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Remains Found in Serial Murder Case

May 24, 1999

ADELAIDE, Australia (AP) _ In Australia’s worst serial murder case, police said today they have found the remains of nine people in a bank vault and buried in a suburban backyard.

Senior officers today announced formation of a special task force to investigate the killings _ and added they have not ruled out finding more victims. Three men were in custody.

The first bodies were discovered Friday, when police broke into an unused bank vault in a rundown building in Snowtown, a small town in the state of South Australia about 100 miles north of Adelaide, the state capital. Inside were decomposing bodies in large plastic barrels, which may also have been filled with acid.

Originally thought to be the remains of six people, police said today the decomposed parts belonged to eight victims. The Sydney Morning Herald reported today that police have found 15 human feet.

Robert Joe Wagner, 27, John Justin Bunting, 32, and Mark Ray Haydon, 40, appeared in court Friday in Adelaide and were charged with murder. They will be kept in custody until a hearing July 2.

Detective Superintendent Denis Edmonds said welfare fraud was one motive under investigation.

Using ground-penetrating radar, police on Sunday detected another set of remains buried in the yard of a house allegedly once occupied by one of the suspects, Detective Superintendent Paul Schramm said. The house is in the Adelaide suburb of Salisbury North.

Police found the Snowtown bodies after a yearlong investigation into the disappearances of Elizabeth Haydon, 37, who vanished from a northern Adelaide suburb late last year, and two other missing persons.

The three were expected to be among the victims, but police said it would be some time before positive identifications were possible.

Investigators will use the FBI’s Violent Criminal Apprehension Program database to compare aspects of the crime with patterns and ``signatures″ from other serial killings, police said.

Australia’s worst serial killings to date involved road worker Ivan Milat, who kidnapped, shot and stabbed seven backpackers between December 1989 and April 1992. He has been jailed for life.

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