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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 and suicide that some listeners may find disturbing.


Extreme caution is advised for listeners under 13 on May 20th, 1999. Police arrived in the small community of Snowtown on the trail of some missing persons. At least five people had vanished from Adelaide's northern suburbs just after lunchtime.


Their search led them to an abandoned bank in the middle of town. The vacant building, with its red brick exterior and imposing steel doors was a bit of an eyesore. It had been empty for almost four years and now stood as a grim reminder of the town's recent decline.


But investigators learned that the building was recently rented out by a person of interest in their investigation. John Bunting. Until now, he'd slip through the cracks. But at last here was a solid lead. Detectives were keen to find out just what Ponting was using the empty building for once inside.


Officers found little of interest in the derelict space. The remnants of the building's former life as a community bank were the only things that really stood out. Well, that and an air freshener once they'd finished documenting the details.


Police turned their attention to the bank vault at the back of the room. The imposing door was locked, but a simple piece of wire made quick work of it.


The door swung open, revealing not a cavernous treasure trove, but a flimsy sheet of plastic taped tightly to the frame, moving carefully to preserve any evidence they might find on the other side. Officers reached up to peel back the plastic. They had no idea that the horrors they were about to unleash would change Snowtown forever.


Hi, I'm Greg Polson.


This is Serial Killers, a Spotify original fun podcast. Every episode we dive into the minds and madness of serial killers.


Today, we're concluding the story of 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.


Last time we learned about John Bunting and his obsessive hatred of gay men and pedophiles, we watched as he gathered malleable cohorts around him with whom he murdered friends and acquaintances from his Adelaide neighborhood.


Today, we'll find out how police finally realized something was wrong and why the investigation into buntings missing victims took so long to gain ground. We'll also detail the rest of Buntings gang's horrific murders and learn just what was hidden in that Snowtown bank vault. We've got all that and more coming up. Stay with us.


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In early November 1997, the body of 18 year old Thomas Trevillian was found hanging from a tree. Police quickly ruled the teenager's death a suicide, but in reality, Thomas was murdered.


It was at least the fifth murder 31 year old John Bunting had committed, along with his accomplice, 25 year old Robert Wagner.


Four years, they'd escaped police attention by selecting victims with few people who cared when they went missing.


That said, the sudden disappearance of their victims caused at least some people to worry.


When Barry Lane's friend and ex fiance, who will call Shelby, hadn't heard from him in a while, she got concerned. Then when she heard about Thomas's death, Shelby's worries mingled with suspicion.


Last she'd heard, Thomas and Leanne were living together and were supposed to be on a road trip with a broken down car. The fact that Thomas made it back to town without Lane and then killed himself didn't make any sense to her. So she went to the police to report Lane missing.


She also told police that Lane confided in her about helping John Bunting once dispose of human remains. According to Shelby, Lane was never sure about whose body he helped bury, but he suspected it was Clinton Tresize.


At this point, Clinton had been officially missing since 1995 when his family finally contacted police. The mention of his name triggered routine investigations into Lane's disappearance as well. But it seems like no one tried very hard to find the convicted paedophile. Calls to John Bunting and Robert Wagner yielded little more than vague stories about having seen Lane out and about.


So both cases stagnated. Few people seem to care about a missing predator and a troubled teen. So with no one aware of the multiple murders in their community, 1997 melted into 1998 with little fuss. But as the year wore on, John Bunting felt the urge to kill again. And like always, he chose his next victim from those closest to him.


For years, Bunting had lived with a woman named Elizabeth Harvey and her teenage sons. He'd moved in after he heard Elizabeth's boys were targeted by a local paedophile. He decided to be their protector, but he wasn't interested in looking after everyone in the house. 31 year old Gavin Porter also lived with Elizabeth and her sons. He was good friends with Elizabeth's son, Jamie Lusaka's. But though Bunting took a fatherly shine to Jamie and wanted to mould him in his own image, he had no such affection for Gavin.


It's not clear what provoked Ponting, but perhaps he felt that Gavin was a bad influence on Jamie. Gavin reportedly struggled with drug addiction, or maybe Bunting just didn't like the look of him. Either way, he asked Wagner to help get rid of Gavin. At some point in early April 1998, Bunting and Wagner ambushed Gavyn while he napped in his car. They wrapped a rope around his neck trying to strangle him to death. But the 29 year old fought back.


