John Bunting (serial killer)

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John Bunting
Background information
Birth nameJohn Justin Bunting
Born(1966-09-04) 4 September 1966 (age 46)
Inala, Queensland[citation needed]
Penalty11 × life without parole
Killings
Number of victims11 (12 Suspected)
CountryAustralia
State(s)South Australia
Date apprehended1999
 
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John Bunting
Background information
Birth nameJohn Justin Bunting
Born(1966-09-04) 4 September 1966 (age 46)
Inala, Queensland[citation needed]
Penalty11 × life without parole
Killings
Number of victims11 (12 Suspected)
CountryAustralia
State(s)South Australia
Date apprehended1999

John Justin Bunting (born (1966-09-04)4 September 1966) is an Australian serial killer from Brisbane, Queensland, currently serving eleven consecutive sentences of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for his role in the murder of 11 victims of the Snowtown murders.[1]

Bunting was the ringleader of a "degenerate sub-culture"[2] of murderers whose victims were people they already knew. His crimes led to the longest and most expensive investigations and criminal trials in Australia's history.[3]

Bunting's targets consisted primarily of people he thought to be paedophiles and homosexuals. He has been described as a skilled manipulator of people and "Australia's worst serial killer".[4]

Bunting lived in Murray Bridge, South Australia from November 1991, living on Lohman Street until he moved to Burdekin Avenue in May 1997 where he remained until September 1998. Two of his victims were found in the backyard of his former home in Waterloo Corner Road, Salisbury North, a northern suburb of Adelaide, with the remaining eight discovered in a vault of a disused bank rented by Bunting and Mark Haydon in Snowtown, 140 km north of Adelaide. Bunting insisted on playing the 1994 Live album Throwing Copper during many of his later murders.[5]

Contents

Rock spider wall

Bunting had fashioned a "rock spider wall" (paedophile wall) on a wall of a spare room in his house. The chart, created using paper notes and wool, was an interconnected web of names of people Bunting suspected to be paedophiles or homosexuals.[6] At times Bunting would randomly select a name from the wall and call them, insinuating they were paedophiles and "would get what's coming to them".

Relationship with James Vlassakis

Bunting was married to Elizabeth Harvey, mother of co-offender James Vlassakis. Bunting spent a lot of time with Vlassakis, assuming the role of a father figure to the then 12 year old boy. Bunting regularly communicated to Vlassakis his hatred for paedophiles, blacks, and homosexuals. Vlassakis confided in Bunting that his half-brother, Troy Youde, had molested him at the age of 13. Bunting replied by suggesting that Youde be bashed, and or, killed.

Vlassakis later gave evidence against Bunting, Robert Wagner and Haydon at their criminal trials. Elizabeth Harvey died of cancer in September 2001.[1]

Relationship with Robert Wagner

Bunting met Robert Wagner when he moved to Waterloo Corner Road. Wagner was living with Barry Lane at the time; both men assisted Bunting in disposing of the body of his first victim, Clinton Trezise. Wagner later assisted Bunting in the remaining ten murders.

Murders

Clinton Trezise

Bunting's murder spree began in August 1992, with the murder of Clinton Trezise, 22. Trezise was bashed to death with a shovel in Bunting's living room after being invited inside for a social visit. Bunting accused Trezise of being a pedophile and referred to him in conversations after his murder as "Happy Pants". Trezise was found buried two years after his murder in a shallow grave on 16 August 1994 at Lower Light, South Australia. It was another three years before Bunting murdered again.[1]

Trezise's murder remained unsolved for some time and in 1997 he was the subject of two episodes of the Australian television series Australia's Most Wanted. Bunting watched an episode of the show with Vlassakis and his mother. Bunting boasted to Vlassakis, "That's my handiwork" and revealed to Vlassakis that he had murdered Trezise while living at Waterloo Corner Road, Salisbury, and that he disposed of Trezise's body in Lower Light with Wagner and Lane's assistance. With fear of his son telling of his crime, he considered killing him. That did not happen.[1]

Ray Davies

Ray Davies was an intellectually disabled man who lived in a caravan behind the house of Suzanne Allen in Salisbury North. Davies, a former lover of Allen, became a target for murder after Allen accused him of making sexual advances to her grandsons.

