Jane Nartare (9), Arnna Kathleen (7), and Grant Ellis (4), known as the Beaumont Children, disappeared from Glenelg Beach, near Adelaide, South Australia, on January 26, 1966. Their disappearance is to this day Australia’s best known cold case.
The Beaumonts lived on 109 Harding Street, Somerton Park, which is a suburb of Adelaide. Five minutes away by bus was Glenelg Beach where the children often went to play. On January 26, 1966, around 10am, the children took the bus from their home to the beach. Jane was in charge of her siblings, as usual. They were expected back by noon.
The police investigation centered on a tall, blond man who was seen on the beach with the children. He was well build, athletic, and in his mid-30s. Witnesses who reported this noted that the children, usually very shy, seemed at ease with the man. This led police to believe they had met him before. At one of the shops, Jane bought pastries and a meat pie using a £1 note. However, Mrs. Beaumont had not given Jane notes. She had given Jane coins. The store owner was familiar with the family and the children, and he noted that meat pie was not among their usual purchases. All four were seen walking away from the beach around 12:15pm.
At about 3 pm, the mail carrier saw the children walking alone away from the beach, along Jetty Road, in the general direction of their home. The mail carrier’s detailed description combined with the fact that he was familiar with the family, led police to trust this statement. The details that the mail carrier gave were that the children were happy and they greeted him. It turned out that the mail carrier was the last person to see the children alive. The postman did not state whether he saw the children carry their belongings such as the beach towels, books, and other things they had with them. No belongings of the Beaumont children were later found at the beach.
This is astonishing if you remember that Mrs. Beaumont expected her children to be back by noon. These usually very obedient and reliable children were now three hours late and they did not seem concerned or worried about the delay. This clashed with Jane’s character in general. Look at this letter police released. The letter was written by Jane, on January 24th, when she was babysitting her siblings. Her parents were out for maybe an hour or two. Here is what she wrote:
Dear Mum and Dad,
I am just about to go to bed and the time is 9. I have put Grant’s nappy on so there is no need to worry about his wetting the sheet. Grant wanted to sleep in his own bed so one of you will have to sleep with Arnna. Although you will not find the rooms in very good condition I hope you will find them as comfortable as we do. Good night to you both.
PS I hope you had a nice time whereever you went.
PPS I hope you don’t mind me taking your radio into my room Daddy.
This nine-year old girl sounds very responsible, mature, concerned for her brother and sister, as well as for her parents. She is knowledgeable(sheets getting wet and the consequences), aware of the normal order of things (radio taken into her room), and she is concerned about her parents’ opinion (hope you find the rooms comfortable, hope you had a nice time, hope you don’t mind me moving the radio, etc.). After reading this, can you imagine the same girl not being concerned about arriving home three hours later than expected?
I think there are two possibilities. One is that the tall man assured Jane that he knew her parents very well. He assured her that he was going to make a phone call to let their mother know they would be late. He assured Jane that everything would be alright. The only person who could have done that is someone Jane met before and in different settings, hence a friend of the family. The second possibility is that Jane was not her shy self, and that would only have been possible if she had been given a relaxing drug. Remember that the meat pie was not a regular purchase? Is it possible that the meat pie was later drugged with a relaxant, when the children were not watching? Since the mail carrier did not differentiate between Jane and the other siblings when he mentioned they looked happy, I assume all three must have eaten from the meat pie.
After what police calls the last confirmed sighting involving the mail carrier, several people told police that they had seen the children. Some witness statements were made immediately, others were reported later. Reports from people who had seen the children kept coming in, all were diligently investigated, but none led to results, despite nationwide efforts to find the children.
Losing their children in such a tragic way took its toll on the Beaumont marriage. Nancy and Jim remained in the old family home for as long as they could, but tension built and eventually they separated. Neither parent has ever been accused of any wrongdoing, nor has either ever been considered a suspect. To this day, they both have the sympathy of the entire nation.
