Monday, June 6, 2016

10 - The Beaumont Children (Part One: Disappeared)



Every now and then, an event happens that not only impacts society, but finds a way to change it. Whether these be small events or large events, the impact is felt by all.

I have strong and vivid memories of September 11th, 2001, an event that changed the landscape around me. I was just a child then, but I remember the fear circulating around the United States at the time, the fear that I - or we - could be next. That was a sentiment shared by millions, and one that was born out of an emotion itself: fear.

Similarly, the story that I'm looking at today not only morphed how one country viewed some aspects of their culture, but possibly the entire world. This is the story of the Beaumont Children, their disappearance, and the fear that shifted how parents everywhere view the safety of their children.

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Welcome to the Unresolved Podcast, a podcast all about stories that have no clear-cut ending. I am your host, Micheal Whelan, and before I get started, I would like to welcome all of the new listeners, who are undoubtedly drawn to the large nature of this story. It is one that has become synonymous with unsolved mysteries, and remains one of the most well-known cautionary tales in the world.

I would like to apologize for the long absence between the last episode and this one. It wasn't never my intention to do so, but if you've been following the podcast on social media, you'll know that it's been a rather busy and chaotic time of my life. Thankfully, you can anticipate many more episodes of the podcast in the months to come.

But now, without any further ado, let's turn back the dial and visit a time and area foreign to my own: over fifty years ago, in Adelaide, Australia.

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In 1966, the Beaumonts lived a very iconic lifestyle. Jim, the father, was a linen goods salesman that traveled the surrounding area to meet with clients, and Nancy, the mother, was a stay-at-home housewife that cared for the couple's three kids.

The couple had lived in Adelaide for some time, giving birth to their first child, Jane, in September of 1956. They would then go on to welcome Arnna in November of 1958, and their only son, Grant, in July of 1961.

The five Beaumonts lived together in their small, idyllic-looking home of 109 Harding Street, in the suburbs of Somerton. If the name "Somerton" sounds familiar to you, it might be because it's the location where an unknown, unidentified man was found in 1948, also known as the Tamam Shud. But that's a mystery for another time.

Needless to say, the Beaumonts were living the dream. Just minutes away from the beach, they lived in a suburb known for its quiet grandeur, and by all known accounts, things were going well for the family of five. But, unknown to any of them, things were about to take a serious turn for the worse.

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In the weeks preceding their tragic disappearance, the three children had become slightly independent. Both Jim and Nancy trusted in their oldest daughter, Jane, now nine years old, to supervise the other two on trips to the beach. Whenever they wanted to head to the beach, they would simply take a short bus ride there and back.

What did the Beaumonts have to be worried about? Their small slice of the Adelaide suburbs left no doubts in their mind, at least when it came to the safety of their children. There was nothing to fear.

During the Australian summer months, when temperatures were continuously rising and heading upwards of 40 degrees Celsius (100 degrees Fahrenheit for us ignorant Americans), the couple didn't think twice when it came to letting their children escape to the beach. So this was becoming a common thing, and for weeks, the three children had traveled to the beach and back numerous times, encountering no trouble at all.

Despite their rather shy nature, it also seemed to be good for the children. It allowed them to socialize outside of a school setting, and kept them active in the summer sun. In fact, Arnna, the family's seven-year old daughter, often joked about Jane "having a boyfriend down the beach." At the time, the family thought nothing of Arnna's comment, but why would they? It was just a joke from a seven-year old.

On January 25th, Jim Beaumont decided to accompany his children on one of these visits to the beach, on his way out of town. He was headed out on business, and wouldn't see his children for the next couple of days. Right before he left, four-year old Grant came over to say goodbye to his father.
"Don't worry, Daddy. We'll be fine."



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On the morning of January 26th, 1966, things were... normal. It was Australia Day, which for all of us overseas with little knowledge of Australian traditions, is very similar to the Fourth of July, or Canada Day. It's a day to celebrate Australian pride and history, and is a rather joyous occasion.

