Back­packer tells of es­cape from mon­ster Mi­lat

The Sunday Mail (Queensland) - - NEWS - AMELIA SAW

FOR back­packer Colin Powis, the dif­fer­ence be­tween es­cap­ing no­to­ri­ous se­rial killer Ivan Mi­lat and dy­ing a sav­age death all came down to the chang­ing of a traf­fic light.

Powis has never spo­ken about his ter­ri­fy­ing es­cape from Mi­lat (far right), who was con­victed of the mur­ders of seven young trav­ellers be­tween 1989 and 1993, their bod­ies found buried in the Be­lan­glo State For­est.

But last year, the 57-yearold con­struc­tion worker was sit­ting in his liv­ing room in Durham, Eng­land, when a doc­u­men­tary on the back­packer mur­ders came on TV.

Recog­nis­ing the man he es­caped while hitch­hik­ing around Aus­tralia in 1982, Powis is now “100 per cent sure” that man was Mi­lat.

In Jan­uary of that year, 21year-old Powis was stand­ing on the high­way near Ka­toomba, NSW, wait­ing for a lift. He was mak­ing his way to Co­bar, in the state’s west, to work in the mine.

A small pick-up truck pulled up in front of him, and Powis went to throw his bag in the back. “No, mate,” said the driver, “put it in here be­hind the seat, it’s safer.”

The man locked the doors and the truck took off. Powis no­ticed the driver’s “deep tan” and “nar­row eyes”.

“How long have you been in Aus­tralia? Who knows you’re here?” the man asked. Powis (pic­tured be­low) thought it an odd ques­tion.

“I’ve been in Aus­tralia just a cou­ple of days. I don’t know any­body here, but I’m go­ing out to Co­bar to see about get­ting a job,” he said.

The truck was spot­less and all but empty, bar a swag in the back and a large ham­mer near the tail­gate.

Powis asked the man where he was head­ing. “Just up the road,” the man said, then fell into a long, stony si­lence.

“He was weird right from the start,” said Powis. “I thought he was on drugs ’cos he went into such a mood, such a dark mood, and was so deep in thought ... And he was watch­ing me, lean­ing against the driver’s door so he could scan me and the road at the same time.” Just be­fore Bathurst, the high­way was in­ter­sected by a ma­jor dirt road with a set of traf­fic lights. The man looked at Powis. “I’m go­ing to go south now. I’m go­ing to take this turn-off.” “OK, you can just drop me off here, up at the lights,” Powis said. But the man took the turn-off and sped down the dirt road, say­ing he was go­ing into the bush to check his traps.

Powis po­litely de­clined to come, and the man slammed on the brakes and jumped d out. t

“I thought he was go­ing to punch me and then he was go­ing to drive away with my back­pack and my pass­port and ev­ery­thing,” Powis said.

But Powis was a strong kid. He grabbed his back­pack and steeled him­self for a fight.

Only in ret­ro­spect he re­alised the man had picked up the ham­mer and was plan­ning to attack him. Then the lights c changed and a s stream of cars flowed down the dirt road from the t top of the hill. “He was look­ing over his shoul­der at this traf­fic a and look­ing at me . ... it was that traf­fic that stopped him wal­lop­ing me with a ham­mer – I’m cer­tain of it,” said Powis. Powis pushed past the man and pow­ered up the road. When he looked over his shoul­der, the man was loung­ing on his truck. “Have a safe trip, mate,” he yelled af­ter the young back­packer. But Powis didn’t stop.

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