On Jan. 26, 1966, all three Beaumont siblings went to the beach near their Adelaide home, had lunch, and disappeared without a trace – it remains one of Australia’s most haunting unsolved mysteries.
When Jane, 9, Arnna, 7, and Grant Jr., 4, disappeared without a trace on that warm January day, it caused shock and fear to spread throughout the whole nation of Australia. Parents who didn’t think twice about letting their kids go out to play unsupervised, or in the Beaumonts’ case, hop on a bus for a five-minute ride to the local beach, were suddenly terrified.
Anyone who was around to absorb the shock of what happened, never really got over it. Not least of which was because no one ever found out what exactly happened to the children. Though investigators have certainly had their theories and found certain people of interest more interesting than others, the case remains open to this day.
“After the Beaumont children went missing, we realized that children doing something as innocent as having a day at the beach may not be such a safe thing to do,” crime writer Michael Madigan, author of the 2016 book, The Missing Beaumont Children: 50 Years of Mystery and Misery, told Australian magazine New Idea in March 2021. “There was a sense of safety that ended that day.”
It was the morning of Australia Day when Nancy Beaumont entrusted her reliably responsible eldest child, Jane –“She’s got the brain of a girl of 15,” her father later told reporters –, with taking her younger siblings to nearby Glenelg Beach. Just the day before, they had made the short trip back from the beach to their home in the Adelaide suburb of Somerton Park on their own.
Grant “Jim” Beaumont had taken all three kids to the beach the day before, on Jan. 25, making sure they understood how far out they could swim and reminding them not to talk to strangers before he headed off to work, according to Madigan’s book.
The traveling linen salesman had to hit the road after four weeks of summer vacation, and his first stop after leaving the beach was Snowtown, about 93 miles away from Adelaide. “The last memory of his children was a happy one,” Madigan wrote.
By all accounts of what happened on the next day, on Jan. 26, Jane, her sister Arnna and her brother Grant left the house at 10 a.m. and were first spotted on the beach at 10:15.
The trio was supposed to come back at 12 p.m., but when Nancy went to the bus stop to meet them, the kids weren’t there. She wasn’t too worried, though, figuring they just got caught up playing or decided to walk home. They lived less than a mile away from the beach.
The next bus was due at 2 p.m., so when 2:15 passed and the children still weren’t back, Nancy started to worry. A friend who was over for a visit offered to drive her to the beach to look, but Nancy wanted to be home when the kids inevitably walked through the door.
Instead, Jim arrived just before 3 p.m., unexpectedly home a day early from his sales trip. As soon as he heard the kids had not gotten home as planned, he drove down immediately to Glenelg Beach to look for Jane, Arrna, and Grant Jr. Not spotting them in the crowd, he returned home, hoping they’d be there.
At 5 p.m., the Beaumonts walked to the Glenelg Police Station to report their children missing.
“I knew there was something wrong if they weren’t home,” Jim later recounted, per the author Madigan. “The thought going through my mind was that they had been taken away. I didn’t think they could have been drowned because there were so many people down there.”
What would eventually become one of the most haunting crimes in Australia’s history started with a search of the Beaumonts’ residence, police wanting to rule out that the children weren’t hiding. That night, Jim rode in a patrol car as they scanned Somerton Park and Glenelg, street by street. And when the cops dropped him off, he got back in his own car and kept looking.
Days Go By
The waters were searched, streets combed, and even traffic out of the state of Adelaide was blocked, all in a desperate attempt to find the children. On Jan. 28, two days since the trio went missing, Jim Beaumont addressed reporters gathered outside of his home.
“Somebody must be holding them against their will; they would otherwise have come home by now,” he said. “It’s a complete mystery; I can’t understand it. My kids will be crying their eyes out. It’s like a nightmare.”
Eventually, it was determined that the three kids had gone to Wenzel’s Bakery near the beach at around noon, and Jane bought pasties and a meat pie for their lunch. She paid with a £1 note that her mother knew she did not give her – which only deepened the mystery, where had Jane gotten the money from?
Their neighborhood postman, meanwhile, told authorities that he saw the kids that afternoon, “holding hands and laughing,” while on his route—but he couldn’t remember if it was at 1:45 p.m. when he got started or 2:55 p.m. when he was finishing up.
