A few doors up the street is "The House".
In this house was apprehended in May 1994, a
serial murderer who killed at least
seven backpackers between 1989 and 1993.
The victims were three German, two British and two Australian
The "Backpacker Murderer" ("IM") as he was named, lived at "The House"
with his sister ("SM"). He was supposedly living at his family home
(with his mother) in a different suburb when the murders took place. It
is thought but not proven, that IM committed other murders which remain
unsolved, and that SM had knowledge of some of the crimes.
Encounters with IM
The first time I noticed IM was one day when he was riding a small road
roller while applying bitumen to his driveway (you can see that same
driveway in the pics above and below; IM was a worker for the NSW roads
department for many years). What came to my notice was that IM was
away at SM for something or other. I thought, "What a angry/violent man"
he must be.
My second memory of IM was another day when I noticed very loud noise
coming from the roadside because someone was driving an unmuffled go-kart up and down
the street in front of my house. It turned out to be IM on that
go-kart. I remember wanting very much to go outside to tell IM off if
the riding had continued. Lucky for me it stopped not long after!
I recall SM walking by my front garden one late afternoon while I was
gardening and she had commented on how lovely the border flowers were. I
remember thinking that she looked "odd" but that she was friendly enough.
My opposite neighbour Art (whose wife ran over my mother with their car
while backing out their driveway later in 2006) had IM and SM over for
dinner a few times. And Art had several daughters. Imagine what it must
have felt when they later realised who IM was.
One evening before IM's arrest, an intern student of mine from Germany
(MF) proceeded to find my house for a welcome BBQ dinner. He and his
companion could not quite find my place because my address says one
street but the front door actually faces another street. He went around
knocking on a few houses to try and find my place (which he did in the
end). But imagine the coincidence that he MIGHT have knocked on IM and
SM's house nearby because one of the first things I had briefed him on
upon his arrival to start work with me was NOT to hitch hike in Sydney
because there was a serial murderer of backpackers on the loose! During
dinner, he revealed that one of his father's colleagues at work (they
were teachers back in Germany) lost a daughter to the backpacker
murderer. Sad and makes you believe very much in
six degrees of separation.
On the early dawn on the day of the arrest, some 50 police surrounded
the House and called for IM to come out.
In our house we awoke to a commotion outside the house which was unusual
for a Sunday. We had a look outside and my initial thought was that
there must be a celebrity event happening (like a wedding) because there
were TV news crews up the street. When I noticed a police cordon tape
around the house, I knew something more sinister had happened and I was
worried that perhaps a serious crime (like a murder) had taken place
there (my worry was compounded by the fact that I was due to leave for an
conference later that same day - that evening I followed the events on
BBC World TV after landing in KL; I could see my house in the
background in some of the news footage).
The House on the day of the arrest
IM being taken away from the House by two detectives on the day of the
After the arrest, Ron my neighbour on the other side told me that he knew
IM's house was under police surveillance because one day some weeks
before the arrest, he had a noticed an unmarked car with two people
parked outside his house all day (which means by the side of my house
where the view of the street is restricted by our boundary fence). He
then rang up the local police station. A police sergeant turned up later
at his house to explain, "not to worry, it is a police operation". Ron
deduced that they were watching IM and SM's house.
Sadly, IM is not the first serial murderer I am unfortunate enough to
have degrees separation from. In the mid-1980s, I used to board game
with several friends in Perth, Western Australia. I would turn up at a house in a suburb
close by to the University where they were renting a house. "DB" and her
boyfriend were one of the couples sharing the house with my board gamer
friend "T". Soon after returning to Perth in 1986 after some months
away, I looked at the front page of the "West Australian"
newspaper one bright
morning and saw a face which I recognised. It was DB. She was reported
as one of four murder victims of serial killer couple
"DJB" and "KB". I could
not and still cannot believe that this was what happened to her. She did
not deserve the fate which befell her. This has shown me that life is but fleeting
and there are many important things to attend to which may prove to be
too late when the "moment" arrives. It taught me yet again that whatever
is thrown at me by life and people is nothing compared to the worse
which can happen.
SM sold the house a year after the arrest. She died in 2003.
IM died of cancer in prison in 2019.