On a scorching Australia Day in 1966, the three Beaumont siblings- Jane (9), Arnna (7) and Grant (4) frequented Glenelg Beach, Adelaide. Their subsequent and mysterious disappearance still lingers as one of Australia’s most famous missing people cases. It provoked a paradigm shift across the country regarding children’s safety and the new necessity for parents to accompany youngsters. Such is the rarity of three children vanishing that criminologist Xanthe Mallett has said “I haven’t been able to find another case where three children are never to be seen again in the westernised world.”
S.A. Major Crimes Superintendent, Des Bray, has emphasised the sheer number of proposed suspects in this case over the years, estimating it to be over 100- thought to be a record for a South Australian crime. The Beaumont case has potentially an unparalleled suspect number for any Australian criminal offense. Police have recently labelled Harry Phipps, former owner of the Castalloy factory, as a person of interest in the Beaumont disappearance. A recent second dig at this factory failed to find any trace of the Beaumont children. This article will examine the evidence regarding Harry Phipps being responsible for the Beaumont children disappearance.
Let me precede this section by mentioning that the Beaumont children’s movement on January 26th 1966 is based upon witnesses who believed they saw them that fateful day. There are several permutations regarding the children’s precise movements, including a postman who recognised them yet seem bamboozled by what time this was at. It may have also been difficult for the many witnesses to pinpoint the precise time they saw the Beaumont children when questioned days later.
A. On the above image, ‘A’ is the bus stop where the Beaumont children arrived at around 10:15am. They had departed their Somerton Park home with their mother, Nancy, farewelling them there.
B. Between 10:15-11am, the children swum in the shallow water just north of the jetty and beneath the B on the above image. The previous day, Jim Beaumont (the children’s father) had accompanied them to the beach.
C. There is some contention online regarding precisely where the children were seen around 11am. At this time, they played under a sprinkler at Colley Reserve. Location C is where modern day Colley Reserve is.
D. There are two location Ds on the image. One of these may be where the children played under the sprinkler. The witness was sitting in front of the now non-existent, Holdfast Sailing Club building. Historically, Colley Reserve was the entire grassed area north of the jetty, including the grassed sea frontage. The children were seen with a mysterious man who has become the leading suspect as the Beaumont abductor. Initially the man was described as lying face down and watching the children. Around 15 minutes later, the man was viewed playing with the children as they whipped each other with their towels. A school friend of Jane saw her around this time (11:15am).
E. This is Wenzel’s cake shop where the Beaumont children bought pasties, a pie and drinks around 11:45-midday. They seemed to be alone inside the shop.
F. This is the bus stop where the Beaumont children were scheduled to take the midday bus from.
G. At around midday, the mysterious man with the three Beaumont children behind him, approached an elderly couple and two others on a bench. He said some money was missing and enquired as to whether anyone had witnessed someone going through his clothes. The man then returned to where his clothes were positioned and dressed the Beaumont children- their clothes over their bathers. The man then proceeded to go to the Colley Reserve change rooms around 12:15pm while the three children waited for him on a nearby seat. This was the last documented siting of the Beaumont children.
Some historical aerial pictures of Glenelg from a time around the Beaumont disappearance can be found here: http://memorybank.atkins.com.au/galleries/ddariansmith/glenelg-aerial
The son of Harry Phipps- Haydn Phipps made many allegations against his father. Haydn passed away several years ago and was understandably mentally fragile when discussing the previous events of his life. He also battled drug and alcohol addiction in tandem with mental health issues. Some have questioned the veracity of Haydn’s claims believing them to be concocted due to being estranged from his father and seeking revenge. According to former SA detective, Bill Hayes, Haydn had a fear of authorities so didn’t want to speak to the police about his father. Haydn did however tell his second wife about Harry Phipps’ seedy life. Haydn also told someone he worked with around 1980-1981 about his father. These dated conversations add to the truthfulness of Haydn’s claims.
