Another twist in the Beaumont case came in August 1997, when retired detective Stan Swaine wrongly claimed to have found Jane Beaumont living in Canberra under a different name.
The 41-year-old woman, identified in news reports only as “Susan” 13 , had been undergoing treatment with a psychotherapist to deal with repressed memories of childhood sexual abuse. During the treatment “Susan” came to believe that she was Jane Beaumont, and that all three children had been abducted by a satanic cult and given new identities.
“Susan” went to a women’s magazine with her claim. In January 1996 the magazine asked Swaine to investigate. Swaine had taken over the Beaumont investigation in 1968 when he became head of the South Australian Police homicide squad. He left the police in 1973 to become a private detective, but still kept an active interest in the case.
He made several visits to Canberra and spoke with “Susan”. Her birth certificate was issued in her real name in the ACT 14, but was issued after the year of her birth, 1966. On the basis that she was of the right age, that her birth certificate might have been fake, that she’d said she was Jane Beaumont and that her eyes were brown like Jane Beaumont’s had been, Swaine decided that he’d cracked the case and that “Susan” really was the missing girl.
“Susan” later retracted her claim, saying that the psychotherapist had suggested and implanted in her the belief that she was Jane Beaumont. The psychotherapist denied this but “Susan” made a complaint to the Canberra Commissioner of Health.
Stan Swaine went public with his belief that “Susan” was Jane Beaumont, and on Tuesday 5 August, the South Australian Assistance Police Commissioner Rob Lean said that the South Australian police were taking the lead seriously and would investigate. The same day, “Susan” sought a restraining order in a closed Magristrates Court hearing, to stop Swaine from approaching her. When a magistrate refused to grant the order she fled Canberra at around 2am the next day.
It was soon discovered that “Susan’s” therapist had been involved in another investigation in 1988 after one of her patients had wrongly come to believe that she'd been involved in murdering a teenage girl.
Meanwhile, Lean or his officers interviewed members of “Susan’s” family in Queensland and Canberra. He also checked the ACT birth registry and confirmed on Wednesday: “She is definitely not Jane Beaumont” 15. He told Swaine to stop investigating and said: "Susan is still missing and we are concerned for her welfare. We want her to know that this is all over." 15
He also telephoned Jim and Nancy Beaumont to tell them of the outcome: 15
"You can't imagine how they must feel. Every day, for 31 years, they have hoped, they have waited, for news that their children are alive. Once again, their hopes have been raised - and shattered."
I spoke with Stan Swaine several years after this incident. By then I was aware that he had come to accept that “Susan” was not Jane Beaumont, but he never gave up his belief that the children had been abducted by a cult. The Sunday Age described him as a “bored old man” 16 and implied that he was a crank. I never heard him discuss the Canberra incident but he certainly resented the way the Sunday Age had depicted him.
Personally, I agree with the newspaper's assessment. That Swaine had been a top detective I do not doubt; even in his seventies he was sharp-witted and had the policeman's talent for extracting information while giving away nothing himself. However I think he had been following the Beaumont case for too long and had lost his sense of judgement. He maintained that he had new evidence that would blow the case wide open, but never divulged this evidence to anyone. Having discussed the matter with another person who knew him, I do not believe he had any new evidence.
Stan Swaine died in 2002.
Other false leads: