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Wagner 002

Robert Joe Wagner

Robert Joe Wagner (born 28 November 1971 in Parramatta, New South Wales) is an Australian serial killer, currently serving ten consecutive sentences of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for his role in the murder of ten victims of the Snowtown murders. Wagner, driven to murder by his hatred for pedophiles, has been described as being amongst "Australia's worst" serial killers. 

Wagner fried and ate the flesh of his final victim, David Johnson. At his sentencing, Wagner rose in the dock and stated:

"Pedophiles were doing terrible things to children. The authorities didn't do anything about it. I decided to take action. I took that action. Thank you."

On 27 September 2002, Wagner pleaded guilty to three charges of murder for the murders of Barry Lane, Fred Brooks and David Johnson. He would plead not guilty to the remaining seven murder charges against him, and eventually be convicted of them, bringing the total number of victims to ten.

The Snowtown murders, also known as the Bodies in Barrels murders, were the murders of 12 people in South Australia, Australia between August 1992 and May 1999. The crimes were uncovered when the remains of eight victims were found in barrels of acid located in a rented former bank building in Snowtown, South Australia on 20 May 1999. The town of Snowtown is in the Mid North of South Australia, 145 km north of Adelaide. Though Snowtown is frequently linked with the crimes, the bodies had been held in a series of locations around Adelaide for some time, and were moved to Snowtown in early 1999, very late in the crime spree that had spanned several years. Only one victim was killed in Snowtown; none of the victims or the perpetrators were from that town.

Eight bodies were found in plastic barrels in the disused bank vault on 20 May. Three days later two bodies were found buried in a backyard in Salisbury North, a suburb north of Adelaide. By the end of June, nine of the ten victims had been identified. The discoveries followed a lengthy, covert criminal investigation by South Australian Police. During the investigation two mysterious deaths already known to authorities were found to have been murders perpetrated by the "Snowtown" murderers.

A total of four people were arrested and charged over the murders. All were convicted of the murders or assisting in the murders. This group was largely influenced by ringleader John Justin Bunting. Much detail was not made public with the cases having been subject to over 250 suppression orders, many of which have not yet been lifted.

Perpetrators

  • John Justin Bunting (b. 1966 in Inala, Queensland) was convicted of murdering all listed victims except Suzanne Allen. He is considered to have been the central figure throughout all of the killings and torture and the one whose personality provided motivation for the other perpetrators. While psychological reports are not available to the public, it has been suggested by forensic psychiatrist Professor Kevin Howells, who has worked at Broadmoor Hospital in the United Kingdom, that Bunting's behaviour suggested he lacks emotion and the capacity to empathise with his victims. Howells believes Bunting fits the profile of a psychopathic killer who derives satisfaction from controlling his victims. When he was young, his favourite pastime was burning insects in acid, and during his teenage years he was a neo-Nazi. During adulthood Bunting developed a deep hatred of paedophiles and homosexuals.
  • Robert Joe Wagner was befriended by Bunting in 1991. He was encouraged by Bunting to assist him in the various murders, and complied.
  • Mark Ray Haydon was not convicted of any of the murders, but pleaded guilty to helping the serial killers dispose of the bodies.
  • James Spyridon Vlassakis, along with his mother and half-brother, lived with Bunting, and was gradually drawn into helping with the murders and torture. Later became the Crown's star witness.
  • Elizabeth Harvey, Vlassakis' mother, who knew about the murders, and with Bunting's encouragement, assisted in one of them. Died of cancer after the arrests of Bunting, Wagner, Vlassakis, and Haydon.
  • Thomas Trevilyan assisted in the murder of Barry Lane in 1997, murdered by the other gang members prior to police involvement.
  • Jodie Elliott, sister of Mark Ray Haydon's wife Elizabeth Haydon, was a woman with below-average intelligence who had become besotted with Bunting. She impersonated a deceased former acquaintance of Bunting's, Suzanne Allen, to collect her social security payments. Elliott's son Frederick Brooks was later murdered by the gang.

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