Span of Crime: 1992-1999
Victim Number: 11
Perpetrators1: Mark Ray Haydon
Mark Ray Haydon (born 4 December 1958), an associate of Bunting, was initially the subject of "suppression orders or statutory provisions prohibiting publication" and could not therefore be identified as anything other than an alleged perpetrator. In January 1999, he reportedly rented the abandoned state bank building at Snowtown. A jury deadlocked on the murders of Haydon's wife, Elizabeth Haydon, and of Troy Youde. The murder charges were not retried when Haydon pled guilty to helping the serial killers dispose of the bodies of Elizabeth and Youde.
Perpetrators2: John Justin Bunting
John Justin Bunting(born 4 September 1966 in Inala, Queensland) was found to be the leader of the perpetrators. When he was 8 years old, Bunting was beaten and sexually assaulted by a friend's older brother. He is reported to have "enjoyed weaponry, photography and anatomy," and grew to develop a strong hatred of paedophiles and homosexuals. At age 22, Bunting worked at an abattoir and reportedly "bragged about slaughtering the animals, saying that's what he enjoyed the most".:1 Bunting moved to a house in Salisbury North, South Australia in 1991 and befriended his neighbours Mark Haydon and Robert Wagner. Wagner's romantic partner, Vanessa Lane, a.k.a. Barry Lane, was a male cross-dresser with a history of paedophilia.
Perpetrators3: Robert Joe Wagner
Robert Joe Wagner (born 28 November 1971 in Parramatta, New South Wales) was befriended by Bunting in 1991. Bunting encouraged Wagner to assist in the various murders.
Perpetrators4: James "Jamie" Spyridon Vlassakis
James "Jamie" Spyridon Vlassakis (born 24 December 1979), along with his mother and half-brother, lived with Bunting and was gradually drawn into helping with the murders. Vlassakis, 23, helped torture and kill his own half-brother, Troy Youde, and his stepbrother, David Johnson. He confessed in 2001 to four murders, including Johnson's, and became a key witness for the Crown. The detail he provided, supported by other evidence, helped convict Bunting and Wagner. Vlassakis was sentenced in 2002 to a minimum of 26 years and is held in isolation in an unidentified South Australia prison.
The "Snowtown" murders (also known as the bodies in barrels murders) were a series of murders committed by John Bunting, Robert Wagner and James Vlassakis between August 1992 and May 1999, in and around Adelaide, South Australia. A fourth person, Mark Haydon, was convicted for helping to dispose of the bodies. The trial was one of the longest and most publicised in Australian legal history.
Most of the bodies were found in barrels in an abandoned bank vault in Snowtown, hence the names given in the press for the murders. Only one of the victims was killed in Snowtown itself, which is approximately 140 kilometres (87 miles) north of Adelaide, and neither the eleven victims nor the three perpetrators were from the town. Although motivation for the murders is unclear, the killers were led by Bunting to believe that the victims were paedophiles, homosexuals, or "weak". In the case of some victims, the murders were preceded by torture, and efforts were made to appropriate victims' identities, social security payments and bank accounts.
Although initially the notoriety of the murders led to a short-term economic boost from tourists visiting Snowtown, it created a lasting stigma, with authorities considering a change of the town's name and identity.
There haven't been many Australian serial killers who have murdered as prolifically as Bunting and his gang, nor as heinously. Their victims were their own family members and friends, who they often torturing them before death. Most of the killers have never shown remorse and the little town has forever been scarred. As you learn more about these murders in Snowtown, keep in mind that these killers are all behind bars and still alive. There may be more victims that authorities do not know about yet.
The victims of the group of murderers rarely died quickly. Police recovered the following tools that were used to torture the victims: knives, saws, a double barrel shotgun, rope, tape, gloves, pliers, clamps, cloth, and even a Variac metallurgy tool that was used to give electric shocks to the genitals and other parts of the victims. One of the killers later confessed about how the tools were used, and it did not paint a pretty picture.
Ray Davies was garroted with rope and a lever after he was put into a bath. Before he died, they attacked him with clubs and beat his genitals. They even crushed one of his toes with a pair of pliers, just to make him suffer. Another victim, Frederick Brooks, was given electric shocks to his testicles and had a lit sparkler shoved into his penis. His toes were also crushed with pliers and his nose and ears were burned with cigarettes. Eventually, they stuffed a rag in his mouth and just let him choke to death. All the while, these two men and other victims were forced to call their killers different titles, such as "God," "Master," "Lord Sir," and "Chief Inspector."
There Were At Least Four People Involved With The Killings
Historically, prolific serial killers tend to work alone because it affords them a smaller chance of getting caught. This was not at all the case for the Snowtown murders. There was a ringleader who pushed for and arranged all the killings, and he enlisted not one, but three other people to regularly help with the crimes, as well as a few others. John Bunting, the one in charge, approached his neighbor, Robert Wagner, as a friend and eventually roped him into murder.
Bunting was married to Elizabeth Harvey, and through her, met her son, James Vlassakis. Vlassakis would help with and suggest later killings. Mark Haydon also lived nearby and became friends with Bunting, and was eventually drawn into his circle of murders.
In addition to these four main players, there were other accomplices. Bunting's wife, Elizabeth Harvey, also assisted in at least one of the murders. Thomas Trevilyan was initially part of the gang as well, but later became a victim. Jodie Elliott was a relative of Mark Haydon and also helped out with collecting money after the killings. With all of these people involved in the murders, it's shocking the operation went on for as many years as it did.
The Horrific Details Behind The Snowtown Murders
WIKI: Snowtown murders