With the temperature rising, Nancy didn't give it a second thought when the children asked to go to the beach. It would keep the children busy and happy for a few hours, and would give her more than enough time to visit with a friend of hers. She gave the children eight shillings and sixpence in coins, to buy snacks down by the beach, and let them set off for the bus-stop they usually frequented. This bus-stop was less than a few hundred feet from the front door of their house, just a block away at the corner of Harding and Diagonal Road.



At roughly 10:10 in the morning, the children were spotted boarding the bus by several witnesses, including the bus driver. A woman that witnessed them climbing aboard recalled that Jane, the oldest, was holding a copy of "Little Women," a book that had become one of her favorites. This woman could also recall the distinct coloring of the three children's clothing, which gave credence to her testimony.

At approximately 10:15, the bus headed off for its route, which would lead the children to the beach they constantly went to, named Glenelg. Which, I learned in the related-"Thinking Sideways" podcast about this story, is a palindrome.



The next hour or so, regarding the Beaumont children, is largely a mystery. Their local postman, who knew the children well, recalled seeing them during this time frame. Tom Patterson, who could easily identify the children, claimed that he saw the three children walking towards the beach on Jetty Road, ten or so blocks north of where they lived. This wasn't unusual for the three, so he kept a small mental note of it, perhaps messing up the timeline in a small way. He would later go on to say it was possible that he had seen the children in the afternoon, but his earliest accounts recall seeing the children in the morning, on their way down to the Glenelg beach.

At around 11:00 in the morning, an elderly woman who was sitting on a beach outside of the Holdfast Sailing Club recalled seeing the three children playing in a sprinkler at the Colley Reserve. This is a large patch of grass, largely resembling a park, so it wasn't out of the ordinary for the kids to be frolicking in this area.

Now, the kids were finally at the beach, nearly an hour after their arrival. There were witnesses around that remember seeing them, but unfortunately, the size of the Adelaide area helped ensure that there were many tourists and unrecognizeables visiting.

The same elderly woman that spotted the children playing in the sprinklers also noticed a younger-looking man in blue swim trunks watching the children. He was lying face-down in the grass at the time, but would later be spotted by this woman actually playing with the children, less than fifteen minutes later.

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According to this elderly woman, and at least three other eyewitnesses, this man stood about six-foot-one, and was lean with blond hair and a thin-looking face. He was apparently wearing a blue bathing suit, and had been watching the three Beaumont children for a few minutes before befriending them.

It is unknown who this man was, although in the years since, he has become a prime candidate for suspicion. Many theories have been written about who this man was, who appeared to be in his early-to-mid-thirties to those that saw him.

Rumors have lingered that this man, who had perhaps been befriending the children for a matter of days or weeks, was the "boyfriend" that Arnna spoke of at the family home. Unfortunately, the truth of that matter would never be solved, but the children were seen leaving the beach in the company of this unknown man.

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While the children leaving the beach with this suspicious man was alarming, the witnesses at the beach weren't the last people to see the Beaumont children alive.

They would be seen, over the next half an hour or so, at Wenzel's cake shop. This was somewhere between 11:45 in the morning and 12:15 in the afternoon, but accounts seem to differ on the exact time.

Apparently, the children came in to purchase some small treats - which meant a couple of pastries - but also bought a meat pie. They paid for all of this with a one pound note, which leads to a couple of unanswered questions.

First of which is: who were the children buying the meat pie for? The Beaumonts recall that none of their children would have been interested in eating this kind of thing, especially before lunch, and would have spent their meager allowance on sweets of some kind, not a savory meat pie.

Secondly... where did they get the money for their sweets from? Nancy Beaumont distinctly recalls giving her children eight shillings and sixpence, but never a one pound note. This would be like a kid paying for a candy bar with a twenty dollar bill, after specifically being given pocket change by their parents. Nancy recalled giving them just enough to cover the bus fare and for them to buy a couple of small treats, but nothing of that size.

