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Valmae Faye BECK






New name: Fay Cramb
Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Child killer - Rape
Number of victims: 1 +
Date of murder: November 27, 1987
Date of arrest: December 12, 1987
Date of birth: 1944
Victim profile: Sian Kingi, 12
Method of murder: Stabbing with knife - Strangulation
Location: Tinbeerwah, Queensland, Australia
Status: Sentenced to life imprisonment with a non parole period of 14 years in 1988. Died on May 27, 2008

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Sian Kingi (16 December 1974 – 27 November 1987) was a 12-year-old New Zealand girl of Māori descent who was abducted, raped and killed in Noosa, Queensland, in 1987. Barrie Watts and Valmae Beck, a married couple, were convicted in 1988 of the much-publicised crime and were each sentenced to life imprisonment.

The crime

Kingi was riding her bicycle near Pinnaroo Park when Beck lured her into some nearby bushes, saying she was looking for her poodle and requested the girl's help. Watts then grabbed Kingi from behind and forced her into a car where she was bound and then driven 12 km to Tinbeerwah forest. Kingi was raped by Watts before being stabbed and strangled. Her body was dumped in a nearby creek bed and located six days later.


Watts was tried in 1995 for the murder of Helen Mary Feeney who was last seen alive one month before the murder of Kingi. He was convicted and sentenced to 14 years jail for manslaughter, and in 2007 confessed to his involvement in the murder of Sian Kingi.


Beck had six children from a previous relationship before marrying Watts. In 2007 it was reported that Beck had legally changed her name to Fay Cramb. She divorced Watts in 1990 saying she regretted everything she had ever done with him. Beck unsuccessfully applied for parole three times, and had her non-parole period extended by 18 months for assisting in the disposal of the body of Helen Feeney, mentioned above.

In May 2008 Beck was placed in an induced coma following heart surgery. Police hoped to obtain a death-bed confession from her regarding three other unsolved Brisbane-area murders of young women, but she died at 6:15 pm on 27 May 2008 without regaining consciousness.


Child killer Valmae Beck dies aged 64

The Aystralian

May 27, 2008

REVILED child killer Valmae Beck has died at age 64, alone in Townsville Hospital, before police could interview her over unsolved crimes.

No next of kin were with Beck when she was declared dead at 6.15pm, more than three weeks after she was admitted to hospital suffering shortness of breath.

Beck, who changed her name to Fay Cramb after being sentenced to life in jail for the heinous rape and murder of Noosa schoolgirl Sian Kingi, had appeared to be improving after spending at least 10 days in a medically induced coma following minor heart surgery.

In recent days, her condition was considered stable although medical staff described Beck as incoherent and unresponsive.

In 1988, Beck and then husband Barrie Watts were convicted of the 1987 murder that shocked the Noosa community and devastated Sian's closeknit family.

Cold case detectives wanted to interview the 64-year-old high security prisoner over more unsolved crimes, hoping for confessions as she lay on her deathbed.

Detectives believed the notorious criminal may have known the fate of several unsolved cases involving young girls and women across Australia, including Helen Mary Feeney, a 31-year-old student, between October 29 and December 1, 1987.

Beck testified that Watts had dumped Ms Feeney's body and burned it at a rubbish tip near Lowood, west of Brisbane.

Watts was later acquitted of the murder, but police believe Beck knew exactly where Ms Feeney's body was buried.

Acting Police Minister Robert Schwarten confirmed Beck had died in Townsville General Hospital without having regained consciousness.

"She got a life sentence and it turned out to be that,'' Mr Schwarten said.

"Right until the end, she was no assistance to police,'' he said.

"Harsh as it may sound, and people may judge me on that, I don't think there will be many Queenslanders who would shed a tear in her direction and there would be some who would cheer,'' he said.

Police Commissioner Bob Atkinson, who was involved in investigating the case involving Beck's part in Sian Kingi's murder, was expected to give a statement on Beck's death, Mr Schwarten said.


Notorious child killer Beck dies

By Lendl Ryan -

May 28, 2008

NOTORIOUS child-killer Valmae Beck died last night in Townsville Hospital before detectives could interview her over unsolved crimes.

The 64-year-old, Queensland's most hated woman, was declared dead at 6.15pm after being admitted to hospital on May 5 to undergo taxpayer-funded heart surgery.

A Corrective Services Department spokesman said Beck had been `semi-conscious' in her final days but was in an `incoherent state and not responding to verbal stimulus'.

The exact cause of her death was not yet known, he said.

Cold case detectives had been at Beck's bedside hoping she held the key to the disappearance of Brisbane shop assistant Sharron Phillips – one of Queensland's most enduring murder mysteries, and that of Helen Mary Feeney, who was last seen in October 1987 – as well as several unsolved interstate cases involving missing `petite blonde virgins'.

Beck, who changed her name to Fay Cramb, was serving a life sentence for the 1987 murder of 12-year-old Sunshine Coast schoolgirl Sian Kingi.

