John Bunting is an Australian serial killer from Adelaide, South Australia, 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.
John Bunting, driven to murder by his hatred for pedophiles and homosexuals, has been described as a skilled manipulator of people and “Australia’s worst serial killer”.
John Bunting was the ringleader of a “degenerate sub-culture” of murderers whose victims were people they already knew. Under the instruction of Bunting, the group would prey upon the weak so they could steal their welfare payments. His crimes led to the longest and most expensive investigations and criminal trials in South Australia’s history.
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 Haydon in Snowtown, South Australia, 140 km north of Adelaide. John Bunting insisted on playing the 1994 Live album Throwing Copper during many of his later murders.
Rock Spider Wall
John Bunting had fashioned a “rock spider 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 pedophiles or homosexuals. At times John would randomly select a name from the wall and call them, insinuating they were pedophiles and “would get what’s coming to them”.
Relationship with James Vlassakis
John 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. Bunting regularly communicated to Vlassakis his hatred for pedophiles and homosexuals. Vlassakis confided in Bunting that his stepbrother, Troy Youde, had molested him at the age of 13. John Bunting replied by suggesting that Youde be bashed.
(Vlassakis later gave evidence against Bunting, Wagner, and Haydon at their criminal trials. Elizabeth Harvey has since died of cancer.)
Relationship with Robert Wagner
John Bunting met 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.
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. John Bunting accused Tresize 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 August 16th in 1994 at Lower Light, South Australia. It was another three years before John Bunting murdered again.
Trezise’s murder remained unsolved for some time and in 1997 he was the subject of two episodes of the Australian television show Australia’s Most Wanted. John 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.
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 John 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. John 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.
Michael Gardiner was an openly gay man murdered by John 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. John Bunting wanted it to gain access to Gardiner’s personal funds.
His 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.
Lane was an open homosexual and cross-dresser. 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.
John Bunting often referred to Lane as being “dirty” and as a pedophile. 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.
Bunting had also learned of Lane telling others about the earlier murder of Clinton Tresize. Lane had assisted Bunting to conceal Tresize’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 John Bunting only associated with Lane to gain further information about pedophiles in the area. Lane’s dismembered body was found by police in a drum in the bank vault in Snowtown, along with the body of Michael Gardiner.
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. 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.
John 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. Trevilyan’s body was found on 5 November 1997. Police initially treated Trevilyan’s death as a suicide.
Gavin Porter, 31, was a friend of Vlassakis’ from Victoria. He moved into the house shared by John Bunting and Vlassakis in 1988. Bunting referred to Porter, a heroin addict, as a “waste” who no longer deserved to live.
John 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.
Troy Youde was a half brother of Vlassakis. Vlassakis had earlier confided to John 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.
Frederick Brooks was the intellectually disabled son of Jodie Elliot and nephew of Elizabeth Haydon. He was murdered by Bunting, Wagner, and Vlassakis on 17 September 1998.
Brooks’ 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.
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 John 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 contained burn marks which were inflicted by using a variac machine to apply electric shocks.
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 Elliot, who had a brief relationship with John 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 November 20th in 1998 while Haydon and Elliot were away from the house. Elizabeth was reported missing by her brother Garion Sinclair to police at 3:00 pm 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.
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.
Vlassakis had earlier told Johnson about a computer for sale near Clare, South Australia. Vlassakis drove him to Snowton 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.
John Bunting and Wagner dismembered Johnson’s body, then fried and ate parts of his flesh.
Johnson was the final murder victim before the group was apprehended.
The 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.
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.
credit murderpedia / wikipedia