It’s one of Australia’s most enduring mysteries — the disappearance of the Beaumont children.
On Australia Day of 1966, Jane, 9, Arnna, 7, and Grant, 4, left their Somerton Park home in Adelaide for an unsupervised day at the beach, but they never came home.
It’s a cold case that South Australian Police have never given up on, and now, 52 years later, a new search of a North Plympton factory site has taken place.
While the search found nothing of interest, there is a renewed hope that this mystery could be solved.
So, how has the Beaumont children’s story unfolded?
The day they disappeared
January 26, 1966
At 10am, the children left their home travelling by bus to the Glenelg beach.
Their parents Jim and Nancy Beaumont expected the children to come home by 2:00pm.
When the children didn’t return home, the Beaumonts called the police that evening.
A South Australian Police log detailed the following:
- 7:20pm — South Australia Women Police Office report children missing, reported to Glenelg Police by father minutes before. Father and police carried out thorough search of beach area.
- 8:40pm — Local police searched the Brighton foreshore; officers also search West Beach and Henley Beach for children.
- 9:50pm — Sea Rescue Squadron volunteers offer to search coastline, police decline official expression but advise squadron can search on their own accord.
- 10:00pm — Police check with father who reports he has spoken with friends and relatives and cannot locate children. The father authorises police to supply radio stations with public announcements.
- 10:17pm — Three police officers report they have searched vessels at Boat Haven and surrounding lawns, with the children not sighted.
Witnesses come forward
In the days following the children’s disappearance, crowds of people gathered to watch police in their search.
Volunteers helped police in what was the largest scale search in South Australia’s history.
The beach was scoured, drains were flushed and hundreds of witnesses came forward.
Mostyn Matters, who was working at the Glenelg police station the day the Beaumonts disappeared, remembers being inundated with witness statements.
“At the time we were inundated with people that wanted to come and give information and all we had was a little room at the front of the police station that was used for the witnesses of the court,” he said today.
“We had one phone for the main police station, that’s all we had, and people were queuing up to give statements and what have you, and we only had a sergeant and four men there.
“They were just snowed under and by the time you interviewed people and … [typed] up their reports and everything, it was just one of those things, where you could only do your best. We still had our own work going on, there were still crime being committed in Glenelg.”
Several witnesses provided a description of the children being seen with a tall, tanned, thin-faced man, with short blond hair.
Although statements from the Beaumont parents reported the children had left home that morning with six shillings and sixpence, a shopkeeper at a Glenelg bakery recalled Jane buying cakes and a meat pie with a one pound note.
A composite image sketch of the man was produced with hopes of identifying.
Clairvoyant flown in to help
November 8, 1966
Dutch clairvoyant Gerard Croiset was flown to Adelaide nine months after the children disappeared to assist with investigations.
His trip was funded by a local businessman, but Mr Croiset’s insights provided no real answers.
He claimed the children were buried under a newly constructed warehouse on an old brick factory site in Somerton Park, drawing a huge community response.
Enough money was raised to fund an excavation of the factory, against the advice of police and the government, but nothing was found.
Beaumonts sent letters in cruel hoax
Two letters were sent to the Beaumont parents two years after the children disappeared.
The letters were supposedly written by their eldest daughter, Jane, and a man who was looking after them in Victoria.
The first letter requested the parents meet the man for a handover of the children, which they did, but no one came to meet them.
The second letter detailed how the man spotted a detective following the parents and decided to leave.
In 1981, it was claimed handwriting experts were almost certain one letter was written by Jane.
The author has since been identified by forensic fingerprinting as a man who had written them as a joke.
Harry Phipps named as a suspect
In 2013, after conducting its own investigation, Channel 7 named local businessman Harry Phipps as a potential suspect.
This was based on information Mr Phipps’ son, Haydn, gave to former detective Bill Hayes.
Haydn Phipps, who was 15 at the time the children went missing, claimed to have seen the children at his family home in Glenelg.
He also told police he was violently abused by his father as a child.
The information led to a search at a North Plympton factory, New Castalloy, formerly owned by Mr Phipps.
Mr Phipps died in 2004.
Police used ground penetrating radar and excavated one area of site, but nothing was found.
The naming of Mr Phipps during Channel 7’s investigation led to two brothers coming forward, claiming they may have inadvertently dug the Beaumont children’s grave.
They said Mr Phipps had paid them in the days after the children’s disappearance to dig a large hole at the factory site.
Police announce new search
January 22, 2018
SA Police announced it would be doing a new search of the New Castalloy site following another investigation by Channel 7.
The network paid for geophysical testing of an area of the site by Flinders University, which showed an anomaly.
While the testing did not detect bones, it showed the soil at the site had been moved.
Police said the new findings warranted further investigation.
Search takes place
February 2, 2018
Police and forensic experts excavate a small site at New Castalloy.
They were hopeful of finding something relating to the Beaumont children, but after a day of digging they abandoned their effort.
“There is nothing that has been located today that is in any way connected with the disappearance of the Beaumont children,” Detective Superintendent Des Bray told the media late in the day.