'The apple doesn't fall far from the tree'

Does crime run in the family? Les Kennedy looks at the Milat family tree for answers.

Does crime run in the family? Les Kennedy looks at the Milat family tree for answers.

HE WAS a snowy-haired boy, aged almost four, running around the lounge room when I first met him.

It was 1997, the year following the multiple life sentences imposed on his relative Ivan Milat for the serial killings of seven hitchhiking backpackers in the Belanglo State Forest.

At the time fellow journalist Mark Whittaker and I were writing a book on those murders, trying to find out what drove Milat to kill, and whether he was bad, mad or both.

Kin were the most obvious key, along with friends, workmates and a multitude of Milat ex-wives, who could give some insight into the family dynamic. Some of the wives of Ivan's brothers seemed enamoured with him. Certainly, they believed he was innocent - like the female relative I was interviewing. Ivan had babysat the boy, she said. Police must have the wrong guy.

"Ivan couldn't have done those things!" she said. She pointed to the little boy: "I trust him [Ivan] ... he babysat him before he was arrested, when he was barely one year old. I wouldn't have let him babysit if I didn't trust him."

Now, that boy is a tall blond teenager. Last week, he smiled passively as he appeared before Campbelltown Children's Court via video link charged with the axe killing of 17-year-old family friend and schoolmate David Auchterlonie in Belanglo State Forest - Ivan Milat's killing ground. So how has it come to this? Is it in the genes, as the dead boy's grieving father, David Auchterlonie snr, said on learning that a relative of Ivan had been charged with murder?

"Obviously the apple doesn't fall far from the tree in that family. It must be in the bloodstream," Mr Auchterlonie said.

The Milat clan is large - Ivan was one of 14 siblings, born to his Croatian father Steven and Australian mother Margaret. There are at least 25 grandchildren, and several great-grandchildren. Family patriarch Steven was a hard worker and disciplinarian, and taught his children the value of an honest day's work. Margaret was an upright woman who defended her sons fiercely when the police came knocking.

Some of the Milat children had run-ins with the police as teenagers, but straightened out and led clean lives.

Ivan's brother Alex, the oldest of the siblings, is angry the alleged murder by his young relative has led many people to believe an evil killing streak has been passed down the family blood line.

"That's like saying there is no difference between black and white. The only difference is in education. You can teach a dog to chase a paper. What people are saying [about the Milat clan] is bullshit," he said from his home in the north Queensland town of Palmswood.

He said Milat family members living in the southern highlands, near where the accused lives, have been questioned by police again - making them relive the raids on their homes in May 1992 when Ivan was arrested for the serial murders.

No one can fathom what may have led to the charges against Ivan's young relative. But Alex said the boy was a lost soul who went roaming as a teenager after his mother met and married another man with whom the child could not get along.

"He spent most of his time living with [other relatives]," he said of the boy who has fathered a child, now aged almost one.

Events took a fatal turn on the evening of Saturday, November 20, at the junction of the Belanglo Creek and Old Pine Road fire trails when the youth allegedly murdered his so-called friend with a double bladed axe.

Police allege the journey to the forest, with two other 18-year-old youths (who have since been arrested), was on the pretext of celebrating David's 17th birthday that day.

According to court documents Ivan's young relative had spent almost a week enticing his victim to join him on the journey to the forest.

Two days before the fatal trip Ivan's young relative had appeared before Belmont Local Court to answer a charge of mid-range drink-driving following a road crash on the central coast in May while he was a P-plate driver. He pleaded guilty and received a $300 fine with a six-month driving disqualification that was backdated to the day of the accident, which meant his licence was reinstated to him that day.

On returning to Bargo from the forest later that night, Ivan's young relative is alleged to have dropped his terrified friends off, saying he was going to dispose of their clothing and the axe in the remote Mermaid Pools at Tahmoor. Yet despite an extensive search by police divers during the week the weapon and clothing have not been found.

On Friday, homicide detectives investigating the death flew to the Gold Coast, a move which has given rise to speculation they are hunting a fifth person who made the journey to the forest that fatal night.

The same officers are involved in investigations into the discovery in early September of the skeletal remains of a young woman covered by logs off a fire trail in the Belanglo State Forest. Police say she died up to 10 years ago, well after Ivan was caught.

They have not drawn a link to the death of David as the alleged perpetrator would have been a child at the time. But it has given rise to fears there are more ghosts in Belanglo, victims who may have been killed by what many police believe was an accomplice who escaped detection.

1 Olga (1939)

Married Henry Shipsey, had two boys and a girl. Shipsey later shot himself dead after his brick cleaning business went bust. Changed her name to Diane Miles after Ivan's arrest in 1994.

2 Alex (1940) 2

Avid firearms collector and gun enthusiast. Married Joan, aged 19, worked as a miner. Had two children, daughter Rachel and a son Stefan who died of pneumonia at age 20. Moved to Queensland, ran in 1998 federal election on a pro-gun policy. Now divorced.

