The Beaumont Children
On January 26th, 1966, the three Beaumont children - 9-year old Jane, 7-year old Arnna, and 4-year old Grant - disappeared from a beach just miles away from their home in Adelaide. No one has ever seen them or heard from them again, making it one of Australia's most renown missing persons cases.
Part One: Disappeared
Every now and then, an event happens that not only impacts society, but finds a way to change it. Whether these be small events or large events, the impact is felt by all.
I have strong and vivid memories of September 11th, 2001, an event that changed the landscape around me. I was just a child then, but I remember the fear circulating around the United States at the time, the fear that I - or we - could be next. That was a sentiment shared by millions, and one that was born out of an emotion itself: fear.
Similarly, the story that I'm looking at today not only morphed how one country viewed some aspects of their culture, but possibly the entire world. This is the story of the Beaumont Children, their disappearance, and the fear that shifted how parents everywhere view the safety of their children.
In 1966, the Beaumonts lived a very idyllic lifestyle. Jim, the father, was a linen goods salesman that traveled the surrounding area to meet with clients, and Nancy, the mother, was a stay-at-home housewife that cared for the couple's three kids.
The couple had lived in Adelaide for some time, giving birth to their first child, Jane, in September of 1956. They would then go on to welcome Arnna in November of 1958, and their only son, Grant, in July of 1961.
The five Beaumonts lived together in their small, idyllic-looking home of 109 Harding Street, in the suburbs of Somerton. If the name "Somerton" sounds familiar to you, it might be because it's the location where an unknown, unidentified man was found in 1948, also known as the Tamam Shud. But that's a mystery for another time.
Needless to say, the Beaumonts were living the dream. Just minutes away from the beach, they lived in a suburb known for its quiet grandeur, and by all known accounts, things were going well for the family of five. But, unknown to any of them, things were about to take a serious turn for the worse.
In the weeks preceding their tragic disappearance, the three children had become slightly independent. Both Jim and Nancy trusted in their oldest daughter, Jane, now nine years old, to supervise the other two on trips to the beach. Whenever they wanted to head to the beach, they would simply take a short bus ride there and back.
What did the Beaumonts have to be worried about? Their small slice of the Adelaide suburbs left no doubts in their mind, at least when it came to the safety of their children. There was nothing to fear.
During the Australian summer months, when temperatures were continuously rising and heading upwards of 40 degrees Celsius (100 degrees Fahrenheit for us ignorant Americans), the couple didn't think twice when it came to letting their children escape to the beach. So this was becoming a common thing, and for weeks, the three children had traveled to the beach and back numerous times, encountering no trouble at all.
Despite their rather shy nature, it also seemed to be good for the children. It allowed them to socialize outside of a school setting, and kept them active in the summer sun. In fact, Arnna, the family's seven-year old daughter, often joked about Jane "having a boyfriend down the beach." At the time, the family thought nothing of Arnna's comment, but why would they? It was just a joke from a seven-year old.
On January 25th, Jim Beaumont decided to accompany his children on one of these visits to the beach, on his way out of town. He was headed out on business, and wouldn't see his children for the next couple of days. Right before he left, four-year old Grant came over to say goodbye to his father.
"Don't worry, Daddy. We'll be fine."
On the morning of January 26th, 1966, things were... normal. It was Australia Day, which for all of us overseas with little knowledge of Australian traditions, is very similar to the Fourth of July, or Canada Day. It's a day to celebrate Australian pride and history, and is a rather joyous occasion.
With the temperature rising, Nancy didn't give it a second thought when the children asked to go to the beach. It would keep the children busy and happy for a few hours, and would give her more than enough time to visit with a friend of hers. She gave the children eight shillings and sixpence in coins, to buy snacks down by the beach, and let them set off for the bus-stop they usually frequented. This bus-stop was less than a few hundred feet from the front door of their house, just a block away at the corner of Harding and Diagonal Road.
At roughly 10:10 in the morning, the children were spotted boarding the bus by several witnesses, including the bus driver. A woman that witnessed them climbing aboard recalled that Jane, the oldest, was holding a copy of "Little Women," a book that had become one of her favorites. This woman could also recall the distinct coloring of the three children's clothing, which gave credence to her testimony.
At approximately 10:15, the bus headed off for its route, which would lead the children to the beach they constantly went to, named Glenelg. Which, I learned in the related-"Thinking Sideways" podcast about this story, is a palindrome.
The next hour or so, regarding the Beaumont children, is largely a mystery. Their local postman, who knew the children well, recalled seeing them during this time frame. Tom Patterson, who could easily identify the children, claimed that he saw the three children walking towards the beach on Jetty Road, ten or so blocks north of where they lived. This wasn't unusual for the three, so he kept a small mental note of it, perhaps messing up the timeline in a small way. He would later go on to say it was possible that he had seen the children in the afternoon, but his earliest accounts recall seeing the children in the morning, on their way down to the Glenelg beach.
