James Vlassakis | Murderpedia, the encyclopedia of murderers




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James Spyridon VLASSAKIS






The Snowtown murders
Classification: Serial killer
Characteristics: "Degenerate sub-culture" of murderers - Cannibalism - Torture
Number of victims: 4
Date of murders: 1997 - 1999
Date of birth: December 24, 1979
Victims profile: David Johnson (his stepbrother) / Troy Youde (his half-brother) / Gary O'Dwyer / Frederick Brooks
Method of murder: Shooting - Strangulation
Location: Snowtown, South Australia, Australia
Status: Sentenced to four consecutive terms of life imprisonment with a non-parole period of 26 years

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 Frederick Brooks.

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

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 murder.

Frederick Brooks

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

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.

David Johnson

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 a microphone.

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.

Suppression order

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 upcoming trials.

The terms of the order were as follows:

Order suppressing publication of the image of Vlassakis in any form, including photographs, sketches and illustrations.

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 description.

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 of justice.

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.


The victims

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.