Wednesday, June 8, 2016

11 - The Beaumont Children (Part Two: Theories)



Welcome to the Unresolved Podcast. I am your host Micheal Whelan, and this is part two of the Beaumont Children story.

On January 26th, 1966, the three Beaumont children - nine-year-old Jane, seven-year-old Arnna, and four-year-old Grant - went missing after visiting their local beach. They were seen by a multitude of witnesses in the presence of a strange man, who was never identified.

In the years that followed, rumors nipped at the heels of the story but never led to anything productive. It has now been over seven years, and on August 25th, 1973 a similar incident begins to unfold just miles from where the Beaumont children went missing.



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On this afternoon, a Saturday, a football match is raging at the Adelaide Oval, a large stadium located twenty minutes inland in northern Adelaide.



Amidst the chaos of the match itself, and the fifty-thousand people sitting around them, two families are sitting next to each other. Both family, season ticket holders, have seen each other regularly for months now, if not years. They're familiar with one another, and one could say that they've even become friends.

Among them are two young girls: Joanne Ratcliffe, an eleven-year old that attended the weekend matches with her parents; and four-year old Kirste Gordon, barely old enough to understand the game itself but who went to this match with her grandmother.



While the match was in-progress, Joanne announced to her parents that she needed to use the restroom. The parents gave her leave to visit the restroom, but Kirste's grandmother asked if she could take the four-year old girl along with her. The two returned minutes later, seemingly unharmed, and all was well. The match continued, and the roar of the thousands around the two families drowned out any concerns of strangers.

Roughly half an hour after their first bathroom visit, Kirste told her grandmother that she needed to use the restroom again. Joanne, being a caring and motherly-type at her young age, offered to take Kirste, and the pair walked off towards the direction of the bathroom at approximately 3:45 PM.
Minutes began to pass, with no sign of the girls returning to their families. This worry eventually turned into panic, and while the match was still ongoing, Joanne's parents began to make their way to the restrooms to try and find the two girls. Kirste's grandmother remained at the seats, in case they returned there.

Approximately twenty minutes after the two girls departed, Joanne's mother found her way to the secretary's office, and asked if they could make an announcement over the PA system. This request was unfortunately denied, and she was given the explanation that any such announcement couldn't be heard over the noise of the crowd itself. Mrs. Ratcliffe would later remark that she believed the workers there just didn't want the match interrupted.

Over the next hour, the Ratcliffe parents would try and search every nook and cranny of the Adelaide Oval, looking for their eleven-year-old daughter Joanne and four-year-old Kirste. Their search was fruitless, but a request for a stadium announcement was granted roughly an hour later, after Mr. Ratcliffe got in touch with the secretary of the South Australia cricket association.

At 5:12 PM, the girls were reported missing to the local police force, who immediately began a search of the area. Their efforts were just as rewarding as the Ratcliffe's.

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The information gathered by the police hours after the disappearance of Joanne Ratcliffe and Kirste Gordon was disconcerting. And, frankly, it was quite alarming.

Multiple witnesses had seen a man with the two girls, but the context is the alarming part. By and large, the description of the man matched up with the one that had been seen seven years beforehand, at the Glenelg Beach along with the Beaumont children. He was tall, gaunt-looking, and their sketches (which you can find online) look similar to one another.



Three of the witnesses that saw the girls after their disappearance recount seeing a man carrying the smaller of the pair, much to the older girls resistance. This led police to believe that this potential abductor had seized an opportunity to grab Kirste, but Joanne hadn't liked that one bit, and followed the man, kicking and screaming at him as much as possible.

At one point, the man, carrying Kirste, had turned to Joanne and told her to "take off," but Joanne had continued nipping at his heels and pleading to let them return to their families.

At least four sightings were made of the two girls, with one of them as much as three kilometers away from the Adelaide Oval. The last sighting took place roughly ninety minutes after their disappearance, which matches up to when the police had just started to look for the pair.

Sadly, Joanne Ratcliffe and Kirste Gordon would never be seen alive again. Just like the Beaumont children, the two girls would disappear from the face of the planet, leaving their family with more questions than answers.