At around 11:00 in the morning, an elderly woman who was sitting on a beach outside of the Holdfast Sailing Club recalled seeing the three children playing in a sprinkler at the Colley Reserve. This is a large patch of grass, largely resembling a park, so it wasn't out of the ordinary for the kids to be frolicking in this area.
Now, the kids were finally at the beach, nearly an hour after their arrival. There were witnesses around that remember seeing them, but unfortunately, the size of the Adelaide area helped ensure that there were many tourists and unrecognizeables visiting.
The same elderly woman that spotted the children playing in the sprinklers also noticed a younger-looking man in blue swim trunks watching the children. He was lying face-down in the grass at the time, but would later be spotted by this woman actually playing with the children, less than fifteen minutes later.
According to this elderly woman, and at least three other eyewitnesses, this man stood about six-foot-one, and was lean with blond hair and a thin-looking face. He was apparently wearing a blue bathing suit, and had been watching the three Beaumont children for a few minutes before befriending them.
It is unknown who this man was, although in the years since, he has become a prime candidate for suspicion. Many theories have been written about who this man was, who appeared to be in his early-to-mid-thirties to those that saw him.
Rumors have lingered that this man, who had perhaps been befriending the children for a matter of days or weeks, was the "boyfriend" that Arnna spoke of at the family home. Unfortunately, the truth of that matter would never be solved, but the children were seen leaving the beach in the company of this unknown man.
While the children leaving the beach with this suspicious man was alarming, the witnesses at the beach weren't the last people to see the Beaumont children alive.
They would be seen, over the next half an hour or so, at Wenzel's cake shop. This was somewhere between 11:45 in the morning and 12:15 in the afternoon, but accounts seem to differ on the exact time.
Apparently, the children came in to purchase some small treats - which meant a couple of pastries - but also bought a meat pie. They paid for all of this with a one pound note, which leads to a couple of unanswered questions.
First of which is: who were the children buying the meat pie for? The Beaumonts recall that none of their children would have been interested in eating this kind of thing, especially before lunch, and would have spent their meager allowance on sweets of some kind, not a savory meat pie.
Secondly... where did they get the money for their sweets from? Nancy Beamont distinctly recalls giving her children eight shillings and sixpence, but never a one pound note. This would be like a kid paying for a candy bar with a twenty dollar bill, after specifically being given pocket change by their parents. Nancy recalled giving them just enough to cover the bus fare and for them to buy a couple of small treats, but nothing of that size.
This means that the children likely got the money from someone else, probably the strange man from the beach, and they bought the meat pie for him specifically. Where he was, during this time period, is unknown, but it stands to reason that if he had bad intentions for the three innocent Beaumont children, then he would want to be spotted with them as little as possible.
Maybe he was waiting outside, or on a bench nearby, waiting for the children to return to him.
There were more witnesses that may have seen the Beaumont children with this man, and what they saw is very concerning.
He apparently spent fifteen minutes with the children, helping them get their clothes on after they had been playing in the sprinklers at the Colley Reserve. Even the witnesses recall this as being very odd, but they just had to assume, at the time, that the man was a relative of the children, since they seemed to be regarding him personally.
This stands at-odds with what we know of the children, especially Jane. Nancy Beaumont would later recall that her nine-year-old daughter was very shy, and wouldn't have been comfortable with a stranger she just met to help her get dressed. She was young, and she could get overly excited at times, but she wasn't completely naive.
There was an older lady sitting on a park bench, right next to a pair of grandparents who were waiting with their granddaughter. Apparently they were approached by this strange man, who asked them if they had seen anyone messing with his clothing. He had apparently walked away from it for some time, and claimed to be missing money.
Right after this was when he began dressing the children, taking his time to do so, as if he were enjoying it.
Sadly, this is the last time that the Beaumonts would ever be seen by a confirmed eyewitness.
Nancy Beaumont was expecting the children home shortly after this, as they had been told to take the noon bus back home.
She had arrived shortly before then to prepare lunch for the kids, and was surprised to see the bus make its stop, just a block away from their house, and then leave again without her children departing.
Immediately, she began to assume that the children had missed the bus, and were either going to walk home or simply take the next bus in an hour or two. They had apparently done both in the past, so this wasn't an emergency to her.
Now, we can see the major discrepancies between the past and the present. In this day and age, such an event would not happen because three young children would very rarely be given so much leeway and personal freedom. But in this situation, in cozy, small-town Glenelg, this wasn't too odd.
There were potentially two more sightings of the children in the hours after their last confirmed appearance, but nothing that investigators have ever ruled to be fact.
