Bevan Spencer von
c.1945), also known as Bevan von Einem (last name sometimes
spelled "Von Einem"), is a child sex offender and suspected serial
murderer from Adelaide, South Australia.
An accountant by
profession, he was convicted in 1984 for the rape and murder of
15-year-old Richard Kelvin, the son of local TV personality Rob
Kelvin, and is currently serving life imprisonment in the maximum
security B-Division of Yatala Labour Prison.
The name Bevan
Spencer von Einem first came to attention on the night of May 10,
1972. That night, two homosexual men were thrown into the River
Torrens by a group of men. The river banks (or "Number 1 beat" as it
was known) were a place for homosexuals to meet in secret, as
homosexuality was still illegal in South Australia at that time.
Tragically, one of
the men, Dr. George Duncan drowned, however the other man, Roger
James suffered a broken leg and was rescued out of the river by von
Einem, who happened to be driving by at the time. Von Einem then
took James to Royal Adelaide Hospital.
Over the next
decade, rumours were rife that the group of men that threw the two
men in the river were Vice Squad Police and on July 30, 1985 former
Vice Squad officer Mick O'Shea revealed in the The Advertiser
newspaper that the group involved were Vice Squad officers and that
there was a cover-up to protect them. A task force was soon set up,
and on February 5, 1986 three former police officers were charged
with the manslaughter of Dr. Duncan, however all were eventually
cleared of the charges.
Murder of Richard
At around 6 pm. on
June 5, 1983, von Einem (along with other unknown persons) abducted
Kelvin in a North Adelaide street, just 60 metres from Kelvin's
home. Kelvin had just seen off a friend at a nearby bus stop on the
corner of O'Connell and Marian Streets, North Adelaide and was
returning home for dinner.
living near to the Kelvin's home heard cries for help, car doors
slamming and a car with a noisy exhaust speeding away.
Significantly, Kelvin had a dog collar in his possession which was
likely to have attracted von Einem's attention.
Von Einem then
tortured, drugged, raped and held Kelvin captive for five weeks,
before murdering him and dumping his body on an airstrip near One
Tree Hill in the Adelaide Hills area (to the north-east of the city
and close to where relatives of von Einem's lived). Kelvin's clothed
body was found by a geologist on July 24, 1983.
revealed that Kelvin had most certainly died from massive blood loss
from an anal injury, likely caused by the insertion of a blunt
object, such as a beer bottle, and he suffered bruising and injuries
on his head and back, which were likely to have been caused by
blows. Also traces of four hypnotic drugs were found in Kelvin,
including Mandrax and Noctec.
With the drugs as
their only firm lead at that stage, police began sifting through
prescriptions for those drugs. During their search they found a
prescription for Mandrax issued to a B. von Einem, a name familiar
to police as he was questioned previously over the deaths of three
young men and an alleged sexual assault of another.
Four days after
the body was discovered, von Einem was questioned about the murder
of Richard Kelvin by police. He initially claimed that he had no
knowledge of what happened to Kelvin and said that on the night of
abduction he was in bed with the flu. Police also searched his home
in the northern Adelaide suburb of Paradise, where police seized a
bottle of Mandrax.
Von Einem admitted
that the drugs were his and said that he used them to help him
sleep. He denied having any other drugs, but police also seized a
bottle of Noctec, concealed on a ledge behind his wardrobe. Von
Einem also allowed police to take hair and blood samples, as well as
carpets and other materials for testing.
As von Einem went
on holiday in the Soviet Union and the United Kingdom during August
and September of 1983, the case against him began to mount up.
Forensic investigators were able to match the many fibres found on
Kelvin's clothing to those taken from von Einem's home, along with
hairs found which matched those belonging to von Einem.
determined that Kelvin was murdered between July 8 and July 10, 1983
and was dumped at the airstrip no later than the 10th. However,
police raids on various locations around Adelaide linked to von
Einem yielded few clues. Police also searched for a man who
previously claimed to police during the investigation of the murder
of Alan Barnes that von Einem was involved in his death and also
that he was a former associate of von Einem. Barnes' fatal injuries
mirrored those of Kelvin's closely.
