Exclusive: Back in 1971, Keren Rowland was a bright and happy 20-year-old dental nurse, expecting her first child.

Now - in shock new claims by a 7News investigation - two leading criminologists assert the Canberra woman was also serial killer Ivan Milat's first victim 50 years ago.

Ivan Milat: Buried Secrets reopens Rowland's cold case among others, with forensic anthropologist Dr Xanthe Mallett and criminal psychologist Tim Watson-Munro determining the murdered woman was Milat's first prey - 20 years before he began his terrifying backpacker killings.

 

Ivan Milat has been linked to at least 20 cold cases by a new 7News investigation. Picture: AP
Ivan Milat has been linked to at least 20 cold cases by a new 7News investigation. Picture: AP

 

Five months pregnant, the dimple-cheeked beauty had been out with her sister Christine at the Canberra Show on the night she went missing, with her strangled and stabbed body discovered three months later, and like all of Milat's other victims, in a shallow grave covered in pine needles and forest litter, in Fairbairn National Park nearby.

Three witnesses told police at the time they saw Rowland accept a ride from a dark sedan after her Mini Minor car had ran out of petrol.

One driver claimed he saw the woman running away from the car, just near the gates of the Duntroon military academy.

 

Canberra dental nurse Keren Rowland was abducted and found dead in a pine forest outside of the capital in 1971. Picture: Supplied/Seven
Canberra dental nurse Keren Rowland was abducted and found dead in a pine forest outside of the capital in 1971. Picture: Supplied/Seven

 

Her brother Steve and cousin Hugh, a detective in Wales, have campaigned for years to find answers to Keren's death and possible ties to Australia's worst serial killer.

Steve Rowland said her family felt the case had been overlooked and neglected by police.

"No one has ever been held accountable for taking Keren and her baby's life and that's the bit we would dearly love to know."

She is just one of 20 cold cases the show's experts believe could be Milat's other kills - taking his notorious record well beyond the two men and five women he was jailed for killing from 1989 to 1992.

 

Keren’s sister Christine kept a scrapbook about her sister’s case. Picture: Supplied/Seven
Keren’s sister Christine kept a scrapbook about her sister’s case. Picture: Supplied/Seven

 

They include young Queanbeyan mother Dianne Pennacchio, who was murdered in 1991, at the peak of Milat's killing spree; and Peter Letcher, whose body was found in 1987.

British man, Colin Powis also shares his chilling story of hitchhiking with Milat two days after arriving in Australia in 1982.

He would escape that trip with his life, only realising how lucky he was when he returned home and saw a doco on Milat's 1996 conviction.

Watson-Munro told the program: "when Milat went to jail, the police stopped investigating the other crimes that he could have been responsible for. They hoped he might make a confession [before his death in 2019] but he didn't and the bastard got away with it."

In one of the documentary's most emotional moments, the father of British backpacker victim Caroline Clarke (who was the first body to be found in Belanglo State Forest and last to be murdered by Milat in April 1992), throws his support behind other families of the dead predator's victims still searching for answers and peace.

 

Criminologist Tim Watson-Munro believes Milat killed Keren Rowland. Picture: Seven
Criminologist Tim Watson-Munro believes Milat killed Keren Rowland. Picture: Seven

 

On the verge of tears, Ian Clarke agreed with the experts and said: "there are a number of cases that he may have been involved in," adding "it would be lovely to pin those on him and give comfort to those poor parents who have been waiting for decades to find out what happened to their loved ones."

Still choked with grief, he said "we know what a torment it was for us, but I just feel so deeply for all those who still don't know."

 

* Ivan Milat: Buried Secrets, 7pm, Sunday March 14 on Seven

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Originally published as Is this Ivan Milat's first murder victim?


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