Haydn has made some stunning claims against his father that centre around the Beaumont children. These claims do however lack consistency as I will detail here.
Haydn’s son, Nick has said “He (Harry) was witnessing my (Nick’s) grandfather putting them (the Beaumont children) into the back of a car. Three of them. They went to Castalloy and were killed there.”
On ‘Today Tonight Beaumont Detective’, someone who is relaying Haydn’s story says “He was (Haydn) out in the backyard, by himself later, later in the afternoon. He saw Harry- that was his father, pull up in his big limousine and three children got out of the car. They followed Harry into the house. That was the last he (Haydn) saw of them.”
In ‘Today Tonight Beaumont Bombshell’, according to Haydn “Three children came into the yard and spoke to the father. They subsequently went inside the house. He (the son) felt they were in there for probably 15 to 20 minutes. Then the father came out and loaded some more bags into the car and left. The son went into the house and the 3 children he had seen weren’t there.”
According to ‘The Satin Man’ author, Alan Whiticker, Haydn said “Phipps’ factory had a number of cottages available where Phipps kept his satin dresses and other paraphernalia for his sexual habits and the children were subdued there and buried there.”
On another occasion, what Haydn has said is being recalled, “Haydn was a schoolchild and had come home early from his part-time job. He was in a cubby out the backyard, having a sly smoke- he was about 14 in those days….He saw the three children come into the yard and speak to his father who that time was loading some stuff into a car. The children went inside the house with his (Haydn’s) father and were there for some short time. The father came out and continued to load stuff into his car and left. He (Haydn) then went inside the house and found the children not there and the front door was open.….He (Harry) had fetishes such as satin. If he handled satin he would become incredibly sexually aroused, uncontrollably aroused. This particular day he was seen, we believe he was loading satin clothing into the boot of his car, to take to the place at the factory where he would store that.”
In 2008, Haydn told former SA detective, Bill Hayes that he had seen the Beaumont children enter the house just before he heard four gunshots. In this iteration of the story, Haydn was with some friends in the backyard cubby house. What is peculiar is the method in which Haydn brought up the gunshot story. When getting interview, Haydn was asked “Did you hear any noises, any screaming or any shouting?” Haydn responded “No.” He was then asked if he heard “any gunshots?” Haydn responds “Yeah, we heard some gunshots go off but Harry’s always letting off gunshots- that means nothing.” The interviewer then probes, “You don’t think it’s odd with kids in the house there’s gunshots going off?” Haydn responded “No, not in that place.”
All of these accounts by Haydn seem to vary. In some, Haydn says the Beaumont children were killed at Castalloy, in others they are shot at Harry Phipps’ house. In certain versions, Haydn is specifically described as home by himself when Harry returns with the Beaumont children while other versions describe friends of Haydn also witnessing the event- raising question over why they didn’t and still haven’t gone to the police with this information. Other tales involve Harry and the Beaumont children arriving in a limousine at his house (a strange event considering how close he lived to the Beaumont children’s last seen location). In other accounts, Haydn only sees the children enter the yard from his hidden view in the cubby house. An anonymous member of the Phipps family has also questioned the cubby house part of the narrative saying “There never was a cubby house on Harry’s property.” The gunshot conversation seems particularly untrustworthy with Haydn answering the “any sounds in the house?” question with a “no” before being probed about gunshots and changing the story. The line of questioning resembles an unreliable leading question or suggestive interrogation methodology.
Haydn initially told his second wife about the Harry Phipps- Beaumont link in a rather nonchalant manner. They were sitting at home and an item came on the TV about the Beaumont children. Haydn casually mentioned to his wife, “I always thought Harry had something to do with it.” This comment seems to suggest Haydn having a plausible alas unlikely theory that Harry Phipps was involved- not the eyewitness account that Haydn would report years later.