3 Boris Stanley (1942)

Had a long-running feud with Ivan over Ivans affair with wife Marilyn. It was an open family secret that Ivan fathered Marilyn's second daughter, Lynise (first daughter is Charlene). Changed name to Steven Miller in 1994 after Ivan's arrest. Dabbled in robbery with brothers in teenage years, then straightened out and became a builder. Lives in the Hunter Valley.

4 Mary (1942)

Married a man of Yugoslavian descent. Live in Moorebank with two children, a son and daughter.


Known as ''Mac'' to his siblings and ''Kookie'' to his mum. Sent to Boys Town, a home for wayward boys, at age 13, for truanting. First arrest for burglary age 18. First adult conviction for robbery age 20. Charged in 1971 with rape but case dissolved. Married Karen Duck, and became stepdad to her son Jason. Set fire to her parents home when she left him. They divorced 1989. Convicted of murder of seven backpackers in Belanglo State Forest in 1996.

6 Shirley (1946-2003)

Staunch defender of Ivan, visited him in jail. Married Gerry Soire in 1964, had two children, later divorced. Bought a house at Eagle Vale with Ivan in 1992 - lived with him until he was arrested. Introduced Ivan to his last girlfriend, Chalinder Hughes, in 1992. In 1996, pleaded guilty to charge of possessing an unlicensed .45 calibre pistol buried in grounds of the Eagle Vale home.

7 William Bill Allan (1947)

Jailed for car theft in 1965, then decided to go clean. Worked at the Water Board for many years. Married Carol Pritchard in 1972. Lives in Bargo. Had a daughter, Debbie, and son Christopher. Mortgaged his Bargo house to pay for Ivan's legal fighting fund, after pleading from sister Shirley.

8 Michael Mick Gordon (1949-2000)

Looked up to Ivan and followed him into crime. Jailed for car theft, age 18. Jailed for seven years for armed robbery and wounding, at aged 23. Took his nephew Stefan's widow Sherie, under his wing and adopted her son Daniel. Later married Sherie. Pot smoker and grower. Died in 2000 of a heart attack on his property in Nanango.

9 Walter Wally Francis (1952)

His teenage girlfriend Maureen Parsons was also seeing Ivan. Married Maureen in 1972 but was paranoid she was having an affair with Ivan. They had two children, Robert and Susan but divorced in 1982. Now married to second wife Lisa, with two sons, Jamie and Terry. Gyprocker by trade. Loves to hunt and shoot. Lives in Hill Top, near Belanglo.

10 George Peter (1953)

Obsessed with cars. Was married, with six children. Now lives alone at Douglas Park, in the Southern Highlands.The black sheep of the family.

11 Margaret Maria (1955-1971)

Died in a car accident, age 16. other Wally was driving. Ivan was one of the first to see her at the accident scene and was scarred by her death.

12 Richard James (1956)

Moved to Queensland, charged with theft and malicious damage in 1980. Given a fine and good behaviour bond. Went by the name Paul Miller at work, and would change his appearance regularly, dying and cutting his hair. Made his own bullets for his black powder musket. Viciously assaulted his girlfriend, Lizzie, in 1992 (breaking teeth and ribs) after she accused him of an affair. Backpacker belongings were found in his and Wally's house. He said they were Ivan's. Was accused in court, by Ivan's defence, of framing Ivan with the backpacker murders. Lives at Hill Top, near Belanglo with a partner and son.

13 David John, Bodge (1958)

At age 15, charged with trying to extort $500,000 from Qantas in a telephone hoax. Let off with a bond. Had two serious road accidents, the second of which caused brain damage. Lives in the last Milat family home in Guildford. Boris is his guardian.

14 Paul Thomas (1962)

Divorced with two teenage children. Distanced himself from the Milat clan.


Stijphan (Steven) Marko Milat (1902-1983)

Migrated to Australia from Croatia in 1926. Laboured as a wharfie, miner, market gardner and stone mason. Was 79 when he finally gave up work. Drank heavily, beat his wife regularly in front of the children. Ruled the household with an iron fist, once hitting two of his sons with a plank as they lay face down in dirt.


Margaret Elizabeth Piddlesden (1920-2001)

Married Steven aged 16, bore him 14 children. Gave her children regular hidings but was fiercely protective of them, and staunchly defended her sons when they became involved in crime. Went to the grave believing Ivan was innocent of the backpacker murders.


Henry Hank Shipsey Son of Olga Milat and Henry Shipsey. His property was raided by police in 1996, just after Ivan's conviction. They found marijuana. In 1997, Shipsey found guilty of possessing a prohibited drug in Dubbo Court and fined $1400.

Christopher Milat Son of Bill and Carol. In 1995, he was found guilty of possessing an unlicensed firearm and fined $700. Served in the navy for 11 years, now working in a colliery. Married with three children.

Lynise Eileen Milat

Fathered by Ivan and Boris's wife Marilyn. In 1997, she was charged with possessing a pistol, switchblade, stealing a knife and possession of cannabis. She was fined $400 and placed on a good behaviour bond.

Jason Ivan Milat

Ivan's stepson. In 1999, pleaded guilty in Burnie Magistrates Court in Tasmania to a charge of attempted robbery with a knife.

Join the Conversation...

There are comments posted so far.

If you'd like to join this conversation, please login or sign up here

Related Articles