He grabbed a screwdriver and stabbed it into buntings hand, but his struggle was in vain. Bunting leaned on his victims chest, making it even harder for him to breathe. He stayed that way until Gavin gasped his last.


The two men carried Gavins body into the garage, placing it in a mechanic's pit in the floor. Then they covered it with plastic sheets and couch cushions and ordered Chinese food for dinner.


They were still eating when 19 year old Jamie got home that night abandoning his food, Bunting took Jamie into the garage to show him his friend's dead body. Vanessa 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.


Understanding Jamie's state of mind is crucial here because it informs much of what we know about this story. The murder of a friend or family member can be a traumatic experience for those who survive them. And typically, homicide survivors will deal with effects beyond the obvious shock. These can vary, but include lingering feelings of guilt, a fear that they'll lose someone else in the same way, and negative feelings about themself. According to a 2005 study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, homicide survivors will also experience strained relationships with other loved ones who are suspects in the crime.


They're also more likely to be preoccupied with a desire for revenge. This is undoubtedly made more complicated in Jamie's situation because he didn't just suspect Bunting. He knew that his surrogate father figure and self-appointed protector had killed his friend. So he had good reason to fear for the safety of his remaining loved ones after Gavin's murder. From that day on, Jamie was likely too scared to cross bunting.


That explains why just a couple of days later, he helped move Gavins body from the garage into a brand new 40 gallon plastic barrel. The Drum joined the others in a garden shed where, according to Jamie Bunting, lifted the lids to check on the remains already inside them.


Remember, Bunting had lost his sense of smell as a boy, so the stench of decaying corpses didn't bother him. And since childhood, he'd been obsessed with watching living things break down before his very eyes. Only now it wasn't insects dissolving in acid. It was his victims. And he was apparently quite pleased with the progress.


With the latest body taken care of, the trio set about crafting stories to cover for Gapen sudden disappearance. For his role in the plot, Bunting gifted Jamie Gavins ATM card and PIN, which he used to make regular withdrawals. That way, if authorities ever became suspicious about Gavin's whereabouts, his bank statements would show him spending his regular welfare payments.


Once again, the plot worked exactly as intended. As far as we can tell, no one ever reported Gavyn missing, which suited Bunting and his co-conspirators just fine. It's possible their continued success emboldened Bunting and his choice for their next victim.


In our last episode, we spoke about Buntings lifelong hatred for pedophiles and gay men. Given what we know about the three men, it seems likely that Bunting was aware that he, Wagner and Jamie had all experienced sexual abuse in their childhood. And vengeance, it seemed, was something the 32 year old was particularly enamored of.


According to him, Buntings own abuser died in a motorcycle accident years ago. Together, he and Wagner tortured and murdered Barry Lane, who was Wagner's abuser. Jamie had been abused by his own father, who was also long dead. But Jamie had confided in Bunting that another member of his family had also molested him as a child.


It was sometime in late August or early September of 1998 that Bunting and Wagner shook Jamie awake in the middle of the night. The men handed him a piece of wood and ordered him to follow them. Unthinking. The 19 year old did as he was told.


He was led into the bedroom of his half brother, 21 year old Troy Ude, years ago. Troy had carried on their father's abuse after he died, and Jamie never forgot it. Neither did Bunting.


The men set upon Troy sleeping for him, though Jamie later said he quickly left the room in his absence, Bunting and Wagner restraint Troy and took him into the bathroom from nearby. Jamie could hear the older men order his half brother to refer to them as Lord Sir and God.


They set about torturing the 21 year old in. The bathtub then building on their previous schemes, they forced Troy to record over a dozen angry messages for his loved ones, all of them amounting to a single idea goodbye when they'd had their fun.


Bunting ordered Jamie to come into the bathroom and told Troy to apologize for what he did. And with that taken care of, they gang Troy and taped his mouth shut, then strangled him to death with a length of rope. According to Jamie, Bunting looked directly into Troy's eyes while he died with yet another dead body on their hands.


The trio knew just what to do. They initially wrapped Troy in plastic garbage bags and stored him in the garage right where Gavyn had been months earlier. But eventually they moved him to a barrel only. Troy was too big to fit. This didn't faze Bunting.