Beck and her husband Barrie Watts, who is still in jail,  lured the 12-year-old to their car by pretending to look for a lost dog, before taking her to a forest where she was raped, stabbed a dozen times and strangled with Beck's belt.

The trial jury heard that Beck helped Watts bind and gag the bright and attractive blonde with tape.

Watts raped, beat and repeatedly stabbed Sian and cut her throat while Beck looked on. The two then went home to Lowood.

It emerged in their separate trials that the marriage was going sour and Watts had fantasies about raping and killing a young virgin.

The sentencing judge described Beck as `callous and depraved'.

In 2005, Beck was moved to Townsville Correctional Centre from Brisbane where she was given a kitchen job and her weight ballooned to 140kg.

The 64-year-old was transferred to hospital from Townsville Correctional Centre on Monday, May 5 at about 2pm after experiencing shortness of breath.

She had appeared to be improving after spending at least 10 days in a medically induced coma following the minor heart surgery.

Cold case detectives wanted to interview the 64-year-old high security prisoner over more unsolved crimes, hoping for confessions as she lay on her deathbed. Detectives believed the notorious criminal may have known the fate of several unsolved cases involving young girls and women across Australia, including Feeney, a 31-year-old student, between October 29 and December 1, 1987.

Beck testified that Watts had dumped Ms Feeney's body and burned it at a rubbish tip near Lowood, west of Brisbane.

Watts was later acquitted of the murder, but police believe Beck knew exactly where Ms Feeney's body was buried.

"Harsh as it may sound, I don't think there will be many Queenslanders who would shed a tear in her direction and there would be some who would cheer," Acting Police Minister Robert Schwarten said.


Valmae Beck, Sian Kingi's killer, is 'close to death'

By Peter Michael and Robyn Ironside -

May 7, 2008

QUEENSLAND'S most hated female inmate, child killer Valmae Beck, paid a price for her sickening crimes after a series of brutal bashings in jail left her paralysed down one side of her face.

Detectives hope the convicted killer – who has found God and is deeply religious – may emerge from her coma long enough to offer a death-bed confession about several other unsolved murder cases, in Queensland and interstate.

The 64-year-old, who changed her name to Faye Cramb, had to be moved from a high-security prison in Brisbane to Townsville after she was repeatedly targeted by female inmates.

In one bashing, two prisoners clubbed the mother-of-six with a sock loaded with a jam tin.

It left permanent nerve damage to the side of her head.

The accomplice to one of the nation's most horrific cases of child rape, torture and murder – the killing of schoolgirl Sian Kingi–- is in a coma and expected to die within 48 hours after suffering complications during a heart procedure in Townsville Hospital on Monday.

Her only contact with the outside world, next-of-kin Stephanie Gunton, yesterday spent two hours at her bedside in intensive care surrounded by prison officers and police detectives.

Beck was put on suicide watch last year after being interviewed by interstate police about her links to a series of other sex cases, including a murder.

Prison sources yesterday told The Courier-Mail the child killer had to be moved from her prison kitchen job because she was constantly eating and her weight had ballooned to 150kg.

Mrs Gunton, who refused to speak to The Courier-Mail outside Townsville Hospital yesterday, is one of the only contacts on Beck's visitor list along with the prison chaplaincy service.

Townsville Correctional Centre chaplain Peter Quilty visited Beck on Tuesday night to read the last rites.

Hospital sources said Beck was not expected to recover from last Monday's taxpayer-funded operation to fit a pacemaker due to complications caused by morbid obesity and sleep apnoea.

Yesterday Regional Crime Co-ordinator Detective Inspector Warren Webber said plainclothes detectives from Townsville had sought permission to interview Beck on Tuesday – apparently in the hope she might unburden herself before her death.

Although Queensland Corrective Services agreed to the request, the critically ill Beck had already been placed in a coma.

"Police are monitoring her condition and if she gives some indication she'd like to talk to us, we'll do that," Insp Webber said.

He refused to say what police wanted to speak to Beck about but admitted unsolved investigations had previously benefited from prisoners' deathbed confessions.

Beck and former husband Barrie Watts were jailed for life in 1988 for the rape and murder of 12-year-old Noosa schoolgirl Sian a year earlier.

Police believe the couple may have committed other crimes, including the murder of Helen Mary Feeney, 31.

The mother-of-one, who was estranged from her husband, was last seen on October 29, 1987, at the Colonial Village Caravan Park at Taigum on Brisbane's northside.

Her disappearance preceded a crime spree by Beck and Watts, including the attempted abductions of three women at Ipswich on November 10 and 11 and Sian's murder on November 27.

All of the women targeted by the couple were petite with fair hair – as was Mrs Feeney.

When Watts was charged with her murder in 1995, Beck testified against him, giving evidence her husband had dumped the body at a rubbish tip in Lowood, 35km northwest of Ipswich, and watched it burn. Despite an extensive search no remains were found and a jury acquitted Watts.

