Arthur Stanley Brown

1. The murder of the Mackay sisters
2. About Brown
3. Suspect for the Mackay sisters murders
4. Other cases for which Brown became a suspect
5. Connection with the Beaumont children
6. The Mackay sisters murder trial
7. Aftermath of the trial
8. Death
9. Evidence for involvement in disappearance of the Beaumont children
10. Evidence against involvement in disappearance of the Beaumont children

Arthur Stanley Brown 26 first came to media attention in relation to the Beaumont children case in December 1998. Then aged 86, he was charged with the murders of Judith and Susan Mackay, aged 5 and 7, in Townsville, Queensland, on 26 August 1970.

The arrest for the long-unsolved murders attracted wide publicity and it was quickly noted that Brown matched the descriptions for the suspects in the Beaumont children and Oval Abduction cases. As well as his similarity to the identikit images, Brown was also conceivably the right age to have committed the other crimes. South Australian police announced that they would investigate, but also said that in the absence of any concrete evidence Brown was not a suspect. The similarity between pictures of Brown and identikit pictures could not be considered evidence.

1. The murder of the Mackay sisters

Judith, aged 7, and Susan, aged 5, were the youngest of six children of Bill and Thelma Mackay. The Mackay family lived in Aitkenvale, an outer suburb of Townsville. On the morning of Wednesday, 26 August 1970, Bill Mackay left for work before his youngest two children were awake, so he kissed them while they slept. He never saw them alive again.

The sisters left the house at 8:10am and walked to the nearby bus stop around the corner, where they were to catch the bus to school. Witnesses later confirmed that the girls did reach the bus stop, but by the time the bus arrived 10 minutes later they had gone. Their absence was not noticed until they did not arrive home after school.

A search was mounted that night and was extended the next day. On Friday, with the girls still not located, the search was extended again. A New Zealand carpenter named Richard Tough was sent with two other men to search near Antill Creek, 25 kilometres south-west of Townsville. Tough's statement to police later read: 33

In company with two other men I was engaged in a search party for two missing girls who had disappeared whilst on their way to school.

We traveled along the Townsville to Charter Towers Highway and made a search in various places along this road prior to going to a spot near Antill Creek. We parked the car and set off in various directions. I traversed the creek bank and dry creek bed.

Whilst searching in the creek I saw what appeared to be child's footprints in the sand. I continued to walk along the creek bed and, about ten yards further on, I then saw the body of a child...

The child was Susan Mackay. Tough realised that she was dead and returned to the highway, yelling for help. The taxi radio was used to summon police and Tough stood guard over the body for an hour, waiting for police to arrive. When the police came they found Judith Mackay's body about 70 metres away, near the opposite bank of the creek.

The murders of two young girls caused horror in Townsville and a huge police investigation was launched. However, the investigation faltered and police focused on trying to find several cars that had been seen in the area from which the sisters had been abducted, or from the area where their bodies had been found. One was an FJ Holden, which police decided might have been the murderer's car. The other was a blue Vauxhall Victor Sedan, with an odd-coloured driver's side door. They were unable to locate either car.

The murders of Judith and Susan seemed likely to remain unsolved. The Mackay family, unable to bear living in the area, eventually moved to Toowoomba.

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2. About Brown

Brown had been born in Merinda, Queensland, on 20 May 1912. His early life was unremarkable, but his parents split and he moved to Melbourne with his mother, where he may have remained until old enough to get his driver's license. He then returned to Queensland where he remained. During the Second World War he was working as a meatpacker, which was a reserved occupation, then he became a carpenter until he retired in 1977, aged 65.

Brown had become close to an extended family, the Andersons. There were six daughters and two sons in the family, one of the daughters being named Hester. She married and become Hester Porter and had three children, but her marriage ended in divorce. She then married Brown, with whom she lived for 34 years until she died on 15 May 1978. By Brown's account she had fallen while trying to get on a commode, had hit her head and been killed. Some members of her family, however, were convinced that Brown had killed her.

Brown had become well known in the Anderson family for his womanising, and as well as Hester had probably conducted relationships with three of the sisters. However, the oldest sister, Milly, once said that Hester had confided to her: "He doesn't just like big girls -- he likes little girls too". 29

In fact Brown had molested at least five of the girls in the extended Andersen family. The incidents were kept secret by the individual victims until 1982, when one told her parents that she had been molested by Brown while a small girl. Other victims in the family came forward until it was realised, by most members of the extended family, that Brown was a paedophile.