The first of which is the potential sighting by Tom Patterson, the local postman, who had originally claimed to see the children in the morning, but over time, changed his statement. He claims that it was possible he saw them in the early afternoon, which would fit with the narrative if they missed their noon bus and began walking home. However, the time of his route in which he would have encountered the children ranges from 1:45 to nearly three o'clock, leading many to think that he likely saw them in the morning.
One of the sentiments I see being thrown about online is that Tom Patterson's shaky testimony may be due to the fact that Australia Day is a public holiday in Australia, and usually there is no mail being delivered on this day. I haven't been able to find whether or not this was the case back in 1966, but it's a popular online sentiment that seems to get thrown around, perhaps explaining Tom Patterson's confusion about the timeline: how could he remember seeing the children during his work route if he wasn't even working?
The second sighting was by another person entirely, a tourist visiting from Broken Hill, a northern town that lay hours inland. He was apparently on the Glenelg beach that the children had last been spotted near, and he saw three children matching their descriptions leaving with another man, who roughly matched the description of the man given by other eyewitnesses. However, this witness claimed that the potential Beaumont abductor had light brown-ish hair, not blond. This detail led many, including the police, to consider this sighting as less-than-factual. It might have just been a father with his three children, sharing a common description of the Beamonts and their possible abductor.
Despite these potential sightings, Nancy Beaumont was at home, waiting for her children to get back. The two o'clock bus came and went, but Jane, Arnna, and Grant were nowhere to be seen.
Jim Beaumont, the children's father, got off of work shortly after three o'clock. He had been in another town entirely, two hours north in Snowtown, selling linens with a business associate.
He arrived home to find out that his children hadn't been seen in hours, as Nancy had been waiting for there to be any word or sight of them at the family's home.
The two set off, trying to retrace the footsteps of their three children, making the trek to the beach. Back-and-forth they went for the next few hours, looking for their children, or at least, a clue left behind or someone that had seen them. Unfortunately, their search was completely fruitless.
They didn't find their children between their house and the beach, nor did they find any of the kid's possessions. None of their towels, their clothes, not even Jane's copy of "Little Women."
Jim and Nancy decided to call the police at roughly 7:30 that evening, after the children had been gone for close to ten hours. Jim would search the area for Jane, Arnna, and Grant throughout the night, with Nancy staying at home in case they appeared.
At some point the next morning, the three Beaumont children were officially declared missing by the police, who then began the investigation to find them.
The investigation began by re-tracing the information of where the children had been and where they had theoretically gone. This is where investigators discovered the information about the witnesses at or near the beach, and began to make a timeline of where the children had been and when.
It was almost immediately ruled out that the children had been swept out by the tide. None of their personal items were found on the beach, and at least one of them would have been found had this was the case. Investigators would have found a book or a towel of theirs, or something like that.
From the get-go, the case began to take on the attention span of a nation. The eyes of Australia were on Jim and Nancy Beaumont, who went on TV and radio five days later, on January 31st, to appeal for the lives of their children.
Hundreds of tips began to fly in to the police, who thoroughly investigated almost every single call. As you can guess, all of them were dead ends. Anybody who saw a child wandering off alone, or a group of kids in the company of a man, called into the police with a potential avenue for a safe rescue. However, this may have been detrimental to the investigation, as the police began searching day and night for any hint or clue that would lead to a safe rescue, but came up empty.
Everyone with a tie to the Beaumonts was investigated, from neighbors to family friends to Jim Beaumont's coworkers and work associates. The area of Adelaide was alight, trying to find any trace of the three kids, and looking for any wayward son that was out of place. The blond young man was highlighted as a lead suspect right away, and sketches were drawn from what the eyewitnesses had seen. If you go online, you can try and get a good idea of what this man looked like, from the witness perspective.
Roughly two weeks after the children's disappearance, a local newspaper received a phone call. Picked up by a telephonist that worked for the newspaper, she described the man on the other end of the phone as having a (quote/unquote)"foreign accent."
According to the telephonist, who quickly tried to transfer the call to the newspaper's chief of staff, the person on the other end of the phone claimed to have Jane, Arnna, and Grant Beaumont.
"I want reward money for them," he said in his accented voice. "It will have to be a good reward."
Unfortunately, as the telephonist tried to transfer the conversation to her boss, the caller on the other side of the phone hung up. The police didn't immediately eliminate the call as a hoax, but it is not publicly known if they chose to investigate it any further. It wasn't the first time that the case was possibly marred with ill-attempted pranksters and frauds, but it unfortunately wouldn't be the last.
The investigation had almost no luck from the beginning, with the investigators looking into every possible nook and cranny of nearby beaches, looking for a cave or cove that the children could have wandered into or washed ashore upon. They would find nothing, not even an article of clothing or belonging of the Beaumont trio.