Davies was murdered by Bunting and Wagner in December 1995 and was never reported missing. Bunting and Wagner were later seen cleaning Davies' caravan. They moved it to a house in nearby Elizabeth, where it was painted and sold two months after Davies' murder. Bunting continued to claim Davies' welfare payments.

Davies' body was later recovered by police buried in the backyard at the former home of Bunting in Waterloo Corner Road, Salisbury North.[1]

Michael Gardiner

Michael Gardiner was an openly gay man murdered by Bunting and Wagner in August 1997. Gardiner shared a house with friends nearby.

Robert Wagner did not like Gardiner due to his open homosexuality.

After Gardiner's murder, Bunting had Frederick Brooks call friends of Gardiner and impersonate him. Brooks demanded from them belongings such as Gardiner's wallet, saying Gardiner required it for identification purposes. Bunting wanted it to gain access to Gardiner's personal funds.

Gardiner's body was found by police stored in one of six drums in the bank vault in Snowtown. The body of Barry Lane was also located in the same barrel. One of Gardiner's feet had been removed so the lid of the drum could be closed.[1]

Barry Lane

Barry Lane was an open homosexual and crossdresser. Lane had previously been in a relationship with Robert Wagner from 1985 until 1996. The pair shared a house in Bingham Road, Salisbury North near the home of Bunting. Lane's relationship with Wagner began when Wagner was 13. He was last seen alive in October 1997.[1]

Bunting often referred to Lane as being "dirty" and as a paedophile. On the day of his murder, Lane was forced by Bunting to call his mother; he told her he would be moving to Queensland and that he wanted nothing further to do with her.[1]

Bunting had also learned of Lane telling others about the earlier murder of Clinton Trezise. Lane had assisted Bunting to conceal Trezise's body. After Lane's murder, Bunting assumed control of Lane's vehicle and claimed his welfare payments. Thomas Trevilyan was also involved in the murder of Lane. It was alleged Bunting only associated with Lane to gain further information about paedophiles in the area.[1]

Thomas Trevilyan

Thomas Trevilyan was described as having psychiatric problems and wore only army style clothing. He would at times run outside his house with a knife if he heard unfamiliar noises, and was known to regularly travel long distances on foot. He shared a house with Barry Lane for a period of five months from April to October 1997.[1] Trevilyan had assisted Bunting and Wagner in the earlier murder of Barry Lane. Bunting murdered Trevilyan after finding out he told others of his involvement in Lane's murder.

Bunting told others that Trevilyan had started to "fuck up" and "go mental" and that he would be a risk. Trevilyan was driven to Kersbrook in the Adelaide Hills by Bunting and Wagner. He was forced to stand on a box while a noose was fastened around his neck and the box kicked from under him.[1]

Trevilyan's body was found on 5 November 1997. Police initially treated Trevilyan's death as a suicide.[1]

Gavin Porter

Gavin Porter, 31, was a friend of Vlassakis's from Victoria. He moved into the house shared by Bunting and Vlassakis in 1998. Bunting referred to Porter, a heroin addict, as a "waste" who no longer deserved to live. Bunting was angered after being pricked by a used syringe discarded by Porter on the sofa. Porter was murdered by Bunting and Wagner while sleeping in his car in the driveway of Bunting's house after working on his car. Porter's body was stored in a barrel before being moved to Snowtown.[1]

Troy Youde

Troy Youde was a half brother of Vlassakis. Vlassakis had earlier confided to Bunting that Youde had molested him when younger. In August 1998, Bunting, Wagner, Vlassakis and Haydon visited Youde. Bunting, Wagner and Vlassakis dragged him from his bed and murdered him. Youde's body was dismembered and stored in a barrel and later moved to Snowtown.[1]

Frederick Brooks

Frederick Brooks was the intellectually disabled son of Jodie Elliott and nephew of Elizabeth Haydon. He was murdered by Bunting, Wagner and Vlassakis on 17 September 1998.