Premier Anna Bligh also called on Beck to assist police with information that may help them solve other crimes.

"Frankly if there is any opportunity at all for Valmae Beck to put other families out of their distress, then I think she has got an obligation to pass that on," Ms Bligh said.

The Premier also moved to quell public outrage over Beck's taxpayer-funded care, saying the health system was obliged to look after sick people.

"Whether it is Valmae Beck or any other prisoner, when people turn up sick in our hospitals doctors have a duty to treat them," Ms Bligh said.

Liberal Senator George Brandis told ABC Radio calls for Beck to be denied treatment were inhumane.

"We don't want to live in a brutal society," he said.

Killer may be buried on public purse

QUEENSLAND taxpayers could be slugged thousands of dollars for the full funeral of Valmae Beck.

Taxpayers have already had to pay for expensive life-saving heart surgery this week for the 64-year-old mother-of-six who lured 12-year-old Sunshine Coast schoolgirl Sian Kingi to her horrific death in 1987.

Queenslanders reacted angrily when news of Beck's declining health broke on The Courier-Mail website, with many angry that taxpayer funds were being used to help keep her alive.

Initial reports on Monday suggested Beck, if not claimed for burial by her family, could only expect the State Government to pay for her cremation.

However, The Courier-Mail has learned Beck could be given a fully taxpayer-funded funeral ceremony and religious interment.

A Department of Justice fact sheet says both it and Queensland's Attorney-General, through the Office of the State Coroner or a local Magistrate's Court Registry, could organise a simple burial or cremation of any deceased prisoner whose assets could not cover the cost.

"A relative or friend of a deceased person can apply for burials assistance if . . . no one can arrange or afford to pay for the funeral," the government-issued fact sheet says.

"If you would like a member of the clergy to conduct a graveside service, the funeral director (can arrange one, but) must be advised."• 

Several funeral directors estimated the cost of a basic funeral could be anywhere between $2000 to $6000.


Sian Kingi

By Adrian McGregor - Sydney Morning Herald

February 10, 1990

"I would have thought that 5.30 in the afternoon in Noosa in summer would have been one of the safest places in Australia for a kiddie to be."

- Detective-Sergeant Bob Atkinson, Noosa Heads CIB.

SIAN KINGI, 12, emerged from a hot bread shop at Noosa Junction, told her mother, with whom she had been shopping, she would see her at home and rode off on her bike.

Home was only a kilometre away. Sian's mother, Lynda, walked across nearby Pinnaroo Park, Sian rode around, flying along on her prize possession, her 10-speed, yellow, girl's Repco racing bike.

Her other prized possession, her long, straight, blonde hair streamed out behind. She rode out of sight, and with every pedal a thread linking her to her mother stretched, thinner and thinner, until abruptly it snapped.

In their white, 1973 HQ Holden station wagon, parked in a bay on the perimeter of the park sat Barrie John Watts and Valmae Fay Beck, an ill-matched couple from Western Australia who had recently arrived in Queensland.

They had been driving around Noosa Heads, Sunshine Beach and Tewantin all afternoon seeking the object of Watts's obsession - any pretty young schoolgirl, no more than 13, flat-chested, didn't matter about the hair colour. But she had to be a virgin, whom Watts intended to rape.

Every time he saw a potential victim, she was with friends or parents, or passersby would happen along. Beck was tiring of the wait. They had parked for 15 minutes and were arguing when Watts suddenly whispered to Beck, "There's a girl coming on a bike. Stop her. Talk to her."

Sian filled Watts's fantasies. Exceptionally pretty, blue-eyed, tanned skin. Though only aged 12, Sian was already 167 centimetres tall. She was gentle, charmingly shy and very popular, with a brilliant smile which lit a pixieish quality in her personality. She liked sport. She was a true daughter of sunny, carefree, friendly Noosa.

Beck called out to Sian asking if she had seen a little white poodle with a pink bow. Sian slowed and stopped. No, she hadn't. Beck continued to distract Sian's attention.

Watts crept up behind, slammed a cloth over Sian's mouth and dragged her with him on to the back seat of the station wagon. Sian's screams were muffled. Beck's blue heeler, Rajah, leapt out, excited, barking. Sian's bike fell over. Beck frantically fetched the dog, stood the bike up, jumped in the driver's seat and sped off.

It took perhaps 30 seconds and was so brazen that one glance from a witness would have saved Sian. People in a service station 150 metres away, had they been looking, might have seen. Passing cars, just 50 metres off, had full view.

No-one noticed in those crucial seconds.

Barrie Watts, 35, a lean, thin-faced, tattooed man, part Aboriginal, and Valmae Beck, 45, a plumpish, pug-faced woman, met in Perth in 1983 and married in December 1986.

Beck's age and frumpish looks made Watts dominant in the relationship. Over the years her will had gradually sunk, waterlogged, into his until eventually she had wholly submitted. She was terrified of losing him, would do anything for him. Her acquiescence emboldened him.