The leads were empty for the next handful of months, but police were finally notified when a woman came forward with information. It had been approximately six months since the Beaumont children had disappeared, but she claimed on that night in January, she had seen something odd. Next door to her was an abandoned house she had believed to be empty, and on the same night that the Beaumonts disappeared, she had witnessed a man entering that house with two young girls and a boy in-tow.
According to this woman, she claimed that the boy left the house hours later and started walking down the street, only to be chased and snatched by the man that was leading them.
For some reason, this woman decided not to report this to investigators for months, for some reason that can only be guessed at.
First off, I find this to be a little too convenient, that a woman reported seeing something shady happen on the night of a major news event, and decided to sleep on it for about half a year. If this is true, which I have serious doubts about, then that might be one of the most fucking aggravating things imaginable. Pardon my language.
But, needless to say, the next few months were rather quiet on the useful information front. People continued to report in suspects and sightings for at least a year after the disappearance, and still even months and years after that. People were not only watching out for their own children more fiercely, but the Beaumont children were well on their way towards becoming a cautionary tale, to be told for decades later.
Gerard Croiset was a 57-year old Dutch psychic, for lack of a better term. He claims to have specialized as a parapsychologist and a psychometrist, which are two fields that are not scientifically-minded, but based upon spirituality and paranormal beliefs.
Croiset had experience in aiding Dutch investigators with their cases for years, beginning in the years following World War 2. He had apparently helped Dutch police track down the killer of a young woman, which gave him credit in not only Holland, but in surrounding European countries.
In November of 1966, Croiset was invited to Australia by a wealthy businessman who was interested in the case, Con Polites. Croiset arriving was a big deal in itself, and attracted a lot of media attention to the case once again, but perhaps not in a good way.
The Beaumont parents apparently didn't want much to do with Croiset, who they viewed as a fraud. Despite that, unsurprisingly, people were eager to hear what he had to say. This began to turn the disappearance of the children into a public spectacle, and brought the idea of the psychic detective to the forefront of the worldwide media.
Police chose not to meet with Croiset, for the same reasons that Jim and Nancy Beaumont didn't want to. They believed him to be a crock. But the public felt the opposite, and hoped that Croiset would be able to unearth a clue that was waiting to be discovered.
Greeting a large crowd at the Glenelg beach where the Beaumont children had disappeared from, Croiset made a daring claim by stating that he didn't believe the children had been abducted at all, but rather trapped underneath the flooring of a recently-constructed warehouse building. He was also bold enough as to proclaim that he would find the children within two days.
“I have had a vision of where the children started from. I will walk there and a vision will come to me immediately," Croisot claimed. "I am 90 per cent sure I will pinpoint the place where the bodies will be found.”
The police were already skeptical of Croiset, and weren't going to dig up the flooring of a private building based on a psychic's hunch. The public, however, bound together and raised over $40,000 in order to pay for the owner to dig up the flooring of the warehouse, which he did.
No trace of the Beaumonts was found, not even a scrap of evidence leading detectives to believe they had ever been there. Croiset eventually left Australia after his short - and unsuccessful - visit. In 1996, when the warehouse was set to be demolished, it was excavated by Con Polites, the wealthy businessman that paid for Croiset's visit over thirty years beforehand, but again came up with nothing. No trace of the Beaumont children was found there, despite Croiset's claims.
It had now been approximately two years since the disappearance of Jane, Arnna, and Grant Beaumont, with not so much as a clue bringing their parents any sense of closure.
At around this time, in 1968, a letter arrived in the post. Postmarked from Dandenong, a suburb of Melbourne, the letter was supposedly written by Jane herself, who would have been eleven years old. This would be the first of two letters purported to be written in Jane's own hand, which police believed after matching up the letters to old school assignments written by Jane. They looked authentic enough for them, so at the time, they believed that they could have been real and treated them as such.
The first letter from Jane claimed that the children were all right, and were healthy in the care of "the Man." This Man, who would remain unidentifiable throughout the letters, was allegedly taking good care of the children by ensuring their safety and feeding them well.
Another letter would soon find itself delivered to Jim and Nancy Beaumont, and this one was written by "the Man" himself. The person behind the letter claimed that they had appointed themself the guardian of the three children, but would be willing to hand the three children back over at a time and place of their choosing.
A direct quote from Jane's letter carried similar guidelines:
“You, Dad, have to wear a dark coat and white pants so that the man will know you. The man told me to tell you that the police must not know at all. He said that if you do tell them, you may as well not come, so please do not tell them. The Dandenong post office is in Victoria in case you did not know. We are all looking forward to seeing you next Monday. Please do not tell the police. The man did not mean to harm us. We still love you both.
"Love Jane, Arna and Grant”
Obviously, Jim and Nancy weren't going to let this letter join the pile of others that they have been accumulating for over two years. If there was a chance at all - no matter how slim - that they could follow the instructions to get their children back, they were going to take it.
