Secrets police fear Milat has taken to his grave
Ivan Milat took to his grave the true number of people he killed with two top former detectives estimating the toll to be at least 13 and likely far higher.
Retired chief superintendent Wayne Gordon, who led a strike force investigating the disappearances of 20 young women as potential victims of Milat, believes Australia's worst serial killer is responsible for murdering at least three of them.
The women vanished more a decade before the backpacker killings.
And the former top cop who led the task force into the seven backpacker murders, retired Assistant Commissioner Clive Small, is convinced of three more, separate victims.
Gordon and Small are sure Milat killed the additional six during a year-long reign of terror that stretched well beyond the killings of seven backpackers, whose murders he was convicted of and for which he was sentenced to life in prison.
"No one will ever know how many he killed," said former detective chief superintendent Gordon, who questioned Milat in Goulburn Jail's Supermax over the missing girls after he was convicted of the seven backpacker murders in 1996.
"It was a short interview," Gordon told The Daily Telegraph.
"He recognised me as being the person who spoke to him on the phone when he was arrested and gave evidence at Campbelltown and the Supreme Court. He directed a few profanities towards me and the conversation didn't go on very long after that."
Gordon headed Strike Force Fenwick which in 2000 investigated more than 20 missing persons from the Newcastle area around the time Milat was a road worker in the Hunter Region in the late 1970s and early 80s.
The disappearances of three of the young women - Leanne Goodall, 20, Robyn Hickie, 18, and Amanda Robinson, 14 - were the subject of a joint inquest in 2002. Counsel assisting NSW State Coroner John Abernethy was Patrick Saidi.
"While (Milat) didn't talk to me, I remember during the inquests that Pat Saidi got him talking in the box," Mr Gordon said.
"He actually admitted to owning handcuffs and weapons. Then there was an adjournment and he must have realised he had opened up a bit and he clammed up again."
When Milat was asked about Amanda Robinson when she failed to return home to Swansea after a school dance, Milat looked past the legal table at Amanda's mother and said: "What was a 14-year-old doing out alone," Gordon recalled.
"It was cruel and devastating to the families."
Gordon said the disappearances of some of the women happened around the time Milat was single or had just broken up with a girlfriend.
"There was a theory that these were times when he was more active," he said.
The coroner concluded that Milat remained "a major person of interest".
Small is positive Milat murdered at least three others, including Peter Letcher, 18, whose body was found in the Jenolan Caves State Forest nine weeks after he went missing on his way from Bathurst in November, 1987.
Like the Belanglo backpacker victims, his body was lying next to a log, partly covered in branches.
Three bullets from the scene were linked to the same model Ruger 10/22 rifle that Milat used to kill two at Belanglo, Caroline Clarke and Gabor Neugebauer.
In the days before Letcher disappeared, Milat's relationship with his wife Karen was falling apart. He was also working for the Department of Main Roads in the Jenolan State Forest at the time.
"It was his modus operandi," Small said.
Small said Milat's work records also showed he was working in the area when Keren Rowland, 20, was last seen alive after her car ran out of petrol on Parkes Way, Canberra on February 20, 1971.
Three months later, her body was found in the Fairbairn Pine Plantation. She had been raped and her body covered with pine branches in a makeshift burial site.
A month before the body was found, Milat was charged with the rape of one of two hitchhikers he had picked up on the Hume Hwy and threatened to kill.
There are striking similarities to the abduction and murder of Dianne Pennachio, 29. She was last seen leaving Lake George Hotel at Bungendore to hitch home to Queanbeyan.
Ten weeks later, her body was found in the Tallanda State Forest, 120km south of Belanglo.
Her jeans and underpants were around her ankles and she had been raped.
Like Milat's later victims, she had been stabbed in the spine. Like Milat's other victims, she was found lying facedown next to a fallen tree trunk and had been covered with pine tree branches.
Work records again showed Milat had the opportunity.
For Rod Lynch, who was one of leadership team reporting to Small as part of the backpacker investigation, Task Force Air, Milat's death brought up horrible memories of what his victims must have gone through.
"The sheer terror and pain is unimaginable," the retired detective said.
"I try to put it out of my mind but when it hits the news it comes back.
"It was three and half years of my life. It was not an easy time. The relief when he was arrested was enormous that the killing would stop."
In the morning of Milat's arrest, Wayne Gordon was told it would be his job to talk the then-suspected serial killer out of his house.
At 2am on Sunday May 22, 1994, the briefing room at Campbelltown Police Station was filled with officers from the task force and the State Protection Group.
Gordon called forensic psychiatrist Rod Milton, who police negotiators used as an on-call adviser.
Dr Milton's advice was to be authoritative, not back away and not to let Milat take control of the conversation.
But no-one knew what to expect when Gordon dialled the house at 6.36am. Milat answered and denied he was home. His girlfriend Chalinder Hughes was in bed.
When Gordon called back Milat said he had thought it was someone from work having a joke.
"No, mate. I'm from the police. It's no joke, this is for real," Gordon told him.
When Milat walked out wearing an old checked shirt, he was forced to the ground by police armed with submachine guns, and his hands were cuffed.
It was Detective Sergeant Steve Leach, a mountain of a man, who had the job of showing Milat the search warrant and arresting him. The photographs of Leach leading Milat out of his house would be flashed throughout the world.
Ten years later, Steve Leach, 51, was off duty when he walked into the armoury room of what was then police headquarters in Sydney, picked up his service handgun and shot himself in the head.