At the entrance to the Belanglo Forest, the ominous sign reads “Welcome to Belanglo State Forest. Please be Careful.”
Back in 1994, notorious serial killer Ivan Milat was arrested over the murder of seven young backpackers, whose bodies were all found in the Belanglo State Forest.
He was finally convicted in 1996 and sentenced to seven life sentences.
Despite several appeals and unrelenting claims of innocence, Milat is still serving his life sentences in Goulburn SuperMax prison. He has attempted escape on several occasions.
As a grisly sequel to the Ivan Milat murders, Matthew Milat, Ivan’s teenaged great-nephew, followed in his footsteps in 2010. Along with another teen, Matthew killed his friend David Autherlonie, again choosing the Belanglo forest as the murder site.
He received 43 years imprisonment, with a 30-year non-parole period; which means that he must spend at least 30 years behind bars.
While most Australians feel disgust at the nature of these killings and sympathy towards the families of the deceased, some have decided to cash in on the infamy of the forest instead.
The ‘Extreme Terror Tours’
The Goulburn Ghost Tours Company was advertising an “Extreme Terror Tour” through the Belanglo forest.
The website described the experience as “thrilling”, saying:
“Come with us to Belanglo where Ivan Milat buried the bodies of his victims… Come with trained and experienced Paranormal Investigators to Belanglo State Forrest where horrific crimes have been committed and bodies have been found.”
Tickets cost $150 and started at 6pm, lasting 8-10 hours.
The tour has sparked media interest and upset many, including NSW Premier Mike Baird who has stated: “It’s completely and utterly outrageous… It’s not only in bad taste, it’s just terrible. Horrendous.”
Families of those murdered are similarly upset.
The father of one of the victims, David Autherlonie, told 9NEWS: “they’re just commercialising and exploiting other people’s grief.”
His grandmother told Fairfax media: “I can’t stop people from running these ghost tours, but I think it’s disgusting. They are taking advantage of our grief.”
Not only were the tours in bad taste, but they may be illegal.
In order to conduct such tours, businesses must first have a permit.
NSW Premier Mike Baird said that the tour group currently does not have a permit, and that a permit would be denied if requested.
Permits are required for a variety of activities that take place in state forests, including hunting, filming, research and organised events and activities, and penalties apply for those who act without permits.
The website initially attempted to justify the tours, stating that: “All tours are conducted in the greatest respect given to victims and their families. Please remember these crimes were remembered over 20 years ago.”
But after the uproar, the business has cancelled the tour and a number of others that it previously offered, including ‘Cemetery Stakeout’, ‘Teen Terror Tour’, and ‘Brewery Screamer Dinner Tour’.
In addition, the entire website and Facebook page have been closed down.
Before the website had closed, several members of the public showed an interest in the Belanglo forest tour, with some of the tour dates quickly booking out.
The public’s interest in serial killers is also reflected by the popularity of television shows, with the popular TV drama ‘Catching Milat’ attracting 1.5 million viewers across Australia.
Milat’s horrendous acts continue to fascinate even decades after the events.