The Beaumont children: Investigations and implications of cold cases

Joel Robert McGregor, University of Newcastle:

Watch the livestream on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sSBSNwZC870

Jane, Arnna and Grant Beaumont, collectively known as the Beaumont children, disappeared from Glenelg Beach in Adelaide, SA, on Australia Day 1966. Their disappearance led to one of the largest police investigations in Australian history and is one of the country’s most famous cold cases. In this panel discussion, held in the inaugural Social Sciences Week, Dr Xanthé Mallet, Duncan McNab, and Dr Ben Lohmeyer discussed the implications and complexities of investigating cold cases.

Most recently, the Seven News team and specialist forensic investigators found new evidence which led them to excavate a section of the New Castalloy factory in Adelaide. Xanthé Mallet and Duncan McNab were two of those specialist forensic investigators. Xanthé is a criminologist and forensic scientist at the University of Newcastle. She worked with the Channel 7 Network’s Murder Uncovered team on the Beaumont children’s disappearances in South Australia, as well as the Wanda Beach murders in NSW. Duncan is an award-winning investigative journalist and author of 10 non-fiction books primarily on crime. He was the supervising producer of Murder Uncovered and worked on the Beaumont children case for twelve months. Xanthé and Duncan talked the audience through the process that led them to the prime suspect, and what took this beyond journalism to the police excavating the New Castalloy factory. As Xanthé Mallet said, this was a true investigation that bridged the hard and soft sciences.

Ben Lohmeyer joined the panel to comment on the way that the nature of childhood has changed since the disappearance of the Beaumont children. Ben is a critical youth sociologist and youth worker. He has over a decade of youth work experience in alternative education, accommodation and peace building. Ben is a resident of Adelaide. He talked about how the spaces for children have changed since this event. He said that ‘childhood has increasingly become an innocent space because it is increasingly protected’. This is an argument which reverses the popular ‘death of innocence’ narrative which played out in the case of the Beaumont children. Start the video at 32:50, if you are interested in hearing this argument!

The general public engaged well with this event in the live audience and through the livestream. It was a great example of how the public can engage with social sciences and learn of the invaluable work they do.

I would like to acknowledge the support of the Social Sciences Week committee, The Australian Sociological Association, the University of Newcastle, and the Crime and Criminal Justice Student Association at the University of Newcastle for helping to bring this event together.

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