Bevan Spencer VON EINEM
Characteristics: Child sex offender - Rape - Torture
Number of victims: 1 - 5
Date of murders: 1979 - 1983
Date of arrest: November 3, 1983
Date of birth: 1945
Victim profile: Richard Kelvin, 15 / Boys and young men
Method of murder: Torture - Massive blood loss (captive for five weeks)
Location: Adelaide, South Australia, Australia
Status: Sentenced to life with a non-parole period of 36 years, 1984
Bevan Spencer von Einem (born c.1945), also known as Bevan von Einem (last name sometimes spelled "Von Einem"), is a child sex offender and suspected serial murderer from Adelaide, South Australia.
An accountant by profession, he was convicted in 1984 for the rape and murder of 15-year-old Richard Kelvin, the son of local TV personality Rob Kelvin, and is currently serving life imprisonment in the maximum security B-Division of Yatala Labour Prison.
The Good Samaritan
The name Bevan Spencer von Einem first came to attention on the night of May 10, 1972. That night, two homosexual men were thrown into the River Torrens by a group of men. The river banks (or "Number 1 beat" as it was known) were a place for homosexuals to meet in secret, as homosexuality was still illegal in South Australia at that time.
Tragically, one of the men, Dr. George Duncan drowned, however the other man, Roger James suffered a broken leg and was rescued out of the river by von Einem, who happened to be driving by at the time. Von Einem then took James to Royal Adelaide Hospital.
Over the next decade, rumours were rife that the group of men that threw the two men in the river were Vice Squad Police and on July 30, 1985 former Vice Squad officer Mick O'Shea revealed in the The Advertiser newspaper that the group involved were Vice Squad officers and that there was a cover-up to protect them. A task force was soon set up, and on February 5, 1986 three former police officers were charged with the manslaughter of Dr. Duncan, however all were eventually cleared of the charges.
Murder of Richard Kelvin
At around 6 pm. on June 5, 1983, von Einem (along with other unknown persons) abducted Kelvin in a North Adelaide street, just 60 metres from Kelvin's home. Kelvin had just seen off a friend at a nearby bus stop on the corner of O'Connell and Marian Streets, North Adelaide and was returning home for dinner.
Several witnesses living near to the Kelvin's home heard cries for help, car doors slamming and a car with a noisy exhaust speeding away. Significantly, Kelvin had a dog collar in his possession which was likely to have attracted von Einem's attention.
Von Einem then tortured, drugged, raped and held Kelvin captive for five weeks, before murdering him and dumping his body on an airstrip near One Tree Hill in the Adelaide Hills area (to the north-east of the city and close to where relatives of von Einem's lived). Kelvin's clothed body was found by a geologist on July 24, 1983.
The autopsy revealed that Kelvin had most certainly died from massive blood loss from an anal injury, likely caused by the insertion of a blunt object, such as a beer bottle, and he suffered bruising and injuries on his head and back, which were likely to have been caused by blows. Also traces of four hypnotic drugs were found in Kelvin, including Mandrax and Noctec.
With the drugs as their only firm lead at that stage, police began sifting through prescriptions for those drugs. During their search they found a prescription for Mandrax issued to a B. von Einem, a name familiar to police as he was questioned previously over the deaths of three young men and an alleged sexual assault of another.
Four days after the body was discovered, von Einem was questioned about the murder of Richard Kelvin by police. He initially claimed that he had no knowledge of what happened to Kelvin and said that on the night of abduction he was in bed with the flu. Police also searched his home in the northern Adelaide suburb of Paradise, where police seized a bottle of Mandrax.
Von Einem admitted that the drugs were his and said that he used them to help him sleep. He denied having any other drugs, but police also seized a bottle of Noctec, concealed on a ledge behind his wardrobe. Von Einem also allowed police to take hair and blood samples, as well as carpets and other materials for testing.
As von Einem went on holiday in the Soviet Union and the United Kingdom during August and September of 1983, the case against him began to mount up. Forensic investigators were able to match the many fibres found on Kelvin's clothing to those taken from von Einem's home, along with hairs found which matched those belonging to von Einem.
