- Joanne Ratcliffe/ Kirste Gordon
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SA Police offer $1 million rewards for 13 child murder cases
Police will offer $1 million rewards in a bid to solve 13 of the state’s highest profile cold case child murders.
The rewards will be paid for information leading to an arrest or conviction, or recovery of a body, in the murders
of 18 children dating back to 1966.
It is the first time police have agreed to pay rewards for information which leads to the discovery of victims’ bodies.
Police assistant commissioner Paul Dickson said recent cold case murder arrests proved that cases were never closed until they were solved.
“Over time, relationships and loyalties between people break down and we know that in some cases in these matters there is
a small group of people with vital information that can be provided to the police to assist with those matters being solved,” he said.
“When you are talking about people who may be involved in a criminal group or with people who have
committed the most serious crimes, often they need a bit of inducement to (come forward)
and that’s why the reward of $1 million is a fair inducement.”
The 13 unsolved murder cases are:
THE BEAUMONT CHILDREN - Jane, 9, Arnna, 7, and Grant, 4, disappeared from Glenelg on January 26, 1966.
PATRICIA SCHMIDT - the 16-year-old’s body was found off a dirt track at Hallett Cove on December 18, 1971.
JOANNE RATCLIFFE AND KIRSTE GORDON - Joanne, 11, and Kirste, 4, disappeared from Adelaide Oval on August 25, 1973.
MARILYN QUALMANN - the 14-year-old disappeared from her Moorook home on September 21, 1975.
ALAN BARNES - the 17-year-old’s body was found under the South Para Bridge near Williamstown on June 24, 1979.
PETER STOGNEFF - the 14-year-old’s remains were found at a Two Wells property on June 23, 1982, almost 10
months after he disappeared.
MICHAELA GODAU - the 15-year-old disappeared from her Elizabeth Field (now Davoren Park) home overnight on December 19, 1982.
RICHARD KELVIN - the 15-year-old’s body was found near an airstrip at Kersbrook on July 24, 1983, 19 days after he was abducted
from a North Adelaide laneway. Bevan Spencer von Einem was convicted of his murder, but police believe others were involved.
THE PEARCE FAMILY - the bodies of Meredith Pearce and her three children, Adam, 11, Travis, 9, and Kerry 2, were found in
burnt-out remains of their Parafield Gardens home on January 6, 1991. Police have been searching for the children’s father Stuart Pearce since.
JUAN MORGAN - the 15-year-old disappeared in 1992 and, although he was not reported missing at the time, police
in 1999 identified him as a potential murder victim.
RHIANNA BARREAU - the 12-year-old was last seen at her Morphett Vale home on October 7, 1992.
HEATHER TURNER - the 16-year-old’s body was found partly submerged in a Port Gawler creek on
January 31, 1998, about two weeks after he was last seen.
MELISSA BROWN (aka TRUSSELL) - the 15-year-old was last seen leaving a Blair Athol
address with her mother Rosemary Brown on May 13, 2000. Rosemary Brown’s body was found at Garden Island on July 2, 2000.
Suzie Ratcliffe, whose sister Joanne Ratcliffe disappeared from Adelaide Oval in August 1973, said the rewards were a major incentive.
“If this helps the vital to bringing our girls home or other children then that is all that matters,” she said.
“Living day by day not knowing where our children are is incomprehensible. It is a pain no one should have to endure.
“My family have missed out on seeing my sister grow up, go to school ... getting married and having children of her own.
“Not having a body to bury and actually grieve for her properly ... this reward could mean the answers my family and
so many other families have been waiting for for so long.
“Please find it within your heart to ring Crime Stoppers and put an end to our pain.”
Premier Jay Weatherill said the rewards were designed to attract people with any information to come forward and reveal what they knew.
“Even the smallest piece of information can lead to a chain of inquiry, which can lead to an arrest of the perpetrator or indeed
crucial information that might allow us to understand the final resting place of these children,” he said.
Mr Weatherill pleaded for anyone with information to help “allow us to bring closure” to the families of missing children.
“They deserve justice and they have been deprived of that all of these years,’’ he said.
“If we can do anything that can allow us to bring closure for them or to allow them to at least
understand the final resting place for their children after all these years, that would be an enormous relief for these families.
“I think it would not only be an important relief for the family, but an important sense of relief for the whole South
Australian community if these people could be brought to justice or if we could know just a little more about the final
resting places of these victims.’’
Mr Weatherill said as a father, he could not understand what the parents of the five missing children had endured since they were taken.
“It would have the cruellest and most painful thing imaginable to have your child taken and never quite know
what has happened to them,’’ he said.
