James Spyridon Vlassakis (born 24 December
1979) is an Australian serial killer currently serving four
consecutive terms of life imprisonment with a non-parole period of 26
years for his role in the Snowtown murders. Vlassakis confessed to
four murders, including the murder of his stepbrother, David Johnson
and half-brother Troy Youde as well as the murders of Gary O'Dwyer and
Vlassakis met John Bunting when aged fourteen and
looked up to Bunting as a father figure. It was alleged Bunting
groomed Vlassakis into committing serial murders.
Vlassakis was tried separately from the other
accused and was the first to be sentenced for his role in the murders.
He pleaded guilty to the four murders he was charged with.
Troy Youde was the half-brother of Vlassakis.
Vlassakis had earlier confided in Bunting that Youde had sexually
abused him when he was aged thirteen. Bunting, Wagner, Vlassakis and
Haydon hatched a plan to murder Youde and the group drove to Youde's
house and dragged from his bed while sleeping. Youde was strangled by
Wagner in his bathroom. Vlassakis admitted to being a witness to the
Frederick Brooks was the intellectually disabled
son of Jodie Elliot and nephew of Elizabeth Haydon. He was murdered by
Bunting, Wagner, and Vlassakis on 17 September 1998.
Brooks' body was moved to a car which was later
collected by Mark Haydon. The body was later located by police in the
disused bank vault in Snowtown. Mark Haydon continued to access the
welfare payments of Brooks.
Gary O'Dwyer, 29, was an intellectually disabled
man who lived alone in Frances Street, Murray Bridge. His disabilities
arose from a car accident earlier in life. Bunting had Vlassakis learn
personal information about O'Dwyer and whether he had any family.
O'Dwyer was seen by Bunting as an easy target and murdered so Bunting
could gain from O'Dwyer's welfare payments.
O'Dwyer's body was found by police in the bank
vault in Snowtown. His body contained burn marks which were inflicted
by using a variac machine to apply electric shocks.
Johnson was lured to the disused bank in Snowtown
by his stepbrother, James Vlassakis, on 9 May 1999. Johnson was not
homosexual, but Bunting would often refer to him as a "faggot" and say
he needed to die.
Vlassakis had earlier told Johnson about a computer
for sale near Clare, South Australia. Vlassakis drove him to Snowton
to ostensibly look at this computer.
Shortly after Johnson entered the bank building, he
was grabbed by Wagner around the throat and strangled. Wagner then
applied handcuffs to Johnson and he was forced by Bunting to read a
script Bunting had earlier prepared, as well as provide his bank
account PIN. Johnson's voice was recorded on a computer equipped with
Wagner and Vlassakis drove to Port Wakefield and
attempted to access Johnson's bank account, leaving Bunting and Haydon
with Johnson in the disused bank. Wagner and Vlassakis were
unsuccessful in withdrawing funds from Johnson's account. When they
returned to Snowtown, Johnson was dead.
Bunting and Wagner dismembered Johnson's body, then
fried and ate parts of his flesh.
Johnson was the final murder victim before the
group was apprehended.
A suppression order was granted restricting any
image from publication which could identify Vlassakis. The order was
granted to provide protection to Vlassakis within the prison system as
he had agreed to provide evidence against his co-accused at their
The terms of the order were as follows:
Order suppressing publication of the image of
Vlassakis in any form, including photographs, sketches and
Further order suppressing publication of any
description of Vlassakis, that is, of his appearance, which would
have the capacity to lead to identification of him by a reader of
The orders will remain in force until further
order, but His Honour indicated that it his intention to review
orders on the next appearance of Vlassakis in this court.
To prevent prejudice to the proper administration
In July, 2004, publishers of Australian newspapers
The Australian and Herald Sun were convicted on contempt
of court charges for the publication of a photograph of Vlassakis on
11 July 2002.
Troy Youde, 21
(d. Sep 1998)
Vlassakis' half-brother and son of Elizabeth Harvey who was living
with them at Bunting's Murray Bridge house at the time of his death.
He was killed in the house after being dragged from his bed while
asleep. This was the first murder Vlassakis participated in.
Fred Brooks, 18
(d. Sep 1998)
The intellectually disabled son of Jodie Elliott, a woman in love with
Bunting, was chosen by Bunting as an easy victim and lured to his
house where he was attacked and brutally tortured.
Gary O'Dwyer, 29
(d. Nov 1998)
Man disabled in an earlier car accident and on a pension, O'Dwyer was
a stranger, picked as an easy target. Was killed in his home in
Frances Street, Murray Bridge, by Bunting, Wagner and Vlassakis.
David Johnson, 24
(d. May 1999)
Vlassakis' half-brother. Murdered by Bunting in the bank building
having been lured there by Vlassakis. He was the only victim to have
died in Snowtown.