Salt Creek kidnap victims' to tell-all in TV special

THE backpackers who survived cruel Salt Creek kidnapper Roman Heinze have won the right to tell their stories in lucrative paid TV interviews and show their faces publicly for the first time.

As revealed by The Advertiser on Monday, German tourist Lena Rabente and her Brazilian travelling partner asked the Supreme Court to lift longstanding suppressions on their identities.

Ms Rabente leaving court after Heinze was found guilty. Picture: Tom Huntley.
Ms Rabente leaving court after Heinze was found guilty. Picture: Tom Huntley.

In a hearing on Tuesday - and over the objections of Heinze - Justice Kelly agreed to lift the orders, paving the way for estimated six-figure exclusive interviews.

The Advertiser understands 60 Minutes has paid approximately $500,000 to secure their stories.

The lifting of the orders means Ms Rabente - who survived being bashed and mowed down by Heinze, and vowed he could never break her - can be identified for the first time.

THE man who terrorised and assaulted three backpackers, and pursued a dozen more on the internet in an escalating pattern of predatory behaviour, can finally be named.
THE man who terrorised and assaulted three backpackers, and pursued a dozen more on the internet in an escalating pattern of predatory behaviour, can finally be named. News Corp Australia

However, the identity of her friend - who, despite being tied up and threatened with a knife, outwitted and escaped Heinze - remains secret for the time being.

Under state law, victims of sexual offending can only be identified if they personally give consent to media outlets, and the court heard she has yet to do so.

Heinze, 61, was found guilty of crimes against four foreign backpackers, including aggravated kidnapping and sexual assault.


Blood splatter under the roof rack of the 4WD.
Blood splatter under the roof rack of the 4WD. News Corp Australia

In February 2016, took the Brazilian and Ms Rabente to Salt Creek in the Coorong having offered - via the Gumtree website - to take them to Melbourne.

Once at the remote beach, Heinze bound, stripped and sexually assaulted the Brazilian, who told his trial she triumphed over him by focusing on survival.

"When you see a movie with a victim, with someone running away, you think 'that girl, she must do this, she must run away like this'," she said in her evidence.

"I was feeling I was in the horror movies ... I needed a strategy to get away ... I was trying to plan a strategy and thought that, if I stayed there, I was going to die.

"I imagined my Mum coming there and seeing my dead body, coming to recognise my body.

"I thought 'no, I cannot do this, I'm not going to die today, I came to Australia, I came to live my dream, I'm going to do something and I'm going to get away from here'."

The Brazilian’s cut-off bikini bottom at Salt Creek. Picture: Greg Higgs
The Brazilian’s cut-off bikini bottom at Salt Creek. Picture: Greg Higgs News Corp Australia

When Ms Rabente saw her travelling companion being assaulted, she intervened - Heinze responded by repeatedly striking her with a hammer and mowing her down with his car.

"He came from behind and I got a pretty hard smash on the back of my head," she told Heinze's trial.

"It was like on a boat, it felt like I was drunk when I got a hard smash.

"I thought 'that's it, that's the end' and I saw myself already buried in the sand ... I was thinking of my parents, that they would never see me again."

The women survived by working together to elude and outwit Heinze and, before he was sentenced, Ms Rabente told him he "couldn't break me, even when you tried so hard".

She even asked the court to return her bloodstained cap, dropped during the incident, because of the slogan stitched above its brim: "Stay strong".

Throughout the trial, the identities of Heinze, Ms Rabente and the Brazilian woman were suppressed by court order.

For a time, the orders banned publication of even pixelated images of any of them, in addition to their names, identifying features and personal possessions.

It was subsequently revealed Heinze had two more victims - also backpackers - and had approached 16 tourists via the internet in defiance of strict bail conditions.

The suppression on his identity was the first to be lifted, following the conclusion of each of his criminal cases.

Heinze has since filed an appeal against his 22-year jail term and, two weeks ago, was linked to the 1983 abduction and murder of schoolgirl Louise Bell.

Dieter Pfennig, convicted of both Louise's murder and that of Michael Black, claimed in court Heinze may be the "real killer" and wants access to his DNA to test the theory.

On Tuesday, Andrew Culshaw, for Ms Rabente and the Brazilian women, asked the suppression order on their identities be revoked.

"In relation to (the Brazilian), there is the statutory order - but the order made by Your Honour adds another layer to it," he said.

"If Your Honour was to revoke the order in accordance with my clients' application, that would mean only the statutory order remains in place for (the Brazilian).

"At present, she cannot consent to publication of her image or representation while Your Honour's order remains in place."

Wayne Carlin, for Heinze, said his client opposed any change to the status quo.

"His position is clear - there is an appeal currently before the courts, and the order should remain in place until after that is decided," he said.

"Public identification of the women, and in particularly documentary or other aspects of the media coverage, could prejudice my client if he's successful in obtaining a retrial."

Jim Pearce QC, for the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, said he had no submissions to make on the application.

Justice Kelly granted the application and revoked her suppression order, noting the statutory ban on identifying the Brazilian woman remained in place.

Outside court, solicitors for Ms Rabente and the Brazilian said they could not divulge which media organisation had paid for the women's stories.

"We don't have those instructions," they said.

Topics:  crime entertainment media police television

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