The man, known as
"Mr. B", was located and informed police in great detail how he and
von Einem picked up young male hitchhikers, gave them alcoholic
drinks laced with hypnotic drugs, and took them to von Einem's
previous home in the Adelaide suburb of Campbelltown, where the
young men were abused overnight and sent home the next day. "B" also
provided further information about other associates of von Einem,
but claimed he took no part whatsoever in any murders. Police also
questioned women and transsexuals who von Einem associated with,
however they volunteered little information.
evidence, along with the information given by "B", to indicate that
Richard Kelvin was at von Einem's home around the time of his death,
police arrested and charged von Einem with murder on November 3,
1983. Von Einem still denied ever coming into contact with Kelvin.
hearing to determine if there was sufficient evidence for von Einem
to stand trial for murder began on February 20, 1984. Faced with
evidence from prosecutors suggesting that Kelvin was in his company,
von Einem changed his alibi to answer that evidence and claimed that
he was in contact with Richard Kelvin on the night of June 5, 1983.
Von Einem said
that he was driving along O'Connell Street in North Adelaide looking
for a parking spot in order to buy some dinner. While looking for a
parking spot in a side street, von Einem said that he nearly ran
over Kelvin as he jogged in from his side.
Von Einem stated
he thought Kelvin had bisexual tendencies and said that the two of
them then had a conversation about problems Kelvin had been having
at school, and Kelvin willingly got into the car and they drove to
von Einem's home. Kelvin stayed for two hours before von Einem
dropped him off in the Adelaide CBD near a hospital, and gave Kelvin
$20 to catch a taxi home. Von Einem said that was the last time he
saw Kelvin. However, there was enough evidence to suggest otherwise,
and on May 25, 1984, Magistrate Nick Manos ordered von Einem to
stand trial for the murder of Richard Kelvin.
The trial against
Bevan Spencer von Einem for the murder of Richard Kelvin opened at
the Supreme Court Building of South Australia on October 15, 1984
before Mr. Justice White. A jury of 12 people (seven women and five
men) were selected and were agreed upon by the prosecution and
Von Einem pleaded
not guilty, and his defense was led by barrister Barry Jennings, and
was assisted by Helena Jasinski, who was von Einem's solicitor from
the start of the police's investigation of him in the murder during
the previous year. The prosecution was led by Brian Martin QC (who
is currently the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the Northern
Territory), with assistance from Paul Rofe (now the recently retired
Director of the Department of Public Prosecutions).
prosecution, it was a matter of proving von Einem's guilt (along
with unknown persons) by presenting the strong scientific evidence
that was gathered during the investigation, and disproving von
Einem's story of being in contact with Richard Kelvin on the night
of June 5, 1983. For the defense, it was a case of trying make von
Einem's story hold up in court, and raising doubts about von Einem
ability to keep Richard Kelvin captive for five weeks and committing
opened their case with the jury being taken to the various sites
around Adelaide that were important in the trial, and over the first
week they called various witnesses to the stand. Richard Kelvin's
parents, girlfriend and best friend were called to testify that
Kelvin was an average 15 year old who would not willingly get into a
car with a stranger, and was heterosexual and had no homosexual or
bisexual tendencies and that he was wearing the dog collar as a
close to the Kelvin's then testified that they heard noises and
commotion corresponding to the abduction taking place on the night
of June 5 at around 6pm. Forensic pathologists were called to
testify about the injuries to the head and anus on Kelvin's body and
the likely cause of his death, and pharmacists gave evidence of the
excessive amount of different hypnotic drugs von Einem had been
prescribed 5172 tablets and capsules of six different brands of
drugs between December 15, 1978 and August 10, 1983, and showed that
von Einem often had prescriptions for drugs issued from different
chemists on the same day or during the same weeks.
And various police
who worked on the case testified to their investigation of von Einem
since they first questioned him about the murder, as well as their
visit to von Einem's home where a police officer claimed that von
Einem's bedroom appeared to have been unusually cleaned quite
scientists were called next to testify firstly when Kelvin died and
when his body was dumped in the Adelaide Hills area and a leading
entomologist claimed from the larvae cycle of flies that were on the
body, and comparing these to the larvae cycle of flies on a dead dog
that was nearby, that Kelvin's body must have been dumped on the
airstrip near One Tree Hill on July 10, 1983.
scientists were called to testify about the hair and fibre samples
collected that were linked to von Einem himself and his home. Hairs
from von Einem were found on and inside Kelvin's clothing and of 925
fibre samples found on Kelvin's clothing, 250 came from von Einem's
home environment, with just seven from Kelvin's home.
stated that if von Einem's story was true, then there should be a
very small amount or even none of the fibres and hair samples from
that night still on Kelvin's clothing some 36 hours later, let alone
five weeks later. Faced with such damning scientific evidence, the
defense tried to counter this during cross-examination by floating a
possible theory that after von Einem last contact with Kelvin, he
was abducted by other people, who stored his clothing for five weeks
before murdering him and re-dressing him.