He set about separating one of choice feet from his leg. He made Jamie watch as he cut into his brother and laughed while explaining his carving technique. Afterward, with Troy's body holding the barrel, Bunting asked Jamie how he felt his first murder was something of a special occasion.


After all, Jamie didn't know what to say. All he knew was that he was terrified, terrified that if Bunting could do that to his brother, he could certainly do it to him, terrified that perhaps that plan was already in motion, just terrified. Up next, Bunting and Wagner pick up the pace 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, listener's.


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Now back to the story. Towards the end of 1998, 32 year old John Bunting and 26 year old Robert Wagner murdered 21 year old Troy Ude, they made Troy's half brother Jamie of Las Vegas watch as they strangled his one time abuser to death. Then the three men loaded Troy's body into a plastic barrel and stored it in a garden shed.


Like with their other victims, Bunting and Waggoner's spread cover stories to explain away Troy's disappearance. They'd even forced Troy to record staged goodbye messages while they tortured him to play over the phone for his loved ones.


Those loved ones included Troy's mother buntings de facto partner Elizabeth Harvey. As far as we can tell, she had no idea her boyfriend had tortured and murdered her eldest son right in her own house. Then again, she already knew Bunting was a killer. She'd even helped him murder one of his earliest victims in 1995. So perhaps she should have suspected something was amiss when Troy vanished. But perhaps she was just inclined to trust whatever Bunting said. If she did, her trust was misplaced.


Bunting was currently cheating on Elizabeth with a woman named Gail Sinclair. He'd met Gail through his friend Mark Dayton. She was currently staying with him and his wife. Buntings spent long stretches of time at the Hayden house, either killing time with his friend or having fun with his mistress.


Gail might have been a wonderful lover, but according to those who knew her, she wasn't the best mother to her 17 year old son, Fred Brooks. Fred was reportedly a friendly young man with ambitions of joining the Air Force, but he resented his mother, who openly disliked her new boyfriend. Bunting tried to become a father figure to Fred, but the teen rejected him. And it would seem the bunting did not take kindly to rejection. For the most part, Buntings victims had been people he knew or suspected of being gay men or pedophiles, perhaps his world view was so twisted that he believed anyone who didn't want him in their life must be a pedophile.


So apparently he told us more pliable protege Jamie, that Fred was most definitely a predator.


And with that, not long after he'd murdered his partner's son, he was ready to kill his girlfriend's son as well.


In mid-September, Bunting brought Jamie to an empty house where Wagner was waiting with Fred. With his policy in place, Bunting gave the signal and they shackled 17 year old Fred in handcuffs and thumb cuffs.


Wagner wrapped his hands around Fred's throat and started to squeeze. By this time, he'd seemingly grown quite fond of strangling their victims. Bunting even liked to call him Papa Smurf because he turned people blue, but their fun was just getting started. So he told Wagner to back off and let Fred breathe. Then they moved the helpless teen into the bathroom.


They placed Fred into the same bathtub where they tortured and murdered Troy. But only days earlier there, they stripped him, beat him and subjected him to sustained horrific abuse. We won't go into detail, but Brett's final hours were undoubtedly excruciating.


John Bunting psychiatric reports have never been made public, so it's difficult to get a complete picture of his mental state. However, forensic psychiatrist Kevin Haoles from the University of South Australia said that Buntings behavior fit the mold of a, quote, emotionally deficient psychopathic killer. This isn't an official diagnosis, but if it's accurate, it explains how Bunting was able to so easily torture his victims for extended periods of time. Professor Howells suggested that Bunting lacked empathy with his victims while simultaneously displaying a great deal of control over his own behavior.


This controlled behavior, such as it was, helped Bontinck stay off police radar for so many years. Instead, it seems the 32 year old was willing to play judge, jury and executioner in the world he ruled during the assault, Bunting questioned Fred about a young girl the teen supposedly molested.


Despite the excruciating torture, Fred denied any knowledge of the girl. But Bunting was relentless. He was unshakable in his belief or delusion that Fred was a pedophile and that it was his duty to enact violent vengeance.


Eventually, Fred couldn't handle the pain any longer and started agreeing with whatever his torturer said. That's when they step things up to a new level of vindictive, twisted cruelty.


