5 Infamous Australian Serial Killers

True Crime Lists T

Australia is not usually known for its long list of serial killers, but the country has been tainted by multiple murderers for hundreds of years. Here, we look at five infamous Australian serial killers who claimed at least four victims each.

Leonard John Fraser: The Rockhampton Rapist

Leonard John Fraser: The Rockhampton Rapist
CREDIT: Queensland Police

Fraser was one of Queensland’s and Australia’s most infamous serial killers. He claimed all his victims in Rockhampton, in central Queensland, between December 1998 and April 1999.

Prior to the four known murders, Fraser spent 20 years in and out of prison for rape convictions, including a terminally ill cancer patient who he had been living with in 1997. Upon his release, he began killing and claimed four lives, and would collect trophies from his victims, including ponytails.

Fraser was sentenced to life in 2000 for the kidnapping, rape, and murder of nine-year-old Keyra Steinhardt. He attempted to make a plea deal by confessing to other murders but it turned out he had lied about many of them purely to avoid general population in prison.

He was convicted three years later in 2003 for the murders of Beverley Leggo and Sylvia Benedetti, and the manslaughter of Julie Turner. Investigators have long suspected him of three additional unsolved murders in Queensland. He died of natural causes in 2007.

Arnold Karl Sodeman: The School-girl Strangler

Arnold Karl Sodeman: The School-girl Strangler

Sodeman claimed four victims in Melbourne, Australia, from 1930 to 1935. He targeted young girls and was known to have raped and strangled his victims while he was intoxicated.

His first victim was 12-year-old Mena Griffiths in November 1930, who he abducted in plain sight from a playground as she was playing with friends. Her body was found two days later, gagged, bound, and strangled.

Two months later in January 1931, he claimed his oldest victim, 16-year-old Hazel Wilson. She too was gagged, tied, assaulted and strangled to death.

His third victim, four years later in January 1935 was 12-year-old Ethel Belshaw, who was abducted as she left her family to buy an ice cream. Her body was found near the shoreline.

In December of the same year, six-year-old girl June Rushmer suffered a similar fate. Witnesses claimed they had seen a man on a bike and when Sodeman’s work colleagues claimed he had been riding a bike the same day, he was arrested.

He confessed to all four murders and was sentenced to death. He was executed by hanging at Pentridge Prison. His legacy as one of Australia’s worst serial killers lives on to this day.

Martha Needle

Martha Needle

There are few Australian female serial killers but Martha Needle was perhaps one of the worst. Between 1885 and 1894, she poisoned and killed five people.

Including her husband, three children and her future brother-in-law Louis Juncken. It was claimed she collected substantial amounts of insurance money after killing Juncken.

However, there was no obvious motive in the murders of her husband and children. In the death of her three-year-old child Mabel, Martha collected a small insurance amount which she used to pay for an elaborate grave.

After Juncken’s death, a doctor suspected he had been poisoned, so police set up a sting operation. Juncken’s older brother, Hermann, worked with the police and went to Martha’s house to ask her to make him dinner.

When police entered and checked the teacup placed in front of him, it contained enough arsenic to kill five people. Martha was arrested and the five bodies exhumed, each found to contain traces of arsenic.
She was executed in October 1894, one of only four women to be hung at the Old Melbourne Gaol.

John Justin Bunting: Bodies in the Barrels

Bunting was a master manipulator who convinced others to help him commit serial murder and dispose of their victims’ bodies in barrels of acid, leaving 12 dead, and a town forever tainted by infamy.

The Snowtown Murders, more commonly known as the Bodies in the Barrels, are one of the most infamous cases in Australian history, a series of killings carried out by Bunting and others operating as part of a gang in Snowtown, South Australia.

Many victims were subjected to horrific torture, with weapons and devices including knives, ropes, gloves, pliers, a shotgun, metal rods and an electric shock tool.

Monstrous Serial Killers Encyclopedia
Love reading about serial killers, then the Monstrous Serial Killers Encyclopedia (affiliate link) is right up your street!

Some of the victims were killed in their own homes, and the gang would rampage through their houses, smashing things up before killing them. They would also trash the homes of other people they believed to be gay.

Most victims however were lured to Bunting’s home, where they were tortured before being dismembered. On 21st of May 1999, Bunting and three of his gang, Robert Joe Wagner, James Vlassakis, and Mark Haydon were arrested.

Eight of the 12 bodies were found in giant plastic barrels that were full of acid. Bunting was sentenced to 11 life terms, while the others received various sentences between 18-26 years.

John Wayne Glover: Granny Killer

John Wayne Glover: Granny Killer
CREDIT: Sydney Police Department 

Between 1989 and 1990, Glover murdered six elderly women in Sydney, earning him the dubious moniker of the Granny Killer.

Originally from England, Glover was kicked out of the British Army when he was caught stealing women’s clothes and handbags. He made Australia his home at the age of 24.

Glover is unusual in that he began killing at the age of 56, despite having been married for over twenty years and raising children. The way he murdered his victims was seen as ritualistic, due to the way he strangled them slowly with their own pantyhose’s.

He would follow his victims to their houses then hit them over the head with a hammer as they opened their front doors, strangling them either outside or inside the homes.

His true motive was never revealed but he was known to have rifled through his victim’s purses and making off with their cash. He was arrested in 1990, found guilty of all six murders, and sentenced to life in prison. Glover hung himself in his cell in 2005.


Help share the article

Leave a comment
Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. There's a lot more the Italian authorities are not releasing over this case. Makes you wonder the extent of the…