Snowtown: the victims of the bodies in the barrels murders


snowtown bodies in the barrels

At the close of the twentieth century, Australia grappled with the Snowtown murders, a series of homicides otherwise known as ‘the bodies in the barrels’ murders.

Twelve people were killed by the Snowtown murderers. One of them was young trans woman Michelle Gardiner. Michelle’s landlady Nicole Zuritta returned home from a holiday in 1997 to find Michelle gone and her house ransacked.

In a report for the ABC, Rebecca Brice and James Wakelin spoke with Nicole Zuritta about her former tenant and cherished friend.

The Snowtown Murders

Police eventually found the remains of eight of the twelve victims in barrels in an unused Snowtown bank vault leading to papers dubbing the crime – the bodies in the barrels murders.  The victims often suffered cruel deaths involving torture and mutilation.

No clear motive even emerged for the crimes. Some of the killers later justified the killings as punishment for pedophilia, homosexuality, obesity, and other ‘crimes’. However, evidence showed the gangleader chose victims at random or based on a personal dislike.

Trans woman, Michelle Gardiner, had the misfortune to board at the house of a relative of one of the killers.

When Nicole Zuritta returned home from a holiday in 1997, she found her home ransacked and Michelle gone. She knew Michelle planned to move soon but never for a moment believed her friend would leave without telling her — or rob her.

As she cleaned up, she found a wallet under the bed in Michelle’s room.

“It had a note in it and it said, ‘I just wanted to thank you for allowing me to be my true self without judgement. I’ll forever be your friend’.”

More than two decades later, Nicole remembered why she valued her friendship with Michelle so highly.

“We all look for people that are kind and generous and [Michelle] was all of that and then some.

“[She] just had a beautiful soul, very joyful and wanting to please.

“What I liked most about [her] was that [she] was being true to [herself].”

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Destiny Rogers

Destiny Rogers embarked on her career in the media industry immediately after high school, initially joining Mirror News, which later evolved into News Ltd. She fondly recalls editing Ian Byford's 'Passing Glances: A History of Gay Cairns' as one of her most fulfilling projects. Additionally, Destiny co-researched and co-wrote 'The Queen's Ball', chronicling the history of the world's longest-running continuous queer event. Her investigative work on the history of Australia's COON Cheese and Edward Coon culminated in the publication 'COON: More Holes than Swiss Cheese', a collaborative effort with Dr. Stephen Hagan. Destiny's journey at QNews began as a feature writer, and she was subsequently elevated to the role of Managing Editor of QNews Magazine in 2018. However, in July 2022, she decided to resign from this role to refocus on research and feature writing. For contact, please reach out at destinyr@qnews.com.au.

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