Watching in horror, Jamie noticed how much Bunting and Wagner seemed to enjoy what they were doing. They reveled in Fred's pain, in the godlike power they had over the situation. And as was now their pattern, they forced their victim to record angry phone messages as if he was leaving town for good.


If he understood what the messages would be used for later, the thought must have been terrifying. For the already traumatised Fred to be forced to say goodbye to your loved ones in a way you know will leave behind an echo of hate. It's unthinkable, but it was Buntings signature move.


It's unclear how long the men tortured the 17 year old or exactly how he died. It suspected he choked on a gag stuffed into his mouth to muffle his screams after they'd wrapped Fred in plastic.


He was eventually moved to the floor of Mark Haydon's garage to await the arrival of a new barrel. Meanwhile, his mother, Gail, worried about her son. She reported him missing to the police on September 18th, completely unaware that his body was in her own home.


With Gael's suspicions raised, Bunting told her a story about seeing Fred somewhere in town, obviously under the influence of drugs. Soon after, Bunting called Gail at home and played her Fred's angry goodbye message. That was enough for Gail, who told police to close the case. Fred, they decided, had left of his own free will.


With that, another odd disappearance was explained away, leaving Bunting Wagner and their new recruit, Jamie, to carry on murdering as they liked. Only now they were out of obvious victims. There was at that stage no one left in their social circle who Bunting suspected of being a dirty his word for gay men and pedophiles until he laid eyes on Gary O'Dwyer.


Bunting spotted 29 year old Gary walking around town and told Jamie that he looked like he was gay. What homophobic stereotypes led him to that conclusion is unclear, but the mere suspicion was as good. As a death sentence, then again, perhaps Bunting just wanted another weekly government paycheck to steal. Either way, he knew that Jamie was loosely acquainted with Gary and ordered him to do some digging.


Bunting wanted to know how much Gary's government pension was and whether he had loved ones who might notice if he were to disappear.


He was a snake calling for the strike described by his sister as a lost soul. Gary had no idea he was in danger. In his early 20s, a hit and run accident left him with permanent brain damage and a limp. Following the accident, he drifted in and out of trouble with police and spent much of his disability pension on drugs and alcohol.


Gary was reportedly a lonely man, which might have been what made him so quick to trust new friends. He sometimes offered people keys to his apartment, perhaps imagining them a kindred spirit who had spent time with him. Then he'd come home to an empty house robbed by his phony friend. How much of this mounting knew was unclear. But any piece of the puzzle must have made Gary sound like a perfect target.


So in October of 1998, he bullied Jamie into calling Gary and manipulating an invitation for drinks bunting. Wagner and Jamie showed up on Gary's doorstep and were enthusiastically welcomed in by the 29 year old.


Once inside, Bunting urged Jamie to chuck some drinks with their host, ostensibly to get unreliably drunk once the alcohol went to work. Wagner pounced, grabbing Gary by the throat while Bunting handcuffed him.


Like with their earlier victims, the men questioned Gary about his bank account and stole his debit card. Once they had the information they wanted, they procured a bag of Buntings favorite torture devices.


At that point, Jamie fled the scene. By now, he knew enough to know he didn't want to be around for what happened next because Jamie wasn't there.


We're not sure how Gary died, but the next day, Bunting took his reluctant young apprentice to clear the apartment of anything valuable.


Soon after that, Gary's body was placed in a barrel.


By now, the plastic drums containing the decomposing victims had been moved from the backyard shed to Mark Hayden's garage. So it stands to reason that Hayden himself was well aware of what each contained, how involved he was in the actual murders and whether he told anyone else about them is a debated subject.


If he told anyone, it's possible doing so marked that person as the next to die because Bunting and Wagner's next victim was Hayden's wife, who will call Beth. We don't know much about exactly when or how Bunting and his friends killed Beth, but it was sometime in late November of 1998.


It's reported that Bunting despised Beth behind Hayden's back. He called her disgusting. And by this point, it wouldn't be surprising if that was Buntings sole reason for wanting her dead.


Whatever his reasons, Bunting arranged for Hayden to take Beth's sister Gail, for a drive so that the house would be empty. Then he and Wagner murdered 37 year old Beth and stuffed her body into a barrel.


When Hayden and Gale arrived home, the men that gale a story about Elizabeth making a pass at Bunting and her fury when he turned her down. They told Gail that her sister had stormed out of the house, shouting about a man she was having an affair with.


