beat them up. Research has also shown that anti-gay or homophobic attitudes are widespread in Australia. Nearly half of all Australian men surveyed by. The Australian Institute believe being gay is, quote, immoral. It's worth mentioning that homophobic beliefs are socialized or learned behaviors, especially when it comes to young men like Bunting.


His beliefs progressed into adulthood with exceptionally violent consequences.


As far as we can tell, Bunting never attacked anyone in his home state of Queensland. But by 1986, the 20 year old left the East Coast and settled in Adelaide in South Australia, where he held a couple of different jobs, most notable of which was that a slaughterhouse.


In some ways, it was the perfect work for Bunting as he couldn't smell any of the typical sense you'd encounter while butchering animals. But the work revealed a disturbing fascination of buntings. He bragged to friends that his favourite part of the job was when he got to kill animals using a stun gun or by slitting their throats.


It was a gruesome thing to hear, but should be taken with a grain of salt. In his book, Snowtown The Bodies and Beryl's Murders, author Jeremy Pudney notes that hunting stories were perhaps embellished. Records from the slaughterhouse don't show that Bunting was ever involved with the killing of livestock. Either way, the young man delighted in sharing the gory details, real or imagined, with friends and roommates.


Not that he had a lot of people to boast to. According to most who knew him, Bunting had few close friends as a teenager, but as an adult, he branched out at least a little and even had some romantic success. In 1989, 23 year old Bunting met and quickly married Veronica Tripp, an 18 year old with reported intellectual difficulties. Veronica later said that her husband revealed a startlingly aggressive nature after the wedding, although she noted that he was never violent with her.


As far as we can tell, the next couple of years were uneventful for bunting. But in 1991, he and Veronica moved to the Adelaide suburb of Salisbury North. Soon after they arrived, they met a couple who lived not too far away. Barry Lane and Robert Joe Wagner. And theirs was a complicated relationship.


Lane was about six years older than 20 year old Wagner. On the surface, the age gap might simply raised a few eyebrows. A May December romance. Except Lane was a convicted predator with a history of sexually molesting pre-teen boys, and Wagner was one of his victims.


It's unclear exactly how Lane and Wagner met, but Lane started grooming Wagner when he was just 13 years old. In 1985, about a year after they met, the pair ran away together and went into hiding, presumably so they could stay together without Wagner's family or the authorities intervening. They returned to Adelaide when Wagner was 18 and settled in Salisbury North as an openly gay couple. The pair were harassed and their home was frequently vandalized. Still, they struck up a friendship with their new neighbours, John Bunting and his wife, Veronica.


It's curious to think about 25 year old bunting and unashamed and vocal bigot befriending Lane and Wagner. It makes no sense for him to even talk to them. It's even more unusual when considering the couple's obvious age difference and buntings dismissal of both gay men and paedophilia. Lane practically confirmed all of buntings worst fears, and yet before long they were inexplicably two of his closest friends.


This might be because Ponting and Wagner shared some common interests, notably in admiration for Adolf Hitler. Together, Wagner and Bunting were briefly members of extremist group National Action, preaching racial purity and employing terror tactics like the Ku Klux Klan. National Action found both Ponting and Wagner too radical for their liking and threw them out.


So it would seem that Bunting found something of a kindred spirit in Wagner. And before long, perhaps even from the moment they met, Bunting gave himself a mission on behalf of his new friend.


It seems Bunting suspected that 20 year old Wagner wasn't really gay, that Lane had somehow brainwashed him through grooming. We don't know what made him believe this, but he likely made a decision that he was going to rescue Wagner from the clutches of his predatory partner.


So Bunting took Wagner under his wing, spending time with him and Lane perhaps hoping to learn more about their relationship and by extension, all paedophiles.


At this point, we want to point out that this logic is flawed and deeply troubling for a number of reasons. But based on what information we have, it seems unlikely explanation for what was going on in Bunting's head during this time.


What came next points clearly to the sinister motives beneath Buntings friendships, but that's with the benefit of hindsight. In reality, it would have been much harder to see this as. For what it was a powder keg, just seconds from explosion. Coming up, John Bunting claims his first victim, you discover their practices, seek their advice and let yourself become more vulnerable than ever before, they have the ability to heal. What doctors can't or so they say.


