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Guilty plea in 'bodies-in-barrels' case


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SYDNEY, Australia (CNN) -- One of two defendants about to face trial in South Australia's gruesome "bodies-in-barrels" case has changed his plea to guilty.

Robert Joe Wagner, 30, pleaded guilty Friday to three of the 11 murder charges against him for his part in the grisly killing spree in which four men allegedly hid the dismembered bodies of their victims in acid-filled barrels in a disused bank vault in Snowtown in South Australia's mid-north.

Wagner was one of four men charged in relation to the alleged serial killings.

John Justin Bunting, 35, is expected to be tried jointly with Wagner next month in South Australia's Supreme Court. Bunting faces 10 murder charges.

In June last year James Spyridon Vlassakis pleaded guilty on four counts and was sentenced to life in prison for each.

Mark Ray Haydon, 43, has been charged with three murders and his trial is not expected to begin until Wagner and Bunting's have concluded.

The so-called "bodies-in-barrels case" broke in May 1999 when eight bodies were found in plastic barrels in the Snowtown bank vault.

In what has become one of Australia's most gruesome mass murders, two further bodies were discovered buried in a suburban Adelaide backyard, and two found in other places that have not been disclosed.

In an earlier pre-trial hearing, prosecutors said the victims had been either friends or relatives of the defendants and had been suffocated or strangled.

During this week's pre-trial hearing, the judge scheduled to hear the murder charges against Wagner has banned publication in South Australia of references to cannibalism and "consumption of human flesh" in coverage of the trials.

The order was made in response to an inquiry by the Director of Public Prosecutions office relating to a cannibalism reference in a book scheduled for release on Monday.

Three separate jury panels will be selected on October 14.



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