Forensics also determined that Kelvin was murdered between July 8 and July 10, 1983 and was dumped at the airstrip no later than the 10th. However, police raids on various locations around Adelaide linked to von Einem yielded few clues. Police also searched for a man who previously claimed to police during the investigation of the murder of Alan Barnes that von Einem was involved in his death and also that he was a former associate of von Einem. Barnes' fatal injuries mirrored those of Kelvin's closely.
The man, known as "Mr. B", was located and informed police in great detail how he and von Einem picked up young male hitchhikers, gave them alcoholic drinks laced with hypnotic drugs, and took them to von Einem's previous home in the Adelaide suburb of Campbelltown, where the young men were abused overnight and sent home the next day. "B" also provided further information about other associates of von Einem, but claimed he took no part whatsoever in any murders. Police also questioned women and transsexuals who von Einem associated with, however they volunteered little information.
With enough evidence, along with the information given by "B", to indicate that Richard Kelvin was at von Einem's home around the time of his death, police arrested and charged von Einem with murder on November 3, 1983. Von Einem still denied ever coming into contact with Kelvin.
The committal hearing to determine if there was sufficient evidence for von Einem to stand trial for murder began on February 20, 1984. Faced with evidence from prosecutors suggesting that Kelvin was in his company, von Einem changed his alibi to answer that evidence and claimed that he was in contact with Richard Kelvin on the night of June 5, 1983.
Von Einem said that he was driving along O'Connell Street in North Adelaide looking for a parking spot in order to buy some dinner. While looking for a parking spot in a side street, von Einem said that he nearly ran over Kelvin as he jogged in from his side.
Von Einem stated he thought Kelvin had bisexual tendencies and said that the two of them then had a conversation about problems Kelvin had been having at school, and Kelvin willingly got into the car and they drove to von Einem's home. Kelvin stayed for two hours before von Einem dropped him off in the Adelaide CBD near a hospital, and gave Kelvin $20 to catch a taxi home. Von Einem said that was the last time he saw Kelvin. However, there was enough evidence to suggest otherwise, and on May 25, 1984, Magistrate Nick Manos ordered von Einem to stand trial for the murder of Richard Kelvin.
The trial against Bevan Spencer von Einem for the murder of Richard Kelvin opened at the Supreme Court Building of South Australia on October 15, 1984 before Mr. Justice White. A jury of 12 people (seven women and five men) were selected and were agreed upon by the prosecution and defense.
Von Einem pleaded not guilty, and his defense was led by barrister Barry Jennings, and was assisted by Helena Jasinski, who was von Einem's solicitor from the start of the police's investigation of him in the murder during the previous year. The prosecution was led by Brian Martin QC (who is currently the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory), with assistance from Paul Rofe (now the recently retired Director of the Department of Public Prosecutions).
For the prosecution, it was a matter of proving von Einem's guilt (along with unknown persons) by presenting the strong scientific evidence that was gathered during the investigation, and disproving von Einem's story of being in contact with Richard Kelvin on the night of June 5, 1983. For the defense, it was a case of trying make von Einem's story hold up in court, and raising doubts about von Einem ability to keep Richard Kelvin captive for five weeks and committing the murder.
The prosecution opened their case with the jury being taken to the various sites around Adelaide that were important in the trial, and over the first week they called various witnesses to the stand. Richard Kelvin's parents, girlfriend and best friend were called to testify that Kelvin was an average 15 year old who would not willingly get into a car with a stranger, and was heterosexual and had no homosexual or bisexual tendencies and that he was wearing the dog collar as a prank.
People living close to the Kelvin's then testified that they heard noises and commotion corresponding to the abduction taking place on the night of June 5 at around 6pm. Forensic pathologists were called to testify about the injuries to the head and anus on Kelvin's body and the likely cause of his death, and pharmacists gave evidence of the excessive amount of different hypnotic drugs von Einem had been prescribed 5172 tablets and capsules of six different brands of drugs between December 15, 1978 and August 10, 1983, and showed that von Einem often had prescriptions for drugs issued from different chemists on the same day or during the same weeks.
And various police who worked on the case testified to their investigation of von Einem since they first questioned him about the murder, as well as their visit to von Einem's home where a police officer claimed that von Einem's bedroom appeared to have been unusually cleaned quite "extensively".
Forensic scientists were called next to testify firstly when Kelvin died and when his body was dumped in the Adelaide Hills area and a leading entomologist claimed from the larvae cycle of flies that were on the body, and comparing these to the larvae cycle of flies on a dead dog that was nearby, that Kelvin's body must have been dumped on the airstrip near One Tree Hill on July 10, 1983.
