Parents of Milat victim’s warning: ‘Don’t hitchhike’
THE father of one of Ivan Milat's young victims has urged parents not to let it stop their children having adventures.
Ian Clarke, whose daughter Caroline and her friend Joanne Walters were the last backpackers to be killed by Australia's worst serial killer, said she had been having the time of her life.
He said a lot had changed since the two girls were murdered in 1992 and his message to young travellers was not to hitchhike.
One thing that had stayed the same was that parents would always worry, he said.
"(But) to parents, don't stop them going," Mr Clarke said from their family's home in the north of England today.
"Caroline and the others were desperately unlucky but they were a tiny minority and to the last they were having the time of their lives."
Until the bodies of the seven backpackers were found in the Belanglo State Forest south of Sydney in 1992 and 1993, hitchhiking was almost considered a rite of passage for young people in Australia.
Caroline, 21, had arrived in Sydney in September 1991 inspired by her older brother Simon's travels around the world including Australia where he had worked in Narrabri and Lightning Ridge.
"Our son went to Australia and many other countries before Caroline and it was the making of him but he didn't hitchhike," Mr Clarke said.
"If you do hitchhike then try and get the registration of the car and text it."
It is believed Caroline and Joanne, 22, from Wales, had been picked up by Milat like all of his victims at Casula on the Hume Highway to head south where they had fruit picking jobs. They were last seen on April 18, 1992.
Mr Clarke and Caroline's mum Jacquie were due to fly to Australia at the end of September 1992 to take over the search for the girls from Joanne's parents when they got the dreaded call from police to say the bodies had been found.
With Milat's death in Long Bay Jail at 74 from cancer at the weekend, Mr Clarke said: "Thankfully this whole awful experience can now be put behind us."
His said social media had made it easier for young travellers to let people know where they were.
"So much has changed. But one thing is the same: parents worry," he said.
"So for their peace of mind and the safety of the young it must be vital that they keep in regular touch which nowadays is so simple with all the variety of options available.
"But, of course, the most important thing is don't hitchhike. Apart from regular calls I think it would be wise to let people know when you set out where you are going and your means of travel."
Mr and Mrs Clarke sat with the parents of the other backpackers - James Gibson and Deborah Everist from Victoria and Simone Schmidl, Gabor Neugebauer and Anja Habschied - through Milat's Supreme Court trial in 1996 for the seven murders and the abduction of another backpacker, Paul Onions, who escaped.
Milat had given Caroline's green and white Benetton top to his unwitting girlfriend Chalinder Hughes whose photographs wearing it at the beach were found by police and were among damning evidence presented at the trial.
While the serial killer's body remains in the state morgue, police are preparing a brief of evidence for an inquest into his death.
All deaths in custody are reported to the coroner.