Listeners be sure to check out the special four part series on Miracle Healers airing right now on cults.


Meet figures from around the world who claimed powers and pushed remedies but harbored more sinister intentions. You don't want to miss it. And if you're looking for more episodes on the most radical and deadly people in history, tune into cults every Tuesday as we explore the background and psychology behind the world's most manipulative and mysterious groups. From Jim Jones and the People's Temple to Charles Manson and the Manson family to Katherine area Nexium, you'll cover the unscrupulous methods used to turn bright eyed recruits into diehard believers.


Follow the Spotify original fun podcast, Cults Free on Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.


This episode is brought to you by Uber, it's figuring out what's for dinner, why not eat local? Tonight, I'll be eating a turkey burger with lettuce, tomato pesto, caramelized onions, pepper, jack cheese, no pickles.


Yes, mayo, all on a brushed butter sesame bun, toasted from my favorite neighborhood place. Whatever you're in the mood for, Uber Eats offers a wide selection of local restaurants from what's new in town to old local favorites. Eat Local with Uber eats tonight. Now back to the story, by 1991, 25 year old John Bunting had settled in the lower income suburb of Salisbury North in South Australia. He surrounded himself with like minded people who were only too willing to listen to his rants about pedophiles and gay men, both of whom he hated, though he did at least put up with some gay men in his life, like 20 year old Robert Wagner and his partner, 36 year old Barry Lane, for reasons that served his own ends.


Welcome back to what those might have been a little later. But for now, Bunting was biding his time.


Still, his friendship with Wagner and Lane brought him into contact with more young gay men than the lifelong homophobe. An all around bigot was comfortable with his grudging tolerance only extended so far.


Wagner and Lane served their different purposes and Bunting's life. But 18 year old Clinton Tresize was another story entirely.


Like his friends Wagner and Lane, Clinton was openly gay and even in the early 1990s, seemed unafraid of broadcasting his identity. People around Salisbury North knew Clinton best for his bright red and purple trousers. Bunting called Clinton happy pants coming from a friend. The nickname might sound endearing, but the phrase fell from buntings mouth like vinegar.


Aside from Wagner and Lane, Clinton had few friends and didn't speak with his family often. So the details of his life in 1992 are sketchy. We can assume that Bunting knew Clinton at least peripherally because they both spent time at Wagner and Lane's home.


The timing of what happened after Bunting and Clinton met is a little fuzzy. But we do know that sometime in August of 1992, Bunting had had enough of happy pants. It's not clear if Clinton did something to draw his fury, but Bunting decided that it was time for the teenager to die.


Perhaps Bunting was better than he sounds at hiding his disdain for Clinton because when he invited Clinton to come over and hang out one day, the teenager accepted. What the pair talked about. While alone is anyone's guess. But eventually Bunting was ready to take out a life's worth of hatred.


On one young man there in the living room, he beat Clinton to death with some kind of tool, likely a shovel. A fractured left hand suggest later that Clinton tried in vain to defend himself, but it was no use. So brutal were the blows that the back of Clinton's skull was caved in when it was over. Bunting was left with a bloody dead body on his living room floor, and he knew he had to get rid of it. So he wrapped Clinton in garbage bags, then called Wagner and Lane to ask for help.


If Buntings friends were surprised or afraid when they heard he needed help burying a body, we don't know. But we're certain that the couple agreed to lend a hand. Lane even offered his station wagon to the operation, helping Bunting and Wagner load Clinton's body into the back.


Together, the trio drove out of Adelaide, eventually pulling into an empty stretch of farming land about 30 miles north of the city. There, they dug a shallow grave for Clinton, covered him with a few inches of soil and returned to Salisbury North.


Though he'd helped his so-called friend bury, Lane was reportedly shaken by the incident. A few days later, he went to visit Buntings wife Veronica, and told her the whole story. According to her, Lane was terrified and warned her not to ask her husband too many questions lest he get violent again.


