Skip to main content

Only survivor of Ivan Milat Backpack killer escapes at gunpoint

A stock photo of a backpack


Hitchhiking away from Sydney on the 25 January 1990, Paul Onions, a British backpacker, was picked up by a 45-year-old man calling himself ‘Bill’. Typically Australian, the man at first came across as being friendly and charming. Soon, however, the mood would change and it would become apparent that ‘Bill’ was not who he claimed to be.

He was, in fact, Ivan Milat, one of 14 children of a Yugoslavian immigrant family, at that time a suspected rapist, and now known as one of Australia’s most notorious serial killers. As the questions posed by the man sitting next to him became invasive, as his rhetoric became ever more aggressive and threatening, Onions became suspicious.

He tried to run as Milat pulled into the side of the road, found himself confronted with a revolver but nevertheless escaped successfully, losing only his rucksack – far less than all of Milat’s other victims. It was only back in England that Onions discovered how narrow his escape had been.

Mounting evidence had persuaded the Australian police that a serial killer was responsible for the brutal deaths of seven backpackers and as their manhunt reached the international media, the Englishman became aware of the extent of his good luck...