The next morning, Jan. 27, the mailman told police he was pretty sure it was closer to 3 p.m.
“A Tall, Thin-Faced Blond Man”
Among reports and leads that flooded the small police station, most of which were useless were several eye-witnesses who said that they saw the Beaumont children playing on the beach with a tall, thin-faced blond man who looked to be in his 30s. They seemed to know him, or at least were willingly hanging out with him.
But that was that.
Weeks after her children vanished, their mother told reporters, “I don’t think they’re alive, but I haven’t lost hope, and all I want is that they come back.”
A year after that, however, she had put more stock in hope, believing that had they been killed, their bodies would have been discovered by now.
“The longer this goes on, the more confident I feel that they are still alive,” Nancy Beaumont said in a February 1967 interview with Australia’s Daily Telegraph. “Do you know, I dreamed about them last night. I don’t usually dream. In fact, this is the first real dream I’ve had since the children went. But last night, I dreamed I heard a knock on the back door. It was the children. They said, ‘Hullo, Mum.’” In the dream, “The only thing I said was, ‘Where have you been?’ They were standing there in the back lobby. I cried and felt them all over. Do you know, it’s the first dream I’ve had.”
The Children Were Never Found
Nancy and Jim Beaumont separated in the early 1970s. Nancy died in September 2019 at the age of 92. Jim, 97, was still living in Adelaide as of last year.
Like many similar cases, while they were never accused of any wrongdoing by police, accusations against the Beaumonts from the general public dogged them all the years the kids were missing. Some merely questioned their parenting decisions, letting the kids go to the beach alone; others, crueler, believed they somehow played a part in the children’s death and disappearance.
“People would come up to her on the street and openly abuse her,” Madigan said, “believing Nancy had something to do with it. It would have been all so traumatic for them.”
In 1968, Nancy and Jim received two letters, the first telling them when and where to go if they wanted to get their children back. In the second, after the parents went to the designated place and nothing happened, the sender claimed to have seen a detective following them and decided not to go through with it.
Countless theories were put forth over the years, including one by Dutch psychic Gerard Croiset, who claimed to have had a vision of the children’s fate and was flown to Australia in November 1966 by a deep-pocketed real estate developer. According to Croiset, the children had been trapped under the floor of an old brick factory that was being used as a warehouse.
With no evidence other than the psychic’s claims, authorities refused to get involved. But concerned citizens raised $40,000 to get the job done, and an excavation under the watchful eye of television cameras began in 1967—and found nothing.
In 1986, according to the Sydney Morning Herald, three suitcases full of newspaper clippings about the Beaumont case were found in a garbage dump, most of the pages scribbled with handwritten notes in red ink. Across an image of the widely circulated sketch of the suspect was written, “Lies—all bluff.”
Only a day later, however, people who identified themselves as relatives of the elderly owner of those suitcases told police that she had simply become obsessed with the case, and after she died, they threw the bags out.
In November 2013, more than 46 years after a psychic sent the citizenry on a wild goose chase, part of the New Castalloy factory in the Adelaide suburb of North Plympton was excavated after two brothers alleged that the building’s late owner, Harry Phipps, had them dig a pit on the property on Australia Day in 1966.
Phipps died in 2004 but was posthumously investigated starting in 2007 after his son Haydn, who also told police his father sexually abused him, claimed he saw his dad with the Beaumont children. Other family members disputed Haydn’s claims.
But, police did excavate the area that the brothers claimed that Phipps asked them to dig and found only trash and animal bones. Phipps remains the closest thing the authorities ever came to a real suspect in the case, and many believe he indeed did abduct, abuse, and murder the children, but no evidence against him has ever been found.
In the 56 years since Jane, Arnna, and Grant Jr. disappeared, no one has ever been arrested or charged in connection with the Beaumont case. A week before they dug up Phipps’ factory for a second time, South Australia Police Detective Superintendent Des Bray said, “It’s probably had more people nominated as a potential offender than any other case that I’m aware of.”
The South Australian Government has kept what currently amounts to a $745,000 reward ($1 million Australian) on the table for information leading to the resolution of the enduring mystery.