While the forensic
scientists conceded that this was a possible scenario, under
recross-examination by the prosecution, they conceded that it would
be still unlikely given the whole science of how fibres and hair are
transferred from surface to surface over time. The prosecution then
rested their case.
The defense opted
for von Einem to give a unsworn statement from the dock, rather than
given sworn evidence from the witness box. In his unsworn statement,
von Einem detailed his alibi with what he claimed happened in his
life between June 5 and July 11, 1983. He again claimed on June 5 he
picked up Kelvin in North Adelaide, drove him to his home, and then
dropped him off in the Adelaide CBD.
He also claimed
that he was sick with the flu for the next week after that and did
not return to work until June 14. Von Einem said he was quite
sketchy on his activities after that, however he did remember what
he did on July 10, the day the body was dumped on the airstrip. He
said that he was at a relative's birthday party with his mother for
most of that evening, and after dropping off a friend on the way
home, went straight to bed and went to work the next day.
Von Einem also
addressed the issue of the noisy exhaust on the car heard during the
abduction of Kelvin, by stating that the exhaust on his Ford Falcon
(which he sold on July 16, 1983 to raise money for his overseas
trip) was less than two years old and in good condition. Von Einem
closed his unsworn statement by again claiming his innocence.
The defense then
called various witnesses in an attempt to corroborate von Einem's
story. The witnesses included colleagues and friends of his to
testify of him being unwell and at home during the first week of
Richard Kelvin's captivity.
for the defense was the geologist, who while walking his dogs
through the airstrip discovered Kelvin' body on July 24, recalling
that he was walking in the same area on July 10 during the early
afternoon and the body wasn't there at that stage.
Others called to
give testimony for the defense were the woman who purchased von
Einem's Ford Falcon who detailed the condition of the car, and the
relative who hosted the birthday party on July 10 who said that von
Einem and his mother arrived there at 5:30pm and left at 10:30pm.
Photographs of the
party that included von Einem were also tendered to the court.
Finally, the defense called von Einem's mother to testify about her
son's activities over the weekend when Richard Kelvin was kidnapped.
cross-examination, the prosecution were able to show inconsistencies
in her current testimony compared to her earlier statements to
police about von Einem's whereabouts on the weekend of June 4-5,
which weakened von Einem's case considerably as this highlighted von
Einem's change the previous February of his account of what happened
on the night of June 5, 1983.
summation, the prosecution stated that the evidence they presented
proved that von Einem's story was full of lies and inconsistencies,
and that he did murder (with the help of others) Richard Kelvin.
They also stated that his admittance of picking up Kelvin showed
that he was in contact with him on June 5, the fibres and hairs
proved that von Einem was with him at the time of just before and/or
at the time of death, and the drugs proved von Einem was with Kelvin
in between those times.
also answered the doubts raised by the defense about when on July 10
the body was dumped at the airstrip, by suggesting that von Einem
could have dumped the body sometime very late on July 10 or in the
early morning of July 11 before von Einem went to work for the day.
The defense stated
in their summary that the prosecution had failed to prove beyond
reasonable doubt that von Einem was guilty of murder and also
weren't able to establish the exact cause of Kelvin's death, so
therefore the jury must give von Einem the benefit of the doubt.
Mr. Justice White
then gave his summation of the trial, and in the early afternoon of
November 5, 1984, the jury retired to consider their verdict.
After 7˝ hours of
deliberation, the jury returned to give their verdict. Bevan Spencer
von Einem was found guilty of the murder of Richard Kelvin and was
automatically sentenced to life at Yatala Labour Prison with Mr.
Justice White imposing a non-parole period of 24 years. Under South
Australian law, a third of the non-parole period could be taken off
for good behaviour in prison, which meant that von Einem could be
out on parole sometime in late 2000.
Attorney-General of South Australia immediately appealed the
leniency of the non-parole period, and on March 29, 1985 the
Criminal Courts of Appeal in South Australia increased the
non-parole period to 36 years, a record at the time in that state.