But curiosity got the better of Veronica, and she asked Bunting for the full story. He indulged her with some of the details, which she kept to herself. Four years later, she confessed that she feared her husband would kill her too, if she ever repeated what she knew.


So to everyone not in the know, Clinton just simply vanished without a trace. Unfortunately, it seems that the only people who knew the teen well enough to notice he'd gone missing didn't need to wonder where he'd gone. They were the ones who buried him to everyone else. Life in Salisbury North seemed as normal as I'd ever had, but that life wasn't always easy.


Low income was a common denominator among many of the locals, and with that came its own set of problems. Government subsidized housing invited a disparate population, including those who were unable to work and those who perhaps had no interest in doing so.


Whatever their backgrounds, some families in Salisbury North just struggled. And in 1993, Elizabeth Harvey and her sons were one such family. The 40 year old single mother was abused as a child. As an adult, she had an addiction to both slot machines and shopping.


This combination of factors made it apparent to those around her that Elizabeth. Could use a hand, luckily, a kindly neighbor named Jeffrey Payne offered to spend time with her young sons, what Elizabeth didn't know was that Payne was a convicted pedophile. So from November of 1993 to January of 1994, Payne sexually abused and raped her sons, including 13 year old Jamie Forsakes on a regular basis to ensure their silence. Payne told the boys he would kill their mother if they ever told her what happened.


And it seems they believed him. None of them said a thing.


Still, word got out. Payne had a reputation after all.


Another concern, neighbor decided to warn Elizabeth about what was happening to her children. Barry Lane, himself a convicted pedophile, knocked on her door to share the shocking news, though she had difficulty managing other parts of her life.


Elizabeth was a fierce mother in short order. She had been arrested, effectively ending the abuse. But the punishment came too late to help Elizabeth's sons in particular. Jamie was changed by the traumatic ordeal. According to author Jeremy Pudney, the 14 year old showered obsessively, sometimes scrubbing himself until his skin bled.


As far as we know, Jamie was never formally diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. That said, his behavior following the abuse suggests that he might have experienced it all the same. According to a 2005 article published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, PTSD is a core manifestation of sexual abuse. Trauma PTSD might explain some of the odd behaviors Jamie exhibited in the aftermath of the abuse, as well as the coping mechanisms he turned to at a young age. He started self medicating with drugs and alcohol.


Before long, he was a heavy user of both. But as bleak as things looked just then, they were only about to get worse. At some time in 1994, 28 year old John Bunting heard about what happened to Elizabeth's boys, Barry Lynn had told him all about it. Lane's intentions are unclear, but perhaps he was trying to prove that despite his past, he was one of the good guys.


But Bunting disagreed. He appeared on Elizabeth's doorstep to warn her that Lane was also a pedophile and that she needed to keep her family away from him. Bunting might have felt that Elizabeth alone wasn't capable of taking care of her brood, so he took it upon himself to act as their protector and perhaps something more by the end of 1994. Bunting and Elizabeth were in a romantic relationship. His marriage to Veronica was all but dead. So he spent more and more time with his new mistress and her sons.


And at least one person was delighted by this development.


Jamie Jamie had perhaps longed for a strong protective presence in his life for some time. You see, his own father, Spiros Lusaka's, had also reportedly sexually abused Jamie and his half brother Troy for years. It's unclear if Elizabeth knew about the abuse, but it ended when Spyros died suddenly of a heart attack.


Unfortunately, his father wasn't Jamie's only abusive family member. Troian allegedly preyed on his younger brother for a time as well, though it's unclear exactly when or for how long. So by the time Bunting showed up, Jamie had experienced chronic abuse from multiple men.


So it's hardly surprising then that Jamie looked up to Bunting with his outspoken, violent hatred of pedophiles and gay men. Bunting might have seemed like a kind of champion to the impressionable team, and Bunting saw just how impressionable, how moldable young Jamie was.


At first, the relationship between the two was easy, harmless fun. They'd ride motorbikes together or go to the movies, but the Darkness and Bunting was never far from the surface. Eventually, Jamie saw it for himself. He made Jamie watch as he skinned the carcasses of stray cats and dogs he'd killed.