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Years would begin to pass, with no word of the Beaumont case or the Adelaide Oval abduction getting any kind of conclusion. As far as we know, no credible witnesses or valuable evidence would even be discovered during the next decade or so, and things would begin to stagnate into both investigations.

Jane, Arnna, and Grant Beaumont would now be old enough to become teenagers and adults. If they were still alive, and had any memory of their former lives as children, they would have surely returned home or at least made contact with their parents, who were still worried sick about them.

Jim and Nancy Beaumont continued to live at their home on Harding Street, for fear that if their children were still alive, they would return to the home that they had once all happily lived in. In fact, Nancy would recall that there was a muddy palmprint left on a sliding glass door that she would refuse to wash off for years afterwards... it was one of the final pieces of her son that she had, and she would refuse to let it just get washed away.

Jim and Nancy Beaumont would go on to divorce, eventually leaving behind their house on Harding Street and the public eye for good.

Likewise, the Ratcliffes and the Gordons had to adjust to life without their daughters. As months began to turn into years, the likelihood of their children being returned safely began to turn into little more than a dream.

Both cases would stagnate over the next decade, or at least until 1979, when tragedy began to compound upon tragedy. The heartache of Adelaide wasn't over yet... it was just coming to light.

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In 1979, the body of a 17-year-old young man would be found in the South Para Reservoir, located in Northeast Adelaide. This would begin a dark period of Adelaide history known to many as the Family Murders, a story as dark and mysterious as any, and deserving of its own episode.

To try and summarize the story of the Family Murders would be to do the victims injustice, but I will try my best: starting in 1979 and supposedly ending in 1983, at least five victims, all teen-aged boys and young men, would be found. All of them would be discovered having suffered terrible torture and mutilation, each of them having been sexually abused to a drastic degree before their deaths.

As I said, the Family Murders are without a doubt a story deserving of its own episode. But the murders of these five young men led many to believe that there was an organized effort to kidnap, torture, mutilate, and kill them. I'll try and refrain from going into too much detail on this episode of the podcast, but let's just say that reading about the crimes committed against these poor men made me, a true crime fanatic, feel absolutely squeamish and sick to my stomach.

But after the bodies began to pile up, and the known victims became known to the public, a case began to grow. When drugs were discovered in the bloodstream of the fifth victim, who was killed and his body discovered in 1983, the case found itself a suspect: a man known only as Bevan Spencer von Einem.



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To call Bevan Spencer von Einem "evil" would do the term "evil" injustice.

He was a roughly-forty-year old accountant charged with the kidnapping, torture, sexual assault, and murder of Richard Kelvin, a fifteen-year old boy. During the questioning, von Einem's story had changed several times, becoming less likely throughout each incarnation. He had no alibi for the night Kelvin disappeared, claiming he had been sick with the flu at home, by himself. But when fibers of his clothing were found on Kelvin's body, along with hairs that later be confirmed to be his, he claimed that Kelvin had been there on the night he disappeared, for purely innocuous reasons.

Needless to say, von Einem was convicted of the charges piled against him, the evidence
overwhelmingly on the prosecutor's side. He was sentenced to life in prison, and give a no-parole period of 24 years, which was later increased to 36 years, an Australian record at the time. The state had no evidence that von Einem had committed the other four abduction-murders that had taken place in the months and years beforehand, but he was away for life and would never confess to the crimes. He still hasn't, to this day, despite the overwhelming evidence.

The Family Murders, as they would later begin to be called, would fall off of the radar. The police began to believe that the supposed organization behind the crimes, of which von Einem was just a member of, began to lie low after his conviction, but had been responsible for many more disappearances in the Adelaide area.

In the years following his conviction, many have begun to theorize that von Einem himself was responsible for the abduction and disappearance of the three Beaumont children.  This was made possible by a witness known to the public only as "Mr. B," a former friend of von Einem that had been heavily involved in the gay community of Adelaide. He would claim that von Einem had confessed to the murders of both the Beaumonts and the two girls at the Adelaide Oval years earlier, which led to a split in their friendship at a time where von Einem began to fall in with what would later be called "the Family."

According to Mr. B's testimony, von Einem had claimed to, in his words, "connect" the three children. To many, this brings about thoughts of the recently made movie "The Human Centipede," and the disturbing mental image that comes with that. This testimony claimed that one of the children had died during the process, and all three had been disposed of in one way or another.

