The Cruel City by Stephen Orr

Is Adelaide the murder capital of Australia?

The Cruel City by Stephen Orr presents some of Adelaide’s most notorious and gruesome crimes – and the city has had a lot of them. Also known as the city of churches, Adelaide is probably Australia’s “most English” city – refined, quiet and hosts a world-renowned arts fringe festival.

There’s the well-known crimes – The Snowtown killings (or “the bodies in the barrels”), The Truro Murders from the 1970s and of course, the disappearance of the Beaumont children, which is probably the greatest unsolved crime in Australian history. If the truth about what happened to the Beaumont children, or if their remains were ever found, it would be one of the biggest news stories EVER. On Australia day in 1966 Jane, nine, Arnna, seven and Grant, 4 disappeared from a morning at the beach at Glenelg. My mum says she remembered the media coverage at the time (she was 14) and said that it was very common back then  for kids to go off by themselves for the day.

The author opens the book with an intriguing story from Orr about a stranger who knocked on his home door one day claiming to know what happened to The Beaumont children. At the time Orr was writing his book on the mystery called Time’s Long Ruin.

For someone like me who is fairly knowledgeable about crime (only because I read so much about it!), this book was a great read because there were some crimes I had never heard of like the Hope Forest Massacres. (In 1971 Clifford Bartholomew killed 10 of his family – his seven children, wife, sister-in-law and her 16-month-old son on a single morning.)

The chapters on Bevan Spencer von Einem and The Family Murders and The Truro murders are comprehensive and enough to give you a good idea of what happened in just one chapter each. (I didn’t know that Truro serial killer Chris Worrell killed four women in separate incidents in just one week.) Worrell’s killing (seven women) was cut short by his death in a car accident in 1977. His accomplice James Miller, who did not take part in the murders but did nothing to stop them said “if he [Worrell] had lived, maybe seventy would have been killed…”.

The Cruel City: is Adelaide the murder capital of Australia by Stephen Orr was published by Allen & Unwin in 2011.


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