Once Jamie and Bunting trapped a dog in the back yard and handed Jamie a gun, he told the team to shoot the cornered animal in the head. When Jamie couldn't do the deed, Bunting took the gun back and did it himself for someone living with so much trauma. Incidents like this must have had a devastating impact on Jamie's psyche. And Bunting was just getting warmed up.


While Bunting moved in on Elizabeth's family. His murderous past was being dug up some 30 miles away. In August of 1994, two farmers working in the field stumbled across the skeletal remains of Clinton Tresize.


Unfortunately, Bunting and his accomplices had removed Clinton's clothes, so there was nothing authorities could use to definitively identify him. There was evidence of previously broken bones and dyed hair that offered hope of an ID, but no one came forward to claim Clinton as theirs. Not even a 100000 dollar reward helped in the search for his identity.


When Clinton's family finally reported him missing in October of 1995, three years after his murder, authorities still couldn't make the connection. A photograph of Clinton was sent to forensic scientists to compare against the skull, but it was deemed not to be a match twice.


And as investigators searched fruitlessly for a name to go with Clinton's skeleton, Bunting revelled in the reflected glory of his crime when watching an episode of Australia's Most Wanted that featured a plea for help solving the case, Bunting boasted to Jamie about the murder without flinching. He claimed responsibility.


He also claimed his place in a new family. By the end of 1995, 29 year old Bunting had left Veronika and moved in with Elizabeth. Attaboys, there was an uneasy, turbulent family unit, and it seems that everyone in the home was afraid of bunting, with bunting now living under the same roof.


16 year old Jamie got to see the full extent of his pseudo father figures troubling paranoid behaviour. According to Jamie, Bunting liked to go into other people's rooms when they weren't around snooping for who knows what. It's almost like he was constantly hunting for evidence someone was a paedophile.


That might have been the reason he put up with Barry Lane. He wanted to learn more about pedophiles. He was still obsessed with them, and even though he'd known several gay men by now, was still incapable of separating the two concepts in his head. His vitriol for both spewed forth on a near constant basis.


Dirties, he liked to call them, and it was his opinion that they didn't deserve to live. He even kept track of everyone in the neighborhood he suspected of being a predator or a gay man. Reportedly keeping dossiers of information on each one, he hung up a notice board in his bedroom, dubbing it his wall of spiders.


The wall featured names and information of buntings suspects written on small pieces of yellow paper. He connected the names with links the blue string as if he imagined himself a detective in a Hollywood thriller. The subjects of his absurd investigation became targets of his ire. He called them on the phone to scream abuse, graffitied their homes and vandalized their cars.


It was troubling violent behavior, yes. But so far it was all bluster, the kind of attention seeking stunt you might expect of a petulant teen. Then again, Bunting had proven himself capable of killing on a whim. It was just a matter of time before he struck again.


The perfect opportunity came along in December of 1995. At the time, Bunting was having an affair with a woman named Suzanne Allen, and she came to him with alarming news. Her ex fiance, Ray Davies, had reportedly molested two young relatives of hers who were staying with her for Christmas.


26 year old Ray Davies lived with an intellectual impairment and was friends with Barry Allen. In fact, it was Allen who introduced Ray to Suzanne.


Gray and Suzanne were engaged for a while, but he carried on having sex with men during their engagement, so she eventually called it off. Still, she let him live in a caravan parked in her backyard.


Neighbors used to notice Ray hiding in bushes and masturbating whenever young girls walked past. So the accusation that he preyed on Suzanne's nephews didn't come completely out of left field. And when Bunting heard the story from his girlfriend, he wasn't content to leave things up to the police. He was ready and willing to take matters into his own hands.


By this time, Buntings friendship with 26 year old Robert Wagner had deepened, and he was ready to include him in Ray's punishment. Nicknamed Lurch by his colleagues on the volunteer fire brigade, Wagner was hulking, tattooed, intimidating the perfect muscle. Together, he and Bunting abducted Ray, handcuffed him and loaded him into the back of Wagner's car.


