Backpacker tells of escape from monster Milat
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.