They argued, principally over Watts's fantasies about schoolgirls. He told her that if she valued their marriage, if she loved him, she would help him get rid of his aggression.

He told her that once he had sex with someone for the first and only time -a virgin - he would never look at another woman in his life.

In early October 1987, they drove to Queensland, via Melbourne, and rented a house in Lowood, a small farming town 50 kilometres west of Brisbane.

Watts had a bent for pornographic videos, mostly to do with teenage prostitutes, but at Lowood they did not yet have a video. On Thursday, November 26, they left to spend the weekend on the coast, slept roadside in their station wagon and arrived in Noosa Heads the next day.

They visited several beaches near Noosa, including Castaway Creek, a small beach just south of Sunshine Beach. Watts drove and drank. About 3.30pm, as Noosa schoolchildren emerged on to the streets, Watts, fuelled by a dozen cans of beer, told Beck: "Today's the day."

Two hours later he had Sian Kingi, gagged and bound with glossy brown masking tape, speeding out of Noosa Junction towards Tinbeerwah Mountain State forest, about 15 kilometres west of Tewantin. Watts took the wheel, turned into a forestry road, drove two kilometres and pulled into bush a few metres off the road.

Beck used scissors to cut the tape from Sian's mouth, being careful not to cut Sian's hair. On Watts's instructions, Beck then cut Sian's underpants away with a knife. At no stage did Sian cry.

The forest track was well used and any passing driver would have easily seen what ensued. Watts even left the car lights blazing. But no car passed. Sian's ordeal began. It was about 6pm.

Lynda Kingi arrived home at 4.45pm. Sian knew friends locally. Lynda was unconcerned. But towards dusk she began ringing friends with increasing urgency.

At 8.15pm she and husband Barry, a Telecom employee, retraced the route back to Pinnaroo Park, shone their headlights in, took a torch and found Sian's bike.

They threw it in the back of their utility and at 8.40pm walked into Noosa Heads police station with a photo of Sian. On duty was Detective-Sergeant Bob Atkinson, the senior of Noosa's two detectives. Atkinson, 40, a remarkably serene, steady man, has a teenage daughter. He knew Sian by sight.

He returned to Pinnaroo Park with the Kingis, inquired whether Sian might have run away, but feared the worst from the outset.

At 11.05pm he rang the Sunshine Coast Daily night desk. The newspaper, close to its publishing deadline, managed to insert a small photograph of Sian and details of her disappearance for the next morning, Saturday's, edition.

Four hours earlier, at about 7pm, after an hour of violation, Beck and Watts left Sian's lifeless body in the State forest. They drove towards the highway and, passing Six Mile Creek, between Tewantin and Cooroy, threw a knife, tape, rope and belt, wrapped in a bedspread, into the lower reaches.

Beck cried and Watts told her not to be upset. They picked up some milk and cat food on the way through Brisbane and arrived at Lowood at 10pm. Beck put their dirty clothes in the wash.

That night Atkinson rang his superior, Detective Senior Sergeant Neil Magnussen, officer in charge of Sunshine Coast CIB and then began a log. In it Sian became the MP, the Missing Person.

At 5am the next day, police began their search and investigation. The same morning Watts rose early at Lowood and washed the station wagon inside and out to get rid of any of Sian's hairs. Watts calmly read about Sian's disappearance in the morning newspaper, but that afternoon, as Beck returned from shopping, he called her excitedly upstairs.

There was an item about Sian on the television news. Beck asked Watts if he was a bit paranoid being by himself. Watts said he was glad Beck was home.

Beck said she was afraid, but Watts said not to worry: he had no guilt feelings. That night they had sexual intercourse.

On the morning of Sunday, November 29, Sian was due to attend a friend's birthday party in Noosa Heads National Park. It was unlikely, no matter what her predicament, she would voluntarily miss it.

That afternoon Senior Sergeant Magnussen called Brisbane Homicide. He needed numbers. Detective Senior Sergeant Bob Dallow was out playing squash when the call came. Dallow, 44, has three daughters, the youngest 14.

Dallow gathered a team of half a dozen homicide detectives and arrived in Noosa on Monday and, together with Magnussen, set up a murder room in Noosa Heads CIB.

Noosa Heads is a close-knit community of about 15,000, keen on sport and protecting the environment - a country town on the beach. The district's response overwhelmed the 20 investigators in the murder room.

Sian's disappearance eventually attracted 700 leads. Each one was entered into computers and every morning detectives collected their bundle of job print-outs. Magnussen and Dallow worked as a team. Atkinson took the Kingi family under his wing.

Many people saw Sian ride her bike away from Noosa Fair shopping centre, saw her pass between the bowls club and the tennis courts. That was her.

But she was not the hitchhiker who got a lift in a brown Falcon station wagon heading south, nor the girl who was dropped off at Noosa Heads near the surf club.

A woman at Sunshine Beach swore she heard a female voice call, "Come here, Sian", and another at Tewantin heard screaming at 1.30am.

