Half a mile east of the mouth of Cowan Waters on Hawkesbury River, Sydney.
Photo: View of Hawkesbury River, where the remains were found.
Finding ‘Rack Man’
August 11, 1994 Mark Peterson was out fishing when he felt a sharp, heavy tug. Suspecting that he had caught a giant squid he starting dragging in the heavy load, he was not expecting to find the body of a man, wrapped in plastic, tied to a steel cross. There was a noose wrapped around the body’s neck along with bits of wire attaching him to the 1.82-metre steel frame, in which two cylindrical solid metal bars were welded, with a third bent into a restrictive L-shape across the body.
Photo: The boat ‘Lady Marion’ that unearthed the remains during a fishing trip.
The coroner ruled that the cause of death was blunt force head injuries, he was presumed to have died in an undetermined location in Sydney around 11th January 1993, but it was not known whether he died on the cross, or whether it was just used to dispose of the body. If the victim was alive, there was no chance of escape due to the rope and wire wrapped around the neck and torso.
Photo: Metal rack aboard the ‘Lady Marion’ deck.
Being submerged in water for such a period of time had eroded away the fingerprints on the body, making identification impossible. The body was found entirely in mass-produced Australian clothing, offering little in the way of identification and the only thing that had been found on the body was a packet of cigarettes and a lighter – neither of which held any significance. Despite knowing that the steel structure had been made to the man’s measurements, there was no forensic evidence available to them that led to any leads. Desperate for any information, police investigators created a facial reconstruction of the man which was sent to media outlets across the country with a $100,000 reward.
Photo: Newspaper clipping from when the remains were found.
The media dubbed him ‘Rack Man, but no one came forward to identify him or offer any information. He was held at Gelebe Morgue for more than two decades, known as ‘Unknown Human Remains E48293’. ‘Rack Man’ was unidentifiable, but someone out there had killed him, attached him to a specially-made crucifix and dropped him in the river. 25 years later, and the remains have finally been identified, but the mystery is far from being solved just yet.
Photo: Facial reconstruction made using the remains.
Identifying ‘Rack Man’
At the end of August 2018, NSW Deputy State Coroner Paul MacMahon officially ruled that the mysterious remains belonged to a 37-year-old Sydney man and a known gambler, Max Tancevski.
Photo: Max Tancevski identified as victim.
Tancevski was last seen by his partner leaving their house in Newtown, Sydney on 11 January 1993. Tancevski was known to travel up to Gold Coast on gambling sprees so no suspicion was initially raised when he didn’t return home that day. By the time he was reported missing family and friends had begun to fear for his safety.
Although Tancevski was a known gambler there is no evidence to suggest that there is any connection with any underworld gangs. Tancevski was known to carry some debt due to this gambling addiction, but an exact sum of his debts are unknown. Just before he disappeared in 1993 he withdrew $1800 (approx. $3300 nowadays), which was not unusual for the self-confessed heavy gambler.
This leads us to the currently unsolved mystery of who would do this, and what could motivate such an unusual method of killing or disposal of a body in this way.
What happened to ‘Rack Man’?
Now that the remains have been identified a victimology can start to be formed, and pieces of the puzzle can start being placed, with questions such as: what was he doing around the time of his death? Who did he associate with? Were there any financial issues? Was he known to the police for previous incidents? Was there any suspicious behaviour before his disappearance?
The unusual method of killing and/or disposing of the body is excessive, and is unlikely to be a random attack carried out by a stranger. This sort of crime scene is more concurrent with gang related violence, done with the intent of sending a message to warn others not to cross them again. This is what investigators back in 1994 suspected, and the lead they are now most likely to pursue.
The manner in which he was found, displayed on the cross like Jesus, also suggests that the crime could be part of a religious group – is it possible that the murder has nothing to do with his gambling and is more satanic and occultist in nature? It seems a very symbolic manner to display the victim and would have been premeditated to have performed such a good welding job to a frame built to Tancevski’s dimensions perfectly. Is it possible that there were more victims that haven’t yet been found and could possibly be the work of a serial killer, or was it someone who had a personal issue with the man? The steel structure was reportedly very heavy, suggesting that there may have been more than one perpetrator.
There is also the question of whether Tancevski was attached to the cross and tortured before he was thrown into the river, however the autopsy report has not been made public so we are unable to speculate on this further.
With little evidence to work with though, and such a long time period having elapsed it is unlikely that this case will be solved any time soon. Any current information is urged to be reported to CrimeStoppers to help the case keep moving forward and to provide justice and closure for the family.