Other forensic scientists were called to testify about the hair and fibre samples collected that were linked to von Einem himself and his home. Hairs from von Einem were found on and inside Kelvin's clothing and of 925 fibre samples found on Kelvin's clothing, 250 came from von Einem's home environment, with just seven from Kelvin's home.
The scientists stated that if von Einem's story was true, then there should be a very small amount or even none of the fibres and hair samples from that night still on Kelvin's clothing some 36 hours later, let alone five weeks later. Faced with such damning scientific evidence, the defense tried to counter this during cross-examination by floating a possible theory that after von Einem last contact with Kelvin, he was abducted by other people, who stored his clothing for five weeks before murdering him and re-dressing him.
While the forensic scientists conceded that this was a possible scenario, under recross-examination by the prosecution, they conceded that it would be still unlikely given the whole science of how fibres and hair are transferred from surface to surface over time. The prosecution then rested their case.
The defense opted for von Einem to give a unsworn statement from the dock, rather than given sworn evidence from the witness box. In his unsworn statement, von Einem detailed his alibi with what he claimed happened in his life between June 5 and July 11, 1983. He again claimed on June 5 he picked up Kelvin in North Adelaide, drove him to his home, and then dropped him off in the Adelaide CBD.
He also claimed that he was sick with the flu for the next week after that and did not return to work until June 14. Von Einem said he was quite sketchy on his activities after that, however he did remember what he did on July 10, the day the body was dumped on the airstrip. He said that he was at a relative's birthday party with his mother for most of that evening, and after dropping off a friend on the way home, went straight to bed and went to work the next day.
Von Einem also addressed the issue of the noisy exhaust on the car heard during the abduction of Kelvin, by stating that the exhaust on his Ford Falcon (which he sold on July 16, 1983 to raise money for his overseas trip) was less than two years old and in good condition. Von Einem closed his unsworn statement by again claiming his innocence.
The defense then called various witnesses in an attempt to corroborate von Einem's story. The witnesses included colleagues and friends of his to testify of him being unwell and at home during the first week of Richard Kelvin's captivity.
Also testifying for the defense was the geologist, who while walking his dogs through the airstrip discovered Kelvin' body on July 24, recalling that he was walking in the same area on July 10 during the early afternoon and the body wasn't there at that stage.
Others called to give testimony for the defense were the woman who purchased von Einem's Ford Falcon who detailed the condition of the car, and the relative who hosted the birthday party on July 10 who said that von Einem and his mother arrived there at 5:30pm and left at 10:30pm.
Photographs of the party that included von Einem were also tendered to the court. Finally, the defense called von Einem's mother to testify about her son's activities over the weekend when Richard Kelvin was kidnapped.
Under cross-examination, the prosecution were able to show inconsistencies in her current testimony compared to her earlier statements to police about von Einem's whereabouts on the weekend of June 4-5, which weakened von Einem's case considerably as this highlighted von Einem's change the previous February of his account of what happened on the night of June 5, 1983.
In their summation, the prosecution stated that the evidence they presented proved that von Einem's story was full of lies and inconsistencies, and that he did murder (with the help of others) Richard Kelvin. They also stated that his admittance of picking up Kelvin showed that he was in contact with him on June 5, the fibres and hairs proved that von Einem was with him at the time of just before and/or at the time of death, and the drugs proved von Einem was with Kelvin in between those times.
The prosecution also answered the doubts raised by the defense about when on July 10 the body was dumped at the airstrip, by suggesting that von Einem could have dumped the body sometime very late on July 10 or in the early morning of July 11 before von Einem went to work for the day.
The defense stated in their summary that the prosecution had failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt that von Einem was guilty of murder and also weren't able to establish the exact cause of Kelvin's death, so therefore the jury must give von Einem the benefit of the doubt.
Mr. Justice White then gave his summation of the trial, and in the early afternoon of November 5, 1984, the jury retired to consider their verdict.
After 7½ hours of deliberation, the jury returned to give their verdict. Bevan Spencer von Einem was found guilty of the murder of Richard Kelvin and was automatically sentenced to life at Yatala Labour Prison with Mr. Justice White imposing a non-parole period of 24 years. Under South Australian law, a third of the non-parole period could be taken off for good behaviour in prison, which meant that von Einem could be out on parole sometime in late 2000.