The earliest von Einem could be released on parole was therefore on
October 31, 2008.
defense team (now consisting of barrister David Peek with assistance
from Helena Jasinski) appealed the conviction to the Criminal Courts
of Appeal in South Australia and requested that a new trial be set.
The basis for this appeal was the evidence given about Kelvin's
heterosexuality, the references to von Einem's own heterosexuality
through the trial and the negative impact that might have had on the
jury, and also how Mr. Justice White in his summation did not
include the testimony given by von Einem's relative about his
attendance at the birthday party on the day Kelvin's body was
Courts of Appeal rejected the appeal, saying that the trial was
conducted fairly and just throughout, however they did concede that
Mr. Justice White should have included the evidence relating to the
Bevan Spencer von
Einem was the leading suspect in the unsolved murders of four other
young men between 1979 and 1982, and police continued to pursue
leads on those cases in the years after his murder conviction. The
four murdered were Alan Barnes in June 1979, Neil Muir in August
1979, Peter Stogneff in August 1981 and Mark Langley in February
In February 1988,
the State Coroner at the time in South Australia, Kevin Ahern,
ordered an inquest into the deaths of these four young men, and on
March 24, 1988, the State Coroner in his findings stated that manner
and circumstances in which the four were murdered was very similar
to that in the case of Richard Kelvin, particularly the murders of
Barnes and Langley. The reward for any information leading to an
arrest for the murders was increased to $250,000, and this was lated
increased to $500,000 in September 1989.
inquest, police pushed on with their investigations and attempted to
locate von Einem's former associates to question them about the
murders. And during 1989 media interest in the four unsolved murders
increased, with extensive news coverage in Adelaide about who was
involved in the murders.
The media dubbed
those involved "The Family", an alleged group of homosexual child
sexual abusers possibly involving high-profile Adelaide
establishment figures (doctors, lawyers, judges and politicians), a
theory that still persists to this day, although police who have
worked on the cases believe that the group doesn't involve any
high-profile people in Adelaide. However, fuel was added to the
rumours of a conspiracy, when on August 28, 1989, von Einem gave his
one and only interview from prison, given to The Advertiser
journalist Dick Wordley.
In the interview,
von Einem again pleaded his innocence in the murder of Richard
Kelvin and of the four other young men, and regretted taking his
lawyer's advice to keep silent during the early stages of the Kelvin
investigation. He also hinted that he could name people that could
help police with their investigation, but feared for his life if he
did and also claimed that his life was already threatened once by
two police officers who ordered him not to give evidence in the
inquest into the death of Dr. George Duncan in 1972.
Shortly after von
Einem's interview, police interviewed "Mr. B" again who was now
living in Sydney. "B" gave a statement about the Alan Barnes murder
that convinced prosecutors to grant him immunity if von Einem was
brought to trial. Police, now with "B"'s statement and the similar
fact evidence from the Richard Kelvin case, then arrested von Einem
at Yatala Labour Prison on September 15, 1989 for the murder of Alan
On November 10,
1989, von Einem was also arrested for the murder of Mark Langley.
Police were never able to obtain enough evidence for charges in the
murders of Neil Muir and Peter Stogneff, though in the case of Muir
an Adelaide doctor was tried for his murder in 1980 but was found
hearing to determine if von Einem should stand trial for the murders
of Barnes and Langley began on March 5, 1990 before magistrate David
Gurry. Von Einem plead not guilty to both murders, and his defense
cousel (now consisting of barrister Mark Griffin with assistance
from Marie Shaw) immediately claimed that it would be an abuse of
justice for their client if he was ordered to stand trial given the
mass coverage of the murders in the media in the past year.
was led again by Brian Martin QC, who was assisted this time by Tom
Birchall, and their case against von Einem relied on evidence of the
Richard Kelvin murder, with the details of the crime being so
strikingly similar to the murders of Barnes and Langley.
case also relied on evidence given by former associates testifying
to von Einem picking up boys hitchhiking and sexually abusing them,
as well as "B"'s sensational evidence being in the company of Barnes
and von Einem at the time just before Barnes' murder. "B" also gave
startling allegations of von Einem being involved in the unexplained
Beaumont children disappearance in 1966, as well as the
disappearance of two girls at the Adelaide Oval in 1973.
allegations were unable to be proven. Another witness also came
forward to claim he'd seen von Einem and Barnes together drinking in
the weeks before Barnes' death. Also entered as evidence was samples
taken from Barnes' body which showed that sedative drugs were
present. Little evidence was presented for the murder of Mark
Langley, as prosecutors felt if they could prove that von Einem
murdered Barnes, then it would naturally follow that he murdered
Langley as well.
