Category: Cold Cases

The Missing Beaumont Children

The Missing Beaumont Children

 

Australia Day 2016 (January 26) marks 50 years since the disappearance of three children from a beach in Adelaide.

The mystery of the missing Beaumont Children is probably this country’s greatest and most tragic unsolved crime. The case is burned into the psyche of a generation.

On January 26, 1966, the Beaumont children Jane, 9, Arnna, 7 and Grant, 4 caught a bus to Glenelg beach from their home (only a short trip) for a bit of sun and fun. It wasn’t unusual for children that young to go off by themselves back then and eldest Jane was a responsible girl. (My mum, who was a teenager at the time, remembers that she and her siblings and cousins would often go down to the beach without adults and be there all day). The children never returned home. Vanished without a trace.

The Beaumont Children

The book The Missing Beaumont Children by Michael Madigan is a very thorough overview of the mystery and details the investigation, the suspects, the leads, the dead ends…

It’s fascinating and disturbing reading. My heart broke during the book as I kept thinking about the parents of the children, Grant (known as Jim) and Nancy, and how they survived this tragedy…this evil.

I recommend this book. It’s a well-paced read that covers the twists and turns of the case and is also told with great compassion for the children and parents Nancy and Grant who are now 88 and 90 respectively. Madigan manages a fine balance of detailing the “mystery” of the case that people around Australia have been transfixed by but also the “misery” that has affected Nancy and Jim for the rest of their lives.

The Missing Beaumont Children is available at Amazon, Booktopia and all good bookstores.

Murdered teen 40 year mystery

I wanted to give a shout out to an outstanding digital journalism project by Journal Sentinel reporter Gina Barton.

The series called “Unsolved” is in chapters and podcasts and focuses on the very cold case murder of Milwaukee, Wisconsin teen Johnny Zera in 1976.

I have a lot of respect for journalists like Gina who get passionate about a case and set about giving a digital footprint to cold cases.
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Tynong North Killings – unsolved Australian murders

 

Catherine Headland.
Catherine Headland.

I wrote about the unsolved Australian crime known as the Tynong North Killings which was published online and in the local newspaper Berwick Leader.

READ: Tynong North-Frankston killings remain some of Australia’s worst unsolved murders

I spoke to the childhood best friend of one of the victims Catherine Headland. Reading about this series of murders is as shocking now as it would’ve been in 1980 when the skeletal remains of Catherine, 14, were found along with those of two other victims — Ann-Marie Sargent, 18, and Bertha Miller, 75 — at a secluded bush track off Brew Rd, Tynong North. There were also the murders of two other women from Frankston (a south-east bayside suburb of Melbourne) and another woman whose remains were found in Tynong North. The killings are believed by many to be by the same killer.

The memorial plaque to Catherine Headland at Akoonah Park, Berwick, Victoria.
The memorial plaque to Catherine Headland at Akoonah Park, Berwick, Victoria.

Catherine’s best friend Cheryl Goldsworthy is making another plea for anyone with information to tell the police. Time is ticking to solve this case. Victoria Police have had a prime suspect for years, there’s just not enough evidence to charge the man. This man is in his 80s now, if he is still alive.

Anyone with information should phone Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

 

 

Cold Case bloggers

I want to give a shout out to bloggers and writers who are so dedicated to raising awareness of cold cases and re-igniting media coverage on these mysteries through social media.

Defrosting Cold Cases – This resource blog profiles cold cases to give the victims a bigger digital footprint. Excellent, relentless work by Alice de Sturler.

Iowa Cold Cases – this fantastic site provides case summaries, articles and updates for all of Iowa’s unsolved murders and persons who’ve gone missing under mysterious circumstances. This is the brainchild of crime writer and journalist Jody Ewing.

Carol Kean -Carol’s Linkedin profile sums her up: “…an avid reader and writer, book reviewer, wife, mom, guerilla gardener and champion of underdogs and overlooked authors…” Carol has a real interest in writing about missing persons and reviewing true crime books.

Anne Gavin – Anne is a tireless advocate for missing persons and their families.

Dolly Stolze – Dolly writes the intriguing and informative blog Strange Remains that focuses on forensics, cold cases and anthropology.

