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.
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
Child killer Valmae Beck dies aged 64
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
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
"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
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
Notorious child killer Beck dies
By Lendl Ryan - TownsvilleBulletin.com.au
May 28, 2008
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
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
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
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
Valmae Beck, Sian Kingi's killer, is 'close to
By Peter Michael
and Robyn Ironside - CourierMail.com.au
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
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
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
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
"Police are monitoring her condition and if she
gives some indication she'd like to talk to us, we'll do that," Insp
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
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
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
"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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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,"
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
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.
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.
Watts: You wanted to as well. You wanted to do it
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
"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".
FROM ABDUCTION TO DETECTION
Early October 1987
Barrie Watts and his wife Valmae Beck rent a house
Watts and Beck visit Ipswich. An incident takes
place which later provides a vital clue.
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.
Sian Kingi's body is discovered.
Watts and Beck leave Lowood.
Their real estate agent in Lowood receives a money
order for rent from The Entrance, NSW.
Watts and Beck are arrested at The Entrance.
Watts and Beck are extradited to Noosa Heads, where
Beck eventually confesses.