On May 11, 1990,
Magistrate Gurry ordered von Einem to stand trial for the two
murders of Alan Barnes and Mark Langley. Von Einem's defense counsel
appealed the decision, launching an abuse of process action in the
Supreme Court of South Australia to achieve a permanent stay of
proceedings, as well as stating that the huge media interest in the
charges would result in their client not getting a fair trial.
Proceedings began on June 19, 1990 before Justice Kevin Duggan, and
six months later on December 17, 1990, Justice Duggan released his
findings. He ordered von Einem to stand trial, however he expressed
concerns with most of the prosecution's evidence.
hearing began on December 19, 1990 in the Supreme Court of South
Australia, with Justice Duggan as the presiding judge. The
prosecution decided after Justice Duggan's findings two days earlier
to have von Einem tried separately for the murders of Alan Barnes
and Mark Langley.
ruled that the evidence relating to the Richard Kelvin murder and
from the various associates of von Einem and hitchhikers was
inadmissible, although he did rule that "B"'s evidence could be
heard, but with the defense allowed to question the evidence as it
was being given. This was a shattering blow for the prosecution's
case, and on December 21, 1990, on advice from the Attorney-General
of South Australia, prosecutors withdrew the charge for the murder
of Mark Langley.
tried to continue with the charge for the murder of Alan Barnes,
however with the problems of getting enough evidence admitted into
court from associates about von Einem picking up hitchhikers to
convict von Einem still too great, the final charge was withdrawn on
February 1, 1991. The prosecution, on the advice of the
Attorney-General, then entered a nolle prosequi for the Alan Barnes
On January 29,
2006, the Sunday Mail reported that von Einem is currently being
investigated for allegedly raping an inmate several times at Yatala
On 24 June
2009, von Einem was sentenced to a further 3 months for the
possession of child pornography.
On 27 May 2009,
von Einem pleaded guilty to possessing child pornography – the first
time he has ever confessed to a crime.
On 28 October
2008, it was announced police hope one of four suspects in the
notorious Family sex murders will come forward to help solve the
case after the State Government doubled a reward to $1 million. This
announcement comes just days after Major Crime detectives
interviewed von Einem from his prison cell.
On 18 September
2008, it was announced that prosecutors have dropped allegations
that von Einem wrote stories of child pornography in his jail cell.
On 6 June 2008,
it was announced that prosecutors have dropped one charge of
producing child pornography, however von Einem is still facing
charges of possession.
On 4 May 2008,
it was announced that an Adelaide chiropractor who fled Australia
while being investigated for involvement in the Family Murders is
now being sought in Europe by Police. He was a former associate of
On 27 April
2008, it was announced that police are set to travel overseas to
interview several key witnesses as part of their new investigations
into the Family murders.
On 13 April
2008, it was announced that police conducting fresh investigations
into the unsolved Family murders will quiz transvestites who have
information that could assist the inquiry. Some are former
associates of von Einem and are likely to provide valuable
information into the inquiries.
On 30 March
2008, it was announced that key suspects in Adelaide's notorious
'The Family' murders are being DNA tested as part of a new inquiry
into the sex killings. Although von Einem is the only member of 'The
Family' who was convicted, police are now reviewing the cold case.
On 28 March
2008, the ABC reported that the child pornography found in von
Einem's cell has been determined to not have been written by von
Einem and that fingerprints do not match. Defence lawyer Sam Abbott
said he expects the Director of Public Prosecutions to drop the most
serious charge of producing the material and, if not, he will argue
there is no case to answer. It was also announced that von Einem has
been excused from attending his court hearings so he can avoid an
"unpleasant" three-hour drive with other inmates.
On 25 January
2008, The Advertiser reported that von Einem will not answer charges
of possessing child pornography for at least another two months.
On 7 December
2007, the ABC reported that von Einem has been granted a further
adjournment before answering charges of possessing child
On 1 November
2007, the ABC reported that after 24 years behind bars, von Einem is
now eligible to apply for parole. However, South Australian Premier
Mike Rann has vowed to enforce new legislation to ensure von Einem
never leaves prison alive.
