Parents wouldn’t dream of letting their young kids go out into the world without the supervision of a trusted adult because we live in a world full of people who want to hurt them.
However, in 1966 the world was a very different place. One Australian couple trusted that their kids could go out without an adult and never worried that someone would try to hurt them. But on January 26, the couple, and the rest of the country, learned the hard way why kids need to be protected…
January 26, 1966
On January 26, 1966, Jim and Nancy Beaumont let their 3 young children go to the beach to celebrate Australia Day on their own. Despite being so young, the South Australia children regularly were allowed to go out during the day without any supervision.
A Safe Country
At the time, Australia had always been a safe place to raise children and most parents believed there was no danger in letting kids go to the beach or into town without adult supervision. But parents across the country started rethinking their ways because of what happened to the Beaumont family that Australia day in 1966…
At about 10 in the morning, 9-year-old Jane, 7-year-old Arnna, and 4-year-old Grant said goodbye to their parents and left their Somerton Park home in Adelaide. The children planned to go to Glenelg beach and promised Jim and Nancy that they would be back home by 2 p.m.
After leaving their home, Jane, Arnna, and Grant got on the bus to get to the beach, which was a 5-minute journey. Since Jane was 9 years old, she was considered old enough to look after her younger siblings, and the 3 regularly went to the beach on their own…
A Broken Promise
However, unlike every other unsupervised outing, the children failed to return home by 2 p.m. as they had promised. Since it was out of character for the children, Jim and Nancy were worried but thought the kids might have lost track of time or that the bus could have been running late.
By 7:20 that night, there was still no sign of Jane, Arnna, or Grant. Jim and Nancy were worried that something bad had happened and decided to call the Glenelg Police to report the children had gone missing. The police sent out a few officers to join Jim to search the beach area…
After they failed to find any trace of the children at Glenelg beach, the police spent the rest of the night searching nearby beaches and the surrounding areas. But there was still no sign of the kids and none of Jim and Nancy’s friends or family members had any idea where they were.
The Community’s Support
In the days that followed, the community came together to help search for the Beaumont children and hundreds of witnesses contacted the police to tell them what they knew. “At the time we were inundated with people that wanted to come and give information,” said Mostyn Matters, one of the original detectives on the case. “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…”
Despite the overwhelming amount of witnesses, investigators began piecing together a timeline of the day. Several witnesses claimed they saw all 3 children playing at the beach with a man who appeared to be in his 30s. The man was tanned, had a thin face with short, blonde hair, and had a thin but athletic build.
The Mystery Man
Based on what witnesses told them, the police estimated that at about 12:15 the children started walking away from the beach with the man. Shortly after, a shopkeeper who knew the Beaumont’s well from previous visits claimed that Jane had gone into the shop and purchased pasties and a meat pie…
The Last Sighting
At around 3 in the afternoon, the mailman, who knew the Beaumont family, told police he saw Jane, Arnna, and Grant walking alone away from the beach. The mailman claimed the kids were laughing and holding hands as they walked in the general direction of the home.
When investigators told Jim and Nancy about everything they had learned, the couple told police a few things didn’t make sense. According to Nancy, the kids were all very shy and they would never normally play with a stranger they just met. Police wondered if the children met the man at previous trips to the beach and gained their trust over time…
The $1 Note
Nancy also told police she had only given the kids enough money for the bus and food, which was less than $1. Since Jane paid for the pasties and the meat pie, which they had never ordered before, with a $1 note, another adult must have given her the money.
The police released a sketch of the blonde man described by many of the witnesses in the hopes that it would help identify him. However, months started to pass and there was still no sign of the kids. 9 months later, a famous Dutch clairvoyant, Gerard Croiset, arrived in Adelaide to help with the search…
Croiset claimed the children had been killed and were buried under a newly built warehouse. The community raised thousands of dollars to fund an excavation, but nothing was found. Jim and Nancy heard no new leads about their children until 1968 when they received a letter in the mail from Jane and the kidnapper.
In the letter, which was written by Jane and the man who had taken them, the man claimed he was willing to return the children to Jim and Nancy, and told the couple a place and a time to meet. When the desperate parents went to the meeting place, no one met them. Shortly after, another letter arrived in the mail explaining that the man decided not to return the children when he saw an undercover detective following the couple…
A Cruel Joke
After that, Jim and Nancy heard nothing of their children and the case went cold. Despite the odds, they never gave up hope that the kids were alive and refused to move to a new home in case they returned there. Police also refused to stop searching for the missing kids, and in 1992, fingerprint technology proved the letters were really a cruel prank from a teenager.
A New Suspect
Over the decades, police have never stopped investigating any new lead. So when South Australian Police received a tip about a new suspect, they immediately got to work. The caller, Haydn Phipps, was 15 years old when the kids went missing and told the police he saw the children at his house. Haydn also told police that Phipps, who died in 2004, had violently abused him as a child. When Phipps was named as a suspect, 2 brothers came forward to police with more information…
The brothers told police Phipps had hired them to dig a large hole at his factory in New Castalloy. After Phipps was named a suspect, they feared they had dug the kids’ grave. In 2018, after geophysical testing of the site showed an anomaly, police started an excavation of the site on February 2, 2018. So far, investigators have only discovered buried garbage and animal bones.
The Search Continues
“It is the best lead that there ever has been in the case of these children — the best information that we’ve ever had,” former SA Police detective Bill Hayes said. While the case has yet to be solved, police are willing to do anything to give Jim and Nancy, who are now in their 90s, some answers. “It’s never been over for the Beaumont [family] — it’s never been over for the state or for the country,” Hayes added. “The taking of these children was and is an abhorrent act.”