I feel odd telling you about this, because this is all backed up by absolutely no evidence and should be taken at only a surface level. Mr. B, as he has been known by the public, was a drug user with a history of lying and criminal actions on his own part, who may have been trying to simply cop a plea deal by offering up these sensationalist details. So please take this theory with a grain of salt, if at all.

The idea that von Einem can be connected to the Beaumont children is tentative at best. The suspect who had been seen with the children the day of their disappearance was aged in his mid-thirties, while von Einem would have been only twenty at the time. Photos of him at the time show that von Einem looked older than he was, but he had darkish brown hair, which stood in direct contrast to the blonde hair declared by the witnesses.

To this day, Bevan Spencer von Einem is still serving his life sentence, and is unlikely to ever be a free man again. In 2007, the South Australia Premier Mike Rann vowed to enforce new legislation to make sure von Einem would never leave prison alive.

He is one of the most hated figures in all of Australia for his connection to the vile Family Murders, but his illegal activities didn't end with his conviction. In 2009, he plead guilty to creating child pornography by writing fictitious stories in prison, and has had many similar charges filed against him since his incarceration. He will undoubtedly be in prison until he day he dies, but our story doesn't end there.

Does this photo, taken on the day of the Beaumont disappearance, look like a young von Einem? 


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In 1998, "Crimestoppers" aired a segment about the 1970 murder of two young girls in Townsville, a town along the northeastern coast of Queensland, Australia. The two girls, five-year-old Susan and seven-year-old Judith MacKay, had been waiting at their school bus stop on the morning of Wednesday, August 26th, 1970.



Two days after the girls' disappearance, their bodies were found in a dry creek bed with their school uniforms folded neatly in their school bags next to them. Both sisters had been raped, stabbed, and strangled.

For almost thirty years, their murders remained unsolved in northeastern Australia, an entire continent away from the Beaumont and Adelaide Oval disappearances. The family of the MacKay sisters was left in anguish for decades, at least until the airing of that "Crimestoppers" episode in 1998.

After watching that episode, the "Crimestoppers" phone line received a phone call tip from someone who claimed to be loosely related to an alleged suspect. The person on the other end of the phone had seen the description of the suspect at the time, and realized that it matched that of her cousin's husband; she had also been a former molestation victim of said man, and was well-accustomed to his illegal and illicit activities.

Arthur Stanley Brown was now-86, and had been living in Townsville for most of his life. As detectives began to dig into him as a suspect, they found a not only a closet full of skeletons, they found a graveyard.



Over the next few months, Australian detectives amassed over 45 charges against Brown, which included molestation, sexual assault, pedophilia, and, of course, the murders of the MacKay girls. Their case was aided by eyewitness and victim testimony given to them by many of Brown's family members, including his wife's family, which consisted of many women who had been molested or sexually assaulted by Brown when they were younger; some of them having been taken to the same creek bed where the MacKay girls had been found.

Detectives uncovered the knowledge that Brown, who had been roughly sixty at the time of the MacKay murders, had worked as a carpenter at the girls' school. Apparently, in the weeks and months following the murder, he had become personally obsessed with the girls murder, making many weird choices: the oddest of which was the off-colored door from his car, a very-identifiable mark, which he removed and then buried in his yard.

Yes, you heard me right. He removed a car door and buried it. His explanation for it, at the time: he didn't want to be harassed about it by anyone, because his car happened to match the exact model used to abduct the girls by passing eyewitnesses. He would later dig up the car door and take it to junkyard, essentially, but his behavior at the time was odd in other ways. He even went as far as inviting two of his wife's cousins, both of them young women, to the crime scene to look around.

And it wasn't just odd behavior around the time of the murder, either. Brown allegedly had dozens of victims, ranging from when he was a younger man to his elderly years. Also, there is a matter concerning his first wife, Hester, who died mysterious a few years later, in 1978. Her death certificate was written by the family doctor, who wrote it without even examining the body, which was cremated shortly thereafter.

Immediately following his wife Hester's death, her younger sister Charlotte moved in with Brown, along with her five children. Brown and Charlotte would marry just months later, as if a devastating death hadn't occurred at all.