Gail bought the story, apparently because the behaviour certainly sounded like her somewhat erratic sister. But when she didn't hear from Beth for a few days, she reported her missing.


It seems that Bunting hadn't been able to make Beth record any goodbye messages or else he didn't think it was necessary. But now he had no way of throwing Gail off the scent.


And that was a problem with police aware of Beth's disappearance.


It was only a matter of time before they showed up at the Hayden residence to ask questions with five barrels full of corpses in the garage, it was a recipe for disaster. So Bunting and Wagner loaded the barrels into a broken down Toyota Land Cruiser. They packed the vehicle with bulging garbage bags and other detritus, perhaps in an effort to muffle the odor, then loaded it onto a trailer.


It was time to move their victims far away. So with the Toyota trailing behind them like some macabre parade float, Bunting and Wagner drove away from Adelaide towards the little hamlet of Snowtown. Coming up, police finally stumble onto some answers at a tiny town is forever changed. When you have a migraine, you can become extra sensitive to light or sound, which can mean having to press pause when you're halfway through your favorite podcast or TV show, The Worst with neurotic Audette remeasurement, 75 milligrams.


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Contact your local Land Rover retailer today to schedule a test drive Land Rover above and beyond. Now back to the story. In late 1998, 32 year old John Bunting and 27 year old Robert Wagner were on a seemingly unending killing spree in the suburbs of Adelaide, South Australia. But when their latest victim, Beth Hayton, was reported missing, they knew it was time to finally move the plastic barrels containing the victim's bodies if police came poking around the Haydon house.


They were sure to notice the five large drums in her garage. So they loaded the barrels into a Toyota and towed it some two hours away to Snowtown.


They showed up on the doorstep of a friend who will call Peter and asked if they could store the packed car on his property. Peter agreed but was wary of the smell. Bunting explained that they'd been out shooting kangaroos to sell to a pet food company and the carcasses were in the barrels.


This peculiar explanation satisfied Peter for a while, but by early 1999, the smell from the barrels was unbearable. He told Bunting that the barrels couldn't stay where they were.


Luckily, there was a vacant building just across the street from where the Toyota was parked. The community bank had closed three years earlier and apart from a brief stint as a plant shop, had stood empty ever since. Bunting decided it was just what he needed.


In early 1999, he signed a lease on the building. Then he, Waggner and Mark Haydon moved the barrels into the banks long abandoned vault.


If the men hoped the vault could lock in odour as well as it once held money. They were to be sorely disappointed. Before long, the smell wafting out from the old bank drew complaints from Peter.


So Bunting and his cohorts taped a sheet of plastic over the bolts door, obviously believing that would effectively trap the smell of death. There was a temporary fix, but one that gave Bunting the confidence to crave his next victim. But while he selected his next prey, he had no idea police had finally picked up his scent.


People around John Bunting had been disappearing for years, and although he and his cohorts cobbled together somewhat credible cover stories, not every case had been closed. You see, the killers had been using their victim's bank cards to withdraw their welfare payments each fortnight. This helped make it look like the account owner was still alive and it lined the killer's pockets.


However, when money is often withdrawn from an account but no one has seen the accounts owner in months or years, it raises some red flags. By July of 1998, police knew that Robert Wagner was using his former lover, Barry Lane's ATM card. So they suspected that Wagner had something to do with Lane's 1997 disappearance.


The only thing was they didn't have any proof. They tailed Wagner on at least one occasion and watched him meet with John Bunting. But their interaction offered nothing incriminating.


Then, a few months later, it seemed like investigators might finally have a solid lead. When Gale reported her sister Beth missing in the following days, police received an anonymous tip to search the Heyden house. So they did just that. During the sweep, they found Beth's purse containing her credit cards and other personal documents.


It was the kind of thing no one would ever leave home without, not if they intended to run away with a new lover.


Then in the garage, officers noticed a peculiar odor but didn't see anything else out of the ordinary. It seems that the barrels had been moved just in time.


That same month, a police constable looking over Beth Hayden's missing persons file finally noticed that Buntings name was mentioned in multiple other open disappearances that of Clinton Tresize, Berry Lane and Suzanne Allen at last.


All four cases were linked and declared major crimes.


