unsolved: the beaumont children

On January 26th, 1966, three children Jane (born 1956), Arnna (born 1958) and Grant (born 1961) who lived with their parents Jim and Nancy Beaumont in Somerton Park, Adelaide, South Australia disappeared from Glenelg beach.

On the day of their disappearance, all three children travelled to Glenelg, a popular beach resort, a five-minute bus journey away from their home. The children often visited the resort and had taken the same journey the day before their disappearance. Jane, the eldest child was considered responsible enough to care for her siblings, and like most other parents at that time, Jim and Nancy were not concerned about them travelling and spending time at the beach alone. The children boarded the 10 am bus from their home, carrying beach equipment and money for both their bus fares and food. They were due to return on the 2 pm bus, however, when they did not arrive on that bus or the next one, Nancy (of whom was at home that day) became concerned. After contacting Jim, they proceeded to the beach to look for the children, however after hours of searching they found nothing. At 7:30 pm, Nancy and Jim contacted the police of whom also failed to find the children or any trace of them.

Police investigating the case found several witnesses of whom were on the beach that day, who stated that they saw the children near the beach with a tall, blonde, thin male who they believed to be in his early to mid-thirties. The man and children were seen to be playing on the beach, appearing completely at ease. They were later seen at an estimated time of 12:15 pm walking away from the beach. Jim and Nancy described their children, especially Jane as shy, so for them to be so comfortable around a stranger seemed out of place. Investigators theorised that their ‘kidnapping’ had been planned and that the man may have gained their trust over a period of time. This theory is supported due to the fact Arnna has previously told her mother that Jane had a boyfriend at the beach, however, she dismissed the claim until the disappearance, of when she realised it may have had some significance. Further evidence that the children had been with another person comes from a local shopkeeper. He reported that Jane had come in and bought a meat pie, the shopkeeper knew the children well from previous visits, and before that occasion, she had never purchased a meat pie. As well as this, the money Nancy had given them did not include a one pound note, of which Jane had used to buy the food with, this suggests that the money had been given to them by someone else.

The last confirmed sighting of the children comes from a postman, who reported seeing the children happily walking in the direction of their house at around 3 pm. It has been suggested that the postman was mistaken of the exact time, as it seems unusual that they were so unbothered about missing their curfew, and that he may have seen them before noon. However, he was still ruled as a reliable witness, and this is taken as the last ever sighting of the Beaumont children.

A few months later, a woman reported that on the night of their disappearance, a man had taken two girls and a boy into a neighbouring house of which was empty. Later, the boy was seen walking along a lane, where the man rushed to catch him and roughly dragged him back to the house. The next morning, the house appeared to be empty again, and she never saw the man nor the children again. Police failed to establish the reason why she had failed to provide this information earlier, especially due to the fact the case had attracted widespread attention. The woman also failed to provide the police with a description of the man or the children. Sightings of the children were reported regularly for about a year after their disappearance and were still reported for many, many years later, however, none of these has been of any use.

Due to the sheer lack of sightings after the disappearance, the case attracted international attention. On November 8th, 1966, a psychic called Gerad Croiset was brought over from the Netherlands in order to assist with the case. His search turned out to be unsuccessful, with his story varying daily and the warehouse he identified coming up empty after an excavation and a demolition.

Two years after the children's disappearance, the Beaumont parents received around two or three letters (the exact amount is unknown) of which had supposedly been written by Jane and the person of which had kidnapped the children. The man said of how he would return the children if they met in a remote place, however, Nancy and Jim took an undercover detective and the man nor the children showed. The next letter stated that he would no longer be returning the children, and no further letters were sent to the address. In 1992, further tests showed that the letters were a hoax of which were written by a teenager at the time, due to the time of which had passed he was not charged with any offence and no connection was found between the teenager and the children.