 

Who Killed The Candy Lady?

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Earlier this year  while I was researching some cases for my latest book, I stumbled across some newspaper articles about the still unsolved disappearance and presumed murder of American Candy empire heiress Helen Brach.

I was intrigued. In 1977, the 65-year-old, was reported last seen by her houseman Jack Matlick, who said he left her at O’Hare International Airport to board a flight to Florida.

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So, I was very interested in reading James Ylisela Jr’s Who Killed The Candy Lady?: Unwrapping the Unsolved Murder of Helen Brach.

This is an e-book that is a quick and satisfying read. Ylisela is a long-time Chicago journalist and in this book he has presented a very clear telling of this case. He admits that he set out to solve the mystery, however changed tact to leave the readers to make up their own minds. I particularly like it when authors have a page dedicated to the “cast” of the book. I am always referring back to these pages to make sure I am fully digesting the text. Ylisela does this and the cast of characters in the Brach case is as intriguing as it gets.

I won’t spoil the story by giving too much away (as an avid true crime reader I love to read cases with no prior knowledge).

Who Killed The Candy Lady? is published by Agate Digital.

The Skeleton Crew

 

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For someone interested in true crime the new book The Skeleton Crew: How Amateur Sleuths are Solving Some of America’s Coldest Cases is one of the most anticipated titles you could hope to read.

I really enjoyed this book. I often scan through missing persons websites and am endlessly intrigued by how someone could go missing or someone’s body could be discovered and their identity is a mystery. How does that happen? What happened? Why does nobody care about them?

Author and journalist Deborah Halber takes the reader on a journey of these databases of missing and unidentified bodies and the people who try and solve these mysteries. And it’s increasingly people doing amateur detective work from behind their computer screen who are giving closure to some cases that are often decades old.

There are currently 40,000unidentified dead stowed away in mortuaries, evidence rooms and potter’s fields around America. That is unbelievable and terribly sad.

Halber delves into the world of these people who spend their lives searching for clues on the web to try and identify these unidentified people with profiles of missing persons. It becomes somewhat of an obsession for many of these armchair detectives, as you’ll discover.

Halber covers details of cold cases, successful identifications and some of the lives of these amateur sleuths. There is also plenty of information about technology to help identify human remains and reconstruct what a person looked like from their skull. It is gripping stuff.

Skeleton Crew is published by Simon and Schuster. For Aussie and Kiwi readers it’s available on ebook.

Margaret and Seana Tapp murders – more tragedy

 

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For those of you who regularly read this blog you will know that I do have an interest in unsolved crimes, especially ones in Melbourne, Australia.

Earlier this month was the 30th anniversary of the murders of mother and daughter Margaret and Seana Tapp, 9, in Ferntree Gully, Melbourne.

On August 9, Herald Sun journalist Andrew Rule, who covered the case from the start and later unearthed information about deficiencies in the original police investigation, relayed another tragic element to the case.

MURDER MYSTERY: COULD A PAIR OF DUNLOP VOLLEYS LEAD TO A KILLER OF COLD CASE VICTIMS MARGARET AND SEANA TAPP?

Justin Tapp, who was 14 when his mother and baby sister were murdered, was found dead on June 3. Justin had moved London in 2001 but the tragedy followed him and he slowly drank away relationships, jobs and was found dead in a tiny bedsit.

“…He was slowly poisoned by the horror of what happened to them. He rarely spoke about it but was haunted by the thought that if he’d been at home at the time, maybe it wouldn’t have happened. He was only 14 then — just old enough to blame himself over the evil act that took two lives and destroyed his…” – Andrew Rule.

The last lines of Rule’s article are quite chilling: “…Whoever goes to see potential suspects might check their shoe size … and whether any of them ever had a link with the Girl Guides or Brownies. It could paint a whole new picture.”

(The strongest piece of evidence was the imprints of Dunlop Volley sneaker shoe in Margaret’s bedroom and the bathroom. Seana was also in a Brownies troupe, hence the reference to police investigating who may have been involved with the Girl Guides troupe.)

