The Snowtown murders, also known as the Bodies in Barrels murders, refers to the murders of 11 people in South Australia, Australia between the dates of August 1992 and May 1999. The name "Snowtown murders" refers not to the location of the murders but the location where the bodies were found. Only one of the eleven victims was killed in Snowtown, and none of the victims or the perpetrators were from that town.
The crimes were uncovered when the remains of eight victims were found in barrels of acid located in a rented former bank building on 20 May 1999. The town of Snowtown is 145 kilometres (90 mi) north of Adelaide, the capital of South Australia. The bodies had been held in a series of locations in South Australia at different times and were only moved to Snowtown in early 1999 after the accused became aware that police were investigating them regarding several missing person cases, very late in a crime spree that had spanned almost seven years. The eight bodies were found in six plastic barrels in the disused bank vault. Three days later two bodies were found buried in a backyard in the Adelaide suburb of Salisbury North. By the end of June, nine of the 10 victims had been identified. The discoveries followed a lengthy, covert criminal investigation by South Australian Police. During the investigation two deaths already known to authorities were found to have been perpetrated by the same murderers. A twelfth charge relating to the death of Suzanne Allen was dropped due to lack of evidence.
Four men were arrested and charged over the murders. Three of the men were convicted of murder and given life sentences; the fourth man was convicted of assisting. The court decided that John Justin Bunting was the ringleader of this conspiracy. More than 250 suppression orders prevented publication of details of this case. In early 2011, a judge lifted the remaining orders in response to a request by the producers of the film "Snowtown", a dramatic account of the murders.
- John Justin Bunting (b. 1966 in Inala, Queensland) was convicted of murdering all listed victims except Suzanne Allen. He was found to have been the leader of the perpetrators. Forensic psychiatrist Professor Kevin Howells, who has worked at Broadmoor Hospital in the United Kingdom suggested that Bunting's behaviour lacks emotion and the capacity to empathise with his victims. Howells observed that Bunting fits the profile of a psychophatic killer who derives satisfaction from controlling his victims. When he was young, his favourite pastime was burning insects in acid. During his teenage years, he was a neo-Nazi. In 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. Initially declined to co-operate as his mother was implicated. He became the Crown's star witness following her death.
- Christine 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.