On 11 August
2007, The Australian reported that detectives are calling for
information to establish the identity of a young man seen in the
Seven Network's news archive, showing police searching a storm water
drain in the days after the Beaumont Children's disappearance. The
man bears a striking resemblance to a youthful Bevan Spencer von
Einem. On 13 August 2007, the Seven Network followed this with a
story that the man standing next to the von Einem lookalike in their
archived film matched the police sketch of the suspect seen with the
Beaumonts at the beach on the day of their disappearance.
On 27 July 2007
it was announced that von Einem had been transferred from the
maximum security B-Division of Yatala Labour Prison to Port Augusta
On 14 June
2007, the ABC reported that von Einem has been charged with
producing and possessing child pornography, with police alleging
that he handwrote three fictitious stories describing sexual acts
between a child and a man. His lawyer believes a handwriting
analysis will clear von Einem.
On 4 February
2007, the ABC reported that von Einem had been charged over
commercial dealings during his incarceration, including selling
hand-painted greeting cards.
On 26 November
2006 it was revealed that von Einem had been prescribed Cialis by a
prison doctor in 2003.
On 12 November
2006, the Sunday Mail reported that von Einem was receiving
preferential treatment by some prison officials at Yatala Labour
Prison which included home cooked meals for him and the use of a
On 29 October
2006, The Australian reported that von Einem had been selling
hand-painted greeting cards to prison officers for $20 each.
On 29 January
2006, the Sunday Mail reported that von Einem is currently being
investigated for allegedly raping an inmate several times at Yatala
Bevan Spencer von Einem
is a convicted murderer, a suspected serial killer, and a named
suspect for the disappearance of the Beaumont children. Currently
serving a 36-year term of imprisonment for the murder of a 15-year-old
boy, he is strongly suspected of involvement in a series of murders
in Adelaide and the surrounding areas in the 1970s and early 1980s.
These murders became known as "The Family Murders".
In 1990, during the committal
hearing for his trial for two of these murders, it was alleged that
he had confessed to killing the Beaumont children. He refuses to
cooperate with police enquiries.
Von Einem first came to prominent attention when
he saved the life of a man named Roger James in 1972. Ironically,
given later events, von Einem's actions on this occasion were heroic.
James was in a well-known homosexual meeting area on the banks of
the Torrens River in Adelaide. Attacked because he was gay, he was
bashed and thrown into the river, and would probably have died
without the intervention of von Einem. Another man who was thrown
into the river was drowned.
1. The murder of Richard
In 1983, 15-year-old Richard Kelvin, son of
Adelaide newsreader Rob Kelvin, was abducted from near his home in
North Adelaide. Exactly seven weeks later his body was found close
to an abandoned runway. Analysis showed that he had probably been
held captive for at least five weeks before he was killed. He had
been drugged but had died from physical injuries.
Bevan Spencer von Einem was known to police by
this time and was questioned two days after the discovery of the
body. Hairs found on Richard Kelvin's body matched von Einem and a
total of 196 fibres from Kelvin’s clothes were found in von Einem’s
Von Einem was charged with murder, and was
convicted the following year. He was sentenced to a non-parole
period of 36 years, which means that he will not be eligible for
release until 2020. That might have been the end of the matter,
except that von Einem is suspected of involvement in at least four
The murders in question are those of Neil Muir,
aged 25, in 1979; Alan Barnes, aged 17, in June 1979; Peter
Strogneff, aged 14, in August 1981; and Mark Langley, aged 18, in
February 1982. All were murdered in or around the Adelaide area.
2. "The Family"
Before von Einem's arrest, police had linked the
murders and speculated that there might be a small group of
individuals collectively engaged in deviant practises. The
suggestion was that a group of up to ten people had planned and
carried out the murders together. The press dubbed this group “The
Family” and so the five murders became collectively known as "The
The speculation about the existence of “The
Family” did not diminish with the conviction of von Einem for
Richard Kelvin's murder. It seemed logical to believe that he had
committed the other murders as well, possibly with help from
accomplices. Unfortunately for the police and the families of the
victims, he refused to cooperate. Detective Superintendent Rob Lean,
in charge of the South Australian major crime squad, said in 1987: "We
still feel that Von Einem is the principal person behind the murders.