As confidently as Haydn claims he saw the Beaumont children on Australia Day 1966 enter his house, he as equally as confidently states they were taken to Castalloy and buried in the sandpit there. This is surely speculation. He doesn’t state that the Castalloy burying site of the Beaumont children is a theory but seamlessly weaves this part of the story onto the end of the supposed eyewitness testimony as factual. Haydn can’t know for sure that Harry Phipps took them there and indeed the specific part of the factory they were buried- it is guesswork but further casts a shadow onto his story, adding weight to the theory that the entire story is concocted. Haydn’s story that the Beaumont children were taken to Castalloy fairly promptly after arriving at Harry Phipps’ house also implies that he took them to the factory during business hours with workers swarming around- a risky manoeuvre.
An anonymous member of the Phipps family has said of Haydn, “He was a delusional man who after a life of hard drinking and drugging is still creating most of this from beyond the grave.” The family member continues on to add that Harry Phipps’ other son, Wayne, “Wasn’t ever abused in anyway by his father.” This second argument regarding Wayne supposedly not being abused by Harry Phipps doesn’t mean that Haydn wasn’t.
Many questions are raised through Haydn’s contradictory testimony although some of Haydn’s descriptions of his father are well supported by evidence from secondary people. For instance, Nick the grandson of Harry, says that Harry tried to shoot him three times.
Sexually Abusing Children
Haydn was allegedly subject to sexual abuse by his father from about the age of 4 until the age of 14. At this older age he could physically hurt and overpower his father. When Haydn was 15, the Beaumont children went missing. It is plausible that Harry Phipps wanted to find another outlet to replace the sexual abuse of Haydn he was instigating and hence took the Beaumont children to fulfil this urge of his.
A 14 year old girl known only by the pseudonym ‘Linda’ alleges that Harry Phipps raped her in 1979 in proximity to the Castalloy factory. Linda was recently watching TV and saw an item about Harry Phipps, the Beaumont children and Castalloy- near where she lived at the time and her ears pricked up. She claims to distinctly recognise Harry Phipps and the event in detail including Harry Phipps suddenly changing from charismatic to deviant.
One Pound Notes
The mother of the Beaumont children believes she gave Jane eight shillings and sixpence before the children left for the beach. At around midday, the Beaumont children entered Wenzel’s cake shop which was situated on Moseley Street and right next to their bus stop. They bought one meat pie in a separate bag. The Beaumont children also purchased 5 pasties, 6 finger buns and 2 large bottles of soft drink. A shopkeeper who was familiar with the Beaumont children believed they had never purchased a meat pie off him previously. Haydn has also commented that Harry Phipps liked pies (although in Australia they are widely popular). The food was paid for by the Beaumont children with a one pound note. Considering that Nancy didn’t give the children this note, it is likely the man seen on the beach with them supplied it.
A one pound note was considered a reasonably high amount of money in 1966 (equivalent to about $27 Australian dollars in 2018). Harry Phipps was renowned for giving children one pound notes including his son Haydn. The two boys who supposedly dug a hole at Castalloy for Harry Phipps recalled getting paid “handsomely with pound notes.” On the one hand, this penchant of Harry Phipps to dish out one pound notes to children and the Beaumont children’s sudden acquisition of one seems telling. Alternately, any abductor of the Beaumont children could have dangled this amount of money in front of them as a lure.
Another facet regarding the money situation involves the mystery man asking strangers nearby him (in earshot of the Beaumont children) if they had seen anyone going through their clothes and taking any money. He had claimed some money was missing. It is unclear if this event occurred before or after the children visited Wenzel’s cake shop. Perhaps a more plausible scenario than money being stolen by a stranger involves the mysterious man taking Jane’s money that was required by the Beaumont children for a return bus trip and feigning that someone else had stolen it. This would provide a possible reason for the Beaumont children to go to Harry Phipps’ house- to get the right amount of change or for an offer of a car ride back to the Beaumont children’s Somerton Park home. If the mysterious man managed to remove Jane’s money and fake his own money disappearance after the Wenzel’s cake shop visit, he could claim he needed to get some money from his house to pay for the children’s bus fare.