 

 

Hawaii Unsolved Murders

 

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Hawaii has always intrigued me.

I have been fortunate to have visited Oahu twice – when I was 9 and 15 and it was beautiful. I especially loved the night markets and the friendliness of people. I’d like to return to Hawaii for a holiday now that I am an adult.

Of course, there are the television shows that have been set in Hawaii – Magnum PI and one I loved (but didn’t last long) The Byrds of Paradise.

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But for all the beauty and seeming casualness of Hawaiian life, there is a dark side to the island life and that’s most evident in the unsolved murders that police are still actively trying to solve.

I was intrigued by a more than decade-old article by the Honlolulu Advertiser about unsolved murders from the 1970s and 1980s.

It appears that a serial killer was active in 1985-1986 as there are five cases of women murdered in Honolulu. The killer has been dubbed The Honolulu Strangler and has not been caught. The victims were aged from 17 to 36.

There is also the horror case of eight-year-old Roiti Dias (below) who was kidnapped while walking to school on May 27, 1980, and later found dead with her throat slashed. No one has ever been arrested for her murder.

Another girl, Jiezhao Li, 12, was last seen on Feb. 11, 1988, selling fundraiser tickets near a 7-Eleven store in a Honolulu suburb called Nuuanu. She is still missing.

These unsolved crimes haunt detectives.

And a recent report on the Kauai cold case unit to say that they have not forgotten victims and investigators are actively working with the island’s prosecution office to crack these cases.

– The 1981 gunshot slayings of Californians John Klein, 28 and his wife Michelle, 25 who were vacationing on Kauai. Their bodies were found on a tourist trail and had been shot seven times.

Their murders unsettled tourists and was a set back to state officials and locals, who were trying to reassure people that Hawaii was safe to visit after some other high-profile instances of attacks visitors. There had been a gang rape of a Finnish woman, 23, by a gang of local teenagers in 1979, which attracted national coverage and condemnation over the shoddy handling of rape cases by the State.

One theory for the murders of the Kleins is that the couple – he a lawyer and she a publicist – stumbled across a marijuana crop. An Associated Press article from January 3, 1982 called “Marijuana Blight: Hawaii Paradise Threatened by Hidden Cultivation” reported that six months after the couple’s death, police harvested almost a tonne of weed within a mile of where their bodies were discovered.

Information on these cases and more can be found on the website of the Kaua’i Office of the Prosecuting Attorney.

Anyone reading this blog who has information that could solve any of these homicides should contact Honolulu Crime Stoppers or the Kauai County Office of the Prosecuting Attorney at 808-241-1888 or via email: coldcase@kauai.gov

Mothers whose murders are still unsolved

It’s Mother’s Day in Australia and North America. A time to celebrate mothers. Children give their mums/moms homemade cards and gifts. It’s a day for mum to be spoilt with a sleep-in and breakfast in bed.

But there are many families who are still waiting for justice. Their mothers have been murdered and the killer/s have not been brought to account…yet.

Here are some cases where families are desperate for answers:

>>The children of murdered Melbourne woman Nanette Ellis hope a $500,000 reward, announced in February, will bring the vital clues needed to solve their mum’s murder 30 years ago. Nanette’s murder was brutal and baffling. Who would want to kill her? Read the detailed account of the crime here, written by Melbourne journalist and crime writer Keith Moor. (Australia)

Nanette Ellis.
Nanette Ellis.

 

>>The naked, bashed and strangled body of 29-year-old factory worker and single mother of two Annette Steward was found in the bedroom of her Geelong West, Victoria home on March 18, 1992. Police believe this now 22-year-old cold case is solvable and they have a “strong suspect”. A 2007 coroner’s inquest named a suspect. (Australia)

Annette Steward
Annette Steward

 

>>The murder of Pennsylvania mom Joy Hibbs in 1991 is still unsolved. her 12-year-old son David came home from school on April 19, excited to tell her he’d made the school honor roll, only to see his home enveloped by thick smoke. Joy had been strangled and stabbed to death before the house fire. The killer, no doubt, trying to cover the crime by setting the house alight. (United States)

Joy Hibbs
Joy Hibbs

 

