Between 1989 and 1992, seven backpackers left Sydney and were never heard from again. The missing—Deborah Everist and James Gibson from Frankston, Victoria; Simone Schmidl from Regensburg, Germany; Gabor Neugebauer and Anja Habschied from Karlsfeld, Germany; Caroline Clarke and Joanne Walters from Haslemere, England, and Maesteg, Wales, respectively. They were all between the ages of 19 and 22 and last seen hitchhiking south on the Hume Highway, heading towards Melbourne.
On September 19, 1992, runners in Belanglo State Forest, a pine plantation 88 miles south of Sydney, stumbled across the body of Walters partially concealed in the underbrush. A second body was discovered by police a short distance away and was positively identified as Walter’s travel companion, Clarke.
Over the next year, police would uncover five more sets of remains buried in shallow graves throughout the forest. The bodies all belonged to the missing backpackers.
Fearing a serial killer was on the loose, police raced to solve the murders. They caught a break in the case when a United Kingdom man named Paul Onions contacted the authorities and described a horrifying incident he had narrowly escaped.
On January 25, 1990, Onions had accepted a ride out of the Sydney suburb of Liverpool from a man who called himself “Bill.”
As they approached Belanglo State Forest, Bill suddenly stopped the car and pulled a gun on Onions, telling him he was about to be robbed. Onions managed to jump out of the car and flagged down a passing motorist, prompting Bill to shoot at him before speeding off. Onions reported the incident to local police, giving a detailed description of his assailant and his vehicle.
Onions’s statement and later positive identification lead to the arrest and conviction of truck driver Ivan Milat, inside whose home items belonging to the seven murdered backpackers were found. Although Milat never explained his motive and maintained his “innocence,” evidence showed that he was likely the killer. Milat died from cancer in 2019 while serving seven consecutive life sentences.
This memorial plaque that lists the names and nationalities of the backpackers was unveiled on February 5, 1994 by then-Premier of NSW, John Fahey, M.P. The Schmidl family also erected a cross for Simone next to the official memorial.
Know Before You Go
The memorial is located at the junction of the Northern Firebreak Road and Belanglo Firebreak Road, along the Western Boundary Walk of Belanglo State Forest.