Jane Beaumont carried with her a white clipped money purse on the day of her disappearance. In 2007, Stuart Mullins went to Harry Phipps’ (who was then deceased) home and spoke to his second wife, Elizabeth. When waking around the house, Mullins went with Elizabeth into the basement- a room used by Harry Phipps as a workshop. Sitting on a shelf and described by Mullins as being of “pristine” condition, was a white, clipped purse. Mullins went back the next day and spoke with Elizabeth about the purse. He told Elizabeth that “Jane Beaumont had a very similar purse to this.” Elizabeth responded “No, no, no, no- I bought that at an Op shop last week.” Mullins then asked what the purse was doing down in the basement at which time Elizabeth said “I think you have to leave.” A couple of days later, when the police went to see this purse, it was thrown out.
The purse clue may be one of the strongest hints yet that Harry Phipps was responsible for the Beaumont children’s disappearance. An argument for the purse being highly relevant involves many killers keeping a trophy of their victims such as something the victim had on them when killed. The purse fits this profile perfectly. Also, the pristine condition of the purse- the fact it potentially hadn’t been used since 1966 further supports Harry Phipps’ involvement. Elizabeth disposing of the purse may have been a way to hide Harry Phipps’ guilt. Another aspect explaining why Harry Phipps had only kept the purse and seemingly no other items may involve a theory in the above ‘One Pound Notes’ section. If Harry Phipps had taken Jane’s purse at the beach to remove a means for the Beaumont children to get home (no money for a bus ticket) he may have pocketed the purse and after disposing of the children and the items they were holding, he may have still had Jane’s purse in his pocket and hence decided to keep it.
The arguments portraying this purse as a red-herring involve purses being a fairly common commodity. The Beaumont children were carrying around 17 or so items including bags, clothes, towels and even a book. It is not out of the realms of possibility for a small coincidence to occur and a random house to have a similarly looking item. What would be interesting to find out about is the emptiness of the basement’s shelves. If they were cluttered with lots of junk, like a spare room, then the odds would increase that the purse was just a random piece innocuously owned by someone in the Phipps household at some stage. It would also be interesting to know if many other items in the basement were owned by Elizabeth or if the basement had a distinctly Harry Phipps makeup. The fact that Elizabeth threw it out may be innocent- she didn’t want unnecessary and wrongful attention brought on a not guilty man. It is also possible, albeit unlikely that Mullins misremembered the way the purse looked or concocted the event to further cast suspicions onto Harry Phipps.
Harry Phipps’ Location
There is some conjecture over the last known place the Beaumont children were seen- it was one of two places. It was either the bench they were witnessed on, next to the change rooms which was 300 metres away from Harry Phipps’ house. Alternately, it was Wenzel’s cake shop which was also around 300 metres from where Harry Phipps lived. Harry Phipps resided about a 90 second walk away from Colley Reserve and indeed had a direct view of this grassed area from his home. His central location is a key argument for his involvement in the Beaumont disappearance. It is not surprising that no-one saw the Beaumont children on a short walk from their last known whereabouts to Harry Phipps’ home.
The proximity of Harry Phipps’ home to the Glenelg foreshore is emphasised by this photo put out by SA police, showing where the Beaumont children were last seen. Out of the few dozen houses in the background, Harry Phipps’ house is pictured and I have circled it in red. This photo is of modern day Glenelg. The house has since been sold and has new owners.
The witnesses of the mysterious man hanging out with the Beaumont children recalled very astute details about the scene including a white stripe on the man’s bathers and that he was carrying a pair of trousers and towel to the change rooms. They didn’t seem to remember him carrying a bag- perhaps a local would be less likely to bring a bag than someone who drove to the beach.
Before the disappearance, Arnna told her mother than Jane had a boyfriend down at the beach. If indeed the abductor was the ‘boyfriend’ it suggests that this person was frequently at Glenelg- having seen the children on occasions before and this would more likely be a local than someone living further away. Jane was well aware of the risks strangers posed and her parents seemed surprised that she would play with a supposed random man and let him dress her. Jane also brought her book ‘Little Women’ to the beach with her that day, despite it being a 5 minute bus drive and only a planned two hour outing. It is possible she wanted to impress someone that day hence brought the book.
