true crime

57 years ago, the Beaumont children disappeared. It's one of Australia's most notorious cold cases.

On January 26 1966 in Adelaide, three kids went to visit their local beach in the morning – only they never returned, nor were they seen again.

They are now forever known as the Beaumont children: Jane, aged nine, Arnna, aged seven, and Grant, aged four. And their disappearance remains one of Australia's most infamous true crime cold cases

This year marks the 57th anniversary of the children's disappearance and presumed death.

For their parents Nancy and Jim Beaumont, it's not just a case that changed Australia. It was their own personal nightmare. And now after the news this week that Jim has passed away aged 97, both Jim and Nancy died never knowing what happened to their children.

Watch: inside the family photo albums of the Beaumont family. Story continues below.

Video via 7NEWS.

The case goes as follows.

Jane, Arnna and Grant left their family home on the morning of January 26 in 1966 to go to Glenelg Beach, which was a five-minute bus journey away. The family were from the Adelaide suburb of Somerton Park.

At the time, it wasn't unusual for the children to go out on their own. Jane was considered a responsible child, and the three of them had been to the beach together the day before.


Nancy expected them home around noon, and wasn't worried at first when they didn't return. She assumed they would get on the next bus at 2pm. But when Jim arrived home at 3pm, there was still no sign of the children. 

"I knew there was something wrong if they weren't home," Jim recounted at the time, per author Michael 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."

By late afternoon, the children were reported missing.

Police initially assumed Jane, Arnna and Grant had simply lost track of time.

But within 24 hours the case had been reported Australia-wide, and concerns were growing for the wellbeing of the three children. And parents across the nation were shaken as well, fearing for the future safety of their own kids.

Even from a news perspective, in the 1960s there were few to no national newspapers. So for this case to not only rock South Australia, but the whole nation, and even overseas bulletins – it was big.

"This case had a profound effect on parents in the 1960s, given at the time there was such a carefree approach to letting kids roam free in public spaces, particularly the beach," author Alan Whiticker said to Mamamia


"People rarely locked their doors or windows either. It became a cautionary tale and kids of the '60s grew up with that shadow for a long time. It was beyond tragic for the Beaumont family."

Whiticker, alongside researcher Stuart Mullins, wrote The Satin Man: Uncovering the Mystery of the Missing Beaumont Children.

Jim Beaumont left, a Dutch interpreter, a Dutch psychic offering his help on the case and Nancy Beaumont on the right in 1966. Image: Getty.


From a number of witness reports, police were able to piece together the last known movements of the Beaumont children. 

They had been seen at Colley Reserve near the beach, playing with a tall, blonde man who appeared to be in his 30s. 

Around noon, the children went to nearby Wenzel's Bakery, where they typically bought their lunch after the beach. The eldest, Jane, purchased pasties for herself and her siblings, as well as a meat pie with a £1 note.

Nancy, however, had never given Jane a £1 note. She had handed her daughter six shillings that morning – enough for the children's bus rides and their lunch. This £1 note, as well as the meat pie (which Jane and her siblings didn't normally order), were interpreted by police as a sign that the unidentified man was still with the Beaumonts at lunchtime.

The night the kids first went missing, Jim Beaumont 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.

When two days went by without her children returning home, Nancy was reportedly placed under sedation by a doctor.

Investigations continued, leads were followed and Jim and Nancy never stopped looking and hoping. But Jane, Arnna and Grant were never found. Nor were the children's clothes or bags ever found.

What ensued over the years were countless false leads, conspiracy theories and hoaxes.


In the early 1970s, Nancy and Jim Beaumont separated. The pressure of losing their three kids had ultimately devastated their marriage as well. 

Image: Supplied.

One of the biggest suspects in the case is Harry Phipps.

Phipps grew up in Glenelg, and was a businessman and factory owner. There were allegations of sexual abuse levelled at Phipps by his own son, as well as a young woman who alleged she was raped by Phipps in the 1970s. 


These allegations all featured heavily in Whiticker's book The Satin Man: Uncovering the Mystery of the Missing Beaumont Children, which examines Phipps as a potential suspect.

"Harry Phipps was the 'best' suspect for this crime that investigators came across over the past multiple decades. Time has worked against us, but we still remain committed to finding out as much as we can about Mr Phipps and if we can definitively say he was responsible," Whiticker said to Mamamia.

In 2004, Phipps died. In 2013, part of his Adelaide factory was excavated after two brothers alleged that Phipps had them dig a pit on the property on January 26 in 1966. Nothing was unearthed.

Phipps' grandson, Nick, said to A Current Affair in 2018 that his father (Phipps' son) had alleged he saw Phipps and the Beaumont children at Phipps' home the day they disappeared.

"My father was actually in a tree house, at the property. He saw them come in and saw them getting carried out and put into the back of a Cadillac," Nick alleged.

Listen to True Crime Conversations, where Alan Whiticker's co-author Stuart Mullins discusses the case of the Beaumont children. Story continues after audio.

In 2018, detectives, forensic specialists and SES volunteers followed a fresh lead by searching the same factory for the remains of the Beaumont children. The dig, however, found only animal bones, and no clues related to the 1966 case.


For Jim and Nancy Beaumont, they lived the majority of their lives under the shadow of the disappearance of their three children. The pair never spoke to media after 1968, likely too traumatised. 

In 2019, Nancy passed away in an Adelaide nursing home aged 92. She died not knowing what happened to her children.

Jim passed away in April 2023, aged 97. A funeral notice said he was the "loved father of Jane, Arnna and Grant, reunited with him in heaven".

"It was horrific for the family. As a parent, it's hard to imagine how they dealt with the loss of their three children. For a good 20 years, local police looked at it as a missing persons case. Perhaps the biggest mishandling was the refusal to call it a homicide case and allocate necessary time and energy to following up leads related to that," Whiticker said.

"The other thing that compounded the agony for the parents was people who preyed on them and their desperation to find their kids – 'religious nuts' and fake clairvoyants claiming they knew information they didn't. They were also burned by the media as well." 

For Whiticker, he and fellow researcher Stuart Mullins devoted a significant amount of their time to researching and profiling this case. It's been important work, but challenging as well.

"Chipping away at this case, it's complex. It's such a fascinating crime, not only in what we know about the disappearance of the children, but what we assume to be the main suspect in the case. There's been some incredible investigative journalism work done on this story from Adelaide media as well. Because now we know more about the psychology of people who prey on children."


Reflecting on the 57th anniversary, Whiticker explained to Mamamia what's important for us to remember about this case.

"I don't think we'll ever know what happened until we find the bodies. There is a chance those children still may be buried at that factory, because it's a two-hectare space. If bodies were recovered, then police would be able to work backwards and piece it all together," he said.

"If new generations don't read about this and embrace these children's memory, then the whole situation will be lost. We have to keep talking about it."

Now 57 years after that fateful summer's day, the search for the Beaumont children continues.

For the surviving Beaumont family, they have never given up hope. Nor have investigators, working on one of the longest-running cases in the nation's history.

What's for certain is that the Beaumont children will forever be burned into the collective consciousness of Australia.

Feature Image: Supplied.

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