Despite having only around 7% of Australia’s population South Australia has been the scene of some of Australia’s most notorious murders. Adelaide, in particular, was dubbed “the murder capital of the world” by a UK media group in 2002. Crime statistics have revealed that this claim is totally baseless.
However several South Australian crimes are right up there on the list of Australia’s most infamous.
The Beaumont Children: Probably Australia’s best-known cold case involved the Beaumont children – three siblings aged 9, 7 and 4 who disappeared from Glenelg Beach, near Adelaide, on 26 January 1966. Despite massive and ongoing investigations, no trace of them has ever been found.
The Truro Murders: During the summer of 1976 – 1977 Christopher Worrell and James Miller raped and murdered seven young women, dumping five of their victims at Truro, a small town 80 km to the northeast of Adelaide.
The Bartholomew Murders: On 6 September 1971 farm labourer Clifford Bartholomew shot and killed ten members of his family, including eight children, at a remote property near Willunga, SA. He had believed his wife was having an affair with a Vietnam soldier staying at the farm.
Bevan Spencer von Einem: A sadistic sex killer, he was found guilty of the horrific 1984 rape and murder of 15 year-old Richard Kelvin who had been abducted from North Adelaide. Von Einem was sentenced to life in prison.
The Bodies in the Barrels Murders: In Australia’s worst-ever mass murder, 12 people were tortured and killed between 1992-1999, with the bodies of eight of the victims sealed in drums of hydrochloric acrid. These drums had been stored in a disused bank at Snowtown, a small town about 140 km to the north of Adelaide. The main figures in the murders, John Bunting and Robert Wagner were sentenced to life without parole.
Despite these terrible events, South Australia’s reputation as a “murder capital” is unjustified. The murder rate for South Australia is currently at about 0.9% per 100,000 people – a figure lower than the national average.
Image: The Beaumont Children – a photograph taken in 1965, less than a year before their disappearance.