The body of Shane Snellman was discovered “completely mummified” with a gunshot wound to the neck. It had been surrounded by 70 bottles of air freshener to mask the smell.
Bruce Andrew Roberts was a wealthy recluse in the Greenwich neighborhood of Sydney, Australia. His property was known as “the creepy house on the corner.” He was a chronic hoarder, and his house was riddled with boxes, broken equipment, newspapers, and trash when he died, at age 60, in 2017.
What neighbors didn’t know was that his house also contained the mummified corpse of a man he had murdered in 2002, according to a recent inquest by the Coroner’s Court of New South Wales.
The victim was 39-year-old Shane Snellman. Placed into a Catholic convent as a child, he was raised across several boys’ homes. Snellman delved into serious crime at age 15 when he allegedly killed a homeless man. He was acquitted, but he struggled with drug use and was in and out of jail as an adult.
Estranged from his family, Snellman had most recently been released from jail in June 2002 after a year-long stint for drug supply. That October, he broke into Roberts’ home and was shot dead. Roberts covered his body with a rug and moved it to a spare bedroom — where it stayed for the next 15 years.
But Snellman wasn’t the only one who would decay in the home.
On July 21, 2017, neighbors called the police to perform a welfare check on Roberts after reporting seeing mail pile up in front of his home. Investigators discovered him dead atop a live heater, decomposing and badly burnt.
“He was an extreme hoarder. I’ve never seen anything like it” Senior Constable Shane Spencer said of Roberts.
“As we walked into the front door of the address, there were immediately items stacked from floor to ceiling. It was evident he never threw anything at all out.”
Finding Snellman would take another year. It was only on May 29, 2018 that cleaners clearing the debris-riddled home for sale discovered his body. They found him with his back against a couch, leaning slightly to the left, with a gunshot wound to the neck.
He was still wearing his clothes from 2002, the last time anyone had seen him alive. A post-mortem at the Sydney Forensic Medicine Department at Lidcombe took DNA samples and determined the body was “completely mummified.”
Tina Xanthos, assistant counsel to the coroner, testified that Roberts had placed more than 70 bottles of air freshener around the body in “a conscious effort to mask the smell” of Snellman’s decomposition. Police had to rely on visible tattoos and remaining fingerprints to identify him.
Police also discovered 19 illegal firearms and exorbitant piles of ammunition in the home, though the inquest could not officially conclude which gun was used on Snellman.
An autopsy yielded 15 metallic fragments in his chest and stomach, while a subsequent toxicology report yielded traces of methamphetamine, buprenorphine, and amphetamines. The inquest described the two deceased Australians as “strangers in life” who suffered a fatal “chance encounter.”
Roberts was born in Coonabarabran in 1956 and grown up in luxury. Raised by wealthy parents, he nonetheless suffered a bad relationship with his sister and began developing mental health issues. His cousin described him as “a bit strange, a loner, socially awkward.”
“No one’s been near the home,” said neighbor Gayle Meagher. “The home would have been fairly bad inside. He had mental issues and was a bit of a recluse. Everything was locked up. You couldn’t see inside the windows. We would just hear him or see him outside always in a big, brown coat regardless of the weather.”
He bought the Greenwich house from his parents and spent his days in leisure. He had inherited more than $1 million in stock shares and had more than $600,000 in the bank when he died.
Now, nearly 20 years after Shane Snellman was last seen by his family, they finally have closure on his tragic death at the hands of Roberts.
His father, John Snellman, said his late son was impulsive but had a good heart. One of his sisters recalled the last time she saw her brother was behind bars, but that he has “never been forgotten.” She said she “screamed and fell to the floor” at news of his death.
Snellman’s neice, Tiana Snellman, said she would remember him as a caring man: “He was a very loving man, would do anything for anyone. He didn’t deserve what he got.”
After reading about the mummified corpse found in an Australian hoarder’s home, learn about the Collyer Brothers and their infamous house of hoarded rubbish. Then, read about the Beaumont children and Australia’s most notorious missing persons case.