Under family pressure and following legal advice, Brown's victims did not declare publicly what had happened. It was reasoned that it would be too traumatic for the victims to recall the incidents in court. They remained a family secret.

It wasn't entirely a family secret, however. Christine Millier, a relative, recorded in her diary on 23 January 1991: 29

Kids (state wards) and I went for walk to Strand. Arthur Brown drove by and the kids called him "rock spider", shouting it out. Eventually they told me what a rock spider was.

"Rock Spider" is a slang prison term for a child molester. It is never used in jest.

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3. Suspect for Mackay sisters murders

In 1998, Merle Martin Moss, sister of Christine Millier, was living in Perth, Western Australia. One evening she was looking through a family "birthday book" when she came across a picture of Brown. She had been one of his victims and like the others had agreed not to say anything publicly about him. However, she suspected that he might have been involved in the murder of the Mackay sisters and decided to take action. She phoned Crimestoppers and told them what she knew.

The murder of the Mackay sisters was being subject to a cold-case review by Sergeant David Hickey, of the Queensland homicide squad. Three days after Moss's call to Crimestoppers, a message was passed to him to call her. He telephoned and listened as she told him why she thought Brown might have been the culprit.

Interviews with other family members followed, and police eventually built up a list of 45 charges against Brown, relating to his own family. In addition to this, the reopened investigation continued. Evidence which had been previously ignored led police to believe that Brown was indeed the murderer.

Among other things, the family told police, Brown had been obsessed by the case. A couple of weeks after the murders he told one family member, who did not know about his paedophile activities: "I could've done that." 29

He also removed the odd-coloured door from his Vauxhall and buried it, because he said he didn't want anyone interviewing or annoying him, and he offered to take Millier and Moss to see the place where the bodies had been found. They refused. On another occasion, he molested one of his other victims and made her look at pornographic magazines only 20 metres from where the bodies of the Mackay sisters had been found.

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4. Other cases for which Brown became a suspect

It was not just the Mackay sisters case for which police saw a possible connection, however. There were a series of other cases for which Brown appeared to be a good suspect:

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5. Connection with the Beaumont children

Brown's arrest for the murder of the Mackay sisters attracted Australia-wide publicity. South Australia has its own share of unsolved child murders and it was quickly noted that there was a similarity between published pictures of Brown, and the pictures of suspects wanted in connection with the Beaumont children and Oval Abduction cases. Superintendent Paul Schramm, the officer in charge of the South Australian Major Crime Investigation section, said that investigations were being made to determine whether Brown had ever visited South Australia.

The South Australian police approached Queensland homicide and ran a joint inquiry involving the Bureau of Criminal Intelligence, based in Canberra. They had forwarded information to the Violent Crime Linkage Assessment unit. Schramm said: "We are taking it seriously and we are seeing if there is any connection. We have analysts working very closely together to try and piece together the last 30 years." 34

The search was utterly unsuccessful. Every piece of information that might have detailed when or where Brown had been working, had been lost. There was no way of determining when he had taken holidays. Some of the information was possibly lost in the 1974 floods which affected central Brisbane, but Brown had also had unrestricted access to many government buildings and could have easily have removed files and paperwork himself.

Without records, police were unable to establish where Brown had been at any time, nor when he had taken holidays. There was no proof that he had ever visited Adelaide. However, Christine Millier recalled having a conversation with Brown in which Brown mentioned having seen Adelaide's Festival Theatre when it was almost finished. The first stage of construction of the theatre was finished in June 1973, when a concert was performed there. It looks across the river to Adelaide Oval, where the Oval Abduction took place on 25 August 1973.

The Oval Abduction is the key link between Brown and the Beaumont children case. Apart from the similarity of identikit pictures to his photograph, direct connections between Brown and the Beaumont children disappearance remain elusive. More tangible connections have, however, been drawn with the Oval Abduction. If the Oval Abduction and the Beaumont disappearance are the acts of the same perpetrator, then Brown can be considered a suspect for the latter, based on his being possibly connected with the former.