>>The brutal bashing of 53-year-old mother Julie Paskall as she was waiting to pick up her teen son from a hockey game shocked Canadians. Julie was beaten to death outside a Surrey, B.C., hockey arena on December 29, 2013 and when son Cailean came out to the parking lot, he found his mother surrounded by paramedics trying to save her life. Julie’s husband of 35 years said he wants to find the person responsible, but not for revenge. He simply wants to know why anyone would attack his 4-10″, 125-pound wife. Canadian detectives said in March that they were confident they would find her killer. (Canada)

 

Julie Paskall

 

 

 

The Pyjama Girl Mystery by Richard Evans

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Review by A. R. Muir

August 1934, a body was found in a culvert off a country road in Albury, a town on the border of NSW and Victoria. The body was that of a once voluptuous young woman. It was badly burnt and wrapped in a sackcloth. But the attempt at concealment had been unsuccessful, and the woman’s striking features were not erased by the fire. What followed was one of the largest murder investigation in New South Wales to date. The police and an avid media followed every available lead to identify their once beautiful victim. Yet surprisingly they were unable to match her to any missing women.

To aid in identification the NSW coroner took the unprecedented step of preserving the body entirely in a bath of formalin. Thus the mysterious Pyjama Girl (so named because of the oriental-style pyjama’s she wore) lay in state for the next ten years waiting for identification. Remarkably the case was re-opened in 1944 when new evidence and suspicions came to light. The Pyjama Girl’s body was so well preserved in the formalin that, after a liberal application of makeup, she was finally identified by those who once knew her as Linda Agostini. An Italian immigrant and hairdresser, Linda had been living with her husband in Sydney when she went missing in 1934. With these new revelations the police were able to track down her killer and pursue justice. Richard Evans’ book is excellently written, very much from the perspective of contemporary police investigators and the massive media response. The reader is invited to share the unfolding tale of mystery as police undertake a quest to put a name to the Pyjama Girl. It makes for addictive reading. Another advantage of the book is the astounding photographs of the preserved body (tastefully done but somewhat macabre). It would have helped to have some more explanations to go with the pictures to explain their context, or at least references in the text. However a quick search of the internet can quickly uncover extra detail and photographs.

This is a captivating read that is very hard to put down. 4 out of 5

Lucy Brown Craig disappearance

 

Source: Sydney Morning Herald, Wednesday, 24 April 1940
Source: Sydney Morning Herald, Wednesday, 24 April 1940

 

In 1940, the disappearance of a 20-year-old Sydney doctor’s daughter captured the headlines of newspapers around Australia.

Lucy Brown Craig, a happy, reliable and popular young woman, was last seen on Friday evening, April 11 getting off a tram at King’s Cross and walking towards Darlinghurst Rd. She had left her workplace in Macquarie St in the CBD and was assumed to have been meeting someone. The last person to see her  an hour later (described in the newspaper as “…the  son of one of Svdney’s best known professional men and who knew Miss Brown Craig well..”) said she was “…with an athletic-looking man of about 22 with a small toothbrush moustache and dressed in a grev suit”.

 

Article in The Daily News, Saturday, 27 April 1940.
Article in The Daily News, Saturday, 27 April 1940.

Miss Brown Craig, who was often referred to in newspapers as a “society girl” was never seen again. Police appeals for this man “in a grey suit” to come forward were unsuccessful. Dr Brown Craig personally offered a reward of 200 pounds (he offered this reward several times over the years) for any information on the whereabouts of his daughter.

A Sydney woman, Ruby Gladys Evelyn, 27, appeared in court on April 27 after she rang Dr Brown Craig and demanded 1000 pounds for the return of his daughter. Evelyn knew nothing of Miss Brown Craig and was trying to menace money from the family.

Her family said it would be out of character for their daughter to disappear to “start a new life” and her father strongly refuted claims she had eloped. Newspapers reported that “…the whole of her wardrobe, except the light clothes she was wearing, is intact and it is believed that she had only a few shillings in her handbag…”.