This means that the children likely got the money from someone else, probably the strange man from the beach, and they bought the meat pie for him specifically. Where he was, during this time period, is unknown, but it stands to reason that if he had bad intentions for the three innocent Beaumont children, then he would want to be spotted with them as little as possible.

Maybe he was waiting outside, or on a bench nearby, waiting for the children to return to him.

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There were more witnesses that may have seen the Beaumont children with this man, and what they saw is very concerning.

He apparently spent fifteen minutes with the children, helping them get their clothes on after they had been playing in the sprinklers at the Colley Reserve. Even the witnesses recall this as being very odd, but they just had to assume, at the time, that the man was a relative of the children, since they seemed to be regarding him personally.

This stands at-odds with what we know of the children, especially Jane. Nancy Beaumont would later recall that her nine-year-old daughter was very shy, and wouldn't have been comfortable with a stranger she just met to help her get dressed. She was young, and she could get overly excited at times, but she wasn't completely naive.

There was an older lady sitting on a park bench, right next to a pair of grandparents who were waiting with their granddaughter. Apparently they were approached by this strange man, who asked them if they had seen anyone messing with his clothing. He had apparently walked away from it for some time, and claimed to be missing money.

Right after this was when he began dressing the children, taking his time to do so, as if he were enjoying it.

Sadly, this is the last time that the Beaumonts would ever be seen by a confirmed eyewitness.

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Nancy Beaumont was expecting the children home shortly after this, as they had been told to take the noon bus back home.

She had arrived shortly before then to prepare lunch for the kids, and was surprised to see the bus make its stop, just a block away from their house, and then leave again without her children departing.

Immediately, she began to assume that the children had missed the bus, and were either going to walk home or simply take the next bus in an hour or two. They had apparently done both in the past, so this wasn't an emergency to her.

Now, we can see the major discrepancies between the past and the present. In this day and age, such an event would not happen because three young children would very rarely be given so much leeway and personal freedom. But in this situation, in cozy, small-town Glenelg, this wasn't too odd.
There were potentially two more sightings of the children in the hours after their last confirmed appearance, but nothing that investigators have ever ruled to be fact.

The first of which is the potential sighting by Tom Patterson, the local postman, who had originally claimed to see the children in the morning, but over time, changed his statement. He claims that it was possible he saw them in the early afternoon, which would fit with the narrative if they missed their noon bus and began walking home. However, the time of his route in which he would have encountered the children ranges from 1:45 to nearly three o'clock, leading many to think that he likely saw them in the morning.

One of the sentiments I see being thrown about online is that Tom Patterson's shaky testimony may be due to the fact that Australia Day is a public holiday in Australia, and usually there is no mail being delivered on this day. I haven't been able to find whether or not this was the case back in 1966, but it's a popular online sentiment that seems to get thrown around, perhaps explaining Tom Patterson's confusion about the timeline: how could he remember seeing the children during his work route if he wasn't even working?

The second sighting was by another person entirely, a tourist visiting from Broken Hill, a northern town that lay hours inland. He was apparently on the Glenelg beach that the children had last been spotted near, and he saw three children matching their descriptions leaving with another man, who roughly matched the description of the man given by other eyewitnesses. However, this witness claimed that the potential Beaumont abductor had light brownish hair, not blond. This detail led many, including the police, to consider this sighting as less-than-factual. It might have just been a father with his three children, sharing a common description of the Beamonts and their possible abductor.

Despite these potential sightings, Nancy Beaumont was at home, waiting for her children to get back. The two o'clock bus came and went, but Jane, Arnna, and Grant were nowhere to be seen.

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Jim Beaumont, the children's father, got off of work shortly after three o'clock. He had been in another town entirely, two hours north in Snowtown, selling linens with a business associate.

He arrived home to find out that his children hadn't been seen in hours, as Nancy had been waiting for there to be any word or sight of them at the family's home.

