On January 26, 1966, three children went missing from an Adelaide, Australia beach, resulting in one of the most famous unsolved crimes in Australian history.
The Beaumont Children
From left: Jane, Grant, and Arnna
Adelaide sits on the pristine shores of southern Australia, a beach town that now has a population of over 1 million inhabitants, though, in 1966, its population was about half that.
The Beaumont Children, Jane (age 9), Arnna (age 7), and Grant (age 4), were the children of Jim and Nancy Beaumont. The family lived in a suburb of Adelaide near Glenelg, which was, and is, a well-known seaside suburb in Adelaide.
The children frequently visited the beach near their home, and it was not uncommon for their parents to let them go by themselves. Jane, the eldest, was considered old enough to watch out for her younger siblings. At that time in Australia, such a thing was not out of the ordinary.
The children at the beach a few months before their
January 26th was Australia Day, a national holiday in Australia celebrating the arrival of the first British colonists in the 18th century. A hot summer day that month in 1966, the children decided to visit the beach, as was their custom. They left the house around 10 o’clock in the morning and took a short bus trip to Glenelg. Their mother expected them home around noon. By 3 o’clock, when they still had not returned, Nancy Beaumont called the police.
No trace of the children, or any of their belongings, was ever found.
During the investigation, police determined that several witnesses had seen the children at the beach that morning in the company of a blonde man in his mid-30’s. Being regulars at the beach, the children were very familiar to many of the other beach-goers and employees. Jane, Arnna, and Grant were seen playing with this blonde stranger in a relaxed and easy manner, suggesting he was not a stranger to them.
Around 11 o’clock, the man and the children were seen walking away from the beach. A short time after that, a local shopkeeper, who knew the children as regular patrons, reported selling Jane Beaumont cakes and a meat pie. She paid with a £1 note. This was noteworthy because their mother had sent them to the beach with only enough coins for food and bus fare, but no cash. Additionally, the children commonly bought cakes, but never meat pie. These facts provided further evidence that the children had been with someone else who had given them money to buy food.
The last confirmed sighting of the children was around 3 o’clock in the afternoon, about the same time their mother first contacted police. A postman who was considered a reliable witness, and who knew the children personally, saw them walking alone along Jetty Road, away from the beach. They stopped to say hello to him, and he reported that they seemed cheerful and under no distress. This report was perplexing, as the children would have been quite late by that time, and, by all accounts, should have been in a hurry to get home, fearing their mother’s wrath.
The case quickly drew the attention of the national media, and hundreds of tips, leads, and alleged sightings poured into the police department. One was from a woman claiming that she had seen two girls and a boy, along with a blonde man, enter a neighboring house on the night of the kidnapping. She claimed that she had later seen the boy moving alone down the street, but he was pursued and caught by the man, who treated him roughly.
In the ensuing years, searches for the bodies or belongings of the children turned up nothing. Police determined that the children had been carrying, between them, 17 different items, yet none of these things (among them towels, clothes, and bags) was ever found.
A psychic investigation suggested that the children had been buried underneath a building that had been under construction at the time of the kidnapping. After much pressure from investigators and popular opinion, the building’s owners agreed to dig into the foundation, but no trace of the children’s remains were found. In the mid-1990’s, when the same building was undergoing demolition, the owners allowed another, more in-depth, search of the site. Again, the search proved futile.
Several years after the disappearance, Jim and Nancy Beaumont received a succession of two letters. In the first, purportedly written by Jane, she claimed that they were being treated well and had a pleasant existence with “the Man” who was keeping them. This letter was believed to be authentic, as forensic comparisons to other letters written by Jane seemed to support its authenticity. A second letter arrived, this from the kidnapper himself. In the letter, he stated that he had named himself the children’s “guardian” and that he was taking good care of them, but that he was willing to return them. He named a time and place.
The Beaumonts went, along with a detective following in disguise, to the place specified in the letter, but no one showed up. Afterward, a second letter from Jane arrived, claiming that “the Man” had changed his mind because the Beaumonts had brought a detective with them, betraying his trust. No other letters came.
In the 1990’s, the letters were proven to have been a hoax. Forensic technology connected the letter to a man who had been a teenager at the time, and had written the letters as a cruel joke. Due to the statute of limitations, the man was not charged with any crimes.
Though no trace of the children has ever been found, and no one has ever been charged with their abduction, police have named several suspects over the years, the primary among them an unassuming accountant named Bevan Spencer von Einem.
Bevan Spencer von Einem
In the early 1970’s and 1980’s, a string of kidnappings and ritualistic murders took place around Adelaide, involving children and young teenagers. Investigations suggested that a syndicate of white-collar businessmen was preying on boys and young men, using them for sexual acts and bizarre experiments. Von Einem was connected to this alleged syndicate, and was arrested for the kidnapping and brutal murder of a 15-year old boy named Richard Kelvin – who was the son of a well-known Adelaide news anchor. In addition to being murdered, Kelvin’s abdomen had been split open and part of his bowels removed. Several other teenage boys had been murdered and mutilated in this same fashion, and it is believed von Einem committed these murders too, but strong enough evidence could only be gathered to charge him with Kelvin’s murder. He was convicted and is currently serving a life sentence in Australia.
The connection to the disappearance of the Beaumont Children comes from the source who testified against von Einem in the Kelvin case. This source had been an associate of von Einem’s, and had been involved in the kidnapping and molestation of several children along with von Einem. His testimony to police is largely what sealed the case against von Einem for the murder of Kelvin. In addition to testifying about the teenage boys von Einem had killed, this source also testified that von Einem had “boasted” to him of having kidnapped 3 children from a beach several years earlier and conducted “experiments” on them. One of them died during the experimentation, so he killed the other two and dumped the bodies in the bush outside Adelaide. In addition to this testimony, von Einem was also known to have been a regular patron of Glenelg beach.
Von Einem has never been charged with the kidnapping of the Beaumont Children, and has refused to cooperate with investigators on the case.
Another prime suspect, Arthur Stanley Brown, was charged in 1998 in connection with the kidnapping and murder of two young girls in 1970. He was 86 at the time, and in ill health, and his trial was never completed. He died in 2002. Although no direct evidence links Brown to the missing Beaumont Children, he is a prime suspect due to the similarities between the 1970 crime and the case of the missing Beaumonts, and his physical similarity to the description of the “blonde man” last seen with the children.
Jim and Nancy Beaumont, despite living in the same house for years after the kidnapping (in the hopes that the children, if they ever escaped, might return to the place they knew), eventually divorced and sold the property where they had lived with their children.
They now live separately and out of the public eye.