true crime

For 45 years, Colleen Adams' husband claimed she'd vanished. Now he's behind bars.

Unwilling to dismiss their concerns any longer, Colleen Adams‘ parents phoned South Australia Police. It was 19 December 1973, and the couple hadn’t heard from their daughter for five weeks.

The 24-year-old mother of two’s husband, Geoffrey, had told them she’d walked out. That, without explanation, she’d packed two suitcases and fled their Maitland home, fled him, fled her beloved young children, then aged just three-and-a-half and 18 months.

But on Thursday afternoon, almost 45 years on, Colleen’s skeletal remains were discovered in the backyard of the Bagnall Ave property. Her husband has been arrested and charged with murder.

The disappearance of Colleen Adams.

According to police, Geoffrey Adams, claimed to have last seen his wife at around 7am on November 22, 1973.

He said he’d woken to find her fully dressed, suitcases ready.

He said she told him leaving and never wanted to see him or their two children again.

He said she’d climbed into a white 1968 model Ford Falcon sedan with an unknown, middle-aged woman, and left.

Images: South Australia Police

Her disappearance was a big talking-point among the Yorke Peninsula community. Investigators at the time spoke with her family, friends and neighbours hoping to find answers.

There were snippets. They learned that although her marriage had been happy at first, there had been increasing signs of dysfunction following the birth of her eldest child. She'd also spoken vaguely with people about "having to be out of the house by November" and, a few days before she disappeared, she had closed her bank account, after withdrawing her entire life savings. Just $41.14.

Still, it was another six years before the case was declared a major crime. And another 45 before any major progress was made.

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The arrest of Geoffrey Adams.

On September 16, 2018, South Australia Police launched a full review of Colleen's case, as part of a state-wide campaign known as Operation Persist.

“We have an open mind as to what’s happened and how it’s happened, but we are of the opinion she has been murdered," Major Crime investigator Brevet Sergeant Michael Newbury said. "We don’t hold out hope that she’s just missing and will turn up.”

In the days since, a team of detectives had been actively following leads in the case, according to SAPOL. The review and undisclosed "fresh information" led detectives back to the place it had all began.

Armed with ground-penetrating radar equipment and specialist cameras, they focused on the backyard of the Maitland home in which Colleen and Geoff once lived. At roughly 1pm Thursday afternoon, police finally had an answer for her loved ones.

Including the daughter who never got to know her.

"Today I have finally found my mother," Kaye Adams said in a statement.

"After 45 years of hoping, we have found her.

"It's hard to say in a few words what I am feeling, but I am so grateful to the South Australian police and everyone who has worked to help find her.

Though the discovery meant grief, and her father in handcuffs, Kaye hoped it could also be "a day of inspiration to all those who live with cold cases, lost loved ones, not knowing what has happened."

Geoffrey Adams has not applied for bail. He has been remanded in custody, and will next appear before the court in October.

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