Several residents in a caravan park rang independently to report a girl heard screaming for help from a car flying down the highway late on Friday night. It was a strong, but eventually fruitless, lead.

It was a bad week for perverts, flashers, loiterers and sickos in Noosa. Police in casual clothes staked out beaches and netted several men exposing themselves.

The only firm lead was a white Holden station wagon, circa 1973, seen in the parking bay at Pinnaroo Park. Descriptions of its accessories varied from mag wheels and roof-rack to curtains, sun visor, blue panels and of a surfie appearance - but always a white Holden station wagon.

The inquiry released descriptions of the car and that of a man in his early 30s, with sun-bleached hair seen standing near the car. That came over the radio news on Sunday, November 29.

Hearing this, Beck bought dye and that afternoon bleached her burgundy hair blonde. The next morning Watts had a haircut, and Beck used dark brown dye to disguise his sun-bleached hair.

About the same time on Sunday that Beck was changing hair colour, Noosa resident Elizabeth Young walked into Noosa Heads CIB and volunteered that she had been pestered by some beach weasel at Castaways Creek the previous Friday

Young told Detective Senior Constable Alan Bourke she had been at the beach with a friend, Bill Wallace, and had also seen a white Holden station wagon.

Senior Constable Bourke rang Wallace, a jack of all surf trades, who came in the next morning, Monday. Wallace recounted how at about 4pm on Friday (90 minutes before Sian disappeared), he and Young returned to his old four-wheel drive in a small car park at Castaways Creek and noticed a man hanging around the cars there.

Wallace had experienced trouble previously with thefts from his car. As he came off the beach one of the cars, a white Holden station wagon, suddenly accelerated off, wheels spinning.

"Don't suppose you got the number?" asked Bourke. "Yeah," said Wallace. As the Holden whipped off he had written it down on a scrap of paper and stuck it in a clip attached to his dashboard. It was a black and white plate, LLE 429.

Bourke entered the numbers into a computer and drew a blank in Queensland. The same with NSW. And then Victoria. "Bingo, up came Valmae Fay Beck," said Bourke. It meant nothing to him.

There were 17,000 such Holden station wagons in Queensland alone, and 10,000 of them were white. Dallow and Magnussen were grappling with that. The public had already tendered 500 suspicious car plates to check.

Noosa Heads motorists with old white Holden station wagons were given no peace. One Victorian holidaymaker was reported 24 times. The murder room eventually began issuing signed all-clear cards to owners whose cars had been cleared. Dallow, on a quick trip to Brisbane, found himself pulling over white station wagons in city streets.

Valmae Fay Beck's registered address was at Mooroolbark, near Croydon, 33 kilometres outside Melbourne. Bourke rang Croydon detectives and asked if they would perform some reconnaissance for him.

On Tuesday, December 1, Croydon detectives called back that the address belonged to an elderly man, Roland Watts, the adopting father of Barrie John Watts, who was married to Valmae Beck. They had both done time in Western Australia and had headed for Queensland.

Bourke rang Perth for information on Beck but drew a blank. He beavered away. A check of Watts found that a Valmae Forte was a known accomplice of his and she fitted Beck's Melbourne description. Said Bourke, "I got a bit hot on them once I found they were crooks over there and headed up here." He asked for photographs of the pair to be sent express to Queensland.

That night heavy rain swept the Tinbeerwah forest. Sergeant Atkinson saw it washing away possible clues.

ON THE evening of Wednesday, December 2, Neil Clarke, 18, a fruit picker of Coveys Road, Tinbeerwah, noticed a strange odour as he walked home through the State forest. At home on television he saw the news of Sian's disappearance and suddenly remembered: "That might be a body."

At 8.50 the next morning he drove back, crept off the track a few metres and was revolted. His call went straight through to Bob Atkinson in the murder room. Atkinson's heart slumped. The murder room fell silent.

"I think deep down we all knew she was dead," said Dallow. "But we hoped."He and Atkinson drove to the forest at 9.33am and roped off the sepulchral scene.

Sian's body lay on the bank of a shallow sandy creek. Her blue and white, vertical-striped school dress was pulled over her waist. Her pants lay nearby. Her green nylon school backpack was in the bush 10 metres off.

Pathology examination found two massive cuts to her throat, one through to the spine, a fierce, fatal injury. She had 12 stab wounds in the chest, three of which pierced her heart, each a fatal wound by itself.

Beck's confession later revealed that after Watts had finished forcing his victim to commit indecent acts, fondling, kissing and finally raping her, he had said, "It's all finished now, it's all over."

Beck told police, "She was frightened, very frightened but she never cried, never shed one tear, a very brave little girl, she never uttered a peep."

Beck had then said to Watts, "Can't we just leave her and go?" Watts had replied: "Don't be so f---ing stupid; I can't trust her not to give me up."

Watts had ordered Sian to put her dress back on and had then tied her ankles with rope. He had bound her hands, gagged her with tape and ordered her to lie face down. He had taken a belt belonging to Beck and tied it around Sian's neck. With the belt tightening, she had said, "You're hurting me."

