Australia's most notorious serial killer Ivan Milat, whose murder of seven young backpackers in the 1990s terrified the country, has died in hospital, officials said on Sunday.
Milat was serving consecutive life sentences for the brutal killing spree which took place near Sydney between 1989 and 1992.
A spokeswoman for Corrective Services New South Wales said in a statement that the 74-year-old died while admitted into Long Bay Hospital at 12:07am ICT on Sunday.
He was diagnosed with terminal stomach and oesophagus cancer in May and had been in hospital to receive pain relief since October 11.
The Sydney Morning Herald reported that Milat was diagnosed while in solitary confinement and moved to a supermax soon thereafter.
Milat’s nephew, Alistair Shipsey, told the newspaper: “All we did was talk about his case . . . That’s all we ever talked about – the lies, no case, no proof . . . To tell the truth, I’m glad he’s out of pain . . . I will remember him as an outstanding person in the family, that had a big heart. He’s no murderer.”
His seven confirmed victims were Britons Caroline Clarke, 21, and Joanne Walters, 22, Australians James Gibson and Deborah Everist, both 19, and German backpackers Simone Schmidl, 21, Anja Habschied, 20, and Gabor Neugebauer, 21.
In each case, he had offered the young hitchhikers a lift, stabbed or shot them in thrill killings and buried the bodies in shallow graves in a forest in the New South Wales southern highlands.
Milat was arrested in 1994 following one of Australia’s biggest police investigations, which was sparked by the discovery of the bodies in 1992 and 1993.
He was convicted of the murders in 1996, as well as of the abduction of another traveller who escaped, but denied having a role in the crimes.
Milat was also a major suspect in the murders of three other women who went missing in the state’s Hunter region a decade before he began the killings for which he was jailed.
Leanne Beth Goodall, Robyn Elizabeth Hickie and Amanda Therese Robinson disappeared in 1978 and 1979. Their bodies were never found.
Milat admitted that he had worked as a roadman in the area during the late 1970s but denied involvement in the three murders.