So Jim traveled over 700 kilometers to Dandenong, that suburb of Victoria, and waited outside the post office for the better part of three whole days.
The police were contacted by the Beaumonts during this time period, and there were police officers surveying the scene. The press also became interested in the happenings, and once the word got out that Jim Beaumont was allegedly getting his children back, the area outside the Dandenong post office was bustling with an unusual crowd.
Unsurprisingly, nobody came forward with the Beaumont children. Jim returned home to Somerton without anything to show for his efforts.
A short time after this unsuccessful trip to Dandenong, a third letter arrived in the mail. This was written in the same hand that Jane's original letter had been written in, and claimed to be from her. In it, Jane claimed that "the Man" had been in Dandenong during Jim Beaumont's visit, but had identified an undercover police officer and quickly left the area, never to return. This letter version of Jane claimed that "the Man" had been betrayed by the Beaumont parents, and would be keeping the children.
Roughly twenty-five years later, when forensic testing was commonplace, detectives were able to test the DNA on the letters. What they discovered was that the letters had been written by a 41-year old man, who at the time had been a teenager and wrote the letters as a sick joke.
Unfortunately, the time period in which they could have filed charges had long since passed, but the man had felt guilty about his vile acts as a teenager and regretted ever being involved in such a thing. But one has to imagine how his guilt compares to the years of torment inflicted upon the Beaumonts, and the decades of questions that must have been rattling through their mind.
August 25th, 1973 - It has now been over seven years since the three Beaumont children fell off of the known map, and nearly a decade later, the trio are little more than a cautionary tale. A thing of the past. A story with a dead end.
Part Two: Theories
On this afternoon, a Saturday, a football match is raging at the Adelaide Oval, a large stadium located twenty minutes inland in northern Adelaide.
Amidst the chaos of the match itself, and the fifty-thousand people sitting around them, two families are sitting next to each other. Both family, season ticket holders, have seen each other regularly for months now, if not years. They're familiar with one another, and one could say that they've even become friends.
Among them are two young girls: Joanne Ratcliffe, an eleven-year old that attended the weekend matches with her parents; and four-year old Kirste Gordon, barely old enough to understand the game itself but who went to this match with her grandmother.
While the match was in-progress, Joanne announced to her parents that she needed to use the restroom. The parents gave her leave to visit the restroom, but Kirste's grandmother asked if she could take the four-year old girl along with her. The two returned minutes later, seemingly unharmed, and all was well. The match continued, and the roar of the thousands around the two families drowned out any concerns of strangers.
Roughly half an hour after their first bathroom visit, Kirste told her grandmother that she needed to use the restroom again. Joanne, being a caring and motherly-type at her young age, offered to take Kirste, and the pair walked off towards the direction of the bathroom at approximately 3:45 PM.
Minutes began to pass, with no sign of the girls returning to their families. This worry eventually turned into panic, and while the match was still ongoing, Joanne's parents began to make their way to the restrooms to try and find the two girls. Kirste's grandmother remained at the seats, in case they returned there.
Approximately twenty minutes after the two girls departed, Joanne's mother found her way to the secretary's office, and asked if they could make an announcement over the PA system. This request was unfortunately denied, and she was given the explanation that any such announcement couldn't be heard over the noise of the crowd itself. Mrs. Ratcliffe would later remark that she believed the workers there just didn't want the match interrupted.
Over the next hour, the Ratcliffe parents would try and search every nook and cranny of the Adelaide Oval, looking for their eleven-year-old daughter Joanne and four-year-old Kirste. Their search was fruitless, but a request for a stadium announcement was granted roughly an hour later, after Mr. Ratcliffe got in touch with the secretary of the South Australia cricket association.
At 5:12 PM, the girls were reported missing to the local police force, who immediately began a search of the area. Their efforts were just as rewarding as the Ratcliffe's.
The information gathered by the police hours after the disappearance of Joanne Ratcliffe and Kirste Gordon was disconcerting. And, frankly, it was quite alarming.
Multiple witnesses had seen a man with the two girls, but the context is the alarming part. By and large, the description of the man matched up with the one that had been seen seven years beforehand, at the Glenelg Beach along with the Beaumont children. He was tall, gaunt-looking, and their sketches (which you can find online) look similar to one another.
Three of the witnesses that saw the girls after their disappearance recount seeing a man carrying the smaller of the pair, much to the older girls resistance. This led police to believe that this potential abductor had seized an opportunity to grab Kirste, but Joanne hadn't liked that one bit, and followed the man, kicking and screaming at him as much as possible.
At one point, the man, carrying Kirste, had turned to Joanne and told her to "take off," but Joanne had continued nipping at his heels and pleading to let them return to their families.