In 1982, another one of Hester's younger sisters came forward with claims that Brown had molested her, which led to a large number of her family members coming forward with similar stories. Despite this, however, legal advice was given which can basically be surmised as: "taking him to court might be traumatic for the victims, so best not to." The entire matter was swept under the rug and became a family secret, at least until that 1998 episode of "Crimestoppers."

The secrets about Arthur Stanley Brown came to light, and they weren't pretty.

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In 1999, after the years of his exploits being kept in the shadows, Arthur Stanley Brown was taken to court. He was now in his 80s, having spent the better part of his life escaping from justice, and seemed to be poised to do it one last time.

Despite the evidence and testimony stacked against him, including that of two people who he had supposedly confessed to decades prior, Arthur Stanley Brown was able to escape justice via his own mental health.

In 2000, the trial had to concede for reasons of circumstantial evidence being unfit for trial, which then led to a delay... but then, surprisingly, newspapers were reporting that the trial could not proceed "for legal reasons which cannot be published."

This would be revealed, a year later, to be due to Brown's worsening dementia and struggle with Alzheimers, which left him unfit to stand trial or even plead in the case.

One would think that Brown had simply escaped justice, but he might have found justice of another sort. In April of 2002, his wife Charlotte would pass away, and Brown was abandoned and ostracized by his entire family. His funeral was kept under-wraps and un-publicized, with only one stepdaughter being given the notice of his passing.

Weeks after he had been buried, one of his stepsons would remark: "I can't believe such an insignificant little arsehole had such a profound effect on so many people's lives." If that's not a glowing review of Brown's impact upon the world, I don't know what is.

The surviving members of the MacKay family have come to terms with the knowledge that Brown committed the rape and murder of Judith and Susan. In fact, immediately after his death, police would close the case file completely, believing him to be the lone suspect.

In the years since his death, many have begun to question whether or not Brown was responsible for the disappearances of the Beaumonts and the Adelaide Oval abduction. He did live in Queensland and worked for the Department of Public Works there, an entire continent away from Adelaide, but when investigators went digging for records of his holidays and vacations, they could find nothing.

Whether or not these records were destroyed during the 1974 Brisbane Flood or discarded by Brown himself, who had open access to the government offices because of his position with Public Works, is an open mystery.

He did have a history of trying to hide evidence of his misdeeds, courtesy of the buried car door, so anything is possible. One of the witnesses from his trial would confess that Brown had remarked about visiting the Adelaide Festival Centre during its construction, which would place him in Adelaide after June of 1973. The abduction of Joanne Ratcliffe and Kirste Gordon took place in August, just a few months later and shortly before the construction project finished.

There is also the matter of his physical description, which is the most disconcerting part of the story. Brown bears a strong resemblance to both of the sketches provided to police after the Beaumont disappearance and the Adelaide Oval abduction. However, while Bevan Spencer von Einem was too young to match the description of the suspect, Arthur Stanley Brown would have been over fifty years old for both abductions, making it very unlikely that he would look like a fit, thirty-five year old man.



Another interesting note, is that one of the witnesses during the Adelaide Oval abduction, remarked that the man who grabbed four-year-old Kirste Gordon was wearing horn-rimmed glasses, which fell off during his getaway. Arthur Stanley Brown would wear those type of glasses constantly, so much so that during his youth they remained a part of his wardrobe.

It's possible that Arthur Stanley Brown was responsible for the disappearance of the Beaumont children, but unfortunately, there would be no way to know for sure. His death in 2002 undoubtedly meant that the rest of the secrets left in his decrepit, failing mind would die with him.

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In the ensuing years, more possible suspects have continued to be thrown onto the proverbial pile. Known criminals such as James Ryan O'Neill and Derek Earnest Percy have been implicated in the Beaumont case in one way or another, although their connections to the case are normally rather tenuous. In recent years, a deceased man known as Arthur Stanley Hart, who passed away in 1999, has been implicated by members of his own family in the Adelaide Oval abduction after a secret basement was discovered on property he once owned. Police have admitted that he was a key suspect throughout that investigation, but no links to the Beaumonts have been discovered.