Doing this had several immediate effects on the ongoing investigations. It may detectives assume that murder was the most likely explanation in each case. And crucially, it allowed them to obtain a warrant to tap Buntin and WIKUS phones at all times. From then on, a dedicated operator was listening to every call. By April, police had gathered enough evidence to suspect that Ray Davies was Bunting and Wagner's fifth victim, and they were correct, except that by that stage they'd killed 11 people between them and they weren't done yet.


In early May 1999, Bunting selected his next victim, someone else he knew personally.


David Johnson moved in with Elizabeth Harvey in 1990 when she was in a relationship with his father, Marcus. He lived under her roof for a time and apparently fought often with his step brothers. And though his presence might have irked Elizabeth, she put up with it to claim government support for the extra body in her home.


The one person in the house who David did get along with was Jamie, who told him horror stories about the crimes Bunting and Wagner had committed. In turn, David told his biological mother about at least some of the murders when Troy disappeared. She begged him to go to the police with what he knew, but he didn't. However, he eventually moved out of Elizabeth's house away from bunting.


Unfortunately, he wasn't far enough. On May 9th, Jamie called David to invite him for a drive. He had a friend, he said, who was selling a top of the line computer for only 200 dollars. It was a steal one David knew he couldn't pass up. The only problem was that the PC was a couple of hours away in some place called Snowtown.


Following Bunting's orders, Jamie Leard, 24 year old David, all the way to the bank. Inside the dingy building, Bunting waited in the dim light thrown by the computer screen while Wagner hid in the shadows. Once David was close enough, the men attacked.


They handcuffed and beat. David, then forced him to recite specific words and phrases into the computer's microphone. It seemed Bunting fancied himself an audio technician and wanted to be able to create whatever he wanted for David to yell in phone messages later.


Once Bunting was satisfied with his new audio library, he used a belt to strangle David to death. The 24 year old fought to the very end and kicked out at his attacker, breaking some ribs. But Ponting held fast, squeezing the life out of the younger man.


Once David lay dead on the floor, Bunting ordered Wagner and Jamie to add the body to one of the barrels in the vault before they put the lid on.


Wagner sliced off a piece of David's flesh and tucked it inside a rubber glove, a souvenir for later. What Wagner did with that piece of flesh is unclear, but his time to do anything with it was running out.


A week later, detectives tailed Bunting and Wagner to Snowtown, where they noticed the Toyota Land Cruiser parked outside a house in the centre of town.


This was of particular interest to investigators, as Mark Haydon's neighbours had already told them about seeing the men loading it with barrels just after Beth disappeared. Only now the Toyota was empty.


But Buntings friend Peter gave the police the key to unlock everything. When asked about the car, Peter explained that his friends had parked it there and that there had been barrels inside. But he said the drums smelled so terrible that they'd been moved just across the street to the old bank and it just so happened that he had a key to the bank right there.


Within hours, a team of police arrived to conduct a search inside the bank lobby. There was little of note, except perhaps a small deodorizer plugged in, then using a piece of wire twisted just so they unlocked the imposing vault door.


The opening was covered in thick plastic sheeting secured with tape. When they started peeling away the plastic, the officers were walloped with an overpowering, revolting stench, enough to make you turn the other way and run. Unfortunately, that wasn't an option for police. So into the vault, they went inside.


They found six black plastic barrels with screw top lids and it was clear the smell emanated from whatever was inside. Scattered around the claustrophobic space were handcuffs, knives, rubber gloves, a saw, a belt and several bottles of hydrochloric acid. It was like the nightmare is set from a slasher movie.


Later that night, officers from Adelaide's major crimes unit arrived to remove the barrels and other evidence. In a place like Snowtown, word travels fast. So locals were gathered to watch as police backed a trailer up to the bank. A pub across the road was a convenient vantage point to enjoy a beer and swap gossip. Everyone knew something big was happening, but no one knew just how big.


Yet once the barrels arrived at Adelaide's Forensic Science Centre, their contents were carefully examined. To no one's surprise, they found human remains in them. But those. There were only five missing persons linked together, there were eight bodies crammed into the plastic drums, suddenly the case was much bigger than anyone had suspected.


At the crack of dawn the next morning, detectives arrested John Bunting, Robert Wagner and Mark Haydon, charging them each with one count of murder just enough to hold the men in custody.