At least four sightings were made of the two girls, with one of them as much as three kilometers away from the Adelaide Oval. The last sighting took place roughly ninety minutes after their disappearance, which matches up to when the police had just started to look for the pair.
Sadly, Joanne Ratcliffe and Kirste Gordon would never be seen alive again. Just like the Beaumont children, the two girls would disappear from the face of the planet, leaving their family with more questions than answers.
Years would begin to pass, with no word of the Beaumont case or the Adelaide Oval abduction getting any kind of conclusion. As far as we know, no credible witnesses or valuable evidence would even be discovered during the next decade or so, and things would begin to stagnate into both investigations.
Jane, Arnna, and Grant Beaumont would now be old enough to become teenagers and adults. If they were still alive, and had any memory of their former lives as children, they would have surely returned home or at least made contact with their parents, who were still worried sick about them.
Jim and Nancy Beaumont continued to live at their home on Harding Street, for fear that if their children were still alive, they would return to the home that they had once all happily lived in. In fact, Nancy would recall that there was a muddy palm-print left on a sliding glass door that she would refuse to wash off for years afterwards... it was one of the final pieces of her son that she had, and she would refuse to let it just get washed away.
Jim and Nancy Beaumont would go on to divorce, eventually leaving behind their house on Harding Street and the public eye for good.
Likewise, the Ratcliffes and the Gordons had to adjust to life without their daughters. As months began to turn into years, the likelihood of their children being returned safely began to turn into little more than a dream.
Both cases would stagnate over the next decade, or at least until 1979, when tragedy began to compound upon tragedy. The heartache of Adelaide wasn't over yet... it was just coming to light.
In 1979, the body of a 17-year-old young man would be found in the South Para Reservoir, located in Northeast Adelaide. This would begin a dark period of Adelaide history known to many as the Family Murders, a story as dark and mysterious as any, and deserving of its own episode.
To try and summarize the story of the Family Murders would be to do the victims injustice, but I will try my best: starting in 1979 and supposedly ending in 1983, at least five victims, all teen-aged boys and young men, would be found. All of them would be discovered having suffered terrible torture and mutilation, each of them having been sexually abused to a drastic degree before their deaths.
As I said, the Family Murders are without a doubt a story deserving of its own episode. But the murders of these five young men led many to believe that there was an organized effort to kidnap, torture, mutilate, and kill them. I'll try and refrain from going into too much detail on this episode of the podcast, but let's just say that reading about the crimes committed against these poor men made me, a true crime fanatic, feel absolutely squeamish and sick to my stomach.
But after the bodies began to pile up, and the known victims became known to the public, a case began to grow. When drugs were discovered in the bloodstream of the fifth victim, who was killed and his body discovered in 1983, the case found itself a suspect: a man known only as Bevan Spencer von Einem.
To call Bevan Spencer von Einem "evil" would do the term "evil" injustice.
He was a roughly-forty-year old accountant charged with the kidnapping, torture, sexual assault, and murder of Richard Kelvin, a fifteen-year old boy. During the questioning, von Einem's story had changed several times, becoming less likely throughout each incarnation. He had no alibi for the night Kelvin disappeared, claiming he had been sick with the flu at home, by himself. But when fibers of his clothing were found on Kelvin's body, along with hairs that later be confirmed to be his, he claimed that Kelvin had been there on the night he disappeared, for purely innocuous reasons.
Needless to say, von Einem was convicted of the charges piled against him, the evidence overwhelmingly on the prosecutor's side. He was sentenced to life in prison, and give a no-parole period of 24 years, which was later increased to 36 years, an Australian record at the time. The state had no evidence that von Einem had committed the other four abduction-murders that had taken place in the months and years beforehand, but he was away for life and would never confess to the crimes. He still hasn't, to this day, despite the overwhelming evidence.
The Family Murders, as they would later begin to be called, would fall off of the radar. The police began to believe that the supposed organization behind the crimes, of which von Einem was just a member of, began to lie low after his conviction, but had been responsible for many more disappearances in the Adelaide area.
In the years following his conviction, many have begun to theorize that von Einem himself was responsible for the abduction and disappearance of the three Beaumont children. This was made possible by a witness known to the public only as "Mr. B," a former friend of von Einem that had been heavily involved in the gay community of Adelaide. He would claim that von Einem had confessed to the murders of both the Beaumonts and the two girls at the Adelaide Oval years earlier, which led to a split in their friendship at a time where von Einem began to fall in with what would later be called "the Family."
According to Mr. B's testimony, von Einem had claimed to, in his words, "connect" the three children. To many, this brings about thoughts of the recently made movie "The Human Centipede," and the disturbing mental image that comes with that. This testimony claimed that one of the children had died during the process, and all three had been disposed of in one way or another.
