'I'm not going to die today': How two women survived a monster

 

THEY are the women who refused to be broken by a monster who gave them the most chilling and terrifying of starring roles in a real-life version of Australian horror film Wolf Creek.

German backpacker Lena Rabente and her Brazilian backpacker friend lived a nightmare at the hands of hulking Salt Creek kidnapper Roman Heinze.

Their holiday would end in terror but it started innocently enough.

In February, 2016, the two women, who had met backpacking days earlier, had decided to head to Melbourne.

Roman Heinze, 61
Roman Heinze, 61 News Corp Australia

They needed a ride, and found Heinze, 61, via the Gumtree website's ride-sharing section.

A monster of a man at 198cm, Heinze towered over the girls. He promised to get them safely to Melbourne but they were not to know Heinze had other plans.

On a deserted beach, he sexually assaulted one and beat and terrorised them both.

The pair show their faces, reveal their identities, and tell how they escaped his clutches with their lives for the first

time in a paid interview to air on Sunday night on 60 Minutes, after the Supreme Court lifted a longstanding suppression on their identities.

He cut the bikini off one of the travellers with a blade.
He cut the bikini off one of the travellers with a blade. News Corp Australia

The Brazilian woman's name won't be revealed until the interview airs, as she and Lena relive the horror of Salt Creek publicly.

Journalist Tara Brown says it's a story as extraordinary as it is remarkable.

"Both girls thought they were going to die. And they did not want to die in that place," she says.

"Their reaction, bravery and resilience on that day is incredible."

 

"HE'S A LITTLE BIT WEIRD"

They met on February 9, 2016. He was older than they expected, but they climbed in to his vehicle regardless, and began to 200km-plus haul into the Coorong.

It was there that the prickles of foreboding became more insistent.

The cap of one of the travellers, later examined by police.
The cap of one of the travellers, later examined by police. News Corp Australia

On a remote beach at Salt Creek, south of Adelaide, Heinze drove through the entrance gate and just kept on driving. In the isolated sand dunes, he set up camp. Unnerved after driving for kilometres away from anyone else, Lena turned to her friend.

"I remember I asked her: 'Do you think he's alright", and she was like, 'he's a little bit weird but I think it's going to be OK'," Lena tells 60 Minutes.

They squashed it down. The Brazilian changed into her bikini and shared some wine with Heinze.

As Lena slept, Heinze asked the Brazilian did she want to look for kangaroos in the sand dunes.

And then the nightmare truly began.

He pushed her to the ground, got on top of her, stabbed a knife into the sand, tied her up, cut her bikini from her body, and began sexually assaulting her.

She knew if she did not escape, she would die.

"I just thought it would be really unlikely for me to survive, I was in the middle of nowhere … what could I do?" she tells 60 Minutes.

Blood stains on the top of Heinze's 4WD
Blood stains on the top of Heinze's 4WD News Corp Australia

During Heinze's trial, she told the court her attacker asked her to 'kiss me back', "and I started giving him excuses (saying) 'my hands are tied, so sore, I can't kiss you'."

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

 

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

"I thought 'no, I cannot do this, I'm not going to die today'."

At the trial, she said she tried reasoning with him, suggesting it would be "more pleasurable" if they went back to the tents.

He agreed, but hobbled her with rope and as they neared the camp, he "seemed to change his mind".

"They got close enough that she could get one yell out, before he started hitting her," Brown says.

 

AWAKENING TO A SCREAM

Lena woke to "the scream of someone really in danger".

Seeing Heinze on top of the Brazilian's naked body, she remembers pure anger. And then pure adrenaline.

"For Lena, it was the anger - the absolute outrage at seeing her friend attacked," Brown says.

"She ordered this massive man away. She didn't know he was armed, and then he was after her."

Heinze switched his attention to her, attacking her with a hammer as she tried to get their bags from the car.

Somehow Lena, bleeding, made it to the Brazilian, freeing her from her ropes.

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

As his 4WD bore down on them, they ran in different directions.

"We knew we had to fight. We had to do whatever to survive," the Brazilian woman tells 60 Minutes.

She ran towards the gate to Salt Creek. She hid naked in the dunes until she flagged down a passing car and raised the alarm.

Meanwhile, Heinze was chasing Lena. As she ran though the dunes, he stalked her in the 4WD.

At the trial she described him getting "closer and closer".

"He bumped into me, my back, with the bull bar. I pretty much flew away," she told the court.

"I didn't feel any pain so I knew I had to get up immediately and start running away again."

“He bumped into me, my back, with the bull bar. I pretty much flew away,” she told the court.
“He bumped into me, my back, with the bull bar. I pretty much flew away,” she told the court. News Corp Australia

He rammed her four times. At one stage, the car passed over her, its wheels either side of her body.

She tells 60 Minutes: "I got weaker and weaker" and could run no more: "I turned around and he was facing me with the car. I pretty much jumped on the bonnet."

"I would be huddled in a ball crying," Brown says. "She turns around and decides to run at the car. She faces him.

She never cowered".

 

DEATH-DEFYING DRIVE

Lena climbed on to the roof as he drove wildly over the dunes.

He stopped the car, and tried to attack her with the hammer again. She fought him off, kicking him in the face.

The wild ride began again, until he bogged the 4WD. Lena had a choice to make. In the middle of nowhere, they needed to get out.

Bleeding heavily from her injuries, she screamed at him she would give him the shovel, but demanded he throw his weapons away. As the argument escalated, Brown says, Lena noticed he was calming a little. He threw the weapons away.

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

He gave her a blanket because she was "wet with blood", then refused to drive any further unless she got off the roof.

To survive, she needed to get in the car. She left the passenger door open.

She screamed for help as they drove past some fishermen, then he turned into the dunes and stopped.

She got out, and, covered in blood, headed for those who could save her.

In May this year, Heinze was found guilty of six charges including indecent assault, aggravated kidnapping and endangering life over the attacks, and sentenced to 22 years jail, with a 17-year non-parole period.

Lena vowed Heinze could never break her.
She even asked police for the return of her bloodstained cap, dropped during the attack, because of the slogan stitched above its brim. It reads: "Stay strong".

 

60 Minutes airs at 8.30pm Sunday on Channel 9

News Corp Australia


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