The Beaumont children bought two large bottles of soft drink from Wenzel’s cake shop. It was not clear if they intended to take these home- their mother may have found it suspicious if they brought home so much food and drink with the small amount of money she gave them. Another scenario for the large soft drink bottles may be that the children intended to drink them at Harry Phipps’ home out of glasses. If Harry Phipps was responsible for the children’s disappearance, it’s likely that those working at Wenzel’s cake shop would recognise him hence he decided not to be seen there with the children.
A lot of suggested suspects lived close to the beach and indeed it’s plausible that the Beaumont children entered someone’s car under false pretences. Also, someone who was a prominent business person and a well-known local would have likely been spotted and recognised playing with the children at Glenelg that day. Out of the thousands of people to be at Glenelg, only one would have needed to see Harry Phipps and he would have been caught. It would be very risky of him to play with the children in plain view and then abduct them. For none of the neighbours to spot the children entering his house was another facet for Harry Phipps’ plan to work.
Above is the identikit drawn of the man seen with the Beaumont children and a photo of Harry Phipps. Witnesses described the man seen playing with the Beaumont children as around 6 foot one, being of lean stature, having fair but sightly tanned skin, with blonde hair and a thin face. His estimated age was mid-thirties. An identikit was drawn up of the man however there are some problems with this drawing. Firstly, the artist was drunk at the time and had to rush the sketch due to a time deadline. Secondly, identikits are renowned for being of low accuracy. Most people after incidentally seeing someone can’t describe what they look like accurately. Also the asking methods typically used by the sketch artists such as “did they have a big nose or small nose” inevitably lead to a mishmash of features. All of the main suspects in the Beaumont disappearance have by some observers been labelled as a physically accurate fit of the Beaumont abductor- such is the common lack of usefulness of identikits.
Harry Phipps was a relatively tall man around 6 foot one and did have light brown hair in 1966 and a thin face. His birthdate of the 1st of July 1917 made him 48 years of age at the time of the Beaumont disappearance. Those that knew Harry Phipps at this time claim he looked a lot younger than his 48 years. This age discrepancy leaves a question mark next to Harry Phipps being the possible abductor- a 48 year old having to look around 35.
The Castalloy Hole
Two brothers aged 15 and 17 at the time lived nearby the Castalloy factory in 1966 and their Dad worked for Harry Phipps as a contractor tradie. They were asked by a man driving an American style car (Harry Phipps drove such a car) to dig a hole at the Castalloy factory. This raised some suspicions at the time by the boys but they never linked the event in with the Beaumont case. The boys when watching TV show Today Tonight around 5 years ago, post hoc, determined the man as Harry Phipps. This was almost 50 years after the event hence their recollection is understandably hazy although certain details of the hole digging process still stood out to the boys.
An excavation haphazardly occurred at a different part of the factory grounds by police several years ago at a place where a small disturbance was detected however this amounted to nothing. Between the 4th and the 7th of January 2018, specialised and modern ERT testing was used to probe the soil to determine where the hole may have been that the boys’ dug. An area was found that matched the approximate location the boys gave and had similar dimensions- both of which were grave like. SA Major Crimes Superintendent Des Bray said “that analysis (of the ERT testing data) identified a small anomaly in the middle of the block, consistent with where the brothers said they dug.” A subsequent excavation of this area by police on the 2nd of February 2018 yielded no trace of the Beaumont children, only some bones thought to be from a large animal.
It is possible the police excavated an area that was not the hole the two brothers’ dug. It is also plausible that the two boys dug the hole at Harry Phipps’ request (if it was indeed Harry Phipps who was the one who asked for it and not another man) and he didn’t use it to dispose of the Beaumont children, instead using another method to dispose of the bodies.
