Snowtown killer denied bid for non-parole date to be set


May 09, 2019 15:52:32

Snowtown “bodies-in-the-barrels” serial killer Robert Joe Wagner has lost his bid for a non-parole period to be set.

Key points:

  • Robert Wagner has asked the SA Supreme Court for a non-parole period to be set
  • He was convicted of 10 murders in 2003
  • The prosecution opposed his application because of the “gravity” of Wagner’s crimes

A non-parole period could have paved the way for his eventual release.

Wagner, 47, was sentenced to life in prison without parole in 2003 for his role in 10 murders, committed during the 1990s.

During the case, gruesome details about his crimes were revealed, including that he and co-offender John Justin Bunting had cannibalised one of their victims.

Wagner applied to the Supreme Court for a non-parole period to be fixed to his sentence, telling the court in a hand-written letter that it would “greatly assist” his “mental wellbeing”.

The Director of Public Prosecutions and members of the victims’ families objected to the fixing of a non-parole period.

Justice Greg Parker dismissed the application this afternoon.

“I firmly consider that the ‘bodies-in-the-barrels’ murders are the worst crimes ever to be detected in South Australia,” he said in his judgment.

“None of the murders committed by the applicant displayed any mitigating features. The applicant is plainly a hardened killer.

“The applicant expressly declined to assert that he was remorseful for his appalling actions, on the basis that he would be accused of lying to support the fixing of a non-parole period.

“The lack of even a bare assertion of remorse is consistent with the observation of [sentencing judge Brian] Martin that the applicant is incapable of true rehabilitation.”

The remains of eight victims were found in acid-filled barrels in a disused bank vault in Snowtown, in South Australia’s mid-north, in May 1999.

Bunting and Wagner were convicted of 11 and 10 murders respectively.

The last murder was committed exactly 20 years ago today.

Wagner ‘showed pleasure in inflicting pain’

Justice Parker said he agreed with prosecutors that “the requirements of justice, particularly considerations of punishment and general deterrence, mandate that a non-parole period should not be set”.

“The punitive aspect of sentencing weighs very heavily in circumstances where the applicant engaged in 10 planned killings, some involving appalling torture and later mutilation of bodies, motivated by a mixture of pleasure, profit, personal dislike, vigilantism and the avoidance of discovery,” he said.

Justice Parker said Wagner “showed pleasure in inflicting pain and boasted and joked about his involvement in some of the killings”.

“The applicant also personally dismembered several of the victims after death and treated the bodies with an appalling lack of respect and dignity,” he said.

Outside court, commissioner for victims’ rights Bronwyn Killmier welcomed the decision.

“Nothing will compensate for the loss of the 10 victims murdered by Mr Wagner,” she said.

“Families and friends of those people live forever without them and struggle to cope.

“The original trial judge declined to set a non-parole period because of the gravity of the offence, the circumstances of the crimes and the lack of contrition. Nothing has changed.”

Murderer wanted morale boost

Wagner asked the Supreme Court for a non-parole period to boost his morale and give him a chance to see his adult son.

In March, Wagner told the court there was no point apologising for his crimes as the prosecution would argue he was only doing so to get a parole period.

“There’s no point saying I’m sorry,” he said.

He said other killers — including Bourke Street mass murderer James Gargasoulas and South Australian killers James Miller and Bevan von Einem — had been given non-parole periods.

Wagner has spent almost 20 years in jail after being arrested in 1999 over the horrific killings.

He pleaded guilty to three murders but a jury found him guilty of a further seven in 2003.











First posted

May 09, 2019 14:45:03

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