Most critically, an eyewitness has placed him at the scene of the Oval Abduction. Sue Lawrie, then aged 14, was walking with her father along the banks of the Torrens River, about one kilometre from Adelaide Oval. Speaking years later, she said: 31

We walked out from the zoo and were about midway between Popeye and the University Bridge. I looked across the river and saw a very young girl being carried by a man who I thought was her grandfather. He had a hat and a checked jacket on. She was crying and the older girl, I think she was a few years younger than me, was running after him. She was thumping him and punching into him and crying out at him. I saw all that for about 60 seconds. The thing seemed wrong because I would have thought if he was a relative he would have shooed her… It was after I married, I was about 18 or 20, I kept on and on at my husband about my memories -- and I read another article on the abduction. My husband said "go and do something about it". I went to the chief investigator in about 1979-80 and made a full statement. I was sure of many things, including the time, because the siren went for the beginning or end of the third-quarter. Dad remarked on the game, but I don't think he saw what I was watching on the other side of the river. I believe on the day of the abduction the police were looking in an opposite direction to where we were walking. The only other thing I need to say is the parents of Joanne should take heart that little girl did everything she could to protect her little friend.

Lawrie said that the man's hat was wide-brimmed, with a low, flat crown, which was unusual in Adelaide in 1973. In more recent years wide-brimmed hats have become fashionable, but in 1973 they were usually worn in the more northern parts of Australia, for protection against the sun. Lawrie, who had travelled to visit relatives in Queensland, described the hat as "very Queensland country" 29

Lawrie had a good look at the man's face. In December 1998, when Brown was arrested for the murder of the Mackay sisters, Lawrie caught a glimpse of Brown's face on television. She thought she recognised him from somewhere but couldn't think where. The next morning a friend from Adelaide phoned and asked her what she thought of the news. Before her friend could explain the speculation, Lawrie exclaimed "My God! It's him" 29. She believed that Brown was the man she'd seen 25 years earlier.

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6. The Mackay sisters murder trial

The trial of Arthur Stanley Brown for the murders of Judith and Susan Mackay began on 18 October 1999. Below are links for trial coverage in articles from The Australian and The Weekend Australian, reproduced here with the kind consent of News Limited.

Note that all articles remain © copyright News Limited.

Tuesday 19th October 1999 p7 Tiny footprints led to schoolgirls' corpses The Australian
Wednesday 20th October 1999 p4 Mackay trial told of two confessions The Australian
Thursday 21st October 1999 p4 Accused often spoke of Mackay murders The Australian
Friday 22nd October 1999 p3 Kidnap witnesses `haunted' The Australian
Saturday-Sunday 23rd-24th October 1999 p3 Mackay accused confessed, court told The Weekend Australian
Tuesday 26th October 1999 p5 Vietnam vet's evidence key to Mackay sisters case The Australian
Wednesday 27th October 1999 p5 No evidence that accused knew sisters, court told The Australian
Thursday 28th October 1999 p5 Jury out for Brown The Australian
Friday 29th October 1999 p3 Retrial for Mackay girls murder accused The Australian
Friday 29th October 1999 p17 Unresolved murder case still haunts Townsville The Australian

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7. Aftermath of the trial

The second trial of Arthur Stanley Brown was due to begin on Monday, 31 July 2000. However, the case failed to start. According to the Townsville Bulletin, "the case did not proceed for legal reasons which cannot be published 11."

The legal reasons for the failure of the case to start were suppressed until July 2001. It has since been revealed that Brown's lawyer applied under section 613 of the Queensland criminal code, for a verdict on Brown's fitness to stand trial.

The code says that for a defendant to receive a proper defence, he or she must be able to instruct their lawyer to best defend the case. To be able to give appropriate instructions the defendant must themselves be able to understand the case against them.

Therefore, under section 613 of the criminal code, the defendant's lawyer may apply to the jury for a verdict on whether the defendant is capable of understanding the case, and thus ultimately on whether the defendant is fit to be tried.

Brown's lawyer applied for a section 613 verdict from the jury. The jury concluded that Brown was able to make a proper defence, but in the meantime Brown's wife Charlotte had referred the case to the Queensland Mental Health Tribunal, under the Mental Health Act.

On 14 September 2000, the tribunal ruled that Brown had progressive dementia and was also suffering from Alzheimer's disease, and was thus unfit to stand trial.

The Queensland Attorney-General lodged an appeal against this decision, on the basis that the Mental Health Tribunal did not have the jurisdiction to make the ruling. The Attorney-General's appeal was heard by the Queensland Court of Appeal in February 2001. In May 2001, by a 2-1 majority, the appeal court concluded that the Mental Health Tribunal had no jurisdiction.