The two set off, trying to retrace the footsteps of their three children, making the trek to the beach. Back-and-forth they went for the next few hours, looking for their children, or at least, a clue left behind or someone that had seen them. Unfortunately, their search was completely fruitless.

They didn't find their children between their house and the beach, nor did they find any of the kid's possessions. None of their towels, their clothes, not even Jane's copy of "Little Women."

Jim and Nancy decided to call the police at roughly 7:30 that evening, after the children had been gone for close to ten hours. Jim would search the area for Jane, Arnna, and Grant throughout the night, with Nancy staying at home in case they appeared.

At some point the next morning, the three Beaumont children were officially declared missing by the police, who then began the investigation to find them.

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The investigation began by re-tracing the information of where the children had been and where they had theoretically gone. This is where investigators discovered the information about the witnesses at or near the beach, and began to make a timeline of where the children had been and when.

It was almost immediately ruled out that the children had been swept out by the tide. None of their personal items were found on the beach, and at least one of them would have been found had this was the case. Investigators would have found a book or a towel of theirs, or something like that.

From the get-go, the case began to take on the attention span of a nation. The eyes of Australia were on Jim and Nancy Beaumont, who went on TV and radio five days later, on January 31st, to appeal for the lives of their children.



Hundreds of tips began to fly in to the police, who thoroughly investigated almost every single call. As you can guess, all of them were dead ends. Anybody who saw a child wandering off alone, or a group of kids in the company of a man, called into the police with a potential avenue for a safe rescue. However, this may have been detrimental to the investigation, as the police began searching day and night for any hint or clue that would lead to a safe rescue, but came up empty.





Everyone with a tie to the Beaumonts was investigated, from neighbors to family friends to Jim Beaumont's coworkers and work associates. The area of Adelaide was alight, trying to find any trace of the three kids, and looking for any wayward son that was out of place. The blond young man was highlighted as a lead suspect right away, and sketches were drawn from what the eyewitnesses had seen.

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Roughly two weeks after the children's disappearance, a local newspaper received a phone call. Picked up by a telephonist that worked for the newspaper, she described the man on the other end of the phone as having a (quote/unquote)"foreign accent."

According to the telephonist, who quickly tried to transfer the call to the newspaper's chief of staff, the person on the other end of the phone claimed to have Jane, Arnna, and Grant Beaumont.

"I want reward money for them," he said in his accented voice. "It will have to be a good reward."

Unfortunately, as the telephonist tried to transfer the conversation to her boss, the caller on the other side of the phone hung up. The police didn't immediately eliminate the call as a hoax, but it is not publicly known if they chose to investigate it any further. It wasn't the first time that the case was possibly marred with ill-attempted pranksters and frauds, but it unfortunately wouldn't be the last.

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The investigation had almost no luck from the beginning, with the investigators looking into every possible nook and cranny of nearby beaches, looking for a cave or cove that the children could have wandered into or washed ashore upon. They would find nothing, not even an article of clothing or belonging of the Beaumont trio.



The leads were empty for the next handful of months, but police were finally notified when a woman came forward with information. It had been approximately six months since the Beaumont children had disappeared, but she claimed on that night in January, she had seen something odd. Next door to her was an abandoned house she had believed to be empty, and on the same night that the Beaumonts disappeared, she had witnessed a man entering that house with two young girls and a boy in-tow.

According to this woman, she claimed that the boy left the house hours later and started walking down the street, only to be chased and snatched by the man that was leading them.

For some reason, this woman decided not to report this to investigators for months, for some reason that can only be guessed at.

First off, I find this to be a little too convenient, that a woman reported seeing something shady happen on the night of a major news event, and decided to sleep on it for about half a year. If this is true, which I have serious doubts about, then that might be one of the most fucking aggravating things imaginable. Pardon my language.