Brooks's body was moved to a car which was later collected by Mark Haydon. The body was later located by police in the disused bank vault in Snowtown. Mark Haydon continued to access the welfare payments of Brooks.[1]

Gary O'Dwyer

Gary O'Dwyer, 29, was an intellectually disabled man who lived alone in Frances Street, Murray Bridge. His disabilities arose from a car accident earlier in life. Bunting had Vlassakis learn personal information about O'Dwyer and whether he had any family. O'Dwyer was seen by Bunting as an easy target and murdered so Bunting could gain from O'Dwyer's welfare payments.

O'Dwyer's body was found by police in the bank vault in Snowtown. His body showed evidence of burn marks which were inflicted by using a variac machine to apply electric shocks.[1]

Elizabeth Haydon

Elizabeth Haydon was the wife of Mark Haydon, and shared a house with him at Blackham Crescent, Smithfield Plains, a northern suburb of Adelaide. Elizabeth's sister, Jodie Elliott, who had a brief relationship with Bunting in 1998, lived at the rear of the Haydons' house. Elizabeth was Bunting and Wagner's second-to-last murder victim and the only female victim.

Elizabeth was murdered on 20 November 1998 while Haydon and Elliott were away from the house. Elizabeth was reported missing by her brother Garion Sinclair to police at 3pm the following day. Haydon would later assist in concealing his wife's murder.

Police inquiries into Elizabeth Haydon's disappearance led them to the disused bank in Snowtown, which eventually led to the discovery of eight bodies stored in a vault, including that of Elizabeth Haydon. Police later arrested Bunting, Wagner, Vlassakis, and Elizabeth's husband, Mark Haydon for the murders.

David Johnson

David Johnson was lured to the disused bank in Snowtown by his stepbrother, James Vlassakis, on 9 May 1999. Johnson was not homosexual, but Bunting would often refer to him as a "faggot" and say he needed to die.[1]

Vlassakis had earlier told Johnson about a computer for sale near Clare, South Australia. Vlassakis drove him to Snowtown to ostensibly look at this computer.

Shortly after Johnson entered the bank building, he was grabbed by Wagner around the throat and strangled. Wagner then applied handcuffs to Johnson and he was forced by Bunting to read a script Bunting had earlier prepared, as well as provide his bank account PIN. Johnson's voice was recorded on a computer equipped with a microphone.

Wagner and Vlassakis drove to Port Wakefield and attempted to access Johnson's bank account, leaving Bunting and Haydon with Johnson in the disused bank. Wagner and Vlassakis were unsuccessful in withdrawing funds from Johnson's account. When they returned to Snowtown, Johnson was dead.[1]

Bunting and Wagner dismembered Johnson's body, then fried and ate parts of his flesh.[7]

Johnson was the final murder victim before the group was apprehended.

Criminal trial

Bunting was tried together with Robert Wagner. On 8 September 2003, Bunting was found guilty and convicted on 11 counts of murder. He was Australia's most prolific serial killer to date.[8]

Suzanne Allen

The remains of Suzanne Allen were found buried at Bunting's house at Salisbury North, wrapped in 11 different plastic bags. Her death was concealed by the accused and they continued to collect her pension, claiming a total of $17,000. They claimed she had died of a heart attack. Murder charges regarding the death of Allen were eventually dropped by the prosecution due to lack of evidence.[9][10]

Film inspired by events

In March 2010, Screen Australia announced funding support for Snowtown, a true crime film based on the murders. The film was produced by Warp Films Australia and the first full-length feature directed by Justin Kurzel.[11] Australian actor Daniel Henshall portrayed John Bunting. The film was released in Australia in 2011 and in America on 2 March 2012.

References