The Attorney-General of South Australia immediately appealed the leniency of the non-parole period, and on March 29, 1985 the Criminal Courts of Appeal in South Australia increased the non-parole period to 36 years, a record at the time in that state. The earliest von Einem could be released on parole was therefore on October 31, 2008.
Von Einem's defense team (now consisting of barrister David Peek with assistance from Helena Jasinski) appealed the conviction to the Criminal Courts of Appeal in South Australia and requested that a new trial be set. The basis for this appeal was the evidence given about Kelvin's heterosexuality, the references to von Einem's own heterosexuality through the trial and the negative impact that might have had on the jury, and also how Mr. Justice White in his summation did not include the testimony given by von Einem's relative about his attendance at the birthday party on the day Kelvin's body was dumped.
The Criminal Courts of Appeal rejected the appeal, saying that the trial was conducted fairly and just throughout, however they did concede that Mr. Justice White should have included the evidence relating to the birthday party.
More murder charges
Bevan Spencer von Einem was the leading suspect in the unsolved murders of four other young men between 1979 and 1982, and police continued to pursue leads on those cases in the years after his murder conviction. The four murdered were Alan Barnes in June 1979, Neil Muir in August 1979, Peter Stogneff in August 1981 and Mark Langley in February 1982.
In February 1988, the State Coroner at the time in South Australia, Kevin Ahern, ordered an inquest into the deaths of these four young men, and on March 24, 1988, the State Coroner in his findings stated that manner and circumstances in which the four were murdered was very similar to that in the case of Richard Kelvin, particularly the murders of Barnes and Langley. The reward for any information leading to an arrest for the murders was increased to $250,000, and this was lated increased to $500,000 in September 1989.
Following the inquest, police pushed on with their investigations and attempted to locate von Einem's former associates to question them about the murders. And during 1989 media interest in the four unsolved murders increased, with extensive news coverage in Adelaide about who was involved in the murders.
The media dubbed those involved "The Family", an alleged group of homosexual child sexual abusers possibly involving high-profile Adelaide establishment figures (doctors, lawyers, judges and politicians), a theory that still persists to this day, although police who have worked on the cases believe that the group doesn't involve any high-profile people in Adelaide. However, fuel was added to the rumours of a conspiracy, when on August 28, 1989, von Einem gave his one and only interview from prison, given to The Advertiser journalist Dick Wordley.
In the interview, von Einem again pleaded his innocence in the murder of Richard Kelvin and of the four other young men, and regretted taking his lawyer's advice to keep silent during the early stages of the Kelvin investigation. He also hinted that he could name people that could help police with their investigation, but feared for his life if he did and also claimed that his life was already threatened once by two police officers who ordered him not to give evidence in the inquest into the death of Dr. George Duncan in 1972.
Shortly after von Einem's interview, police interviewed "Mr. B" again who was now living in Sydney. "B" gave a statement about the Alan Barnes murder that convinced prosecutors to grant him immunity if von Einem was brought to trial. Police, now with "B"'s statement and the similar fact evidence from the Richard Kelvin case, then arrested von Einem at Yatala Labour Prison on September 15, 1989 for the murder of Alan Barnes.
On November 10, 1989, von Einem was also arrested for the murder of Mark Langley. Police were never able to obtain enough evidence for charges in the murders of Neil Muir and Peter Stogneff, though in the case of Muir an Adelaide doctor was tried for his murder in 1980 but was found not guilty.
The committal hearing to determine if von Einem should stand trial for the murders of Barnes and Langley began on March 5, 1990 before magistrate David Gurry. Von Einem plead not guilty to both murders, and his defense cousel (now consisting of barrister Mark Griffin with assistance from Marie Shaw) immediately claimed that it would be an abuse of justice for their client if he was ordered to stand trial given the mass coverage of the murders in the media in the past year.
The prosecution was led again by Brian Martin QC, who was assisted this time by Tom Birchall, and their case against von Einem relied on evidence of the Richard Kelvin murder, with the details of the crime being so strikingly similar to the murders of Barnes and Langley.
