Glenelg is a popular seaside suburb in Adelaide, south Australia. The town’s sunny beaches provide relief from the urban bustle, and crowds come to relax there during the summer months. But on one bright day in January, darkness gathered at Glenelg’s shores.
It was Australia Day, January 26, 1966, and scorching hot in Adelaide. The Beaumont children were en route to the beach for a day’s swim. Jane, the oldest at age 9, was responsible for her younger siblings, Arnna, age seven, and Grant, age four.
The siblings boarded a public bus at 10:00 A.M. for a five-minute ride to the beach—a trip they completed safely only the day before. Their mother Nancy spent the morning with her friend, while her husband Jim was at work. Nancy told her children to return home by 2:00 P.M. for lunch.
When the scheduled time came and went, Nancy assumed her children simply missed the bus. But when the next bus arrived and the children were nowhere to be seen, their mother grew concerned.
She called the police soon thereafter. The following day, the Beaumont children were officially declared missing.
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Beachgoers who spotted the Beaumonts on the fateful morning of their disappearance claimed the children left the beach around 10:15 A.M. The next sighting occurred approximately 45 minutes later; a geriatric woman said she saw the Beaumont children playing near a sprinkler. According to this witness, however, someone else was present at playtime: a blond man with a trim build who was dressed in a blue swimsuit. At first, this mystery man had been lying on the ground, watching the children play. Soon thereafter, however, the blond man got up and joined the Beaumonts in their revelry.
The children were next seen at a nearby cake shop at approximately 11:45 A.M. Here they purchased sweets, and paid for the treats with a £1 bill. For authorities, this was the first serious clue that something was awry—the children’s parents did not send them off with that much money. Someone must have joined them, and provided the cash.
The final sighting came courtesy of a local postman who was familiar with the Beaumont family. He claimed he saw the children at approximately 3 P.M. walking along Jetty Road, away from the beach. According to this witness, the Beaumont siblings appeared in good spirits; the youngsters even stopped to say hi. Authorities did not suspect the postman of misleading them. Yet they were puzzled by the late-afternoon timestamp, as it clashed with the order of prior sightings. They considered the possibility that the postman had misremembered the time of his sighting, and that it actually occurred earlier in the day.
In either case, after postman’s reported encounter, the children's trail went cold.
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The disappearance of the Beaumont children stunned Australia, and triggered one of the largest missing persons investigations in the nation’s history. Drowning was ruled out, as all their belongings were also missing. An appeal from Jim Beaumont was broadcast on national TV. Authorities followed every lead, but every lead led to nowhere.
Even paranormal investigators were called in for assistance. Gerard Croiset, a renowned Dutch parapsychologist and psychic, was flown to Australia from the Netherlands. His visit caused a media circus. Croiset claimed his sixth sense led him to a warehouse where he believed the bodies were buried. The warehouse’s owners, reluctant at first to participate, finally raised $40,000 to have the building demolished. An excavation commenced, but no bodies were found.
Some two years after the disappearance, the Beaumont parents received a series of mysterious letters claiming the children were held captive. The anonymous author said he would return the children at a designated time and place. Ecstatic, the Beaumonts traveled to the pre-arranged spot, only to be met by no one.
A second letter arrived shortly thereafter, stating that because an undercover detective had been present, the author withheld the children, and would now keep them forever. Twenty-five years later, forensic analysis concluded the letters were a hoax.
Even today, the investigation continues. In early 2018, a tip led police to a nearby former factory site, where a dig was once again scheduled. The owner of the factory, Harry Phipps, passed away in 2004, but was first investigated as a possible suspect in the case in 2007. After two brothers in Adelaide approached the police with a story about Phipps asking them to dig a large hole around the time of the Beaumonts' disappearance, Phipps's involvement became seriously considered. No word has yet come of whether anything has been found at the site.
Although the chances seem slim, Adelaide authorities are hopeful that new tips may help them discover the fate of the Beaumont children. A $1 million reward is offered to anyone with information that might crack the case.
The Beaumont children's disappearance is often credited with a shift toward parents keeping their children indoors. Australian parents suddenly found that even responsible children couldn't avoid all of the ills of the world.
Over 50 years later, the question remains: What happened to the three Beaumont children that hot day at the beach?
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Featured photo: Wikimedia Commons