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John Balaban (Serial Killer) Bio, Wiki, Murders & more

John Balaban was a Romanian-born serial killer who confessed to murdering five people in France and Australia. In 1951, Balaban moved to Australia and settled in Adelaide, South Australia. In the following years, he killed four people- his wife included. He was put to death for his crimes at Adelaide Gaol in August 1953.

In 1944, Balaban began studying philosophy and “concluded that there is no God.” Despite his atheism, Balaban said that God appeared to him on one occasion and urged him to “do anything your conscience directs you to do,” despite the fact that he was a Communist. He was detained in a mental institution at Cluj, Romania for three weeks in May 1946 after a clash with some Communists.

In his early twenties, Balaban obtained a degree in physics and metallurgy. He then was drafted into the Romanian army for nine months before he “escaped to France” in October 1947 to flee from the Soviet Union’s occupation of Romania. John Balaban (Serial Killer) Bio, Wiki, Murders & more.

John Balaban Murders

John Balaban murdered a 32-year-old Polish woman, Riva Kwas, at her studio-apartment in the Auteuil district of Paris, in 1948.

In 1951, Balaban arrived in Australia aboard the Hellenic Prince, part of the extensive post-war immigration to Australia.

In the early evening of 5 December 1952, the mutilated body of Zora Kusic, a 29-year-old Yugoslav migrant, was discovered in her tin shack at the rear of a boarding-house in North Parade.

The Sunshine Café Murders

Balaban claimed “he went back to his wife” on 23 February 1953. Near the Victoria Bridge, Balaban encountered an Aboriginal man and “a white woman”.

He drank with the couple, but then hit the man with the iron bar. Near the Torrens tennis courts he was chased by another man, but Balaban hit him with the bar. In court Balaban later explained: “I don’t know why I hit him, but I disapproved of him, as I do of people lying on the banks of the Torrens and making love”.

On 12 April, 1953, Tired and dirty, with blood on him and carrying injuries from those he had attacked, Balaban returned to the house above the café in Gouger Street in the early hours of Sunday morning.

He went to the bathroom mirror to see the extent of his injuries. At that moment, he later attested, “I decided… to kill my wife because she was the cause of my condition and of me fighting that night”.


Balaban then grabbed a claw hammer and went to the main bedroom where he killed his wife by battering her about the head with the hammer. He then went to the other bedroom where Susan Ackland and the young child Phillip Cadd were sleeping.

Balaban beat Ackland with the hammer. The boy sat up and cried out, and Balaban hit him as well, later saying “I thought it better that he die too”. Balaban then went to the front-room sleep-out where 24-year-old café employee, Verna Manie, slept.

Manie had woken with the noise and, without speaking, Balaban started hitting her on the head with the hammer. She put up her arms to try to protect her head.

Suddenly he stopped and said: “I killed my wife. Do you want to see her?” Hearing a noise from another room, Balaban said, “Someone is still alive inside” and left the room. Manie latched the door and, desperate to escape, jumped from the window seventeen feet onto the footpath below. After he had left the sleep-out, Balaban attacked the victims again “so that they would die quickly”.

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John Balaban Victims

  • Riva Kwas
  • Zora Kusic
  • Thelma Joyce Balaban
  • Susan Jane Ackland
  • Phillip Vincent Cadd

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