“Never really being able to fully grieve for them because you really just don’t know, and as unlikely
as it seems, whether they are still alive. There must be an awful dilemma about just letting go of the idea of them still being alive.’’
The new move also has been welcomed by Kirste’s parents, Greg and Christine, who said they had never given up hope there would one day
be a breakthrough in the case.
“You can’t give up hope. They have got to be somewhere, whether they are
alive or whether they are not, they are somewhere,’’ Mrs Gordon said.
“You can’t give up hope that someday there is going to be an answer.’’
Mr Gordon, 72, said he hoped increasing the reward and extending it to
recovering the remains of the missing children “does have the desired effect’’ while Mrs Gordon,
69, said she wanted to know where Kirste now was.
“I think any parent in the situation we are in, or any parent that doesn’t know
where their loved ones are want that answer,’’ she said.
Mr Gordon said they had dealt with the loss of Kirste by not regarding themselves as victims.
“Right at the very start of things we made our personal decision that we were going to be survivors and not victims,’’ he said.
“We have always adopted that attitude, that we will live our life as survivors. That’s what we have done and we
have got on with things and made sure our family is well supported.’’
Mr Gordon said the family also believed “the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.’’
He said he “frequently’’ thought about Kirste and it was always “just underneath the surface.’’
“For me, it’s often just listening to music at some time. Music is all about emotion and that
can trigger things quite quickly and easily,’’ he said.
Major Crime detectives will be available to take Crime Stoppers calls on these matters today
and tomorrow from 11am to 10pm.
Anyone with any information on the two cases is urged to contact Crimestoppers on 1800333000 or at www.sa.crimestoppers.com.au.
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Social network appeal sees new clue about Joanne Ratcliffe and Kirste Gordon's abduction
Fresh information has emerged in the 39-year-old cold case abduction of Joanne Ratcliffe, 11, and
Kirste Gordon, 4, from Adelaide Oval.
The girls' disappearance is one of the nation's most notorious unsolved crimes, but Joanne's sister,
Suzie Ratcliffe, says there is now
renewed hope for a breakthrough in the case after a social networking appeal for clues delivered the new tip.
"While people are talking about the case, there is always hope," Ms Ratcliffe said.
She contacted SA Police's major crime branch two weeks ago with new information from a South Australian woman prompted
by a Facebook page highlighting the missing persons case.
The nature of the information is unknown but police yesterday confirmed they were assessing the report. It is the first
time Ms Ratcliffe, who was born a year after Joanne's disappearance, has been directly contacted with
information about the case.
It comes as a team of private investigators revealed they had gathered a cache of items over the past three years which
they believe are linked to the crime.
Joanne, 11, and Kirste, 4, were abducted from Adelaide Oval during a football match on August 25, 1973.
"It's time Joanne came home," Ms Ratcliffe said.
"When I was first contacted two weeks ago, it scared me a lot. If something comes of it, or of the work others have done
to try to solve this case, it would give us somewhere to physically grieve.
"We are over wanting to know who did it, how they did it and why they did it.
"We want to be able to lay (Joanne) to rest and lay my dad's soul to rest also."
Ms Ratcliffe said her contact with SA police had been minimal in the past five years and her mother, Kath, said neither
police or the team of private investigators had informed her of any progress on the case.
"I have respect for the Major Crime detectives ... they work hard and work long hours and I know they have a lot of cases
to work on," Ms Ratcliffe said.
"The case has changed hands many times and whenever a new detective has handed it, it does bring a fresh look at it." Police
said that any new information relating to the case would be assessed and followed up - but all leads had so far been discounted.
"There have been a number of reviews in relation to this case and every piece of information has been looked at and discounted
thus far," a police spokeswoman said.
The private investigators, who wish to remain anonymous, believe credible information they have gathered has been ignored by police.
They have spent almost three years searching for clues to the case since being leaked confidential documents about the crime.
Major Crime detectives told The Advertiser they were satisfied there was "nothing in" evidence produced by the private investigators.
Key pieces of the puzzle the private investigators believe they have gathered, from the Mid North area of Yatina, include a hat
which matches one worn by the suspected abductor, a medical book and newspaper clippings detailing the crime taken from a country house
named as the "crime scene" in the confidential documents.
They also found, in a sealed and submerged tunnel in an area mapped out in the documents as the burial site of the girls, two barrels
containing a honeycomb-like substance which has tested positive for blood.
A presumptive test of the material for blood, conducted by Police Forensic Services, found a "weak to very weak" trace of blood, police say.
A secondary test for haemoglobins ruled the barrels as insignificant to the case.
The private investigators have stored the barrels and had other tests on the material conducted which detected traces of blood and acid,
but it is unclear if the blood is human.
The confidential documents which sparked their investigation were produced in 2007 and leaked from State Archive files of the Mullighan
Inquiry into abuse of children in care.