The prosecution's case also relied on evidence given by former associates testifying to von Einem picking up boys hitchhiking and sexually abusing them, as well as "B"'s sensational evidence being in the company of Barnes and von Einem at the time just before Barnes' murder. "B" also gave startling allegations of von Einem being involved in the unexplained Beaumont children disappearance in 1966, as well as the disappearance of two girls at the Adelaide Oval in 1973.
However, these allegations were unable to be proven. Another witness also came forward to claim he'd seen von Einem and Barnes together drinking in the weeks before Barnes' death. Also entered as evidence was samples taken from Barnes' body which showed that sedative drugs were present. Little evidence was presented for the murder of Mark Langley, as prosecutors felt if they could prove that von Einem murdered Barnes, then it would naturally follow that he murdered Langley as well.
On May 11, 1990, Magistrate Gurry ordered von Einem to stand trial for the two murders of Alan Barnes and Mark Langley. Von Einem's defense counsel appealed the decision, launching an abuse of process action in the Supreme Court of South Australia to achieve a permanent stay of proceedings, as well as stating that the huge media interest in the charges would result in their client not getting a fair trial. Proceedings began on June 19, 1990 before Justice Kevin Duggan, and six months later on December 17, 1990, Justice Duggan released his findings. He ordered von Einem to stand trial, however he expressed concerns with most of the prosecution's evidence.
The pre-trial hearing began on December 19, 1990 in the Supreme Court of South Australia, with Justice Duggan as the presiding judge. The prosecution decided after Justice Duggan's findings two days earlier to have von Einem tried separately for the murders of Alan Barnes and Mark Langley.
Justice Duggan ruled that the evidence relating to the Richard Kelvin murder and from the various associates of von Einem and hitchhikers was inadmissible, although he did rule that "B"'s evidence could be heard, but with the defense allowed to question the evidence as it was being given. This was a shattering blow for the prosecution's case, and on December 21, 1990, on advice from the Attorney-General of South Australia, prosecutors withdrew the charge for the murder of Mark Langley.
The prosecution tried to continue with the charge for the murder of Alan Barnes, however with the problems of getting enough evidence admitted into court from associates about von Einem picking up hitchhikers to convict von Einem still too great, the final charge was withdrawn on February 1, 1991. The prosecution, on the advice of the Attorney-General, then entered a nolle prosequi for the Alan Barnes murder charge.
On January 29, 2006, the Sunday Mail reported that von Einem is currently being investigated for allegedly raping an inmate several times at Yatala Labour Prison.
On 24 June 2009, von Einem was sentenced to a further 3 months for the possession of child pornography.
On 27 May 2009, von Einem pleaded guilty to possessing child pornography – the first time he has ever confessed to a crime.
On 28 October 2008, it was announced police hope one of four suspects in the notorious Family sex murders will come forward to help solve the case after the State Government doubled a reward to $1 million. This announcement comes just days after Major Crime detectives interviewed von Einem from his prison cell.
On 18 September 2008, it was announced that prosecutors have dropped allegations that von Einem wrote stories of child pornography in his jail cell.
On 6 June 2008, it was announced that prosecutors have dropped one charge of producing child pornography, however von Einem is still facing charges of possession.
On 4 May 2008, it was announced that an Adelaide chiropractor who fled Australia while being investigated for involvement in the Family Murders is now being sought in Europe by Police. He was a former associate of von Einem.
On 27 April 2008, it was announced that police are set to travel overseas to interview several key witnesses as part of their new investigations into the Family murders.
On 13 April 2008, it was announced that police conducting fresh investigations into the unsolved Family murders will quiz transvestites who have information that could assist the inquiry. Some are former associates of von Einem and are likely to provide valuable information into the inquiries.
On 30 March 2008, it was announced that key suspects in Adelaide's notorious 'The Family' murders are being DNA tested as part of a new inquiry into the sex killings. Although von Einem is the only member of 'The Family' who was convicted, police are now reviewing the cold case.
On 28 March 2008, the ABC reported that the child pornography found in von Einem's cell has been determined to not have been written by von Einem and that fingerprints do not match. Defence lawyer Sam Abbott said he expects the Director of Public Prosecutions to drop the most serious charge of producing the material and, if not, he will argue there is no case to answer. It was also announced that von Einem has been excused from attending his court hearings so he can avoid an "unpleasant" three-hour drive with other inmates.
On 25 January 2008, The Advertiser reported that von Einem will not answer charges of possessing child pornography for at least another two months.
