In a major initiative million-dollar rewards are being offered by the South Australian government in relation to 13 cases involving the murder or disappearance (and presumed murder) of children.
Major Crime detectives will be available to take Crime Stoppers calls on these matters today and tomorrow from 11am to 10pm.
Police hope that the offer of these substantial rewards will encourage someone with intimate knowledge in each case to come forward with that vital information, and in turn bring some peace to the families involved.
“It is difficult to imagine a harder thing for a family than the disappearance or murder of a child, or in some tragic cases a number of children,” said Assistant Commissioner (Crime) Paul Dickson.
“Police are keen to bring about a resolution in these cases – for the families and for the wider community.
“This reward reiterates our ongoing commitment to the families – a case is never closed until solved – and should be a warning to those responsible for these crimes.
“Our appeal for new information remains constant.
“And our arrests last year in relation to three historic cases – Louise Bell (1983), Karen Williams (1991) and Yasmina Sinodinos (1991) – show cases can be progressed through both the provision of additional information and the development of new technology.
“Following these significant breakthroughs, SAPOL reviewed its approach to these cases and sought the support of the government to offer these substantial rewards in a bid to provide some justice and closure for these families.”
There is $13 million being offered in the reward program – with those cases directly involving the murder, or disappearance and presumed murder, of 18 children.
The cases which will now have a $1 million reward on offer for information leading to a conviction are:
The disappearance of the Beaumont children – Jane (9), Arnna (7) and Grant (4) – from Glenelg on Australia Day (26 January) 1966. The three Beaumont children
On Australia Day (26 January) 1966 the three Beaumont siblings Jane (9), Arnna (7) and Grant (4) left their home in Harding St, Somerton Park to go to the beach at Glenelg.
They were expected home by noon, but when they had not returned by 3pm their mother and father started searching for them. About 5pm their concerns were raised at the Glenelg Police Station.
The subsequent police inquiry found there had been a number of confirmed sightings of the trio in the Glenelg area, but at some point in the day they disappeared and have not been heard of since.
There has been an extensive and ongoing investigation into the case by police, which has included inquiries in Australia, the United States, New Zealand and the United Kingdom along with many physical searches.
The murder of Patricia Schmidt (16) whose body was found off a dirt track at Hallett Cove on 18 December 1971 – hours after she was last seen.
About 6pm on Saturday 18 December 1971 the body of 16-year-old Patricia Susan Schmidt was found near a dirt track at Hallett Cove.
The teenager was last seen alive in the early hours of that morning when she left her place of work – a fast food restaurant at the corner of South and Marion roads, Darlington about 1.45am.
Firefighters returning from a small grass fire discovered her body. Evidence suggests she was physically and sexually assaulted by her killer.
A kangaroo skin purse she carried was never found. With advances in technology decades later additional forensic testing was carried out by police in 2001 which led to seven men being ruled out of the inquiry.
The disappearance of Joanne Ratcliffe (11) and Kirste Gordon (4) from Adelaide Oval on 25 August 1973. On 25 August, 1973 Joanne Ratcliffe, aged 11, and Kirste Gordon, who was just four-years-old, were at a SANFL game at Adelaide Oval with their families. The older girl took the younger to the toilet during the game and they disappeared.
They were last seen towards the end of the match near the southern gates of the oval, and witnesses reported they may have been seen later with an unknown man near Port Rd, Thebarton.
Investigators, who have followed more than 2000 lines of inquiry in the case, have identified that the girls may have been forcibly removed from the Oval by a man thought to be aged in his 40’s.
Late last year – on the 40th anniversary of the disappearance of the girls – police again appealed for public assistance in the case.
The disappearance of Marilyn Qualmann (14) from her home on Moorook Rd, Moorook on 21 September 1975.
On Sunday 21 September 1975 Marilyn Qualmann went missing from her home on Moorook Rd, Moorook (near Kingston-on-Murray) and she was reported missing the next day.
The last confirmed sighting of her was about 9.00am on Sunday 21 September 1975, by her sister. Despite suggestions that the 14-year-old had run away from home, investigators believe she met with foul play.
At the time there was an exhaustive search conducted of the River Murray at Moorook which did not assist with locating Marilyn. There has been no contact with her since this date and her disappearance is regarded as suspicious.
The murder of Alan Barnes (17) whose body was found under the South Para Bridge near Williamston on 24 June 1979 – less than a week after he was last seen.
On Monday 18 June 1979 Alan Arthur Barnes, 17, was reported missing by his mother when he failed to return home after visiting a friend.
On Sunday 24 June the teenager’s body was found beneath the South Para Bridge, near Williamstown. His movements in the period between him being reported missing and being located are sketchy but there were some unconfirmed sightings of him in that time.
One sighting that is considered credible places him in the company of two other males on the evening prior to his being located. It is known he was not killed in the area he was found, however police have never found the exact location where he was murdered.
Toxicology tests showed Barnes had alcohol and sedative drugs in his system. He had also been washed and re-dressed after his murder.
The murder of Peter Stogneff (14) whose remains were found on 23 June 1982 at a property on Middle Beach Rd, Two Wells – almost 10 months after he disappeared.
On Thursday 27 August 1981, 14-year-old Peter Stogneff was reported missing by his parents. He was due to go to school that day, but had also made other arrangements to meet his cousin in Rundle Mall. His cousin did not go into the city, so it cannot be confirmed that Stogneff actually went to the mall from his Hope Valley home.
On 23 June 1982 a property owner who was clearing some land at Middle Beach Rd, Two Wells when he located skeletal remains, which have been identified as that of the missing teenager.
Information received during the investigation indicated that he may have been seen with a man at Tea Tree Plaza on the day of his disappearance. This male has never been identified.
