A BEAUMONT CHILDREN BREAKTHROUGH
THE AGONISING TALE OF DECEPTION, HEARTBREAK AND SHOCKING CRUELTY THAT STILL HAUNTS AUSTRALIA
The disappearance of the Beaumont children remains the cold case that has left a mark on Australia, even in 2021, 55 years later.
Three young Adelaide children were snatched on their way home from a morning at the beach in 1966, never to be seen again.
The baffling disappearance, the longest-running missing persons investigation in Australian history, is one of the country’s most heartbreaking crimes, as well as one of the cruellest.
“It’s the case that changed so much about the way Australians lived,” crime writer Michael Madigan, the author of the book, The Missing Beaumont Children: 50 Years of Mystery and Misery, says.
“After the Beaumont children went missing, we realised that children doing something as innocent as having a day out at the beach may not be such a safe thing to do. There was a sense of safety that ended that day.”
At 9.45am on January 26, 1966, the three Beaumont children – Jane, 9, Arnna, 7, and Grant, 4 – left the family home and boarded a bus to Glenelg Beach. The trio were due home by midday, but never returned.
There were numerous sightings of the children on their way to the beach, at the foreshore and later at a cake shop, when they were spotted in the company of a tall, thin-faced man with short blond hair, aged in his 30s.
A search involving police and volunteers scoured the beach and surrounding areas, but no trace of the children was ever found. Despite investigations into numerous key suspects, no-one was convicted.
Waiting desperately for news of a breakthrough were the children’s parents, Nancy and Jim Beaumont.
The false hopes continued for years, including a Dutch psychic who insisted the children had been buried under a factory, through to recent years when in 2013 and again in 2018, another factory was excavated in the search for the remains, but no traces were ever found.
“No-one could imagine the torment those parents
“THERE WAS A SENSE OF SAFETY THAT ENDED THAT DAY”
went through,” Michael says.
One of the most devastating aspects of the case is the cruelty the Beaumont parents encountered.
Three seemingly credible letters were sent from a man claiming he had the children and would return them to Nancy and Jim at a special meeting place. The hopeful parents agreed to the meeting, but despite waiting for hours, no-one ever showed up. Years later, the letters were revealed to be a hoax.
There was also stinging criticism levelled at Nancy of being a ‘negligent’ mother for allowing her children to go to the beach on their
own. Meanwhile, others accused Nancy of being behind the disappearance.
“People would come up to her on the street and openly abuse her, believing Nancy had something to do with it,” Michael says. “It would have been all so traumatic for them.”
Nancy and Jim’s marriage crumbled under the weight of their ordeal and they later divorced.
Nancy died in 2019, while Jim is now in his 90s and still living in Adelaide. In 2018, a million-dollar reward was offered for information by the South Australian government, but no new leads came forth.
A number of suspects have been named in connection with the case, including Bevan Spencer von Einem, Arthur Stanley Brown and Harry Phipps. Both von Einem and Brown bore a similarity to the witness sketches of the man last seen with the children.
Years later, there were suspicions of a link between the Beaumont case and the 1973 Adelaide Oval disappearance of Joanne Ratcliffe and Kirste Gordon. A sketch of the man last seen with the two girls also resembled the sketch of the man associated with the Beaumonts.
Michael believes Dieter Pfennig, convicted for the 1983 murder of Adelaide schoolgirl Louise Bell, is another key person of interest in the Beaumont case.
Of all the main people of interest, only Pfennig and von Einem, convicted for the 1983 murder of schoolboy
Richard Kelvin, are still alive.
Michael believes time is now running out to solve the case.
“Nancy’s now gone and Jim is in his 90s, so it would be so important for him to know what happened before his final days.”