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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.

www.news.com.au (9-2-2014)

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Photo- Patricia Schmidt
Photo- Patricia Schmidt

An image of what Patricia Schmidt was wearing when she was last seen

Her Father Was Late And A Killer Closed In

Patricia Schmidt had finished her second night working at the Darlington Burger King, and her father was about to pick her up.
But he was running 10 minutes late. That was all it took for the pretty teenager to go missing.
Her battered body was found the next day lying in grass on the side of Adams Rd, Hallett Cove.
It was 34 years ago, and the rape and murder of the 16-year-old is still unsolved.
Investigators at the time collected key items of forensic evidence which could finally be tested with advances in technology decades later.
Detectives looking through sealed evidence in 2001 were able to conduct forensic tests on several key items, including clothing and personal effects, providing them with DNA leads.
Seven men living in South Australia and the Northern Territory provided a DNA sample to police. Six were ruled out, while one sample was sent to New Zealand for specialised testing.
That person was later ruled out as a suspect, although investigating officer Detective Senior Constable Paul Tucker, of the Major Crime Investigation Branch, said the case was very much ongoing. "We are confident someone has the information that could possibly solve this case," he said. "This matter is still under investigation and "persons of interest" are being approached to supply a DNA sample."
Patricia finished her Friday evening shift about 1:45am- only her second night working at South Rd Burger King, now known as Hungry Jack's, on December 17, 1971.
Firefighters returing from a small grass fire discovered her body about 6pm on Saturday, December, 18.
The popular girl had left the restaurant and waited for her father.
Reports said she stood as if she was waiting for someone and walked around for a few minutes before she started walking north along South Rd, rather than to the south towards her Seacliff Park home.
The previous Tuesday night, after her first shift, Patricia had told a girlfriend she had been walking home when a man stopped and offered her a lift.
She described the stranger as "old", about 30, not attractive, with pimples and a "flash car".
As she sat in the car, he suggested driving in the Hills, she refused and he started driving towards Hallett Cove before being dropped at home- which he did.
Detectives called to the scene said drag marks suggested she was dumped on the verge after being killed somewhere else.
She was still wearing gold earrings, a gold watch and silver signet ring.
- Patricia was wearing black lace up boots, hot pants, a red jumper and an orange coat the last time she was seen alive, by work colleagues at a Darlington fast food restaurant.
- When she was found, she was only wearing the boots. The jumper and coat were draped over her body and her bra was hanging on a wire fence nearby.
-Traces of weathered pink and white paint were found on her body.
- There were also traces of different metals- predominantly nickel and nickel silver. At the time, police investigated the possibility she had been in an engravers or key cutters workshop.
- A kangaroo skin purse Patricia carried was never found.

Adelaide Advertiser (1-10-2005)
Patricia Schmidt- Raped/ murdered
Victim- Patricia Schmidt

Missing- Louise Bell
Missing- Louise Bell

$100,000 Rewards For 19 Unsolved Crimes

Rewards for 19 of South Australia's most baffling unsolved crimes- including the disappearnace of the Beaumont children- will be boosted to $100,000.
Some rewards- it was only $1000 in the Beaumont case- have not been updated since they were first announced.
Police Minister Kevin Foley said the rewards had been upgraded at the request of the Police Commisioner Mal Hyde.
Mr Foley said every encouragement should be given to witnesses to come forward.
"These tragic incidents are something we all want closure on," he said.
The increased rewards relate to cases ranging from the disappearnce of Kirste Gordon and Joanne Ratcliffe from Adelaide Oval in 1973 to the murder of Deborah Westmacott in Gouger St, city, in 1991.
Other well-known cases include the drowning murder of university lecturer George Duncan in 1972, the rape and strangling of Patricia Schmidt at Hallett Cove in 1971, and the bashing death of "Buddy" Newchurch at Whyalla in 1982.
"We do not want any member of the public to believe that the level of reward on offer is an indication that the police consider older, unsolved crimes any less significant than more recent crimes," Mr Foley said.
He said one way of doing that was to accept that the ridiculously low $1000 reward in the case of the Beaumonts "is grossly inadequate in today's society".
"It is a proven fact that substantial financial reward does lead, in some cases, to the charging of people for particular offences," Mr Foley said.
"We have seen that in recent times with some murders in SA and what we want to do is leave no stone unturned in making sure even if a murder was committed decades ago that there is enough financial incentive there for those who may have information to come forward."
Mr Foley said the 19 cases on the list were those the police believe most warranted an increase in the reward.
"Even if only one murder- if only one family's suffering can be put to rest- then it will be money well invested," he said.

Adelaide Advertiser (21-6-2005)
Greg Kelton

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