But, needless to say, the next few months were rather quiet on the useful information front. People continued to report in suspects and sightings for at least a year after the disappearance, and still even months and years after that. People were not only watching out for their own children more fiercely, but the Beaumont children were well on their way towards becoming a cautionary tale, to be told for decades later.

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Gerard Croiset was a 57-year old Dutch psychic, for lack of a better term. He claims to have specialized as a parapsychologist and a psychometrist, which are two fields that are not scientifically-minded, but based upon spirituality and paranormal beliefs.



Croiset had experience in aiding Dutch investigators with their cases for years, beginning in the years following World War 2. He had apparently helped Dutch police track down the killer of a young woman, which gave him credit in not only Holland, but in surrounding European countries.

In November of 1966, Croiset was invited to Australia by a wealthy businessman who was interested in the case, Con Polites. Croiset arriving was a big deal in itself, and attracted a lot of media attention to the case once again, but perhaps not in a good way.

The Beaumont parents apparently didn't want much to do with Croiset, who they viewed as a fraud.

Despite that, unsurprisingly, people were eager to hear what he had to say. This began to turn the disappearance of the children into a public spectacle, and brought the idea of the psychic detective to the forefront of the worldwide media.

Police chose not to meet with Croiset, for the same reasons that Jim and Nancy Beaumont didn't. They believed him to be a crock. But the public felt the opposite, and hoped that Croiset would be able to unearth a clue that was waiting to be discovered.

Greeting a large crowd at the Glenelg beach where the Beaumont children had disappeared from, Croiset made a daring claim by stating that he didn't believe the children had been abducted at all, but rather trapped underneath the flooring of a recently-constructed warehouse building. He was also bold enough as to proclaim that he would find the children within two days.

“I have had a vision of where the children started from. I will walk there and a vision will come to me immediately," Croisot claimed. "I am 90 per cent sure I will pinpoint the place where the bodies will be found.”

The police were already skeptical of Croiset, and weren't going to dig up the flooring of a private building based on a psychic's hunch. The public, however, bound together and raised over $40,000 in order to pay for the owner to dig up the flooring of the warehouse, which he did.

No trace of the Beaumonts was found, not even a scrap of evidence leading detectives to believe they had ever been there. Croiset eventually left Australia after his short - and unsuccessful - visit. In 1996, when the warehouse was set to be demolished, it was excavated by Con Polites, the wealthy businessman that paid for Croiset's visit over thirty years beforehand, but again came up with nothing. No trace of the Beaumont children was found there, despite Croiset's claims.

Croiset meeting with the Beaumonts before his departure

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It had now been approximately two years since the disappearance of Jane, Arnna, and Grant Beaumont, with not so much as a clue bringing their parents any sense of closure.

At around this time, in 1968, a letter arrived in the post. Postmarked from Dandenong, a suburb of Melbourne, the letter was supposedly written by Jane herself, who would have been eleven years old. This would be the first of two letters purported to be written in Jane's own hand, which police believed after matching up the letters to old school assignments written by Jane. They looked authentic enough for them, so at the time, they believed that they could have been real and treated them as such.

The first letter from Jane claimed that the children were all right, and were healthy in the care of "the Man." This Man, who would remain unidentifiable throughout the letters, was allegedly taking good care of the children by ensuring their safety and feeding them well.

Another letter would soon find itself delivered to Jim and Nancy Beaumont, and this one was written by "the Man" himself. The person behind the letter claimed that they had appointed themself the guardian of the three children, but would be willing to hand the three children back over at a time and place of their choosing.

A direct quote from Jane's letter carried similar guidelines:

“You, Dad, have to wear a dark coat and white pants so that the man will know you. The man told me to tell you that the police must not know at all. He said that if you do tell them, you may as well not come, so please do not tell them. The Dandenong post office is in Victoria in case you did not know. We are all looking forward to seeing you next Monday. Please do not tell the police. The man did not mean to harm us. We still love you both."