In 2013, a factory was excavated following a tip regarding the children, but the dig found no evidence and investigations into the site were subsequently closed. On January 16th, 2016, a caller tipped the police of which pointed in the direction of a former suspect in the case. The caller was convinced this person was the one responsible, and it is said the claims are being investigated. However, there have been suggestions that this suspect is deceased, which makes it increasingly difficult to thoroughly investigate the lead. Police have said they have received around 159 calls to Crime Stoppers around the past two years regarding the Beaumont children, however, there have been no solid leads.

One of the main suspects was Bevan Spencer von Einem, a 37-year-old accountant who was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1984 for the murder of 15-year-old Richard Kelvin of whom lived in Adelaide. It is believed he may have been involved in additional murders, however, he refused to co-operate with investigators regarding his possible connections. During the investigation into this man, the police heard from an informant who recalled an alleged conversation where von Einem supposedly boasted of having taken three children from a beach a few years earlier. He said that he had taken them home to perform surgery on them, where one of them died, so he killed the other two and dumped their bodies in bushland. At this point, the police did not have him as a suspect for the Beaumont children, but he somewhat resembled the descriptions and police sketches from their investigation. It was believed this informant was a reliable source, as he gave important information in the Kelvin murder case, however, some of his details did not fit and were met with scepticism. Von Einem has remained a suspect in the case, as he was known to frequently visited Glenelg beach in order to watch the changing rooms, especially focusing on children. The main thing that argues against his involvement is that the child he killed, and those he was suspected of killing, were older than the Beaumont children and the other child case he was suspected of. As well as this, he was younger than the suspect reported in the Beaumont disappearance, although it is possible his age was confused by the witnesses, as he did confidently match the police sketches.

The other main suspect was Arthur Stanley Brown, who in 1998 was charged with the murder of two sisters in Townsville, Queensland, who disappeared on their way to school in 1970, with their bodies being found strangled in a dry creek bed several days later. Brown bore a striking similarity to a police picture of the suspect for the Beaumont case. However, a search for his connection with the Beaumont family proved unuseful, and there is no proof he ever visited Adelaide. At the time of the children's disappearance, Brown was 53 years old, however, he has been reported as looking the same as he did at a younger age, so it is possible he had some involvement.

Other suspects include James Ryan O’Neill, who murdered a 9-year-old boy and had told a station owner in Kimberly and other acquaintances that he was responsible for the disappearance of the Beaumont children. However, there was no evidence at all that linked him to the case and in 1973 he was discounted as a suspected. Derek Ernest Percy was also suggested as a suspect in 2007, a man who was held in prison from 1969 to 2013 on the grounds of insanity after being convicted of the 1969 murder of a female. Evidence gathered by cold case investigators suggested that he fit the profile for the kidnapping of the Beaumont children. Percy indicated he may have killed the children, as he was in the area at the time, however, due to his psychological condition he had no recollection of actually doing so. In 1966, Percy would have been 17, seemingly too young for the kidnapper, and it is unknown whether or not he would have had a car, something that is presumed to be needed for the quick escape from the beach and as a method of disposing of the bodies.

Police believe that the disappearance of two children, Joanne Ratcliffe (aged 11) and Kirste Gordon (aged 4), who disappeared from the Adelaide Oval in 1973 may be connected to the disappearance of the Beaumont children. Joanne's parents and Kirste's grandmother allowed the two girls the leave their group to go to the toilet. They were seen several times after leaving the oval, apparently distressed and in the company of an unknown man, and have never been seen again after the last sighting. The police sketch of the man last seen with the girls is similar to that of the man seen with the Beaumont children. Due to the proximity of the two abductions, the similarities of the man, the ages of the children and the fact their bodies have never been recovered, many believe these were carried out by the same man. Von Einem and Brown were suspects in both of these cases, however, no real evidence was found linking them to the incident.

The disappearance of the Beaumont children has had no real, strong leads and no traces of the children have ever been found, due to the amount of time that has passed, most of the suspects are old or deceased. Due to the fact the police are unsure of what type of crime this was, their investigation is made harder and it is unlikely the children's abduction will ever be solved.

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