Without a word Watts had placed his knee on Sian's back and strangled her. Of Sian's final moments, Beck said, "I'll never forget those sounds as long as I live." Rajah, the blue heeler, had become excited so Beck had to lead him around the other side of the car. When she looked back, Watts had rolled Sian over and was stabbing her in the chest and throat.

Watts had then dragged Sian's body a few metres off the creek bank into the bush.

At the outset Watts had placed a bedspread on the bank and his hour's defilement crushed the grass beneath. Heavy rain had made the creek bed run and all the grass on the bank was turned downstream, except for the bedspread square. That grass, peculiarly, lay in its original shape, like a shroud. And stayed that way for weeks.

No detective viewed that terrible scene without murmuring something like, "the poor kid". Nor did many turn away without welling eyes.

For Bob Dallow, the image which bothered him most was that despite the terrible violence done to Sian's upper body, she still wore her pink socks and white Diadora joggers. From her knees down her living neatness was unbearable

At 11.45am Detectives Atkinson and Magnussen gave Lynda and Barry Kingi the bad news. What could he say? "You never get used to something like that," said Atkinson.

Police do not require motivation to solve murders. It is endemic to homicide. Officers sometimes retire voicing their ringing regret that whoever did this or that murder was never caught. Dallow, Atkinson and Magnussen were now thus burdened.

Alan Bourke was the exhibits officer, and the murder site took priority over his West Australian inquiries.

Sian's logbook status changed from MP to The Deceased.

All that week Watts had become increasingly confident police were not seeking them. But on the morning of Friday, November 4, reading of Sian's body being found, Watts and Beck hurriedly packed a few clothes and headed for Melbourne to sell the car. They maintained the house lease, hoping to return to Lowood when events cooled.

About lunchtime that day, uniformed Senior Constable John Stehr, driving his police car through Lowood, saw a parked white Holden station wagon in his rear vision mirror. He looked over his shoulder and saw the first three letters of the number plate - Victorian, LLE. Just a country policeman, he saw a strange vehicle in town, made a mental note of it. Part of the job.

The same morning, a Telecom employee, Colin Harm, installing a telephone in Fairfield Road, Lowood, noticed a white station wagon parked in the yard of an A-frame on an acre block. He took special note because he was interested in buying that model. The car's first three letters, LLE, stuck in his mind.

Back in Noosa, the murder room was coping with a jumpy public. A brutal murderer was now at large. Every idle stranger looked suspicious, every shout in the night was a call for help. Clairvoyants materialised with visions of clues.

The murder room pasted up a newspaper scrap book. Disturbed people often confess to such crimes. Police can quickly dismiss them if their confessions amount to no more than has appeared in the media.

Every day Atkinson kept Mr and Mrs Kingi informed of progress. They, in turn stayed brave. Once they walked into the murder room at 1am with plates of food for weary detectives. "You would never meet a finer couple," said Atkinson.

Over the weekend of December 5 and 6, Alan Bourke's photographs arrived from Perth and were pasted up in the murder room. Watts had failed to appear in the West Australian Supreme Court on an armed robbery charge and Beck was wanted on a warrant for break and enter and false pretences.

Every time Dallow looked at Watts's photo it gave him pause. "He was a pretty evil-looking bugger," said Dallow. Watts and Beck were still only mediocre suspects, but the murder room decided there was enough to put a message on the police computer about them.

That went out on Tuesday, December 8. In the afternoon, senior detectives attended Sian's funeral. Barry Kingi is Maori. Sian was born in New Zealand. Traditional Maori farewell songs mixed with Christian hymns.

One of Sian's school friends read a moving section from Peter Pan which said, "When the first child laughed for the first time, the laugh broke into a thousand pieces and went skipping about and that was the beginning of fairy."And that was Sian. The band played John Lennon's Imagine.

Afterwards the sombre group of detectives filed back into the murder room. At once Bob Atkinson took a dramatic phone call.

On November 10, about two weeks before they abducted Sian, Watts and Beck had tried their plan on two Ipswich General Hospital nurses. Watts had got out of the car to talk to a nurse but had left when other nurses appeared. Soon after, another nurse, in her car, locked her windows and doors when Beck had approached.

The next day, after another more serious incident, witnesses had taken the number plate of the white Holden station wagon involved as NSW, LLE 439. They were a single digit out - the car plate was LLE 429.

Investigations fell to Detective 1st Class Constable Graham Hall of Ipswich CIB. By seven that evening, LLE 439 had led to a Toyota Corolla in a NSW country town and was cleared. A staffer had been assigned to spend the shift jumbling the letters and numbers together and punching them into the police computer to try to pull out a white Holden station wagon.

"It was a million to one chance," said Hall. And so it was. He may as well have counted points in a night sky.

Hall had arranged for a small item to appear in the local Ipswich newspaper and two days later another witness had called to say she thought the plate contained an F and was 429. Thus the correct combination still eluded them.