During the ongoing investigation, 32 year old Bunting showed little emotion during his arrest and refused to answer detectives questions as if still under the thrall of their de facto leader, 28 year old Wagner and 31 year old Haydon's demeanors were much the same.


Meanwhile, other people were talking. Buntings longtime partner and accomplice Elizabeth Harvey was brought in for questioning.


Having helped in murder at least one of his victims, Elizabeth New Bunting, was an experienced killer. But perhaps she'd underestimated the full depth of his evil because she'd always believed the story. He told her about the death of Susan Allen that he'd found Susan already dead.


He then helped Elizabeth gain control of his mistress's bank account to steal her government payments. Years of living with Bunting taught her to be afraid of him, so she didn't dare ask for more details. This culture of fear surrounding Bunting had allowed him to work undetected for almost a decade.


Why Elizabeth finally felt safe sharing this information is unclear, but there are several possibilities. The first is that Elizabeth had recently received a terminal cancer diagnosis. She knew that her time was running out to tell the truth. It's also possible that with Bunting in custody, Elizabeth felt protected by distance. With all that she knew, perhaps she felt certain that her abusive partner was going away for good.


Still, even in police custody, Bunting left behind a legacy of terror with his mother, Elizabeth, speaking to police and bunting under arrest. Nineteen year old Jamie Lusaka's was beside himself. Sitting at home, he watched as news of the bodies in the barrels spread around Australia.


The story was dubbed the Snowtown murders. Within hours, of course, it was something of a misnomer. Only one of the slayings took place anywhere near Snowtown. But by then it was too late.


And the name Stuck report arrived in Snowtown, eager to dig up information about the murders, completely unaware that the small hamlet was just the unfortunate dumping ground. Elsewhere, photographers camped for hours outside of Adelaide Magistrates Court for a glimpse of the three suspects as they were led into the building.


The story made headlines around the world, with journalists from the BBC offering live on the air updates on the cases progress. It was easy to see that the swelling media frenzy could cause problems with future legal proceedings. So police announced that contempt of court charges would be levelled at anyone who published material that would in any way prejudice an upcoming trial.


With all this going on, 19 year old Jamie went to visit a friend to confess the stories flying about were true. He said John Bunting was a murderer. Jamie also admitted his involvement and told his friend about the undiscovered bodies buried in a suburban backyard not far away.


Eventually, Jamie calmed down and returned home. Then his friend called the police to tell them everything.


Within days, police used ground penetrating radar to search the backyard and eventually uncovered 11 garbage bags containing the dismembered pieces of Suzanne Allen. With one body revealed, a team returned to the backyard to keep looking.


By this stage, locals were bursting with curiosity about what had happened right under their noses. Children climb trees to get a glimpse into the yard, while neighbours gathered outside the house to await news. The crowd was so large that a catering van set up shop in the street to feed the masses.


It wasn't long before police unearthed the skeletal remains of Ray Davies, bringing the climbing body count to 10. And as the story got bigger, shocking the entire country. One man was about to reveal the full truth.


While investigators work to identify each of the decomposed remains they'd found so far, Jamie Vlasak sat down with detectives to finally come clean. But there was a catch in exchange for what he and his mother, Elizabeth, knew they wanted immunity.


The South Australian legal system prevented detectives from granting that request outright to qualify for immunity. Jamie would have to share what he knew. Then the Director of Public Prosecutions would make the decision whether or not to extend full immunity. However, his statement would not be used against him in court.


With all that in mind, Jamie began telling his story. His sprawling emotional interview lasted 10 days and. And obviously took a toll on a traumatized teen at times, he had to pause to throw up when recounting the horrors, he experienced a reaction that indicated to one expert that Jamie was not the cold blooded killer Bunting and Wagner were. He had taken no pleasure in the deaths he witnessed. He only participated because he was completely under the thumb of John Bunting.


Later in court, the same experts suggested that Jamie could one day emerge as a relatively unaffected member of society.


But for now, the teen scars were still fresh in all, Jamie told police about 12 murders before he was formally charged with homicide and taken to a psychiatric hospital to await trial. Later, the decision came back. Jamie would not be granted immunity. Still, the evidence he offered during his confession was instrumental in forming a full picture of what happened in most of the murders. Eventually, the investigators linked the formerly unidentified remains of Clinton justice to the case, as well as the misdiagnosed suicide of Thomas Trevillian 12 murders.


