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An Overdue Answer to Australia’s Coldest Case

Jim and Nancy Beaumont have lived in a waking nightmare for the past fifty two years, ever since the day their three children disappeared without a trace. Their children, Jane, Arnna, and Grant Beaumont, became the center of one of Australia’s most haunting cold cases. Their belongings, bodies, and abductor have never been found. No answers have surfaced-- only countless dead ends and slivers of false hope. The parents of these three children have had their lives torn apart, and they deserve to be given closure as they near the ends of their lives. Fortunately, they may finally be on the verge of finding an answer.

There is a convincing case against one suspect: Harry Phipps. In 2013, Alan Whiticker and Stuart Mollins co-wrote a book titled The Satin Man, which first explored the theory that Phipps was responsible for the disappearance. After the book was written, Phipps’ son came forward and accused his father of being involved in the infamous disappearance of the Beaumont children. He believed the children were buried beneath his father’s factory. According to Sara Garcia, a writer for the Australian ABC News channel, which has covered the investigation in depth, the factory was dug up just weeks ago, in early February, in an effort to find something. However, Garcia reports that nothing significant was found and the search was abandoned. The search may have been unsuccessful, but that does not mean that Phipps is innocent. In fact, he is far from innocent. Phipps is a prime suspect in the disappearance of the Beaumont children because he matches key points in the case, he had enough wealth and power to evade detection, and he was a pedophile with a history of violence.

Channel 7 News, an Australian source, conducted an investigation on the case and aired it in January 2018 as a documentary, titled “The Beaumont Children: What Really Happened?” In the documentary, the infamous vanishing of the children is detailed. Australians know the story by heart, as it became the day that innocence was stolen from the country. In the documentary, Bill Hayes, a former South Australian Police Detective on the case, reinforces the idea of innocence back in those days. He claims, “Children went anywhere and everywhere. There was no fear of being abducted. It didn’t happen.” However, something definitely did happen to the Beaumonts.

January 26, 1966 was Australia Day, which Channel 7 compares to the Fourth of July in America. It was blistering hot, nearly 40 degrees Celsius, which is equivalent to over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Like many other people that day, Jane, Arnna, and Grant went to the beach to cool off and enjoy some time in the sun. The three children left their house to go to the nearby Glenelg beach at around 10 a.m. Channel 7 reports that their mother, Nancy, gave them six shillings and six pence, which was enough change to cover the bus fares and costs for the day. It is known that they made it to Glenelg beach. Multiple witnesses reported seeing the children there, but not alone. They were playing with a man. The man was described in the same way by several witnesses. He was in his mid-30s, about six feet tall, tanned and athletic, with light brown or blond hair. It is certain that the man the children were playing with was responsible for the crime. The beach; however, was not the last place the children were seen. They visited a bakery down the street, where they purchased some cakes and a meat pie. The store owner knew the children well enough to know that a meat pie was not part of their usual order. Even more odd, they purchased the meat pie with a one pound note--when their mother had only given them change. This is comparable to buying a snack with a $100 bill, according to Alan Whiticker, co-author of The Satin Man and writer of multiple other books on the case. Investigators believe the children got the money from the man and bought the meat pie for him, although he was not present when it was purchased. What happened after the children left the bakery is still a mystery. Australians have heard this story plenty of times, as it is one of the country’s most famous cold cases.

The first reason that Harry Phipps is a prime suspect in the infamous case is that he fits the description of the man that the children were last seen with. He matches the physical description of the suspect as close as anybody possibly could. According to Whiticker, at the time of the abduction, he was in his 40s, which was slightly older than the described man, but he had a younger looking face. He also was tanned, athletic, and had light brown hair. Figure 1, shown below, is a police artist’s sketch of the suspect based on witness descriptions. Beneath it is Figure 2, a photo of Harry Phipps from the time. The physical similarities between the sketch and the photo are striking.