They did not know it but had they traced that plate, tracked down that station wagon, it's possible, just possible Sian Kingi's fate may have been forestalled. If ...

"When you get something like that it drives you on and on," said Hall. On until four weeks later, on December 8, when Hall, off duty, dropped in at Ipswich CIB.

There on the message sheet was the Noosa murder room's computer bulletin on Watts and Beck. Not a policeman in Queensland would have missed reading that bulletin. The Kingi case had transcended normal crime.

When Hall read LLE 429 he said, sotto voce, "Hey, I think that's my car."The hairs rose on his neck. "That's my car |"

Hall's call transformed the Noosa murder room. He told Bob Atkinson, with excited understatement, "I think I might be able to help you." That was it. As Atkinson put it, "It was a tremendous breakthrough. We had started from nothing and now we got on a roll. They had all the luck at first, but we got the breaks after that."

Up in Lowood, Constable John Stehr proved equally alert. At 4pm, just as he was knocking off, he saw the Noosa message on the computer terminal. "It hit home straight away," he said. The Victorian station wagon. He rang the Noosa murder room. The Kingi investigative corps closed in on Lowood.

The next day, Wednesday, December 9, Detective Hall and other Ipswich detectives drove to Lowood, a town of about 3,000 and, carrying photographs of Watts and Beck, slogged around town talking to shopkeepers and publicans and checking caravan parks.

Next evening, Thursday, December 10, a publican chatting to Telecom employee Colin Harm mentioned the police search. Harm remembered the car in the yard of the A-frame house.

He directed police there at daylight. Neighbours identified Watts and Beck from a photo line-up. They recalled Watts washing the station wagon, saw him making approaches to schoolkids. Detective Hall executed a search warrant and opened the house.

The morning newspaper of Friday, December 4, lay rolled, unopened, on the kitchen floor. They had been gone a week. Detective Hall tracked the rented A-frame to a nearby real estate agency. Watts's and Beck's signatures were on the lease.

The trail suddenly became hot. Watts and Beck wanted to retain the house. The agent had just received a money order as rent from The Entrance, a holiday resort town on the NSW coast, 100 kilometres north of Sydney.

The murder room rang NSW police and within hours 10 undercover police moved into The Entrance. On Saturday morning, December 12, an undercover policeman spotted Watts's and Beck's station wagon leaving a supermarket car park. He followed it to the Tienda Motel and kept it under surveillance.

Detective Atkinson was in his Noosa Heads office when the phone call came through. Atkinson held down a surge of elation. These were just steps, nothing was over yet. He and Magnussen flew to Sydney and drove to The Entrance.

When Watts and Beck drove from Western Australia to Melbourne, they had traded in their small sedan for the white Holden station wagon. Melbourne scientific police examining the trade-in concluded there had been a firearm concealed in the driver's side door. Watts was wanted for armed robbery.

A shoot-out was possible. There was none. The raiders did not knock. At 5pm they used a key to swiftly enter the couple's ground-floor unit. Watts and Beck were surprised but not overly alarmed. They knew they were wanted, from Western Australia. They were curious to know the purpose of the raid.

At The Entrance police station, the Queensland police put the pair's doubts to rest. Watts denied everything, his name, even his photograph.

Watts had coached Beck in a fabricated story. It went: they had argued, Beck had walked off, Watts had driven off to Noosa Heads, slept for two hours and returned and picked Beck up again.

Watts had warned Beck to keep repeating that and never confess to anything and never believe it if she was told Watts had confessed until she heard it from his own lips.

Beck told that story to Detective-Sergeant Earl Seymore from the Sunshine Coast and signed a short handwritten statement which was shown to Watts. He demanded to see Beck.

"I'll never forget this as long as I live," said Bob Atkinson. "She came in and sat on his lap and held his ashtray while he smoked a cigarette. These two people who had done this terrible thing, just as calm as you like."

Beck gilded their story. "Barrie," she said in her flat, nasally accent, "If you killed that little girl, you tell them and I'll try and help you as much as I can." Watts got the drift. "I was drunk. You know I can't remember what I do when I'm drunk," he replied.

As Beck was about to be taken away, Watts said, "You stick by me," and Beck said, "I will." He repeated it, looking at her. She kissed him and walked away. Bob Atkinson, from Noosa Heads, who had known Sian Kingi, watched it all, impassive.

The next day Beck expanded her story to Sergeant Seymore, who had spent hours gaining her confidence. Atkinson stood near the cells and overheard Beck's first doubts surface.

"You wouldn't say I had anything to do with that murder would you?" she asked. Watts merely said, "You know what happened." It revealed nothing.

On Monday, December 14, Watts and Beck were extradited to Noosa Heads, returning by plane with Atkinson and Magnussen. At 6pm they were entered into the Noosa Heads watch-house charge book.

Detective Sergeant Richard Nikola, Dallow's offsider in the murder room, had meanwhile obtained a warrant from a Supreme Court judge to electronically bug the cells at Noosa to tape incriminating conversations between the pair.