Police have previously dismissed the documents produced by a convicted pedophile while serving a Yatala jail sentence as a
fabrication from the writer's imagination.
Those documents claim the person who produced them witnessed the murder and burial of the girls and has information on other unsolved crimes.
SA Police are working to
establish possible links between the murders of two
Townsville schoolgirls and
the abduction of five Adelaide children.
They are co-operating with
Queensland colleagues and
the Canberra Bureau of Crime
intelligence, and have established a special file with their
Crime Stoppers office to assess
calls from the public.
Major Crime Task Force
chief, Supt Paul Schramm,
confirmed yesterday a joint inquiry was under way into any
possible connections between
the 1966 abductions of Jane,
Anna and Grant Beaumont,
the 1973 disappearance of
Joanne Ratcliffe and Kirste
Gordon and the arrest of
Arthur Brown, 86.
Brown was arrested in
Townsville two weeks ago
for the alleged murder of
MacKay sisters Judith, 7,
and Susan, 5, in 1970.
The arrest followed
statements to police by
He has denied the
It was a picture of
police sketches of the man
seen in the Beaumont and
Gordon-Ratcliffe cases that
prompted media attention and
revived SA police interest in
Supt Schramm told interstate media: "We are taking it
seriously and we are seeing if
there is any connection. We
have analysts working very
closely together to try and
piece together the past 30
Since the Queensland arrest,
police have opened a new file
in its Crime Stoppers office
and reports a "significant"
number of contacts from the
public volunteering information.
Mr Schramm said the number of calls to Crime Stoppers
indicated an on-going interest
in the two SA abduction cases.
"We are quite happy for the
public to volunteer useful information and will look closely
at what comes in."
Adelaide Advertiser 13-12-1998
Browns trial for the murders of the Mackay sisters did not reach a verdict
and a 2nd trial abandoned as Brown had become unfit to stand trial. Brown died in 2002.
I Saw Kidnap
A former SA woman has claimed
to have witnessed a double abduction at Adelaide Oval 25 years ago.
She contacted an Adelaide radio
station and said she watched for "60
seconds" as a young girl fought and
punched a man carrying a, little girl
near the oval on Saturday, August
25,1973. It was on that day Joanne
Ratcliffe, 11, and Kirste Gordon, 4,
were abducted by a mystery man
from the rear of the oval during the
North Adelaide-Norwood clash.
No trace of the abductor or the two
girls has been found, and the double-
disappearance remains one of Australia's most baffling mysteries.
Sue Laurie, 40, told radio 5AA she
was 14 at time of the abduction.
She said she "put things together"
three or four years later and made
a statement to police. No further
action was taken.
Last week a friend in Adelaide
contacted Ms Laurie at her Victorian
home and told her about the photos
recently published of Arthur Brown.
arrested in Townsville.
Ms Laurie later spoke to the Sunday Mail and said: "We walked out
from the zoo and were about midway
between Popeye and tne University
Bridge. I looked across the river and
saw a very young girl being carried
by a man who I thought was her
grandfather. He had a hat and a
checked jacket on.
"She was crying and the older girl,
I think she was a few years younger
than me, was running after him.
"She was thumping him and
punching into him and crying out at
him. I saw all that for about 60
"The thing seemed wrong because
I would have thought if he was a
relative he would have shooed her...
"It was after I married, I was about
18 or 20, 1 kept on and on at my
husband about my memories - and
I read another article on the abduction. My husband said 'go and do
something about it'. I went to the
chief investigator in about 1979-80
and made a full statement.
"I was sure of many things, including the time, because the siren went
for the beginning or end of the third-
quarter. Dad remarked on the game,
but I don't think he saw what I was
watching on the other side of the
river. I believe on the day of the
abduction the police were looking in
an opposite direction to where we
"The only other thing I need to say
is the parents of Joanne should take
heart that little girl did everything
she could to protect her little friend."
Sue Laurie's description of the
mystery man tallied with two other
descriptions made at Adelaide Oval
on the day the girls were abducted.
Queensland police and SA detectives have still to determine the
movements of Brown 25 years ago.
Senior police stress Mr Brown is
not a suspect. The photo similarities
are not evidence.
On Friday, Brown, a retired school
maintenance man, was freed on bail.
He has been charged with murdering the MacKay sisters, who were on
their way to school. They had been
raped, stabbed and suffocated. Their
dresses were folded beside their
school bags, shoes and socks.
He also was granted ball on 45
charges involving alleged offences
against six girls aged three to 10
between 1970 and 1977, including
rape, sodomy, deprivation of liberty
and administering drugs.
Adelaide Advertiser 13-12-1998
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