The men drove Ray several hours away and brought him into a house where they beat him with a metal pole. When they'd had their fill, they bundled their bloody victim back into the car and drove back to Adelaide. But instead of bringing him to Suzanne or the police, they took Ray straight to Elizabeth Harvey. The man presented Ray to Elizabeth as a twisted gift before beating him again from the next room. Elizabeth heard them screaming abuse at the handcuffed stranger.


Then they summoned her to join them with Wagner.


Elizabeth picked up jumper cables and wrapped them around Ray's neck. Then they squeezed the life from him while Bunting watched with glee.


When it was done, Ray's lifeless body lay before them. Bunting leaned in to ask Elizabeth a question. Do you like your present?


Coming up, Bunting and his murderous gang settled into a terrifying pattern.


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In the final days of 1995, 29 year old John Bunting and his friend, 26 year old Robert Wagner, abducted and murdered suspected pedophile Ray Davies with a little help from Buntings live in girlfriend Elizabeth Harvey.


Now they needed to get rid of the body.


Luckily, Bunting had a long held fascination with digging holes and tunnels, so there was already a relatively deep pit in their backyard, the murderous trio through Ray's body into the hole and covered it up with soil. But they didn't fill in the hole completely. There was plenty of room for more bodies.


After all, with the body settled, they just needed to cover their tracks. So Bunting went to see his mistress, Suzanne Allen, and told her that he and Wagner had just chased her ex fiance a ray off. They'd given him such a scare, he said, that he left without taking any of his belongings from the caravan and Suzanne's backyard.


So that was that Ray Davies was dead and forgotten by Bunting and his cronies. Well, almost. Bunting kept a hold of Ray's debit card and used it to withdraw his victims welfare payments each fortnight.


It was a nifty double dip, serving to line Bunting's pockets and make it look like Ray was alive and well, if not in any way visible.


With one less pedophile in the neighborhood, Bunting had little to complain about except Susanne Allen. At some time in 1996, he broke things off with his mistress, which she didn't take well. The heartbroken woman wrote obsessive love letters to her roughneck Romeo, but it was in vain. Desperate, she took to driving past his house, perhaps hoping he would see her and rush into her arms.


But Bunting wasn't lovesick. He was just tired of Susann and over her not so subtle drive bys. Luckily for him, he was soon to be free of her entirely.


The details of exactly what happened to Suzanne are murky at best, so things have to be taken with a grain of salt. However, we know that in November of 1996, neighbors noticed that Susan was missing and decided to keep a careful eye in her home.


In December, one of those neighbors called police to tell them that John Bunting and Robert Wagner were removing furniture from Suzanne's house with no sign of her at all. When police arrived, Bunting flashed the front door key and explained that they were simply helping Susan move to a new place, convinced the officers went on their way.


Of course, Bunting story was a complete fabrication. Suzanne was already dead, though exactly how that happened is less certain. Bunting later claimed that Susan died of natural causes, and he found her body alone in her house when he broke in one day.


Given what we know about bunting. It's difficult to believe that explanation. What came next?


However, with Wagner by his side, Bunting moved Suzanne's body to her bathtub and dismembered her at one stage. Wagner allegedly held Suzanne's head out to Bunting and tried to make him kiss it.


To them, death was a game when their work was done.


The two men bundled the pieces into garbage bags and tossed them into the still open hole in Bunting's backyard. Then, with the pit considerably fuller, they covered the dirt with cement. In time, a rainwater tank was placed on the cement, the perfect cover. But even if Bunting and Wagner were done with Suzanne, her story wasn't over yet. On December 10th, 1996, Susan's brother reported her missing. An investigation was opened. Then in February, police noticed that Susan was making regular withdrawals from her bank account, doing their due diligence.


Detectives reached out to Suzanne's last known boyfriend, John Bunting.


By this time, Bunting had redirected Susan's mail to his address, making it look like she lived with him. So his claims that he'd seen her recently weren't hard to believe. Authorities also took his word when he said that Susan wanted nothing to do with her family anymore, with little else to go on. The case fizzled out and police lost touch with Susan's brother. So there was no one to follow things up. Once again, John Bunting and Robert Wagner had gotten away with it.