It was the most homicide charges Australia had ever seen, in one case signaling the beginning of marathon court proceedings. The committal hearings alone lasted eight months, with almost 1500 witness statements tendered to the court.


In mid 2001, Jamie pleaded guilty to four counts of murder, that of his brother, Troy Ude, as well as Fred Brooks, Gary O'Dwyer and David Johnson. In exchange, he was given four life sentences, which was the minimum sentence allowed for murder in South Australia. But he would eventually be eligible for parole. A glimmer of light at the end of a long, long tunnel.


He was sent to prison with a new identity in case any of the men he'd turned on sought retribution.


By that stage, his mother, Elizabeth Harvey, had died of cancer. She'd been granted immunity in exchange for her testimony against Bunting, Wagner and Hayden, but she never made it to the stand. Perhaps as a result, the evidence against the trio was somewhat weakened.


Hayden's lawyer succeeded in severing his case from Bunting and Wagner, and many of the charges against him were dropped, including all but two of the murders, that of Troy Ude and his wife, Beth.


However, the jury didn't convict Hayden of any murders. Instead, he was found guilty of lesser charges, including hiding the bodies of victims. In the end, he was sentenced to 25 years behind bars in September of 2003.


Both Bunting and Wagner were found guilty of murder. However, after seven days of deliberation, the jurors couldn't agree on whether Bunting and Wagner killed Susanne Allen. Still, eleven guilty verdicts were as good as one when it came to punishment. The automatic sentence was life behind bars too cowardly to face the consequences of his actions.


37 year old vaunting refused to stand for the verdict. Not that it stopped his punishment. It was the pathetic protest of a petulant child. And it's doubtful anyone was truly offended by it. John Bunting had lost his power to hurt people.


Still, he was a figure of horror, the undisputed ringleader of a murderous sect. At their sentencing, Justice Brian Martin remarked that Bunting and Wagner were in the business of killing for pleasure.


It seems likely that the pleasure they derived didn't end with the deaths themselves, though they also enjoyed what came after when reading about the Snowtown murders. Many reports suggest that what motivated the slayings was money, the stolen welfare checks that trickled in each week.


But it might be more accurate to conclude that the dominating factor in the Snowtown murders was fear. Bunting, Wagner and Jamie all experienced childhood sexual abuse, so it's understandable that they might fear or even despise paedophiles. But their reaction to their trauma, specifically Bunting and Wagner, seems outsized to the root cause.


If you squint, you can understand Wagner's motivation for killing his abuser a buried lane.


But none of the other victims did anything wrong to him. More bunting. Logically, they had nothing to fear from them. Then again, perhaps they enjoyed being the ones in control of someone else's fear.


With glee, they pulled the strings to make their captives dance, to make them address them as master and Lord, to hear them beg for their lives with a tightened rope or a pair of pliers, they dialed up the fear in their victim's eyes, relishing the moment when frantic panic terror dulled and their subject breathed their last.


Every time they get away with it, more power surged through them. Each time, they told the police it was a heady rush and with every. Triumphant withdrawal from the victim's bank accounts, it was a reward for their ultimate dominance and that web of control and snared those left standing partners, accomplices working as a stopgap until the need to exert their power resurfaced again and again.


These days, there's little reason to fear John Bunting and Robert Wagner, their aging men living out their small lives behind walls of concrete and steel. Jamie Vlasák is still living under an assumed name, will be eligible for parole in 2025. What he's afraid of these days, no one can say but him, but it seems likely that it's his past that draws a shiver. The abuse he endured, the secrets he kept, and the father figure who turned him into a killer.


Sometimes the things that might happen next are more frightening than the horrors you've already faced. Likewise, it's knowing there's evil potential lurking inside yourself that's more frightening than any specter that awaits you in the dark.


Thanks again for tuning into serial killers. We'll be back soon with a brand new story for more information on the Snowtown murders.


Among the many sources we used, we found Snowtown, the bodies in barrels murders by Jeremy Pudney, extremely helpful to our research.


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


We'll 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 Cannon, fact checking by Hayley Millican and research by Brian Peteris and Chelsea Wood. Serial Killers stars Greg Polson and Vanessa Richardson.