A body lay undiscovered inside a storage unit in Melbourne for 17 years.

It was only found when the unit's owner, John Spencer White, stopped paying his storage bills, The Age newspaper reported.

White, a memorabilia dealer, has admitted to killing John Christianos in June 2001 and putting his body in storage in the Melbourne suburb of Oakleigh South.

He told police that he shot Christianos, an artist, with a World War II era handgun after an alcohol-fuelled argument and had hidden his body in a wheelie bin.

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The bin was locked in the storage unit, where it stayed until July last year. White had told people that he thought Christianos had killed himself.

After White stopped paying the bills at the storage unit, it was sold and the owner began clearing it out. White had been given the opportunity to take his items but declined.

Workers clearing the unit tipped over the wheelie bin and saw what appeared to be a human leg and a boot.

When White was called, he said he would "tell the truth when the police come", The Age reported.

In April, he pleaded guilty to manslaughter.