The weather on January 26, 1966, was forecasted to reach a scorching temperature of 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) in Adelaide. But the sunny summer day quickly turned into a tumultuous storm of fear, dread, and anticipation of the worst-case scenario for one Australian couple whose children never returned home after what should have been a quick trip to the beach. When Nancy Beaumont handed eight shillings and sixpence to her eldest daughter Jane for the day’s expenses, she had no way of knowing it was the last time she would give her daughter anything.
Jane, age nine, her sister Arnna, age seven, and her brother Grant, age four, left their residence at 109 Harding Street, Somerton Park, to catch the 10 o’clock bus to Glenelg. The trip was a quick one – just a five-minute ride that could have been traveled by foot or by bike, but the extreme heat prompted the children to take the bus instead. Meanwhile, their father headed off to work and their mother went to visit a friend in the neighborhood. The children were instructed to catch the bus by the time the highly visible clock tower at Glenelg struck noon.
Later that morning, the trio was seen on the beach playing with a tall, blond, athletically built man. When Jane purchased pastries and a meat pie with a one-pound bill from a store near the beach, the store owner noted it was an unusual purchase for the familiar children. After Jane paid with noticeably more money than her mother had given her that morning, the children left the beach. It was about 12:15.
Nancy stood at the bus stop waiting for the bus just minutes after noon, but her children never stepped off the bus. Assuming they had perhaps walked home or missed the bus, she headed home. By the time Jim Beaumont had gotten out of work early and returned home to his wife, the children had been missing for hours. The postman had seen the children around 3 o’clock, walking happily by themselves heading toward their home. Around that same time, Jim drove to the beach to look for his children while Nancy stayed at home to wait for them.
Witnesses who had seen the children at the beach reported that the man seemed like a friend to the children; it was later deduced that they had probably had contact with the man prior to that morning. By the Beaumonts’ account, their children were well-behaved and obedient. So why, then, were they seen leaving the beach after the time they should have been on the bus? And nearly three hours later, why were they taking a leisurely stroll home, as reported by the postman? How did Jane acquire a one-pound bill if her mother had handed her coins that same morning? Most importantly, who was the blond-haired man seen with the children earlier that morning?
Rumors swirled as residents of the town speculated what had happened to the children. If they had drowned, their belongings would have turned up at the beach – but nothing was recovered from where the children had been playing, nor could the postman remember whether they had been carrying anything when he greeted them. Another theory was more plausible: because a mysterious man had been spotted with the children, it was assumed that they had been abducted.
Despite the fact that children are almost never kidnapped in groups, they were officially declared missing the following morning. An intense search commenced, unlike anything Adelaide had ever experienced. Police followed up every single lead they were given, but each one proved to be a dead end. The beaches were combed for any shred of evidence into their whereabouts; the police asked residents to check their houses, garages, sheds, and anywhere else on their property that the children could be hiding. It was one of Australia’s most notable news stories, but nothing turned up any clues. After weeks of searching, the trail was beginning to run cold. Every possible lead had been exhausted and the police had nothing left to follow up.
Years later, in 1973, two girls disappeared from Adelaide Oval Stadium during a football game. Witnesses reported seeing the girls with a man, but the girls were never found. Then, beginning six years later, the mutilated bodies of young adult males were discovered every few years throughout the town. It was suspected that some type of rudimentary surgery had been attempted on the boys and their bodies discarded after it failed.
In 1983, nearly 20 years after the Beaumont children had disappeared, the body of Richard Kelvin was discovered badly disfigured. The investigation led police to Bevan Spencer von Einem, a 37-year-old accountant who was no stranger to the authorities; he had been questioned in the homicides of three young men and the alleged sexual assault of another. The drug Mandrax, discovered in Kelvin’s body during his autopsy, was what tied von Einem to the case. A witness revealed to authorities that he had spoken with von Einem about the disappearances of children throughout the area. von Einem told the witness that he had not only picked up children from the beach, but also the stadium from which the two girls had disappeared. This, coupled with the fact that von Einem liked children and frequented Glenelg Beach, made him the prime suspect in the Beaumont children’s disappearance. He was arrested and received a life sentence, but never cooperated with the police in the disappearances of the missing children. In 2007, he was questioned again after news footage showed a man who bore an uncanny resemblance to von Einem at the scene of a search for the missing children.
Other suspects include Arthur Stanley Brown, James Ryan O’Neill, and Derek Percy. Brown’s involvement was suspected because of how similar his appearance was to the sketch police released. Witnesses claim to have recognized the man, but no evidence was found to place him in Adelaide at the time of the disappearance. O’Neill had admitted to people that he was responsible for the disappearance of the children, but when he was questioned, he neither confirmed nor denied his involvement. Percy was in prison serving a life sentence for another murder when he was tied to the disappearance, but was psychologically incapable of remembering details. He was only a teenager at the time, and it was believed that he was too young to have kidnapped three children together.
Though most people came to believe the children had been kidnapped and murdered, other theories speculated that the children had joined a cult or had been buried beneath a building in the town. People have claimed to have seen the Beaumont children throughout the years, and even a few have claimed to be the missing children. Police followed up all clues that they were given, but the mystery remains: what happened to the Beaumont children?