Fate: Inside the Backpacker Murders Investigation by Neil Mercer

Review by A. R. Muir

The Sydney ‘backpacker murders’ of the 1980 and early 90s stand as perhaps the most infamous and scary chapter in Australia’s criminal history. Numerous books have been written about these serial killings from all angles. Fate by Neil Mercer targets the case from the point of view of the victims’ families. It tells of their first inklings that something may be wrong to their attempts to find their loved ones, and finally their reactions to the murder trial of Ivan Milat.

As a book on the backpacker murders it is probably best read in combination with others that contain more details on Milat’s life and family, for example Sins of the Brother by Mark Whittaker. What Mercer, a veteran Aussie journalist, does in Fate is put a very poignant face on the victims’ families, and their struggle for answers. He uses personal interviews and quotes to help narrate the unfolding horror of the families as they discover what monstrous atrocities their loved ones were forced to endure at the hands of the psychopath who then took their lives. It is moving to read of the search made by Manfred and Anke Neugebauer, parents of Gabor Neugebauer, and Norbert Habschied, Anja Habschied’s brother.

This is not a long book, but it does a decent job of outlining the case, and adding more understanding of the suffering felt by the victims’ families. It is a good introduction to the very convoluted case of the backpacker murders.

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