On 7 December 2007, the ABC reported that von Einem has been granted a further adjournment before answering charges of possessing child pornography.
On 1 November 2007, the ABC reported that after 24 years behind bars, von Einem is now eligible to apply for parole. However, South Australian Premier Mike Rann has vowed to enforce new legislation to ensure von Einem never leaves prison alive.
On 11 August 2007, The Australian reported that detectives are calling for information to establish the identity of a young man seen in the Seven Network's news archive, showing police searching a storm water drain in the days after the Beaumont Children's disappearance. The man bears a striking resemblance to a youthful Bevan Spencer von Einem. On 13 August 2007, the Seven Network followed this with a story that the man standing next to the von Einem lookalike in their archived film matched the police sketch of the suspect seen with the Beaumonts at the beach on the day of their disappearance.
On 27 July 2007 it was announced that von Einem had been transferred from the maximum security B-Division of Yatala Labour Prison to Port Augusta Prison.
On 14 June 2007, the ABC reported that von Einem has been charged with producing and possessing child pornography, with police alleging that he handwrote three fictitious stories describing sexual acts between a child and a man. His lawyer believes a handwriting analysis will clear von Einem.
On 4 February 2007, the ABC reported that von Einem had been charged over commercial dealings during his incarceration, including selling hand-painted greeting cards.
On 26 November 2006 it was revealed that von Einem had been prescribed Cialis by a prison doctor in 2003.
On 12 November 2006, the Sunday Mail reported that von Einem was receiving preferential treatment by some prison officials at Yatala Labour Prison which included home cooked meals for him and the use of a mobile telephone.
On 29 October 2006, The Australian reported that von Einem had been selling hand-painted greeting cards to prison officers for $20 each.
On 29 January 2006, the Sunday Mail reported that von Einem is currently being investigated for allegedly raping an inmate several times at Yatala Labour Prison.
Bevan Spencer von Einem is a convicted murderer, a suspected serial killer, and a named suspect for the disappearance of the Beaumont children. Currently serving a 36-year term of imprisonment for the murder of a 15-year-old boy, he is strongly suspected of involvement in a series of murders in Adelaide and the surrounding areas in the 1970s and early 1980s. These murders became known as "The Family Murders".
In 1990, during the committal hearing for his trial for two of these murders, it was alleged that he had confessed to killing the Beaumont children. He refuses to cooperate with police enquiries.
Von Einem first came to prominent attention when he saved the life of a man named Roger James in 1972. Ironically, given later events, von Einem's actions on this occasion were heroic. James was in a well-known homosexual meeting area on the banks of the Torrens River in Adelaide. Attacked because he was gay, he was bashed and thrown into the river, and would probably have died without the intervention of von Einem. Another man who was thrown into the river was drowned.
1. The murder of Richard Kelvin
In 1983, 15-year-old Richard Kelvin, son of Adelaide newsreader Rob Kelvin, was abducted from near his home in North Adelaide. Exactly seven weeks later his body was found close to an abandoned runway. Analysis showed that he had probably been held captive for at least five weeks before he was killed. He had been drugged but had died from physical injuries.
Bevan Spencer von Einem was known to police by this time and was questioned two days after the discovery of the body. Hairs found on Richard Kelvin's body matched von Einem and a total of 196 fibres from Kelvin’s clothes were found in von Einem’s home.
Von Einem was charged with murder, and was convicted the following year. He was sentenced to a non-parole period of 36 years, which means that he will not be eligible for release until 2020. That might have been the end of the matter, except that von Einem is suspected of involvement in at least four other murders.
The murders in question are those of Neil Muir, aged 25, in 1979; Alan Barnes, aged 17, in June 1979; Peter Strogneff, aged 14, in August 1981; and Mark Langley, aged 18, in February 1982. All were murdered in or around the Adelaide area.
2. "The Family"
Before von Einem's arrest, police had linked the murders and speculated that there might be a small group of individuals collectively engaged in deviant practises. The suggestion was that a group of up to ten people had planned and carried out the murders together. The press dubbed this group “The Family” and so the five murders became collectively known as "The Family Murders".