That wasn't the only thing Wagner had to celebrate. By this time, Wagner was engaged. He left his childhood abuser, Barry Lane, and declared he wasn't gay after all. In fact, he'd grown more like bunting than ever, enthusiastically espousing violent, hateful rhetoric about gay people, people of color and pedophiles. With such a winning personality, it's hardly surprising that Wagner attracted a woman willing to marry him.


His fiancee, who will call Nancy, was a mother of three.


She also just happen to be friends with a young man named Michael Gardner. And to Wagner's chagrin, Michael was openly gay. But if the 19 year old sensed any hostility from Wagner, he didn't let it affect his friendship with Nancy. He often came to visit and was always happy to babysit her kids when she needed a hand.


One day, Wagner walked into a room where Michael was playing with Nancy's children and saw him reach out and put a hand over the eldest boy's mouth. This apparently triggered traumatic memories for Wagner. You see, like Bunting and like Jamie, he'd reportedly been abused by a family friend as a young boy, and his abuser had placed his hand over Wagner's mouth to stifle his cries. So now seeing a man do that to another child made him see red. He decided to retaliate against Michael.


At the time, Michael was housesitting for his friend Nicole. So Bunting and Wagner knew that he'd be alone, perfect for an ambush. It was the middle of September 1997 when they abducted Michael and brought him to a home in the town of Murray Bridge about 60 miles away.


There, they subjected him to brutal, sustained beatings and torture. When they tired of this, they took the teenager into the garage and slipped a makeshift noose around his neck. Then they rigged it so tightly to an exposed beam, Michael had to remain standing to stay alive. With the rope around his neck, they held a phone to Michael's ear and made him call a friend on their orders. Michael told this friend he was going to move up north for a while.


When the friend asked for more details, the line went dead.


Then their tracks sufficiently covered. Bunting and Wagner stood there and watched their exhausted, abused victim sway on his feet, unable to stay up forever. Eventually, Michael's strength faded and their twisted game was over. After that, Bunting and Wagner returned to Nicole's house to go through Michael's things, they ransacked the place, taking much of Michael's stuff with them as well as some of Nicole's. Then they left her a note from Michael apologizing for stealing her belongings.


Days later, when Nicole returned to her trashed house, she found Michael's wallet under his bed and was somewhat suspicious about his disappearance. She searched for her friend but ran into brick walls. Wagner had lies ready to feed her, and the trail wasn't so much cold, as nonexistent.


As for Michael's body, we know that at some stage Bunting purchased a 44 gallon drum with a very specific purpose in mind. Michael was bundled into the barrel and the lid sealed shut. For now, even with a grown man's body inside it, there was still room in the barrel and Bunting was eager to fill it up. In October, just two months after they killed Michael Bunting and Wagner struck again. And like before, they chose someone they already knew.


Sometime during 1996 or 1997, Barry Lane had followed in Wagner's footsteps and announced to the world that he was no longer gay. And also, like his former victim turned partner, he proposed to a woman who will call Shelby. But whether it was wishful thinking or perhaps even a plot to protect himself from Buntings ire, Lane's attempt at heteronormativity was fleeting. Shelby was a mother of three, and when authorities intervened to ensure Lane, a convicted pedophile, didn't go near her children, it was the beginning of the end.


By that stage, 42 year old Lane all but gave up the charade and invited another teenage boy to live with him. 18 year old Thomas Trevillian was, according to his relatives, a troubled young man with a somewhat tenuous grip on reality. He had intense fantasies about serving in the armed forces and dressed constantly in army fatigues.


Shelby wasn't impressed with her fiancee's new living arrangement and broke off the engagement after just a few months. Still, she and Lane remained friendly, and she was the last person to speak to him before he died. On October 17th, 1997, Bunting and Wagner ambush lane at his home. The exact details of who did want our fuzzy. But it seems that Thomas was there at the time and was either involved in planning the attack or was roped into participating by the older men.


The decision to target Barry Lane was perhaps an obvious one. From both men to Bunting, Lane likely represented every pedophile he so obviously reviled, having allegedly been abused himself as a young boy.