An independent psychiatric report into Brown's health was commissioned. The report concluded in July 2001 that Brown was unfit to stand trial because he was suffering from dementia and Alzheimer's disease. The Queensland Director of Public Prosecutions, Leanne Clare, therefore dropped the charges against him.

Evidence about Brown having sexually abused young children had been given at the committal hearing but had been considered prejudical and had not been put before the Supreme Court jury. The 28 charges of sexual assault and rape were now dropped along with the murder charges. These charges had not been proceeded with while Brown had been on trial for murder, and the news that they had been discontinued upset his other victims. Commenting from his home, Bill Mackay said: "We don't want revenge, just justice." 35

Police were not convinced that Brown was mentally unfit to stand trial and at one stage planned to secretly video him to disprove the claim. A taxi driver who drove Brown and his wife also disputed that his mental deterioration had been as great as reported. However, police plans to prove their suspicions about Brown were eventually abandoned.

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8. Death

Brown's wife Charlotte died in April 2002. Shunned by his own extended family, some of whom said that he had sexually abused him, Brown moved to a nursing home in Malanda, north Queensland. He died there on 6 July 2002, never having been convicted of any criminal offence and so officially an innocent man.

The news of Brown's death was not reported until later in the month, after his funeral had taken place. The reaction to news of his death was mostly one of satisfaction. Asked for his opinion as to whether Brown had committed the murders of the Mackay sisters, Charles Bopf, the man who had led the initial investigation, said: 32

It's not for me to say that he didn't because I never interviewed him and he never admitted it to me and he's entitled to the presumption of innocence.

However, commenting more generally about the case, and the widespread belief that Brown had committed the murders, he also said that he had wondered if Brown had made a deathbed confession, which he hadn't. He added that: "Everybody's pointing the finger at him now, but no one bothered to tell us anything about it then." 32

Police have now closed the file on the Mackay sisters murders.

So how likely is it that Arthur Stanley Brown was responsible for the disappearance of the Beaumont children? Below are the arguments for and against:

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9. The evidence for Brown's involvement

Brown was clearly a paedophile. He was never convicted of any criminal offence but their is compelling evidence that he had an unhealthy interest in children. That he murdered the Mackay sisters is also not greatly disputed; at his first trial the jury could not reach a verdict, but not all the evidence pointing to him was admissable. Everybody involved with the case is satisfied that Brown committed the murders.

Brown may also have been involved with the disappearance of Marilyn Wallman and the murder of Catherine Graham. This suggests that he was probably a serial killer. While there is no direct evidence to prove he was ever in Adelaide, eyewitness and other evidence suggests that Brown possibly committed the Oval Abduction and he seems to be the best suspect identified for this crime. It takes little imagination to suggest that whoever abducted Joanne Ratcliffe and Kirste Gordon was also responsible for the disappearance of the Beaumont children. Brown resembles the "identikit" picture of the suspect.

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10. The evidence against Brown's involvement

There are a number of reasons to doubt Brown's involvement in the crimes he is suspected of. Apart from the fact that he never received a criminal conviction, all of the evidence tying him to the murders is circumstantial. That he murdered the Mackay sisters isn't greatly in dispute, but he can be only tenuously linked to the other Queensland cases for which he was a suspect. The timings alone would seem to rule out involvement in the Marilyn Wallman disappearance unless he woke up exceptionally early, and there is at least one other good suspect for that crime. The link with the Catherine Graham murder is equally flimsy.

The link between Brown and the Beaumont children is based on a resemblance between some identikit pictures and old photographs of Brown. The famous "identikit" picture of the Beaumont suspect is almost worthless -- click here for the explanation as to why -- and Brown's resemblance to the Oval Abduction suspect may simply be a coincidence. The primary eyewitness identification is based on that of a woman who was aged 14 when she saw him, only for one minute, and who then saw a picture of Brown, aged 86, 25 years later. Another eyewitness saw the suspect with black horn-rimmed spectacles like Brown's, but they were once fashionable.

Lastly, there is no real evidence that Brown ever visited Adelaide, apart from one remembered conversation. Even if this conversation was remembered accurately, it only places Brown in Adelaide in the 1970s, not in 1966 when the Beaumont children went missing.

Lastly, there are at least three other suspects for the disappearance of the Beaumont children, and logically they can’t all have done it.

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Other possible suspects:

Bevan Spencer von Einem | Derek Ernest Percy | James Ryan O'Neill

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