Figure 1

Figure 2

Phipps did not only match the physical description. Whiticker writes that Phipps had a reputation for handing out one pound notes to his son and his friends to get them to leave the house. The children purchased the meat pie with a crisp one pound note that could have been given to them by Phipps. Lastly, he lived within walking distance of the beach and the bakery. Whiticker notes that Phipps’ house was less than 300 meters from the beach, and less than 200 meters from the bakery. His factory was also close, only five kilometers away. He had the perfect setup to lure the children to his home, give them a one pound note, and ask them to buy him a meat pie. They would have had a reason to go back to him, as they would have had to bring him the meat pie and return his change. Harry Phipps matches key points in the case, which is why it is very likely he is the abductor and killer.

Harry Phipps also had what he needed to avoid detection for many years- power. He was a wealthy businessman and the owner of the Castalloy factory (Whiticker). Officials and authority figures knew him and praised his name. The Channel 7 News investigation claims, “He was close to politicians. Powerful. Respected. Connected.” This could have been enough for him to hide in plain sight. Authorities would never even consider him as a suspect, because his violent side was masked by his polished appearance to the public. Phipps could easily go years without being caught due to the social status, wealth, and power he possessed. In fact, he may have made it his entire life without being caught.

The last reason that Phipps is a prime suspect, and perhaps the most convincing, is his violent nature. According to Whiticker, Phipps died in 2004, never having been questioned or named a person of interest in the case. Following his death, his son, Hadyn, free from the wrath of his father, claimed that his father was involved in the disappearance of the Beaumonts. Channel 7’s documentary includes an audio clip of an interview between Hadyn Phipps and former South Australian Police Detective, Bill Hayes. In the interview, Hadyn claims he saw the children with his father that day. He also comes forward about his father’s history of violence. Harry had a fetish for satin. His self control vanished as soon as he was near it. In the documentary, Bill Hayes describes his conversation with Hadyn: “He said that he could recall as a small child lying in bed at night and he would hear the sound of Harry coming down the hall and the swish of the satin and he knew that Harry was coming to sexually abuse him.” He was frequently molested by his father, and also reports being physically abused. In the audio clip, Hadyn recalls that “one night [Harry] picked up a plate of food and slammed it in my mum’s face and the china plate broke and cut her face open.” He was nothing short of a monster behind closed doors. It is clear that Harry Phipps was a pedophile, capable of violence and harm. If he would harm those closest to him, what would stop him from harming the Beaumont children?

The case against Harry Phipps is incredibly convincing. He matches the description of the man seen with the children almost perfectly, and multiple case details point to him. He was a wealthy business owner with enough power to avoid drawing negative attention from authorities. And finally, he was a sexually deviant man with a history of violence. Authorities have recently looked more into the case against Phipps, and have even excavated the old Castalloy factory in early February (Garcia). The bodies of the Beaumont children were not found, but that doesn’t mean that Harry Phipps is innocent. The children could be anywhere, and no one can be certain where. It can be certain; however, that Harry Phipps played a role in their disappearance. It is vital that authorities continue their investigation on the man that could be responsible for one of the most infamous crimes in Australian history. An answer soon could allow the Beaumont parents to finally find a sense of closure before their lives end. Time is running out, and all the clues point to Harry Phipps.

Works Cited

“An Enhanced Composite Sketch of The Suspect Sought For Beaumont Children Disappearance.” ABC News, ABC, 22 Jan. 2018.

Garcia, Sara. “Beaumont Children Search Continues To Capture The Nation 52 Years After Their Disappearance.” ABC News, ABC, 4 Feb. 2018.

“Harry Phipps Photo.” The West Australian, 1 Feb. 2018, umont-children-why-a-52-year-mystery-still-has-so- much-resonance-across-the-country-ng-b88731808z.

“The Beaumont Children: What Really Happened?” 7 News Investigates. Channel 7 News, 31 Jan. 2018, v=GWN3cHKeuCw.

Whiticker, Alan. “Beaumont Children: After 52 Years, New Clues Point to Killer.” The Australian, 27 Jan. 2018.

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