The hatred makes sense for Wagner, however, the feelings were undoubtedly more complex. Lane was his former abuser and then for years, his lover. It seems likely that for him, perhaps even more than Bunting, the attack on Lane was a form of revenge. To many, the idea of vengeance feels primitive, animalistic and for good reason. Multiple studies have shown that the desire for revenge stems from humans basest fighting instincts. Interestingly, according to researchers at the University of Haifa in Israel, men are more inclined to seek revenge than women who typically view the act as pointless.


But for those who do see the point of vengeance, the desire likely represents a need to restore balance to right or wrong, to take back control from someone who has unjustly taken it.


For Wagner, confronting his former abuser who stole so much of his childhood, the appeal of violent justice must have seemed irresistible. In his eyes, Lane deserved to die. It was perhaps the only way to make things right.


The three men accosted Lane, handcuffed him and forced him to share the pin for his debit card. Then, just like they'd done to Gardner, they made their victim help cover their tracks.


They called Lane's mother and had him scream abuse at her, announce he was planning to hitchhike to Queensland, then hang up. That was Lane's family taken care of.


Now for his friends, it was around 10 pm that night when Shelby got her phone call from Lane. He told her that he and Thomas were on a road trip, but that their car had broken down. He asked her to please look after his animals until they made it back home. Then he hung up.


Though she heard some of Lane's final words, Shelby didn't hear his last moments, which were horrific.


The three men gagged their victim and taped his mouth shut for good measure, then they tortured him using a pair of pliers to crush his toes.


Eventually, the men grew weary of Lane's muffled screams and strangled him to death when he was finally dead. They wrapped his body in garbage bags and left him on the floor of his own home.


A few days later, the man returned to Lane's house to finish cleaning up. They bundle the body into the trunk of a car, then killed Lane's cats and dogs once those loose ends were tied up. They took the body elsewhere and placed it inside.


Yet another large plastic drum, according to Thomas, Bunting and Wagner were apparently debating whether to bury the drum or sink it in the ocean. At least that's what Thomas told his cousin Lenore later that month. But Thomas used to tell Lenore fantastical stories all the time. So when he spun this particular yarn for her, she thought nothing of it, though she did note the details in her diary that night. It was an engrossing tale after all.


Eleanor also noted that Thomas seemed terrified of Bunting and Wagner. He feared they would come after him next.


Unfortunately, going to the police with those kinds of concerns wasn't an option many people in Salisbury North would have considered. And with Thomas's history of mental health troubles, it seems no one took his concerns seriously any way they should have.


A November 5th, 1997, just five days after Thomas told his cousin about what he'd done. A truck driver noticed a body hanging from a tree by the side of the road when police pulled Thomas Trevillian down. They found a few dollars in his pocket.


Perhaps they thought it was sad that this young man had felt so despondent that he couldn't even bring himself to spend his money before he took his own life. Maybe they felt sorry that he didn't have anyone to turn to. When things got rough, they ruled the death suicide.


Undoubtedly they were wrong. It was murder and it wouldn't be the last. Thanks again for tuning in to serial killers will be back soon with the horrifying conclusion to the story of the Snowtown murders.


John Bunting and his accomplices were on a roll getting away with every murder they committed and had no intention of stopping.


Eventually, the disappearances draw the attention of local police and the race begins to uncover the truth before even more people are killed.


For more information on the Snowtown murders, among the many sources we used, we found Snowtown, the bodies in Beryl's murders by Jeremy Pudney. Extremely helpful to our research.


You can find all episodes of Serial Killers and all other Spotify originals from podcast for free on Spotify.


Will see you next time. Have a killer week.


Serial Killers is a Spotify original from podcast. Executive producers include Max and Ron Cuddler Sound Design by Scott Stronach with production assistance by Ron Shapiro, Carly Madden and Bruce Kaktovik. This episode of Serial Killers was written by Joel Kaplan with Writing Assistants by Abigail Cannan, fact checking by Hayley Millican and research by Brian Petrus and Chelsea Wood. Serial Killers stars Greg Polson and Vanessa Richardson.