Tanner Hoang: Search for missing person continues
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On January 26, 1966 — exactly 57 years ago — three children took the bus to a beach near their home in Adelaide, South Australia, as they had done many times before, enjoying playing in the sand and surf under the watchful eye of the oldest sister. This time, however, they would never return home, and never be seen by their parents again. Here, Express.co.uk revisits one of Australia’s most heartbreaking cold cases.
Jane, Arnna and Grant Beaumont, who would become collectively known as the Beaumont children, were three Australian siblings aged nine, seven and four years old respectively.
They became household names after disappearing from the South Australian Glenelg Beach, near Adelaide, on Australia Day, in what remains a suspected abduction and murder case.
The case remains one of Australia’s most tragic, and to this day information related to the cold case comes with a $1million (£576,000) reward from the South Australian government.
The Beaumont children’s vanishing left Australia in pieces, and was described by crime writer Michael Madigan, who authored the 2016 book The Missing Beaumont Children: 50 Years of Mystery and Misery, as the day that “safety ended”.
Australia Day, 1966, was like any other for Nancy Beaumont, the mother of the three children. She entrusted nine-year-old Jane, who was described by her father Jim as having “the brain of a girl of 15”, despite her younger years, with taking her younger siblings down to the beach.
Reports show that just the day before, the young children had made a similar trip unaided successfully. Jim also showed them the day before how far out they could swim, Mr Madigan noted, reminding them not to talk to strangers.
When the children left that fateful morning, the parents’ “last memory of their children was a happy one”. The children were spotted at 10.15am at the beach, and were due back just under two hours later.
But when Nancy went to meet them, the children were nowhere to be found. Five hours later, their parents reported them as missing to the nearby Glenelg Police Station.
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Jim later told Mr Madigan: “I knew there was something wrong if they weren’t home. The thought going through my mind was that they had been taken away.
“I didn’t think they could have been drowned because there were so many people down there.”
Police originally scoured the Beaumont’s home to ensure the children weren’t hiding there, before rolling out their search operation to the town. By the following morning, rescue boats were enlisted to boost the chances of finding the youngsters.
Cop cars blasting out pleas for information about the children descended on the town centre. Soon, taxi drivers helped too, asking all of their passengers for assistance in finding the missing trio.
Jim described how he felt that “somebody must be holding them against their will, they would otherwise have come home by now”, adding: “It’s a complete mystery, I can’t understand it. My kids will be crying their eyes out. It’s like a nightmare.” But as the days and weeks went on, it became clear this nightmare wouldn’t soon end for the Beaumonts.
In an Australia Daily Telegraph interview from 1967, Nancy said that the “longer this goes on, the more confident I feel that they are still alive”.
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As time went on and the police investigation ramped up, a series of people were identified as potential suspects. Among them was Bevan Spencer von Einem, who was eventually sentenced to life imprisonment in 1984 after he murdered Adelaide newsreader Rob Kelvin’s 15-year-old son Richard.
The authorities felt he had worked with accomplices and had possibly carried out other murders. During the police investigation, an informant claimed von Einem had bragged about kidnapping three children from a beach years before his crimes in the Eighties so he could conduct “experiments” on them.
Though the case remains open, his appearance matched that of the suspect in the Beaumont children case, and by the end of that decade was identified by police as a suspect in a confidential report, though no concrete evidence was produced.
Then in August 2007, archive footage of the original Beaumont children search was re-examined appearing to show a young man, who looked like von Einem, among the onlookers. Information linking him to the crimes is still sought by the Australian authorities.
He wasn’t the only murderer linked to the case, with Arthur Stanley Brown, James Ryan O’Neil and Derek Ernest Percy, a convicted child killer who was Victoria state’s longest-serving prisoner, all at one stage suspects in the case.
In a heartbreaking twist, two years after the children went missing their parents received two hoax letters — one claiming to be from Jane, and another from the man who was said to be keeping the children.
Within the notes’ contents, Jane described the children having a welcoming time with the man looking after them, and police believed the handwriting on the letter was likely authentic when compared to Jane’s older handwriting.
It ended with a planned meeting place nominated. However, when the Beaumont parents and a detective met at the spot suggested, nobody arrived. No further letters ever came. And in 1992, fresh examinations of the letter revealed it to be fake.
Now, the children are officially classified as abducted presumed murdered.
In 2018, Mostyn Matters, an original detective on the case, reflected on his involvement during an ABC News interview. He noted that the task force “had one phone for the main police station”, and that the investigation had “people queuing up to give statements… and we only had a sergeant and four men there”.
He continued: “They were just snowed under and by the time you interviewed people and [typed] up their reports and everything, it was just one of those things, where you could only do your best. We still had our own work going on, there was still crime being committed in Glenelg.”
Speaking in the 1967 interview, the children’s mother said: “Do you know, I dreamed about them last night. I don’t usually dream. In fact, this is the first real dream I’ve had since the children went. But last night I dreamed I heard a knock, on the back door. It was the children. They said, ‘Hullo, Mum.’
“The only thing I said was, ‘Where have you been?’ They were standing there in the back lobby. I cried, and felt them all over. Do you know, it’s the first dream I’ve had.”
She died in 2019, aged 92. She never found out what happened to her children. Jim continues to live in Adelaide.
Anyone with information is asked to contact Crime Stoppers in Australia. For more info click here.
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