The scrawlings of an eccentric old lady caused a stir of excitement in March 1986, when newspaper clippings found in an Adelaide rubbish dump appeared to give a lead in the search for the children. The lead was discounted within 24 hours but had seemed in the meantime the most significant development in the case so far.
West Torrens council rubbish dump is adjacent to the southern boundary of Adelaide Airport, approximately three kilometres from Glenelg Beach. On 11 March 1986, a worker at the dump noticed newspaper clippings that had spilled out of a suitcase. The newspaper clippings referred to the disappearance of the Beaumont children. The worker’s interest was drawn by the fact that the clippings were annotated with comments suggesting intimate knowledge of the case.
Aware of the potential significance of the find, council workers called police, who found that the suitcase contained many newspaper clippings, most of which had been marked in some way with a red ball-point pen or a red felt pen. In some cases, headlines or columns were circled in red. In others, accompanying text was underlined.
After the police were called, another council worker, 44-year-old Neil Lonsdale from Hilton, found more clippings. In total there were three suitcases filled with them. He contacted Channel 7 and told them: "There’s still more at the dump; I didn’t have time to collect it all." 66
Police remained tight-lipped, with the officer in charge of the investigation, Detective Sergeant Trevor Kipling, refusing to release any photographs of the clippings or descriptions of the suitcases. Six major crime squad detectives, as well as technical services police, began searching through the material. It was expected that they would mount a further search for evidence the next day.
Despite the police operation, Channel 7 had filmed the material that Mr Lonsdale had found and its nature was made public.
On a newspaper from 5 August 1966, with the headline "Beaumont children; people hunt in sandhills," a handwritten comment said "not in sand hills, in sewage drain." The same cutting had a picture of the children, with the words "She used to comb my hair," written over the image of Jane Beaumont. A picture of Mrs Beaumont in the same clipping was marked "I understand."
The other annotations were in a similar vein. An article referring to Gerard Croiset’s suggestion that the Beaumont children were dead had "Yes," written next to it. The main story from the same clipping referred to Croiset’s claims as to where the children were buried. It was marked with the word "No."
An article about the crossed line experienced by Kaniva policeman Ron Grose, in which Grose was quoted as believing that the children were still alive, had Grose’s comment underlined and the word "LIAR" printed in capital letters next to it.
A clipping from a 1966 newspaper article in which Mrs Beaumont said that she believed her children were still alive, had the words "No, No, No," written across it. To another article, in which Mrs Beaumont was quoted as saying "Someone has got my children," the words "Did have," had been added.
A clipping with the infamous "identikit" picture of the man seen with the children at Glenelg Beach had the words "Lies – all Bluff" written on it. And again, a 1971 article saying that the children were still alive was written over with the comment "Ha Ha. What a laugh. Big deal."
Police found clippings referring to other notorious crimes committed in the Adelaide area. They also found a book about unsolved Australian criminal cases. These finds were not made public 67; it is standard police procedure not to disclose some details in an investigation, as this enables the claims of anyone else to be involved to be more easily checked.
The lead collapsed the next day. Detectives were contacted by the relatives of an eccentric old woman who had recently died. The woman had spent twenty years collecting newspaper reports about the Beaumonts, the relatives explained, but had had nothing to do with the case.
Police spoke with the family and were able to confirm their story. After the old woman had died, the family had dumped the suitcases and other belongings at the dump, a day or two before the council workers had found them.
Detective Superintendent Rob Lean, head of the Major Crime Squad, confirmed that police were now certain that the clippings had no bearing on the case. While the Beaumont case remained open, this particular lead had been discounted. To avoid unwanted publicity 68, the identities of the dead woman and her family were not disclosed by the police.
Other false leads: