Paul Bibby June 08, 2012
Convicted murderer Matthew Milat being led away after being sentenced for the murder of David Auchterlonie in Sydney yesterday. Photo: Mick Tsikas
It was almost impossible to believe that the cherub-faced country kid being led from the NSW Supreme Court was about to begin the longest juvenile jail sentence in the state’s recent history.
But yesterday Matthew Milat, the 19-year-old great nephew of serial killer Ivan Milat, began a sentence that must span at least three decades, for a crime so horrible that it will live long in our collective memory.
In sentencing Milat to a maximum of 43 years in jail with a minimum non-parole period of 30, Justice Jane Mathews described the Milat’s crime as ‘‘unimaginably cruel, brutal and violent’’.
On the night of November 20, 2010 David Auchterlonie was lured by Milat and Cohen Klein, also 19, into the Belanglo State Forest with the promise of smoking cannabis and drinking to celebrate his 17th birthday.
When the teenagers arrived at the southern highlands forest, David was tortured, tormented and murdered with a double-sided axe in what Crown Prosecutor Lloyd Babb SC described as ‘‘an adrenaline-fuelled thrill kill’’.
‘‘For the last 10 minutes of his life, when he was already seriously injured, the deceased was subjected to unimaginable torment by Milat,’’ Justice Mathews said.
‘‘That any person, who is not suffering from a psychiatric disorder, could behave in such a manner is almost inconceivable.’’
Evidence tendered during the sentencing process, and conversations with the young people who grew up with Milat reveal him to be him as a complex and disturbed young man – a teenager from Bargo whose life began brightly but then turned dark.
Childhood associate Luke Ockers says Milat was a fun-loving kid who seemed to make friends easily.
‘‘[Back then] he was just like the rest of us – he used to have fun and actually talk,’’ Mr Ockers says.
But as he went through his early years at Picton high school, Milat seemed to develop an unhealthy fixation with his infamous great uncle Ivan and the sight of his horrible crimes, the Belanglo State Forest.
‘‘He’d sit there and go on and talk about the things that had happened with his uncle,’’ Picton High School classmate, Sam McMahon says.
‘‘He would always want to have [cannabis] sessions in Belanglo. He was proud of it, just bragging about it, making himself out to be hard.’’
That Milat’s crime was motivated, at least in part, by the desire to emulate his great uncle, was reflected in his comments to his girlfriend after the crime.
‘‘You know me, you know my family,’’ he said.
‘‘You know the last name Milat. I did what they do.’’ But it has also emerged that Milat’s home life was less than happy.
The court heard yesterday that the young man had ‘‘a turbulent relationship with his stepfather who on all accounts used to punish him excessively, and might have physically abused him.
At the age of 16 Milat had a child with a young woman with whom he later separated, and a month before the murder he lost his job with a large company in the Newcastle area.
But Justice Mathews found that this in no way explained or excused his crime.
She found that, far from demonstrating any remorse for his actions, Milat had attempted to glorify them through bragging comments the next day and chilling poems written months later.
‘‘The poems were particularly inconsistent with remorse – he almost appeared to be reveling in the events,’’ she said.
Crucially, Justice Mathews rejected the argument of Milat’s barrister that the murder was not pre-planned or pre-meditated.
This meant that it fell into the most serious category of murder, paving the way for an extremely long sentence.
‘‘If any additional support were required for the proposition that this was a premeditated killing on the part of Milat, it can be found in the poems he wrote in custody some nine months later,’’ she said.
‘‘Not only did Milat describe himself in one of these poems as a cold blooded killer, but the poem Your last day ... has all the hallmarks of a gloated reminiscence of the deliberate tormenting and killing of the deceased.’’
The normal practice of giving offenders a 25 per cent discount on their sentence for an early guilty plea was waived because of the danger Milat posed to the community.
‘‘I consider that Milat, with his personality dysfunctions and his lack of empathy, poses at best a substantial risk of violent re-offending. In short, he remains a serious potential danger to the community...and must be given a very lengthy sentence.’’
Despite this, the 30 years in jail imposed on Milat shocked many of those in court.
It is the longest sentence given to a juvenile at least in the last 30 years and probably longer.
Nevertheless, Auchterlonie’s family were not completely satisfied.
‘‘He shouldn’t have have been allowed to leave [jail],’’ David’s mother Donna Locke said.
‘‘[Not] until he was cold and grey in a body bag like my son [when he] left the forest.’’