The speculation about the existence of “The Family” did not diminish with the conviction of von Einem for Richard Kelvin's murder. It seemed logical to believe that he had committed the other murders as well, possibly with help from accomplices. Unfortunately for the police and the families of the victims, he refused to cooperate. Detective Superintendent Rob Lean, in charge of the South Australian major crime squad, said in 1987: "We still feel that Von Einem is the principal person behind the murders. But he refuses to talk to us."
3. A witness called "Mr B"
Police were not able to make progress with their investigations until 1989, when two associates of von Einem separately went to police to make statements against him. Witnesses "Mr B" and Garry Wayne Place were both former associates of von Einem, and had already become acquainted with him before the abduction and murder of Alan Barnes had taken place.
Place and "Mr B" had both mixed with von Einem in Adelaide’s gay community, and both said they had been threatened against giving evidence about von Einem’s association with Barnes. More significantly, Mr B, who approached police in Sydney in September 1989, said that he had left Alan Barnes in the company of von Einem and an Adelaide trader on the night that Barnes had disappeared. He had left after having heard von Einem say that they were going to video the murder of Barnes and then throw the body from a bridge.
Von Einem was formally charged with the murders of Alan Barnes and Mark Langley, another of the murder victims. Mr B was granted immunity from prosecution on 27 February 1990 and on 5 March the committal hearing into the charges began at Adelaide Magistrates Court. A committal hearing is a similar procedure to an American grand jury hearing, where the evidence is assessed to see if it warrants a full trial. It was at this committal hearing that von Einem’s possible involvement with the disappearance of the Beaumont children was revealed.
Twenty two different witnesses gave evidence at the committal hearing, but Mr B’s evidence was the most significant. Giving evidence for four days, he described in detail his knowledge of Alan Barnes and Barnes’ movements (as Mr Place also did) but also testified as to a conversation he’d had with von Einem several weeks before Barnes’ murder.
4. Connection with the Beaumont children
Mr B said that a few weeks before Barnes had been abducted, von Einem had told him that he’d abducted the Beaumont children, had "connected them up" and "did some brilliant surgery on them" and that one had died. The bodies had been dumped at Moana or Myponga, south of Adelaide. Mr B also said: "He also told me he picked up two children at the football."
This evidence from Mr B was sensational. A suppression order meant that the evidence given in the committal hearing could not be published in South Australia, but it was freely published in other Australian states. When the suppression order was lifted in South Australia the news of Mr B’s testimony was printed on the front page of the Adelaide Advertiser. It did not particularly stretch the imagination to believe that "The Family" and von Einem had murdered the Beaumont children, Joanne Ratcliffe and Kirste Gordon.
Sought out for his opinion by reporters covering the committal hearings, Mr Beaumont, speaking from his home, said that police had kept him updated with what had been happening. The news of Mr B's evidence had not been any surprise. He also said: "I don't know what to believe. I don't know any more than you." Mrs Beaumont, who had long since separated from her husband, was not available to comment.
5. Doubts cast on Mr B's evidence
Mr B gave no more evidence of von Einem’s involvement with the Beaumont children’s disappearance or the Oval abduction. Nor did any other witness. Instead, evidence was given about the murders of Alan Barnes and Mark Langley. Mr B’s evidence was attacked as being weak and inconsistent and he admitted to having been a drug user and having a poor memory. He had refused to sign the statement he made to detectives in Sydney, saying:
There were a few reasons. Nerves, concern about my own safety and there was no legal obligation to sign, so I didn't.
His evidence about Barnes was contradicted by his sister, Claire. She said that Mr B had arrived at her house and said "I've just seen a murder", claiming to have witnessed Barnes being thrown from a bridge. Mr B, in turn, said that his sister, who had been 17 at the time, was "just a little bit dizzy".
It was pointed out that Mr B had failed to mention the Beaumont children when he spoke to police in 1979 and 1983 and the magistrate, Mr Gurry, said:
As I sit here I still have, ringing in my ears, Mr B's admission in court that in terms of his obligations in this matter "the court comes last", and the fact that much of what he says may be inherently improbable, given normal expectations of human behaviour.
Questioned by Mr Mark Griffin, defense counsel for von Einem, Mr B had also admitted that the reward money was a part incentive for coming forward:
You're not wrong. You haven't had to carry this shit around for 10 years. You have got no idea what I have been going through. It's not funny not being able to walk out of your own front door and go to the shop on your own, sit here and face crap like [name suppressed] sitting in the body of the court. The mental torture I am going through, not being able to sleep at night, getting two or three hours sleep a night and having to come in here and face you every day. It's not fun. It has been like this for me for 11 years. I have given a lot of consideration to the relatives of the families; they deserve to know what really happened.