Derek Percy

James Ryan O'Neill


In 2013, a book was published, titled "The Satin Man," which claimed that wealthy Adelaide businessman Harry Phipps was responsible for the Beaumont children's abduction. This was based off of evidence from Phipp's troubled son and testimony from other family members, but when pressed for a statement, police revealed that Phipps was not a serious suspect and they were not investigating him for the Beaumont disappearance.

Harry Phipps next to the Beaumont suspect sketch.


The fiftieth anniversary of the Beaumont children's disappearance came and went this past January, meaning that each of the children would be approaching their sixties if they were still alive. Their parents, Jim and Nancy, are still alive and are now both approximately nineties years old. Both live in privacy, but no doubt hold out hope that they will be given some kind answer as to their children's fate.

A week before the case's fiftieth anniversary, on January 19th, the police received a tip via a phone call, which has led to a recent renewal in the interest of the case. The police hold out hope that the case can be solved, and the million dollar reward for the case still stands to this day, but they have come to the realization that if a suspect is to be named - it needs to be now. Any possible suspects would now be between 70 and 100 years of age, meaning that any new evidence is likely to come from a deathbed confession or family insiders.

If you happen to know anything, please contact the Adelaide authorities.

For the time being, the fates of Jane, Arnna, and Grant Beaumont - along with those of Joanne Ratcliffe and Kirste Gordon - remain unresolved.

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Wow. That's all I have to say about that one. This episode of the Unresolved Podcast was no easy feat to put together, but I won't bore you with those details. I'll just apologize for the long wait to get to it, which was made necessary due to a recent change in my life, which was a huge one.

This episode was made possible by the efforts of both Tyson Nordgren - who handles the editing and mixing portions of the podcast, along with creating the music heard throughout - and Nick Miller - who did a lot of research into the case, helping point out certain aspects I would have otherwise left out or ignored. Both of them are owed a huge debt of gratitude by me in helping get this episode off of the ground, a feat that seemed impossible to me just weeks ago. Thanks, guys.

I also owe a huge thank you to Ailsa Traves, who wrote another awesome song for the podcast. You can find a link to this new song, along with the one she wrote episodes ago, on the podcast website, www.theunresolvedpodcast.com. There, you can also find links to research, transcripts for each episode, and many other small goodies.

If you want to keep in touch with the podcast, you can do so at Facebook, just search for the Unresolved Podcast, or at Twitter, @UnresolvedPod. I changed a little, just to make it easier to find for newcomers.

If you want to text or leave a voicemail for the podcast, you can do so at 831-200-3550. This is a good way to get a quick response, and I do listen to all of your voicemails - yes, even the creepy ones. I'm looking at you, Aaron.

If you want to make the next episode come out a little bit quicker, you can definitely head over to the show's Paypal page, Paypal.me/theunresolvedpodcast, and leave a donation. I'll also be officially launching the show's Patreon page in the near-future, now that I have free time, so that'll hopefully be a more rewarding option for everyone.

That's it for episode ten of the podcast. I don't know what story I'll be trying to tackle in the next episode, but I can guarantee that it'll be coming out quicker than this one... I have a lot of free time on my docket over the next few months, so I hope to really dig into some stories I've been shying away from. It's an exciting time for the podcast, so I hope you hear from me soon.

Until then, stay safe. Goodbye, everyone.

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Links

ABC News Australia - "Beaumont children: Marking the 50th anniversary of Adelaide's enduring unsolved mystery

Wikipedia - Disappearance of Joanne Ratcliffe and Kirste Gordon

Wikipedia - Arthur Stanley Brown

Wikipedia - Bevan Spencer von Einem

Australia Missing Persons Register - Joanne Ratcliffe

Seven News (Yahoo) - "Relative doesn't believe Beaumont children claims"

Adelaide Now - "Cold Case: Fresh leads in 1973 Adelaide Oval abduction links key suspect to abandoned Prospect home with an underground bunker"

Courier Mail - "Did Arthur Stanley Brown kill the Mackay sisters, Marilyn Wallman and the Beaumont children?"

The Age - "Suspect mass child killer is buried with his secrets at 90"

Murderpedia - Bevan Spencer von Einem

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