There were several alleged sightings of miss Brown Craig, including from a man who said he was certain he saw her, a week after she disappeared, in a car in Northern New South Wales at a petrol station. The witness said the girl “strikingly resembled Miss Brown Craig” and was with a man, around 35, with a thick toothbrush moustache. Another man rang police with a top that he had seen her hiking with a man, aged around 40, at Orbost, Victoria. Cruelly, one called rang police to say that the young woman was dead

The family and police were convinced Miss Brown Craig had met with foul play.

A photo of her was shown at cinemas before movie screenings in the hope it would jog someone’s memory and police around Australia conducted inquiries into the disappearance.

But there was never any solid leads on what happened to Miss Brown Craig.

In 1943, a handkerchief with her name embossed on it was found it a toilet block in Toronto, NSW. For a brief time this renewed hope for the family that their daughter wa sstill alive. However, the mystery was cleared up when it was discovered that Miss Brown Craig’s clothing had been given to a woman who had worked for the doctor. This employee had given the clothes to her daughter, who told investigators that she lost the handkerchief. (It seems strange to me that someone would use a handkerchief, let alone clothes from a missing woman, but then it was a different time).

In 1945 it was reported that her disappearance was still unsolved. The last report I could find on the case was in 1953 when she was mentioned as part of an article on a missing Perth man.

In her day, Lucy Brown Craig’s disappearance was probably the highest-profile missing persons case in the country.

If anyone know any more about this case please email truecrimereads@gmail.com

How did Clare Morrison die?

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The cause of 13-year-old Clare Morrison’s death is still a mystery.

The Geelong girl’s naked body washed up on the famous surfer haunt Bell’s Beach, Torquay on December 19, 1992.

Clare’s body had been attacked by a shark and whether she has been sexually assaulted, or how and why she died, has never been determined.

Clare had been known to hang out at Geelong Mall. Geelong is a large regional centre in Victoria. Despite her middle-class upbringing and good education, Clare was known to youth services in the town.

Police assume that Clare must have been given a lift to Bell’s Beach. Investigators were given false information in the days after Clare’s death, which diverted their efforts for six months. Police had believed that a blue Holden Commodore sedan was the vital clue in discovering Clare’s final movements.

Clare’s death remains one of Geelong’s highest profile cold cases and there is a $50,000 reward for information that helps police find out who killed her.

Christopher Phillips

 

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The murder of 42-year- old husband and father Christopher Phillips has left police stumped.

Mr Phillips was found dead by his wife and children at their Gaybre Court, Cheltenham, home in May 1989 at around 8.30pm. He had been bashed around the head and his throat had been slit.

Newspapers reported at the time that the house had been ransacked though nothing was stolen.

Mr Phillips was, from all accounts of friends, family and workmates, a quiet, private man who had no vices and would go jogging most nights.

An engineer, he had worked for the Board of Works for 17 years.

Six months after the murder, police had appealed for a man, who had called with a lead, to contact Crime Stoppers again.

In a 2002 Sunday Herald Sun article “1 million reward to catch a killer” it was reported that there was a $50,000 reward for information that could lead to the arrest of the person responsible for the murder of Mr Phillips.

Nina Nicholson

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The murder of young nurse Nina Nicholson in 1991 injected fear into her small country town.

Nina, 22, was from Clunes, near Ballarat, Victoria,VIC and was found dead on her back verandah on the evening of September 10, 1991. Nina was dressed in her nurse’s uniform as she was on her way to her regular night shift at St John of God Hospital in Ballarat. Nina had a routine and would go to her parents’ home and have dinner with them before returning to her home to get ready for her shift, which started an 9.30pm. Nina’s husband was a truck driver and was on an interstate run on the night his wife was murdered.

It was determined by the pathologist’s report that Nina was bashed to death – multiple blows to her head by a blunt object – when she stepped out on to her back verandah just before she was due to leave for her night shift.

Police have struggled to find any motive for the murder. By all accounts she was a quiet, happily married young woman who loved her job. Her handbag, which was on the verandah near her body, was untouched.

In 2005 it was reported that the Victoria Police Homicide Squad’s cold case unit had interviewed a man over Nina’s murder, however no charged have been laid and there has never been an abundance of information or leads on the case.

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