Eventually, on Thursday, 10 May 1990, von Einem was committed to stand trial.
Meanwhile, based on Mr B’s testimony, a search was made of the Myponga Reservoir. Nothing was found.
6. Trial abandoned
Bevan Spencer von Einem was never tried for the murders of Alan Barnes and Mark Langley. The case against von Einem depended on showing that the two murders could be connected with that of Richard Kelvin, for which von Einem had already been convicted. A legal ruling barred the used of evidence from the earlier murder trial and so it became impossible to establish this connection. This greatly weakened the case and reduced the prospect of a conviction. Without the realistic prospect of a conviction the charges were abandoned. The murders of Alan Barnes and Mark Langley remain unsolved.
Despite having used him as a witness at the committal hearing, police later decided that they couldn’t rely on the word of word of Mr B. Eventually they described his evidence as "extremely fanciful".
Von Einem has never been tried for any murder other than than of Richard Kelvin. No other member of "The Family", if that group existed, has been publicly identified.
So how likely is it that Bevan Spencer von Einem was responsible for the disappearance of the Beaumont children? Below are the arguments for, and the arguments against:
7. The evidence for von Einem's involvement
Von Einem is a known paedophile, a convicted murderer and a prime suspect in four other murders. He was in Adelaide when the Beaumont children disappeared and he roughly matches the description of the suspect. The witness, Mr B, said that von Einem had admitted visiting Glenelg Beach to "perv" around the changing rooms, which puts him right at the scene of the children's disappearance.
Most critically of all, Mr B said that von Einem confessed to murdering the Beaumont children. He said that von Einem told him (Mr B) that he had "connected them up" and "did some brilliant surgery on them" and that one of the children had died.
Von Einem may have had the protection of "The Family", which according to rumour was an influential group that could protect him from police enquiries. Both Mr B and Mr Place gave evidence of phone calls and other intimidations to dissuade them from talking to the police, which on the face of it suggests that somebody wanted to keep them quiet.
8. The evidence against von Einem's involvement
There is no evidence that "The Family" actually existed, beyond police and press speculation. It was always said that "The Family" were very well connected to powerful people in the establishment, who could protect it from the law. This sounds more like a conspiracy theory than a conjecture based on facts. There is no logical way that a group of powerful establishment figures could obstruct the investigation into five murders, let alone the Beaumont children disappearance. Police have said more recently that they doubt "The Family" even existed.
To put it another way, while there is no doubt that the five murders attributed to "The Family" actually occurred, they could easily have all been committed by a single person. Adelaide at the time was a conservative city in which a homosexual man could be bashed and drowned without a protective "Family" of associates able to prevent the crime or catch the murderers.
In any event, police were able to arrest and convict von Einem for the murder of Richard Kelvin and it seems unlikely, therefore, that any group, however influential, could have blocked the investigation into the disappearance of the Beaumont children. The children's disappearance was the biggest, the most publicised and the most infamous crime of the era.
Forty years later, rumours of new leads in the case can still generate newspaper headlines. For many people living at the time, the disappearance was such a shocking event that it affected how they lived their day-to-day lives, either as parents or as children. It was simply too big a case to be obstructed. The idea that a "Family" could do so is ridiculous.
The pattern of murders is also odd. If von Einem was responsible then we have to assume that he committed a triple abduction in 1966, a double abduction in 1973, then waited another six years before committing murders, fairly consistently, one at a time. All the later murder victims were adolescent boys or men; the eldest of the Beaumont children was nine and of the Beaumont and the Oval abduction cases (if they are related), only one child, Grant Beaumont (aged 4) was a boy. Von Einem was also younger than the suspect in the Beaumont children and Oval abduction cases, and no bodies were found in the Myponga Reservoir.
Mr B is the only person to have said that von Einem claimed credit for killing the Beaumont children, and said this ten years after the remark had allegedly been made, despite his poor memory. In the previous ten years he had spoken to police twice and had never mentioned it. No other acquaintance of von Einem has said that von Einem confessed to them. His sister, police and the magistrate all concluded that he was an unreliable witness.