Tour operator criticised for insensitive tour to Australian forest where killer dumped victims

Goulburn Ghost Tours has been criticised for holding visits to Belanglo State Forest, where serial killer Ivan Milat buried seven backpackers in the 1990s. PHOTO: SCREENGRAB FROM GOULBURNGHOSTTOURS.COM

SYDNEY (AFP) - An "extreme terror tour" of the Australian forest where a notorious killer buried seven backpackers in the 1990s was on Tuesday attacked as "disgusting" and insensitive to the families of victims.

Goulburn Ghost Tours is advertising a small number of nighttime visits to Belanglo State Forest, where Ivan Milat dumped the bodies of two Britons, three Germans and two Australians over 20 years ago.

Milat is serving consecutive life sentences for the murders of the young travellers which terrified Australia in the early 1990s. Their remains were found in Belanglo, 120 km southwest of Sydney.

"You asked for it and we have delivered - Goulburn Ghost Tours extreme terror tour is here," the company said on its website.

"Come with us to Belanglo where Ivan Milat buried the bodies of his victims! Once you enter Belanglo State Forest you may never come out..."

New South Wales Victims of Crime Assistance League chief executive Robyn Cotterell-Jones acknowledged the fascination with the macabre.

"But from where I sit, caring for the families of people who have been harmed in all sorts of vicious and violent crimes including murder, every time something like this arises it rips the scars open again," she told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

"The idea so soon after his crimes in the Belanglo, and more recent crimes as well, of having people tramping over the sites that are still very special is very concerning to the families."

In 2010, Matthew Milat, a teenage relative of Ivan Milat, murdered David Auchterlonie on his 17th birthday in the same forest with an axe, in what the sentencing judge described as a "thrill kill". He was jailed for at least 30 years in 2012.

David's grandmother Sandra Auchterlonie told The Sydney Morning Herald the A$150-per-person (S$151) tours were taking advantage of the family's grief.

"I can't stop people from running these ghost tours, but I think it's disgusting," she said.

Goulburn Ghost Tours could not be reached by AFP but manager Louise Edwards told the Herald that the tours were conducted with sensitivity.

"We thought about it for a long time before we did it. We wanted to make sure it was sensitive. We really don't want to upset anyone. That wasn't our intention," she told the paper.

Ivan Milat was only caught after sensational evidence from Paul Onions, a British hitchhiker who escaped death in 1990 by jumping out of Milat's vehicle when he pulled a gun on him.

Onions reported the incident to police when he saw news reports of bodies found in Belanglo. He contacted the Australian High Commission in London, eventually providing crucial evidence to the trial.

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