One of the boys when recently recalling the dig said “It was a weekend, it was extremely hot and was just before we went back to school.” A voice over from the same interview then says “The Beaumont children disappeared on Wednesday the 26th. He isn’t sure but thinks they carried out the dig on the following weekend which was when the Australia Day holiday was celebrated and the Castalloy plant deserted.” I found the archived temperatures of the supposed dig days in 1966 and they seem to contradict the boys’ memory of the occasion. The maximum temperatures on the weekend of the supposed dig were: 26.7°C and 20.6°C. The next weekend (the 5th and 6th February) temperatures were 23.2°C and 28.1°C. The 12th and 13th of February weekend was 27.8°C and 25.1°C. These are hardly “extremely hot” temperatures and indeed after the hot few days preceding the supposed dig, the weekend of the 28th and 29th of January temperatures are more indicative of a cool change. The boys recalled the date being a weekend due to the factory being void of workers- they worried that if their hole collapsed, no-one would be there to help them.
I believe the hole the boys dug was likely dug at a date significantly distant to the media’s projected 28th/29th of January 1966 and the boys (now men) have gradually and wrongly convinced themselves of this false date. After watching one of the hole diggers being interviewed on several occasions, the hole date goes from being contentious to definitive.
It is of course still most likely that the boys’ dug a hole somewhere on the Castalloy factory property however the date probably wasn’t near the Beaumont children disappearance and the dimensions of the recently excavated hole matching their remembered dimensions suggest that this hole likely had an innocuous explanation. It should be noted that ‘The Satin Man’ author, Stuart Mullins has stated that Harry Phipps added a metre of fill to some section of the factory grounds around 1970. This likely has an innocent explanation although it’s theoretically possible he may have been providing the gravesite with added protection so as not to be found.
Could the Beaumont Abductor Still be Harry Phipps?
Despite the failed Castalloy dig, there is still the possibility that Harry Phipps was the Beaumont children abductor. There was after all a cottage at Castalloy that was deemed out-of-bounds to all staff except Harry Phipps and it is alleged he dressed in satin here which aroused him. He may have taken the Beaumont children to this cottage before disposing of their bodies through another method at the Castalloy site. There was a factory waste area at Castalloy that resembled a sandpit. Part of this particular factory site is now cemented over. Harry Phipps may have dumped the surfboard bags in here containing the Beaumont children and would have hence bypassed the risky manoeuvre of getting people to dig the hole. Another possibility involves the furnace that Harry Phipps had access to on the factory site. Depending on certain factors, this may have been thought of as an easy way to hide all evidence.
Not all information about Harry Phipps has been made public. Several years ago SA police initially had a lukewarm response to his name being suggested as a suspect. In 2017, more evidence may have come to hand as according to S.A. Major Crimes Superintendent Des Bray, “There has been information that has come in and that caused us in 2017 to commence a discreet investigation which we didn’t announce publicly (into Harry Phipps).” In addition to this, former SA detective, Bill Hayes has said “In this particular case we’ve got over 30 coincidences lining up to Mr. Phipps.”
Overall, the Beaumont children case contains a high volume of low quality information. There is certainly much circumstantial evidence linking Harry Phipps to the children’s abduction although if another person was now found guilty, lots of the Harry Phipps evidence could be seen as coincidental. If one dismisses Haydn’s claims against his father as concocted, the entire case against Harry Phipps looks fairly weak. This in tandem with the likely innocent explanation of the Castalloy hole seems to put the weight of evidence against Phipps’ involvement.
The surest way to determine Harry Phipps’ status in this crime is to examine the entire Castalloy site, although even then, if he was responsible for the Beaumont children disappearance, the possibility lingers that he disposed of them in some other way or with accomplices. There continues to be an insatiable desire by Australians for this case to be solved, largely to quench long held curiosities, as the offender is likely dead and if alive probably too old to reoffend. The real necessity for this case to be solved is to provide at least some closure for the Beaumont parents.