"Love Jane, Arnna and Grant”

Obviously, Jim and Nancy weren't going to let this letter join the pile of others that they have been accumulating for over two years. If there was a chance at all - no matter how slim - that they could follow the instructions to get their children back, they were going to take it.

So Jim travelled over 700 kilometers to Dandenong, that suburb of Victoria, and waited outside the post office for the better part of three whole days.

The police were contacted by the Beaumonts during this time period, and there were police officers surveying the scene. The press also became interested in the happenings, and once the word got out that Jim Beaumont was allegedly getting his children back, the area outside the Dandenong post office was bustling with an unusual crowd.

Unsurprisingly, nobody came forward with the Beaumont children. Jim returned home to Somerton without anything to show for his efforts.

A short time after this unsuccessful trip to Dandenong, a third letter arrived in the mail. This was written in the same hand that Jane's original letter had been written in, and claimed to be from her. In it, Jane claimed that "the Man" had been in Dandenong during Jim Beaumont's visit, but had identified an undercover police officer and quickly left the area, never to return. This letter version of Jane claimed that "the Man" had been betrayed by the Beaumont parents, and would be keeping the children.

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Roughly twenty-five years later, when forensic testing was commonplace, detectives were able to test the DNA on the letters. What they discovered was that the letters had been written by a 41-year old man, who at the time had been a teenager and wrote the letters as a sick joke.

Unfortunately, the time period in which they could have filed charges had long since passed, but the man had felt guilty about his vile acts as a teenager and regretted ever being involved in such a thing.

But one has to imagine how his guilt compares to the years of torment inflicted upon the Beaumonts, and the decades of questions that must have been rattling through their mind.

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August 25th, 1973 - It has now been over seven years since the three Beaumont children fell off of the known map, and nearly a decade later, the trio are little more than a cautionary tale. A thing of the past. A story with a dead end.



Links

Wikipedia - Beaumont children disappearance

Wikipedia - Gerard Croiset

The Ghost In My Machine - "Unresolved: The Strange Disappearance Of The Beaumont Children"

Investigating Crimes - "Australia's Most Famous Unsolved Crime: Missing Beaumont Children"

The Line-Up - "The Mysterious Disappearance Of The Beaumont Children"

Daily Telegraph - "Clairvoyant Gerard Croiset failed to crack the Beaumont case but gave rise to the 'psychic detective'"

The Age - "I have missing children: Caller" (from February 10th, 1966 issue)

Senior Chatters - "Beaumont children disappearance"

Defrosting Cold Cases - "In search of Jane, Grant, and Arnna"

2 comments:

  1. Hi there! Listening to the this episode now, I'm enjoying it. You could do a whole podcast series based on weird unsolved deaths in Adelaide if you wanted to :-) I'm from Adelaide, living elsewhere now.

    The Tamun Shud case is a doozy. Also the Barlow case. The allusions to "The Family" and rumoured goings on around the Green Dragon hotel on South Terrace / King William St. The @#$% weird attack in the Adelaide Zoo, odd people doing odd things in the West Tce cemetery, rumoured "satanic" nonsense happening in burned-out buildings in the foothills, the people tossed into the Torrens River over the years. And that's just the UNSOLVED weirdness. Salman Rushdie one famously described it as exactly the sort of sleepy town where serial killings would happen.

    A pronunciation note: Con Polites' surname is pronounced "polIGHTees". The e is long, the second synonym is emphasised. Not idea if the guy is still around to care though.

    Keep up the good work!

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  2. Wow, this is sad, and heartbreaking to hear of the father making a trip in hopes of getting the children...only to be disappointed again.
    I am leery about hearing the second part - it is risking further despair if this does not turn out positive in the end (although, if storied in an online blog decades later, I will assume there is no happy ending here).

    One small item, if I may. "Ignorant Americans". Is that self-loathing narrative embraced by your generation old and tired yet? Many of us are certainly educated on the celsius system, and are more outward thinking than a number of Brits and Canadians I've encountered, anyway.

    ReplyDelete