Few disappearances in Australia (Holt excluded) have had such an impact on this country as the disappearance of the three young Beaumont children. Truth be told, a rather sombre realisation when looking at missing person cases is that there is an unnatural amount of children that go missing. Adults are incredibly complex and disappear for a whole host of reasons, whether voluntary or not. But when children disappear it is almost always at the hands of a predator. You don’t have to look very deep into news sources to realise that this is far more common than we would like to imagine. Right now there are a couple of high profile cases in Australia of children seemingly vanishing without a trace. But this wasn’t always the case – at least the perception – is/was that Australia was once a very safe country. That parents could let the their kids walk down the shop on their own, catch a train or bus, go to the park and meet friends. Basically do all those things that kids should be doing.
The disappearance of the Beaumont children helped change all of that – and in the process shattered the conception of safety and destroyed Australia’s innocence forever.
Jim and Nancy Beaumont lived in the beachside suburb of Somerton Park, Adelaide, South Australia. Nicely settled to the south of Adelaide the suburb is largely residential and offers what most would consider the Australian dream, living close to the beach. On the 10th of September 1956 Nancy gave birth to the first of what would be three children Jane Beaumont. Just over two years later Jane had a younger sister, Arnna and finally on the 12th July, 1961 Grant Beaumont was born. There are no real details as to the lives of these three young children before their disappearance, but there is no evidence to suggest that they lived in anything other than a loving household.
On Australia Day 1966, Jane – 9 at the time, Arna (7) and Grant (4) would travel a few kms north on the bus to spend the day at Glenelg Beach. Glenelg is another beachside suburb with walkways, a jetty, shops, restaurants and has even had numerous amusement parks throughout its history. Needless to say it was very popular with children. Now by todays standards it would seem quite bizarre to let three young children travel away from their parents on their own. But truth be told, this was 60s Australia. There was nothing to worry about, and the three Beaumont kids had made this trip numerous times before. They had even been at the beach the day prior to their disappearance. The fact that they were regular beach goers may have been their downfall.
So on the 26th January the 3 kids go to the beach. Nancy told the kids to be home at 2pm. That was the norm. And every time prior to the 26th the kids were home by 2pm. Jane, although 9 years of age, was incredibly mature and was trusted by her mother so when the kids did not walk through the front door at 2pm she would have been slightly concerned and with each passing hour that concern slowly turns to dread.
Police were called at 7pm and thus would begin one of the strangest and longest running missing persons cases in Australian history.
WHAT WE DO KNOW
Details of the movement of the children on the day of their disappearance is scarce, however there are some occurrences that have been verified. They did make it to the beach. There were a few witnesses who came forward claiming to have seen the children playing with a man in his mid 30s on the beach. The man was tanned and blonde and had a thin to athletic build. By all reports the children were seemingly relaxed with this stranger. So much so that most people would not have given it a second look; and most unfortunately didn’t. A little after midday on that ill fated day the children were seen walking from the beach with the mysterious blonde haired man. A shopkeeper had also mentioned that the children had come into the shop with a one pound note to buy some pasties. At around 3pm there children were seen walking hand in hand seemingly in a jovial mood which was quite bizarre considering the kids should have been home by this time.
WHAT WE CAN ASSUME
The fact that the children were playing openly with the mysterious blonde man on the beach that day suggests that it was not their first meeting. Nancy and Jim both suggested that that the children would not just ‘go with a stranger’. The fact that the kids were going to the beach regularly during those summer holidays would give a predator opportunity to gain the childrens’ trust. This would explain the seemingly lax attitude of both the children and the man that day. When the children went in and bought pasties they had purchased them with a one pound note, a one pound not which was not given to them by their mother (she verified this), one can connect the dots and assume that the money was given to the children by their abductor. This was probably done as to not raise suspicion, and one can imagine that unless you knew the children personally, you would have just assumed that they were with a carer or relative. Unfortunately, that’s it. That is all we know and all we can really infer from the evidence.
When police got the call at 7pm that night the search immediately commenced. A police car with a loudspeaker canvassed the streets of Glenelg calling out for the children and seeking public assistance. Many from the community did come out and help the search and there were calls coming from many different Adelaide suburbs which offered information and possible leads. Despite the response from the police and public, that night Jane, Arna and Grant did not come home. As the search intensified the next day there was still no sign of the missing children. And again that following night Jane, Arna and Grant did not make it home. Days turned to weeks which in turn turned to months. Still no sign of the children.
Seemingly in a desperate bid to find out what happened to the kids; a ‘psychic’ was flown to Australia from Holland. Gerard Croiset was confident he could crack the case and when he set foot on Australian soil it created a media sensation. He claimed the children were buried in a warehouse. Understandably the owners of the warehouse were not too keen on knocking down the building on the basis of this psychic, but with public pressure money was raised and the owner allowed for excavations. Predictably, nothing was found and Croiset went back to Holland having failed.
A report did come out which was particular disturbing and many people were left to wonder what might have happened if the following information was given immediately to police and not months after said disappearance. On the night of the disappearance a woman had seen a man matching the description of the person seen with the kids that day. The man had walked into an abandoned house across from her home with a young girl and a boy. That may have been weird in itself but later that night she witnessed the same boy running from the house in a tearful and terrified state before being aggressively pursued by the man and dragged back into the house. By the time this information had found its way to South Australian police the man and the three children had well and truly gone. Why this was only revealed by the woman months later has never been established. One is left to wonder.
Over the next few months and years tip offs and information trickled through but the information was unreliable and the police were none the closer to finding the children. There were a few people of interest and some were investigated more than others, however nothing solid eventuated and the case remains an open to this day. Interestingly enough, in 1973 two more children disappeared whilst watching an Australian Rules Football game at the famous Adelaide Oval. The Family Murders were a group of murders which targeted young teenage boys, one person, Bevan Spencer von Einem was charged and even though he to this day denies any involvement with the Beaumont children, he did not work alone in the Family Murders (the other killers remained at large). While a connection between the two cases lacks direct evidence it is impossible to dismiss entirely. Even as recently as October of this year, police are working on a new lead. While all of Australia hopes for some kind of closure in this case, I doubt many are holding their breath.
The disappearance of the Beaumont Children changed Australia forever, it was really the first case of child abduction that truly captured the nation’s attention and saw the shift from a carefree country which allowed for children to play away from adult supervision – to a country which became fully aware of the looming threat of child abduction.