But he refuses to talk to us."
3. A witness called "Mr
Police were not able to make progress with their
investigations until 1989, when two associates of von Einem
separately went to police to make statements against him. Witnesses
"Mr B" and Garry Wayne Place were both former associates of von
Einem, and had already become acquainted with him before the
abduction and murder of Alan Barnes had taken place.
Place and "Mr B" had both mixed with von Einem in
Adelaide’s gay community, and both said they had been threatened
against giving evidence about von Einem’s association with Barnes.
More significantly, Mr B, who approached police in Sydney in
September 1989, said that he had left Alan Barnes in the company of
von Einem and an Adelaide trader on the night that Barnes had
disappeared. He had left after having heard von Einem say that they
were going to video the murder of Barnes and then throw the body
from a bridge.
Von Einem was formally charged with the murders
of Alan Barnes and Mark Langley, another of the murder victims. Mr B
was granted immunity from prosecution on 27 February 1990 and on 5
March the committal hearing into the charges began at Adelaide
Magistrates Court. A committal hearing is a similar procedure to an
American grand jury hearing, where the evidence is assessed to see
if it warrants a full trial. It was at this committal hearing that
von Einem’s possible involvement with the disappearance of the
Beaumont children was revealed.
Twenty two different witnesses gave evidence at
the committal hearing, but Mr B’s evidence was the most significant.
Giving evidence for four days, he described in detail his knowledge
of Alan Barnes and Barnes’ movements (as Mr Place also did) but also
testified as to a conversation he’d had with von Einem several weeks
before Barnes’ murder.
4. Connection with the
Mr B said that a few weeks before Barnes had been
abducted, von Einem had told him that he’d abducted the Beaumont
children, had "connected them up" and "did some brilliant surgery on
them" and that one had died. The bodies had been dumped at Moana or
Myponga, south of Adelaide. Mr B also said: "He also told me he
picked up two children at the football."
This evidence from Mr B was sensational. A
suppression order meant that the evidence given in the committal
hearing could not be published in South Australia, but it was freely
published in other Australian states. When the suppression order was
lifted in South Australia the news of Mr B’s testimony was printed
on the front page of the Adelaide Advertiser. It did not
particularly stretch the imagination to believe that "The Family"
and von Einem had murdered the Beaumont children, Joanne Ratcliffe
and Kirste Gordon.
Sought out for his opinion by reporters covering
the committal hearings, Mr Beaumont, speaking from his home, said
that police had kept him updated with what had been happening. The
news of Mr B's evidence had not been any surprise. He also said: "I
don't know what to believe. I don't know any more than you." Mrs
Beaumont, who had long since separated from her husband, was not
available to comment.
5. Doubts cast on Mr B's
Mr B gave no more evidence of von Einem’s
involvement with the Beaumont children’s disappearance or the Oval
abduction. Nor did any other witness. Instead, evidence was given
about the murders of Alan Barnes and Mark Langley. Mr B’s evidence
was attacked as being weak and inconsistent and he admitted to
having been a drug user and having a poor memory. He had refused to
sign the statement he made to detectives in Sydney, saying:
There were a few reasons. Nerves, concern
about my own safety and there was no legal obligation to sign,
so I didn't.
His evidence about Barnes was contradicted by his
sister, Claire. She said that Mr B had arrived at her house and said
"I've just seen a murder", claiming to have witnessed Barnes being
thrown from a bridge. Mr B, in turn, said that his sister, who had
been 17 at the time, was "just a little bit dizzy".
It was pointed out that Mr B had failed to
mention the Beaumont children when he spoke to police in 1979 and
1983 and the magistrate, Mr Gurry, said:
As I sit here I still have, ringing in my
ears, Mr B's admission in court that in terms of his obligations
in this matter "the court comes last", and the fact that much of
what he says may be inherently improbable, given normal
expectations of human behaviour.
Questioned by Mr Mark Griffin, defense counsel
for von Einem, Mr B had also admitted that the reward money was a
part incentive for coming forward:
You're not wrong. You haven't had to carry
this shit around for 10 years. You have got no idea what I have
been going through. It's not funny not being able to walk out of
your own front door and go to the shop on your own, sit here and
face crap like [name suppressed] sitting in the body of the
court. The mental torture I am going through, not being able to
sleep at night, getting two or three hours sleep a night and
having to come in here and face you every day. It's not fun. It
has been like this for me for 11 years. I have given a lot of
consideration to the relatives of the families; they deserve to
know what really happened.