I feel odd telling you about this, because this is all backed up by absolutely no evidence and should be taken at only a surface level. Mr. B, as he has been known by the public, was a drug user with a history of lying and criminal actions on his own part, who may have been trying to simply cop a plea deal by offering up these sensationalist details. So please take this theory with a grain of salt, if at all.
The idea that von Einem can be connected to the Beaumont children is tentative at best. The suspect who had been seen with the children the day of their disappearance was aged in his mid-thirties, while von Einem would have been only twenty at the time. Photos of him at the time show that von Einem looked older than he was, but he had dark-ish brown hair, which stood in direct contrast to the blonde hair declared by the witnesses.
To this day, Bevan Spencer von Einem is still serving his life sentence, and is unlikely to ever be a free man again. In 2007, the South Australia Premier Mike Rann vowed to enforce new legislation to make sure von Einem would never leave prison alive.
He is one of the most hated figures in all of Australia for his connection to the vile Family Murders, but his illegal activities didn't end with his conviction. In 2009, he plead guilty to creating child pornography by writing fictitious stories in prison, and has had many similar charges filed against him since his incarceration. He will undoubtedly be in prison until he day he dies, but our story doesn't end there.
In 1998, "Crimestoppers" aired a segment about the 1970 murder of two young girls in Townsville, a town along the northeastern coast of Queensland, Australia. The two girls, five-year-old Susan and seven-year-old Judith MacKay, had been waiting at their school bus stop on the morning of Wednesday, August 26th, 1970.
Two days after the girls' disappearance, their bodies were found in a dry creek bed with their school uniforms folded neatly in their school bags next to them. Both sisters had been raped, stabbed, and strangled.
For almost thirty years, their murders remained unsolved in northeastern Australia, an entire continent away from the Beaumont and Adelaide Oval disappearances. The family of the MacKay sisters was left in anguish for decades, at least until the airing of that "Crimestoppers" episode in 1998.
After watching that episode, the "Crimestoppers" phone line received a phone call tip from someone who claimed to be loosely related to an alleged suspect. The person on the other end of the phone had seen the description of the suspect at the time, and realized that it matched that of her cousin's husband; she had also been a former molestation victim of said man, and was well-accustomed to his illegal and illicit activities.
Arthur Stanley Brown was now-86, and had been living in Townsville for most of his life. As detectives began to dig into him as a suspect, they found a not only a closet full of skeletons, they found a graveyard.
Over the next few months, Australian detectives amassed over 45 charges against Brown, which included molestation, sexual assault, pedophilia, and, of course, the murders of the MacKay girls. Their case was aided by eyewitness and victim testimony given to them by many of Brown's family members, including his wife's family, which consisted of many women who had been molested or sexually assaulted by Brown when they were younger; some of them having been taken to the same creek bed where the MacKay girls had been found.
Detectives uncovered the knowledge that Brown, who had been roughly sixty at the time of the MacKay murders, had worked as a carpenter at the girls' school. Apparently, in the weeks and months following the murder, he had become personally obsessed with the girls murder, making many weird choices: the oddest of which was the off-colored door from his car, a very-identifiable mark, which he removed and then buried in his yard.
Yes, you heard me right. He removed a car door and buried it. His explanation for it, at the time: he didn't want to be harassed about it by anyone, because his car happened to match the exact model used to abduct the girls by passing eyewitnesses. He would later dig up the car door and take it to junkyard, essentially, but his behavior at the time was odd in other ways. He even went as far as inviting two of his wife's cousins, both of them young women, to the crime scene to look around.
And it wasn't just odd behavior around the time of the murder, either. Brown allegedly had dozens of victims, ranging from when he was a younger man to his elderly years. Also, there is a matter concerning his first wife, Hester, who died mysterious a few years later, in 1978. Her death certificate was written by the family doctor, who wrote it without even examining the body, which was cremated shortly thereafter.
Immediately following his wife Hester's death, her younger sister Charlotte moved in with Brown, along with her five children. Brown and Charlotte would marry just months later, as if a devastating death hadn't occured at all.
In 1982, another one of Hester's younger sisters came forward with claims that Brown had molested her, which led to a large number of her family members coming forward with similar stories. Despite this, however, legal advice was given which can basically be surmised as: "taking him to court might be traumatic for the victims, so best not to." The entire matter was swept under the rug and became a family secret, at least until that 1998 episode of "Crimestoppers."
The secrets about Arthur Stanley Brown came to light, and they weren't pretty.
In 1999, after the years of his exploits being kept in the shadows, Arthur Stanley Brown was taken to court. He was now in his 80s, having spent the better part of his life escaping from justice, and seemed to be poised to do it one last time.
Despite the evidence and testimony stacked against him, including that of two people who he had supposedly confessed to decades prior, Arthur Stanley Brown was able to escape justice via his own mental health.