Presented with police evidence, Beck continued expanding her original statement, each time sheeting home a little more blame to Watts.

She said Watts had an obsession with schoolgirls and that after he picked her up again at Noosa Heads he said he didn't have to worry about the obsession any more. Still keeping herself uninvolved.

At 7pm, Sergeant Atkinson, in his office, began the careful process of establishing a rapport with Valmae Beck. For an hour he chatted with her, was non-judgmental, understanding, non-committal, creating the trust of the confessional.

It took training, experience and some steel. He did it because, despite his suspicions, he had to satisfy himself about Beck. He knew she had six children from previous marriages, one a teenage daughter. It seemed beyond comprehension that he was facing a woman from whom no motherly instincts had surfaced to save Sian Kingi.

Just when Atkinson thought police would have to rely substantially on the electronic eavesdropping, Beck abruptly broke. Sipping a glass of water, she tearfully told her terrible story.

Atkinson cautioned her about her rights. Her record of interview opened at 10.30pm and did not finish until 7.33 the next morning. Atkinson was her interlocutor, Magnussen corroborated, Dallow in the next room, proof-read each page.

Her 29-page description of their treatment of Sian Kingi is a sickening document, unfolding Watts's cruelty in Beck's presence. Her confession was interrupted at times when she became overwrought. Police even bought her chocolates. "You would have bought her a sweet factory if it would help solve this thing," said Sergeant Atkinson.

He led her through her statement, skilfully negating any defences her story might instigate. Crucial among her admissions was the location of the bundle of murder scene items - including knife, belt and masking tape with pieces of Sian's hair attached - thrown into Six Mile Creek.

A crew went there that night, and the next morning water police arrived. On the first dive they struck the bundle. "That was enormous evidence," said Atkinson. "Only two people on God's Earth knew where that stuff was, and she was one of them."

It took Beck an hour and a half to read back and initial her statement. When it was shown to Watts, he was contemptuous. "You might know what happened, but you got to prove it," he said.

Back in the cells, the electronic bugs picked up the pair talking. Watts abused Beck. "No-one saw us pick her up and throw her in the car, no-one seen her in the car, no-one seen us kill her. If you hadn't confessed, they didn't have a case."

The devices taped nearly 20 hours of cell conversations, edited to four hours for Watts's trial. The tapes, crackling and muffled, held the courtroom spellbound. One chilling passage echoed:

Watts: Am I really a madman? A psychopath?

Beck: Yeah, you're off your tap ... Going out and raping somebody is one thing, but to kill somebody in cold blood and not have any compassion at all, that worried me. It's been worrying me for weeks, since it happened. Because you told me it wouldn't bother you, but I thought it would.

Watts: I'd like to do it again.

Beck: Pardon?

Watts: I'd like to do it again.

Beck: You see. And then you tell me you don't want to plead insanity.

Watts: But you wanted to as well.

Beck: What?

Watts: You wanted to as well. You wanted to do it again.

An undercover detective, planted in a cell to befriend Watts, later suffered a nervous breakdown and resigned, attributing his collapse partly to the horror of working on the case.

On December 15, 1987, Watts and Beck were formally charged with Sian Kingi's murder. It was the day before Sian would have turned 13.

On April 5, hundreds of people gathered outside Noosa Heads Magistrate's Court and shouted abuse at the van carrying Watts and Beck to the committal hearings. The murder room squad moved outside to ensure the police van departed safely.

They were were amazed to hear the crowd's anger melt to appreciation. The crowd rendered three rousing cheers for the police. Flowers and cards had already begun arriving at the police station.

"That was in the middle of the Fitzgerald Inquiry when Queensland police stocks were at their lowest," said Bob Dallow. "I've never heard that happen before and I may never again. There were a few damp eyes after that.

"I think we all understood that Sian's murder was like a bloody roulette wheel. She could have been anybody's child, could have been yours, could have been mine, it was just fate."

On October 20, 1988, in the Queensland Supreme Court, Justice Kelly, sentenced Beck to three years for abduction, 10 years for rape and life for murder.

Last Wednesday, the same judge sentenced Watts to three years for abduction, 15 years for rape and life for murder. He recommended Watts's papers be marked "Never to be released".


Early October 1987

Barrie Watts and his wife Valmae Beck rent a house in Lowood.

November 10

Watts and Beck visit Ipswich. An incident takes place which later provides a vital clue.

November 27

Watts and Beck kidnap 12-year-old Sian Kingi in Noosa. They take her to Tinbeerwah Mountain State forest, where she is raped and murdered.

December 3

Sian Kingi's body is discovered.

December 4

Watts and Beck leave Lowood.

December 10

Their real estate agent in Lowood receives a money order for rent from The Entrance, NSW.

December 12

Watts and Beck are arrested at The Entrance.

December 14

Watts and Beck are extradited to Noosa Heads, where Beck eventually confesses.



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