Disappearances And Unsolved Murders In Australia: 10 Compelling Cases

unsolved murders in Australia

Truth be told I didn’t originally set out to write a post on unsolved murders in Australia. I began with the aim of researching just one of the cases below but in doing so I entered into a rabbit hole and just kept finding more and more fascinating, baffling, and interesting cases. Here are 10 of those cases.

Bowraville Murders

On September 13, 1990, 16-year-old Colleen Walker attended a party in her Aboriginal community. The next day she was reported missing by family members after failing to make it home. Although items of clothing were found that belonged to Colleen her body was never found. It was later revealed that police had not taken the report seriously and had taken no action on it.

Less than a month later on October 4, 1990, Colleen Walker’s cousin Evelyn Greenup also disappeared. During a party at her grandmother’s house, four-year-old Evelyn was put to bed, but in the morning the young girl had vanished. Evelyn Greenup’s skeletal remains would be discovered the following April.

On January 31, 1991, Clinton Speedy-Duroux vanished after attending a party in the same Aboriginal community from which Colleen Walker had disappeared. Like Walker, Speedy-Duroux was 16 years old. The boy’s remains were found in bushland just outside Bowraville on February 18.

Jay Hart, a Bowraville labourer well known in the Aboriginal community, was tried for the murder of Clifton Speedy-Duroux in 1991. Hart was acquitted. In 2006 Jay Hart was again acquitted this time for the murders of Colleen Walker and Evelyn Walker, this time despite two confessions to the murders. To this day the police seem convinced that Jay Hart was responsible for the murders but have been unsuccessful in appeals for a retrial.

Further info:

Bowraville By Dan Box

Bowraville The Australian

Easey Street Murders

On January 10, 1977, Suzane Armstrong, 27, and Susan Bartlett, 28, were brutally stabbed to death in their home. It would be three more days when, on January 13, a neighbour would enter 147 Easey Street and find the bloody crime scene.

Susan Bartlett lay face down in the hallway. The walls and floor covered in blood, she had suffered over 50 stab wounds. Suzanne’s body was found in the front bedroom, naked with the exception of a blouse. She had been stabbed 29 times.

The neighbour had only entered the home after hearing a crying child. The child in question was Suzanne’s 16-month-old baby boy Gregory. The child was dehydrated and starving after three days alone but had managed to survive the horrific event.

Police believed that Suzanne and Susan knew their killer and that Susan was killed whilst trying to save her friend. Several men admitted to police that they had entered the premises in those three days between the murders and the bodies been discovered but all claimed to have failed to see the women’s dead bodies. No one has ever been charged with the Easey Street Murders.

Further info:

Murder On Easey Street

Shirley Finn

On June 23, 1975 brothel-keeper Shirley Finn was found in a parked car near the South Perth Golf Course. Sat in the front seat behind the steering wheel, dressed in a ball gown and still wearing her expensive jewellery. Finn had been shot four times at close-range.

The brothel business run by Shirley Finn was one of only a chosen few which the Western Australia Police allowed to operate. Finn was also said to have had a close relationship with the then Police Minister Ray O’ Conner. These connections to the police have led to their rumoured involvement in Finn’s murder for years.

Shortly before her death, it was alleged that Finn, who had just received a massive tax bill, had been heard arguing with O’ Conner and demanding money unless he wanted Finn to reveal all their dirty little secrets. Several witnesses also said they had seen the head of vice Bernard Johnson with Shirley Finn on the night of her death.

An inquest that began in 2017 also heard a witness claim that Johnson had made a “bedtime confession” admitting to the murder of Shirley Finn. No one has ever been charged and the case remains unsolved

Further info:

Shirley Finn Wikipedia

Dirty Girl: The State Sanctioned Murder Of Shirley Finn

Gatton Murders

On 26 December 1898, sisters Norah and Ellen Murphy were making their way home along with their older brother Michael on a sulky. They were returning from a country dance in Gatton which had been cancelled. Unfortunately, the trio never made it as far as their parents’ farm.