Eventually, on Thursday, 10 May 1990, von Einem
was committed to stand trial.
Meanwhile, based on Mr B’s testimony, a search
was made of the Myponga Reservoir. Nothing was found.
6. Trial abandoned
Bevan Spencer von Einem was never tried for the
murders of Alan Barnes and Mark Langley. The case against von Einem
depended on showing that the two murders could be connected with
that of Richard Kelvin, for which von Einem had already been
convicted. A legal ruling barred the used of evidence from the
earlier murder trial and so it became impossible to establish this
connection. This greatly weakened the case and reduced the prospect
of a conviction. Without the realistic prospect of a conviction the
charges were abandoned. The murders of Alan Barnes and Mark Langley
Despite having used him as a witness at the
committal hearing, police later decided that they couldn’t rely on
the word of word of Mr B. Eventually they described his evidence as
Von Einem has never been tried for any murder
other than than of Richard Kelvin. No other member of "The Family",
if that group existed, has been publicly identified.
So how likely is it that Bevan Spencer von
Einem was responsible for the disappearance of the Beaumont children?
Below are the arguments for, and the arguments against:
7. The evidence for von
Von Einem is a known paedophile, a convicted
murderer and a prime suspect in four other murders. He was in
Adelaide when the Beaumont children disappeared and he roughly
matches the description of the suspect. The witness, Mr B, said that
von Einem had admitted visiting Glenelg Beach to "perv" around the
changing rooms, which puts him right at the scene of the children's
Most critically of all, Mr B said that von Einem
confessed to murdering the Beaumont children. He said that von Einem
told him (Mr B) that he had "connected them up" and "did some
brilliant surgery on them" and that one of the children had died.
Von Einem may have had the protection of "The
Family", which according to rumour was an influential group that
could protect him from police enquiries. Both Mr B and Mr Place gave
evidence of phone calls and other intimidations to dissuade them
from talking to the police, which on the face of it suggests that
somebody wanted to keep them quiet.
8. The evidence against
von Einem's involvement
There is no evidence that "The Family" actually
existed, beyond police and press speculation. It was always said
that "The Family" were very well connected to powerful people in the
establishment, who could protect it from the law. This sounds more
like a conspiracy theory than a conjecture based on facts. There is
no logical way that a group of powerful establishment figures could
obstruct the investigation into five murders, let alone the Beaumont
children disappearance. Police have said more recently that they
doubt "The Family" even existed.
To put it another way, while there is no doubt
that the five murders attributed to "The Family" actually occurred,
they could easily have all been committed by a single person.
Adelaide at the time was a conservative city in which a homosexual
man could be bashed and drowned without a protective "Family" of
associates able to prevent the crime or catch the murderers.
In any event, police were able to arrest and
convict von Einem for the murder of Richard Kelvin and it seems
unlikely, therefore, that any group, however influential, could have
blocked the investigation into the disappearance of the Beaumont
children. The children's disappearance was the biggest, the most
publicised and the most infamous crime of the era.
Forty years later, rumours of new leads in the
case can still generate newspaper headlines. For many people living
at the time, the disappearance was such a shocking event that it
affected how they lived their day-to-day lives, either as parents or
as children. It was simply too big a case to be obstructed. The idea
that a "Family" could do so is ridiculous.
The pattern of murders is also odd. If von Einem
was responsible then we have to assume that he committed a triple
abduction in 1966, a double abduction in 1973, then waited another
six years before committing murders, fairly consistently, one at a
time. All the later murder victims were adolescent boys or men; the
eldest of the Beaumont children was nine and of the Beaumont and the
Oval abduction cases (if they are related), only one child, Grant
Beaumont (aged 4) was a boy. Von Einem was also younger than the
suspect in the Beaumont children and Oval abduction cases, and no
bodies were found in the Myponga Reservoir.
Mr B is the only person to have said that von
Einem claimed credit for killing the Beaumont children, and said
this ten years after the remark had allegedly been made, despite his
poor memory. In the previous ten years he had spoken to police twice
and had never mentioned it. No other acquaintance of von Einem has
said that von Einem confessed to them. His sister, police and the
magistrate all concluded that he was an unreliable witness.
Bevan Von Einem