Snowtown ‘bodies in the barrels’ accomplice Mark Ray Haydon has been granted parole after almost 25 years in custody.

The South Australian Parole Board announced its decision a day after hearing the 65-year-old’s application, but he won’t be immediately released into the community.

The board’s Presiding Member Frances Nelson KC said Haydon’s behaviour while in jail had been “excellent”.

“His compliance with prison rules and regulations has been such that we’re confident he will comply with parole conditions,” she said.

“We’re also mindful that his head sentence ends in May, so in our view, the community would benefit, and he would benefit, from a period of supervision on parole prior to that.”

Haydon was arrested in May 1999 when police found eight bodies in six barrels in a disused bank vault in Snowtown, about 150-kilometres north of Adelaide.

The entrance to the bank vault at Snowtown, where eight bodies were found in barrels in 1999.(ABC News)

He was jailed for 25 years for seven counts of assisting the Snowtown killers, who murdered 11 people in total.

Some were horrifically tortured.

Haydon’s 18-year non-parole period ended in 2017 and his first application to be released at that time was refused.

His current application has been under consideration since 2021.

Haydon will now be moved to the Adelaide Pre-Release Centre – a low security facility where prisoners can participate in accompanied and unaccompanied leave, including for work and education.

Bodies-in-barrels accomplice Mark Ray Haydon, pictured before one of his court appearances.(ABC News)

Haydon will have to wear an electronic bracelet as part of his parole conditions and will be subject to a curfew.

He will also need to report to a community corrections officer, and will not be allowed to have any contact with the victims’ families or the media.

“We’ve placed electronic monitoring as a condition, not because we think it’s really necessary from his perspective, but it will give some reassurance to the community given the notoriety of his offences and the fact that it’s attracted so much publicity,” Ms Nelson said.

‘Putting them up in motels’

Ms Nelson said she would be concerned about Haydon’s safety once he is freed, given the level of public interest in his case.

“I wouldn’t think that there would be any vigilante action, but I suppose that is a possibility,” she said.

Presiding member of the South Australian Parole Board, Frances Nelson KC.(Lincoln Rothall)

Asked what authorities could do to protect Haydon, Ms Nelson took aim at the lack of available public housing in South Australia.

“First of all, he has to have appropriate accommodation, and that’s an extremely difficult thing because we have a shortage of public housing,” she said.

“One of the most difficult things we have to contend with is finding accommodation for prisoners.

“As a result, we find that [the Department of] Corrections are putting them up in motels because we don’t have housing.” 

Government rushes to change legislation

Haydon’s parole conditions will lapse when his full 25-year sentence ends in May this year.

However, in a separate development, the Supreme Court has scheduled a hearing next week to consider whether Haydon should be deemed a high-risk offender, and be placed under certain conditions beyond May.

Legal experts say it is not clear whether he meets the definition of a high-risk offender.

The government has said Haydon’s case has exposed a loophole and it’s seeking to amend the legislation to broaden the definition of a high-risk offender.

Premier Peter Malinauskas and Attorney-General Kyam Maher said the government would seek to have Haydon placed on an extended supervision order, on February 19, 2024.(ABC News: Rory McClaren)

The amendments were rushed through the Lower House of Parliament on Tuesday and are due to be debated by the Upper House on Thursday.

‘No contrition’ from Bunting

The Snowtown killings, committed by John Justin Bunting, Robert Joe Wagner and James Spyridon Vlassakis, became infamous for the gruesome ways the victims were killed and disposed of by people they trusted.

Ms Nelson said John Bunting has shown no contrition.

Snowtown killers John Bunting and Robert Wagner in custody after they were arrested. Circa 1999 or early 2000s.(ABC News)

“We’ve had to review Bunting and Wagner’s files every 12 months for some years,” she said.

“Reading those files is pretty traumatic for a parole board member so I can only imagine how awful the consequences have been for the families

“I think Mr Bunting has no empathy at all, he has no insight into his offending. I think he’s quite proud of being a serial killer.

“He’s completely indifferent to the effect that his crimes have had on anyone else.”

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