After failing to return home William McNeill, their brother-in-law, set off to look for Micheal, Norah and Ellen the following day. Roughly 2 miles from Gatton at Moran’s Paddock William McNeil would make a grim discovery.

All three Murphy siblings where dead. Michael and Ellen’s skulls had been crushed (it was later found that Michael had also been shot in the head). The sisters Norah and Ellen had both been raped. The horse which had been pulling the sulky had also been shot in the head. It was a horrific crime which sent shockwaves throughout Australia.

Over the years many theories and much speculation have surrounded one of Australia’s most well known unsolved historic murders. The Gatton Murders, however, remain very much unsolved.

Further info:

From The Vault: The Gatton Murders

The Gatton Murders

Revelle Balmain

At 4 pm on November 5, 1994, 22-year-old escort and model Revelle Balmain visited a client in Kingsford, a suburb of south-east Sydney. After the engagement, Balmain arranged to meet her friend Kate Brentnell for drinks later that evening. Balmain never arrived and has never been seen since.

The next day, a search of the area in which she had last been seen saw a number of items belonging to Balmain dispersed around the streets. Her diary, credit cards, bag and house keys were all located. So too were Balmain’s shoes, although both on different streets. There was however no trace of Revelle Balmain herself.

Despite continued investigation and a reward for information of $250,000 Revelle Balmain’s body has never been found. Gavin Owen Samer, the client whom she had visited the afternoon of her disappearance, is the prime suspect but he has never been charged and denies any involvement in the disappearance and probable murder of Revelle Balmain.

Further info:

The Doe Network

Main suspect charged with assault 25 years after the model vanished

Karmein Chan

On April 13 1991, 13-year-old Karmein Chan was looking after her two younger sisters when an intruder in a balaclava entered the premises. The two young girls were forced into a closet. Karmein Chan was taken by the intruder. The perpetrator spray painted the messages “payback”, “more to come” and Asian Drug Deal” before leaving the scene.

Police believed that the spray paint was a red herring and was not the real reason behind the abduction so they focused on other aspects of the case. One of these was to look for a link to several other recent abductions committed by a serial abductor known as Mr Cruel. Mr Cruel had abducted and raped at least two other victims. Police was hopeful that Karmein Chan would be released alive like his previous victims. Tragically it wasn’t to be.

On April 9, 1992, almost a year to the day since her abduction the remains of Karmein Chan were found in a landfill at Edgars Creek, Thomastown. Karmein had been shot three times in the back of the head. Opinion on whether the murder was the work of Mr Cruel, who was never identified, remains torn. The person responsible for the horrific act remains unknown.

Further info:

Wikipedia

Sarah MacDiarmid

On July 11, 1990, Sarah MacDiarmid made her way home from playing tennis with her friends. She stepped off the train at Kananook Railway Station and made her way across the poorly lit car park to her vehicle at around 10:20 pm. Sarah MacDiarmid never made it to her vehicle.

Her parents reported Sarah, who was 23 at the time of her disappearance, missing the next morning. Upon finding Sarah’s car police discovered bloodstains near the vehicle and a cigarette lighter which was identified as belonging to Sarah. They also found drag marks which led to the nearby bushes. There was however no sign of Sarah MacDiarmid herself.

Witnesses reported that on the night Sarah vanished they had heard a female screaming “Give me back my keys” but no one investigated the woman’s screams. After three weeks of searching, there was no sign of Sarah MacDiarmid.

Two known Australian serial killers have been suspects in the disappearance of Sarah MacDiarmid. Police questioned Paul Denyer, who murdered three women in 1993 near where Sarah lived, in 2011. In 2014 it was claimed by News Corp Australia that the police were looking at Bandali Debs, who killed four people, as a possible suspect. Sarah’s body has never been found.