In 2000, the trial had to concede for reasons of circumstantial evidence being unfit for trial, which then led to a delay... but then, surprisingly, newspapers were reporting that the trial could not proceed "for legal reasons which cannot be published."
This would be revealed, a year later, to be due to Brown's worsening dementia and struggle with Alzheimers, which left him unfit to stand trial or even plead in the case.
One would think that Brown had simply escaped justice, but he might have found justice of another sort. In April of 2002, his wife Charlotte would pass away, and Brown was abandoned and ostracized by his entire family. His funeral was kept under-wraps and un-publicized, with only one stepdaughter being given the notice of his passing.
Weeks after he had been buried, one of his stepsons would remark: "I can't believe such an insignificant little arsehole had such a profound effect on so many people's lives."
If that's not a glowing review of Brown's impact upon the world, I don't know what is.
The surviving members of the MacKay family have come to terms with the knowledge that Brown committed the rape and murder of Judith and Susan. In fact, immediately after his death, police would close the case file completely, believing him to be the lone suspect.
In the years since his death, many have begun to question whether or not Brown was responsible for the disappearances of the Beaumonts and the Adelaide Oval abduction. He did live in Queensland and worked for the Department of Public Works there, an entire continent away from Adelaide, but when investigators went digging for records of his holidays and vacations, they could find nothing. Whether or not these records were destroyed during the 1974 Brisbane Flood or discarded by Brown himself, who had open access to the government offices because of his position with Public Works, is an open mystery.
He did have a history of trying to hide evidence of his misdeeds, courtesy of the buried car door, so anything is possible. One of the witnesses from his trial would confess that Brown had remarked about visiting the Adelaide Festival Centre during its construction, which would place him in Adelaide after June of 1973. The abduction of Joanne Ratcliffe and Kirste Gordon took place in August, just a few months later and shortly before the construction project finished.
There is also the matter of his physical description, which is the most disconcerting part of the story. Brown bears a strong resemblance to both of the sketches provided to police after the Beaumont disappearance and the Adelaide Oval abduction. However, while Bevan Spencer von Einem was too young to match the description of the suspect, Arthur Stanley Brown would have been over fifty years old for both abductions, making it very unlikely that he would look like a fit, thirty-five year old man.
Another interesting note, is that one of the witnesses during the Adelaide Oval abduction, remarked that the man who grabbed four-year-old Kirste Gordon was wearing horn-rimmed glasses, which fell off during his getaway. Arthur Stanley Brown would wear those type of glasses constantly, so much so that during his youth they remained a part of his wardrobe.
It's possible that Arthur Stanley Brown was responsible for the disappearance of the Beaumont children, but unfortunately, there would be no way to know for sure. His death in 2002 undoubtedly meant that the rest of the secrets left in his decrepit, failing mind would die with him.
In the ensuing years, more possible suspects have continued to be thrown onto the proverbial pile. Known criminals such as James Ryan O'Neill and Derek Earnest Percy have been implicated in the Beaumont case in one way or another, although their connections to the case are normally rather tenuous. In recent years, a deceased man known as Arthur Stanley Hart, who passed away in 1999, has been implicated by members of his own family in the Adelaide Oval abduction after a secret basement was discovered on property he once owned. Police have admitted that he was a key suspect throughout that investigation, but no links to the Beaumonts have been discovered.
In 2013, a book was published, titled "The Satin Man," which claimed that wealthy Adelaide businessman Harry Phipps was responsible for the Beaumont children's abduction. This was based off of evidence from Phipp's troubled son and testimony from other family members, but when pressed for a statement, police revealed that Phipps was not a serious suspect and they were not investigating him for the Beaumont disappearance.
The fiftieth anniversary of the Beaumont children's disappearance came and went this past January, meaning that each of the children would be approaching their sixties if they were still alive. Their parents, Jim and Nancy, are still alive and are now both approximately nineties years old. Both live in privacy, but no doubt hold out hope that they will be given some kind answer as to their children's fate.
A week before the case's fiftieth anniversary, on January 19th, the police received a tip via a phone call, which has led to a recent renewal in the interest of the case. The police hold out hope that the case can be solved, and the million dollar reward for the case still stands to this day, but they have come to the realization that if a suspect is to be named - it needs to be now. Any possible suspects would now be between 70 and 100 years of age, meaning that any new evidence is likely to come from a deathbed confession or family insiders.
If you happen to know anything, please contact the Adelaide authorities.
For the time being, the fates of Jane, Arnna, and Grant Beaumont - along with those of Joanne Ratcliffe and Kirste Gordon - remain unresolved.
Sources and further reading
Daily Mail - "Were two little girls who were abducted from a crowded stadium kept in a secret bunker under the home of the prime suspect all along? Detectives find hidden basement under paedeophile's home"