The disappearance of Michaela Godau (15) who disappeared from her Elizabeth Field (now Davoren Park) home overnight on 19-20 December 1982.
Michaela Godau was born in Germany in 1967, but in November 1981 her family, including her mother Emmi and adopted father Herwarth moved to Davoren Park, which was then known as Elizabeth Field.
In July 1982 the 15-year-old’s mother returned to Germany to work leaving Michaela, her brother Axel, and Herwarth at the Davoren Park address. About 10pm on 19 December, Michaela went to bed, and by the morning of 20 December she was missing.
Her father reported her missing at 5.35pm that day and she has not been seen since.
Some of her personal items, cash and her passport were missing, but Detectives who investigated the circumstances of the case believe that Michaela may have met with foul play.
The murder of Richard Kelvin (15) whose body was found near an airstrip at Kersbrook on 24 July 1983 – 19 days after he was abducted from a laneway off Ward St, North Adelaide.
Despite one man being already being convicted and imprisoned for the murder of 15-year-old Richard Kelvin police are convinced that more than one person was involved in the teenager’s death.
Richard was abducted about 6.15pm on Sunday 5 June 1983 from a laneway off Ward Street, North Adelaide – just 300m from the family home.
People in the area reported hearing raised voices, leading investigators to the conclusion that more than one person was involved in the abduction. A car with a loud exhaust was heard to drive away – that vehicle has never been identified.
It is believed the teen was held captive at an unknown location for about five weeks.
On 24 July 1983 a family was searching for moss rocks near an airstrip at Kersbrook when they located Richard’s body.
Toxicology tests showed the teenager had alcohol and sedative drugs in his system. He had also been washed and re-dressed after his murder.
The Pearce Family murders – On 6 January 1991, after a fire was extinguished at a house on Jackson St, Parafield Gardens, the bodies of Meredith Pearce and her three children, Adam (11), Travis (9) and Kerry (2) were found in the ruins.
A warrant remains in effect for the arrest of Stuart Pearce following the murder of his wife and three of his children in Parafield Gardens in 1991.
About 7.10am on Sunday 6 January the Metropolitan Fire Service was called to a fire at the family home on Jackson St.
Once the flames were extinguished the bodies of 31-year-old Meredith Pearce and three of her children, Adam (11), Travis (9) and Kerry (2) were found in the ruins.
Another sibling, then aged 8, was sleeping over at a friend’s house the night of the murders.
A warrant was issued for the arrest of Stuart Pearce – who would now be aged 56 – on 22 September 1992 and he remains under suspicion as the person most likely responsible for the deaths. There have been reported but unconfirmed sightings of Pearce in country South Australia, interstate and overseas.
The disappearance of Juan Morgan (15) in 1992. The teenager was not reported missing at the time but was identified by Major Crime detectives as a potential murder victim in 1999.
The disappearance of 15-year-old Juan Morgan first came to light as part of a Major Crime investigation into another case.
His mother confirmed to police he had been missing for a number of years, but she had not reported his disappearance.
Police believe that the teenager was murdered, but have insufficient information to charge any person with his death and have not located his remains.
The disappearance of Rhianna Barreau (12) who was last seen on 7 October 1992 at her home in Wakefield Avenue, Morphett Vale.
The 12-year-old was last seen on 7 October 1992 at her home in Wakefield Avenue, Morphett Vale, although little is known about her movements that day.
It was school holidays and on the day of her disappearance she intended to walk to the nearby Southgate Shopping Centre at Reynella to purchase a Christmas card for her pen pal.
She was last seen walking away from her home in Wakefield Avenue, Morphett Vale about 10.30am that day. A Christmas card was located in the home on the return of her mother about 4.10pm that afternoon, but Rhianna was not home and has not been since.
Her personal belongings were inside the house.
The murder of Heather Turner (16) whose body was found on 31 January 1998 partly submerged in a creek at Port Gawler – about two weeks after she was last seen.
Sixteen-year-old Heather Turner left her parent’s home on Gulf Court at Largs Bay on 16 January 1998 and did not return. She was seen at Semaphore later that day and again the next day.
Two weeks later, on 31 January, the teenager’s body was discovered by police partly submerged in a creek at Port Gawler.
She had been bashed and police believe she may have been kept somewhere else before the body was dumped. Her distinctive Tweety Bird bag is still missing.
A suspect has been interviewed, but there has been insufficient evidence to proceed with the matter.
The disappearance of Melissa Brown (AKA Trussell) (15) who was last seen on 13 May 2000 leaving an address in Dover St, Blair Athol with her mother Rosemary Brown. The body of Rosemary Brown was found at Garden Island on 2 July 2000.
Melissa Brown (who was also known as Melissa Trussell) was last seen on 13 May 2000 leaving an address in Dover St, Blair Athol with her mother Rosemary Brown about 2.30am. They never reached their intended destination at Klemizig.
Rosemary’s handbag was found at noon on the same day in Stirling St, Northfield and on 2 July the 33-year-old’s body was found at Garden Island among mangroves.
Melissa, who is also believed to be dead, has not been seen again. The Brown family had been living at the Windsor Gardens caravan park until just weeks before they vanished.
They had moved into a caravan in a friend’s backyard at Blair Athol a short time before they had disappeared.
Anyone with information in relation to these cases is urged to call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or report online at https://sa.crimestoppers.com.au
Major Crime detectives will be available to take Crime Stoppers calls on these matters today and tomorrow from 11am to 10pm.
“I would reiterate that information can be provided to police confidentially,” AC Dickson said. “One new detail may be the single missing piece of information police need to locate and then convict the person responsible for any of these murders.
“Those responsible should take no comfort from the passing of time – these cases will never be ‘closed’ until they are solved.”