Further info:

Sarah MacDiarmid’s Mysterious Disappearance

Police Killer Bandali Debs Suspect In Cold Case

Denise McGregor

On March 20, 1978, 12-year-old girl Denise McGregor was walking home with her sister when she suddenly decided she wanted to buy some chocolate and a drink. Her sister continued home and Denise made her way to the corner shop which stood on the corner of Westgate Street and Anderson Street. After leaving the shop Denise failed to return home.

The morning after Denise’s half-naked body was discovered on Mariang Road. Denise McGregor had been raped and then brutally murdered. Denise was murdered in a horrendous and horrific attack, it was so bad that the coroner compared the injuries caused as similar to those which would be found in victims of plane crashes.

Not long after Denis McGregor’s murder a TV appeal and reconstruction of the murder was aired. The broadcast was reported to the broadcasting authorities for being too graphic. Paul Delainis, the investigator on the case, was unrepentant and he pointed out how the re-enactment was actually toned down for TV compared to the actual attack that killed Denise McGregor.

At one time known child molester and murderer Robert Arthur Selby Lowe, who raped and killed 6-year-old Sheree Beasly, was considered a suspect in the murder of Denise McGregor but in 2001 DNA evidence cleared Lowe. The murder of Denise McGregor remains an unsolved Australian murder.

Further info:

Denise’s killer never identified

The Beaumont Children

On January 26, 1966 siblings Jane, age 9, Arnna, 7, and Grant, 4, made their way to Glenelg Beach. They were going for a swim on a scorching hot day in Adelaide. The Beaumont children got on the bus at 10 am and they were told to return home for dinner by 2 pm by their mother Nancy. It was a trip the three siblings had made several times however this time the Beaumont children failed to return. Jane, Arnna and Grant were never seen again.

Several witnesses said they had seen the Beaumont children playing at the beach with a man. He was described as being a tall, tanned and blonde-haired man with a thin face, aged somewhere in his 30’s. Despite a massive search, the man was never traced and his identity never revealed.

A number of potential suspects have been named over the years. Bevan Spencer von Einem, Arthur Stanley Brown, Harry Phipps, Alan Anthony Munro and Derek Percy are amongst the most popular named suspects in the disappearance of the Beaumont children.

The case of the Beaumont children led to one of the biggest police investigations in Australian history. It also led to big changes in the way parents acted with their children. At the time of the disappearance’s a parent in Australia wouldn’t think twice about allowing their children to travel without supervision. This case changed the level of trust parents had in society around their children.

Further info:

Searching For The Beaumont Children

Disappearance Of The Beaumont Children

Wanda Beach Murders

On 11 January, 1965, Marianne Schmidt and Christine Sharrock, both 15, went to Wanda Beach near Cronulla, Sydney along with Schmidt’s four younger siblings. At around 1 pm the older pair made an excuse and left the four younger children playing behind a sand-hill which was been used as cover by the children due to the windy conditions.

By 5 pm Marianne and Christine had failed to return to the younger children. The siblings collected their belongings and caught the train home without the two 15-year-olds. At 8:30 pm that same evening Marianne Schmidt and Christine Sharrock were reported missing by Christine’s grandmother. The next morning both the young girl’s bodies were discovered on Wanda Beach. Both girls had been repeatedly stabbed and Schmidt’s throat had also been cut. There were signs that the killer had attempted to rape the two young victims but hadn’t succeeded.

Despite interviewing over 7,000 individuals police were unable to trace the killer and the case soon became dead. In 2012 it was announced that due to the advancements in DNA testing a weak sample of the suspected killer’s DNA had been taken from Christine Sharrock’s shorts. Unfortunately, in 2014 it was revealed that another piece of DNA evidence, a semen sample taken from the crime scene, had been lost.

Derek Percy, also a suspect in the Beaumont Children case, was named as a possible suspect in 1998. Cristopher Wilder, who killed at least eight people in the United States, has also become a suspect more recently. Wilder was originally from Australia and had not emigrated until 1969. The Wanda Beach Murders remain one of the most infamous unsolved murders in Australia.

Further info:

Casefile: The Wanda Beach Murders

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