In a tragic situation like this, there are always people who have the sick need to cause even more pain. Letters started to arrive at the Beaumont residence signed by “Jane”. The letters were investigated and then followed up. However, modern-day fingerprinting technology determined that the letters were a hoax from a man who was a teenager when the children disappeared. Sadly, due to statutes of limitation, no charges were ever filed. The identity of the man has not been revealed. I hope hopes he is ashamed of himself.
From all the possible suspects, one emerged as more likely than the rest. Police was alerted to this person while they were investigating other murders.
In 1973, Joanne Ratcliffe (11) and Kirsty Gordon (4) disappeared. They were last seen during a football match in the Adelaide Oval Stadium, when they went for a restroom break, unaccompanied by their parents. People reported that they did see the two girls around the Oval. In contrast to the Beaumont children, they did not seem to be relaxed or unconcerned. They were accompanied by a man. After that, they vanished.
During the next few years, bodies of murdered young men turned up around Adelaide. In 1979, the body of Neil Muir (25) was found. His body was badly mutilated. In 1982, the badly mutilated body of Mark Langley (18) was found. It appeared that he had been subjected to “surgery.” His body had been shaved and his abdomen was sliced open. Doctors found that a part of his bowels had been removed. He died from a massive loss of blood. More bodies were found, such as the dismembered skeletal remains of Peter Stogneff (14) and the badly mutilated body of Alan Barnes (18). Barnes has been subjected to similar mutilations as Langley. In 1983, the similarly mutilated body of Richard Kelvin (15) was found.
During the investigation into Kelvin’s death, witnesses told police to check on a 37 year old accountant Bevan Spencer von Einem. One credible witness, identified in police reports only as Mr. B., told police about a conversation he had with von Einem. Von Einem spoke about children that he had picked up from a beach. He had taken them home and performed experimental surgery on their bodies. Somehow he had been able to connect them with each other but during the procedure, one of the children had died. He then decided to kill all the children to protect himself. He said he had disposed of their bodies near the Myponga Damin. Von Einem was familiar with and frequented Glenelg Beach. He was also fond of children. The reference to experimental surgery matched the mutilated bodies found in recent years. Then, von Einem told the witness that he had also taken two girls from a stadium during a football match. He spoke about the Oval and that he had killed those girls but he did not elaborate any further.
During Kelvin’s autopsy, it became clear that he had been drugged with mandrax. The drug proved to be a solid lead. Police began searching for prescriptions for Mandrax and eventually they found von Einem. He was known to police. Von Einem had been questioned before over the deaths of three young men and an alleged sexual assault of another.
Von Einem was sentenced to life at Yatala Labour Prison. Justice White imposed a non-parole 24 years. Under South Australian law, a third of the non-parole period could be taken off for good behaviour in prison. The then-Attorney-General of South Australia immediately appealed the leniency of the non-parole period, and on March 29, 1985, the Court of Criminal Appeal in South Australia increased the non-parole period to 36 years, a record at the time in Australia. Von Einem has not applied for parole yet. In July 2007, von Einem was transferred to Port Augusta Prison.
The assumption is that von Einem was responsible for the before mentioned mutilated bodies. No accomplices were ever charged. He never cooperated with police to investigate other deaths and did not talk about possible other killings. However, in September 2007, police made public that they had questioned von Einem again in Yatala. “The fresh investigation centered on the possibility von Einem may have been present at a search for Grant, Arnna and Jane Beaumont the day after they vanished from Glenelg on January 26, 1966. They followed the discovery of video footage by Channel 7 that showed a man with a striking resemblance to von Einem, who would have been aged 20 at the time, avidly watching police divers search a drain at Glenelg.” Unfortunately that newspaper article is not online anymore.
It is a known fact that murderers often return to the scene of the crime to watch police search, and that sometimes they even offer to help the authorities. They can stay informed about the investigation this way, but watching the search also stimulates them. The speculation is that von Einem drugged the Beaumont children, as he had Kelvin, to get them to go with him.
The cases of Jane, Grant and Arnna and of Joanne Ratcliffe and Kirsty Gordon remain open. Some say von Einem could not possibly have been involved with the Beaumont children’s disappearance, because, at the time that they disappeared, von Einem was younger than the tall man as described by the witnesses.