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Developments Made in Case of Human Remains Found at Okleigh, Australia, Self-Storage Facility

Update 6/14/19 – Police have released the name of the person whose remains were found inside a garbage bin at Total Self Storage & Removals in Okleigh, Australia, and made an arrest in connection with the case. John Christianos, an artist from Melbourne, was shot twice before being wrapped in plastic and left in storage unit No. 404 for 17 years. John Spencer White, 63, pleaded guilty on Thursday to manslaughter in relation to the crime, which he claims was self-defense, according to a source.

White had hired Christianos to paint portraits of Sir Donald George Bradman, an Australian cricket player, and Gary Ablett Sr., a former Australian-rules footballer, to be sold at Memorabilia Headquarters, a sporting-collectibles store he owned in Melbourne. He also provided Christianos, whom he called an alcoholic with mental-health issues, a place to live. Christianos first lived at the Memorabilia store, then White arranged for living space at Bentleigh East boarding house. White’s offer of employment and housing was spurred by watching his own mother battle similar problems, he told the court.

The arrangement worked for a few months until the artist’s drinking made him irrational, said prosecutor Kevin Doyle. Christianos met with White on June 11, 2001, at a hotel for drinks. The pair then went to White’s business office where a scuffle ensued. Angry that he wasn’t getting enough work, Christianos became erratic and threatened to attack White with a knife. White, who was carrying a World War II-era handgun he had purchased for protection, shot Christianos twice, killing him.

“I was petrified. I pulled out a small handgun. I shot him,” he said in his confession to police.

White’s attorney, Philip Dunn, said his client panicked after the shooting. He transported the body to the storage unit he rented to store posters and other memorabilia. Once a missing-persons report was filed and police questioned White about Christianos’ whereabouts, White suggested the man might have committed suicide. Although White had stopped paying for the storage unit years ago, the remains weren’t discovered until the property was sold last year and the new owner began clearing the site.

White, the son of an alcoholic sex worker, was a ward of the state until he was 15, when he moved in with his mother and siblings. He took care of them for several years and was supporting them when the crime occurred, a source reported.

During court testimony, it was revealed that, while drinking, Christianos “had killed kittens and threatened to massacre shopkeepers,” according to a source. Retired antique dealer Max Engellenner, who knew both men, told the court White was trustworthy, reliable and honest. He also said Christianos was “Jekyll and Hyde, as soon as the devil drink got him. Towards the end ... he was out of control."

Christianos was characterized as a “roamer” in a court statement given by his sister, Victoria Christianos. Still, she had had hoped he’d show up one day. “The not knowing as each day passed broke my heart. I only wish John was here; I have so much to tell him,” she said.

White will be sentenced at a later date, the source reported.


7/16/18 – Male human remains were found on Friday at a self-storage facility in Okleigh, Australia, a suburb of Melbourne. The body was wrapped in plastic and stuffed inside a garbage bin at Total Self Storage & Removals at 4 Milgate St. It was discovered by workers who’d been clearing the premises after the property was recently sold, according to several sources.

Police have identified the remains and deemed the death suspicious. The victim’s name hasn’t been released, but the next of kin have been notified and are assisting with the investigation, according to a source.

Police believe the man’s body could’ve been inside the bin for more than 15 years. “What we're looking at is what’s possibly a long-term decomposition of a body here, so we'll need to take a fair investigation to get to the bottom of it,” said Pixie Fuhrmeister, senior sergeant for the Victoria Police Department.

The bin was bound by straps and filled with grass, soil and straw. After scraping out the contents, workers noticed the body and called police.

Police have yet to identity the renter of the storage unit, but believe it hadn’t been accessed in years. The property owner has provided tenant records, but a number of the units have been abandoned, according to several sources.

Detectives plan to examine cold cases and missing-persons reports as part of the investigation, Fuhrmeister said. Police have temporarily closed the site during their investigation and are searching the entire property. So far, they haven’t found anything related to the discovery of the remains.

Total Self Storage & Removals was founded in 1987 by John and Katie Cornehls. The name of the new owner wasn’t disclosed.

Sources:
The Age, Human Remains Found in Storage Facility Bin Have Been There for Years
ABC News, Suspected Human Remains Found at Oakleigh South Warehouse In Melbourne's South
Stuff.com, Australian Police Identify Human Remains in A Wheelie Bin
9 News, Vic Artist's Killing was 'Self Defense'
The Age, Inside Storage Unit 404, a Body Lay Undiscovered for 17 Years

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