Murder, Buried

The Beaumont children: Jane, left, Grant, center, and Arna at Twelve Apostles beachside in Victoria, Australia.
The Beaumont children: Jane, left, Grant, center, and Arna at Twelve Apostles beachside in Victoria, Australia.

Fifty years ago, on a blisteringly hot Australia Day morning, Andrew McIntyre woke with plans for a dive with his father’s young friend at Glenelg Beach, a 10-minute drive from his home in South Australia’s coastal capital of Adelaide. The beach was a favorite launch for Andrew, then 12, and Anthony Munro, a sandy-haired 20-year-old known as Tony who would decades later become a wealthy real estate developer and bar owner in Siem Reap City.

Undated photograph of Max McIntyre, supplied by Ruth Collins.
Undated photograph of Max McIntyre, supplied by Ruth Collins.

The two had formed a club, the Underwater Salvage and Exploration Group, and spent much of late 1965 and early 1966 in the waters near Glenelg’s jetty.

On that fateful morning of January 26, 1966, though, there would be no diving.

Three children disappeared from the beach that day, never to be seen again, their whereabouts becoming one of Australia’s most enduring mysteries.

And Andrew and his sister Ruth became the keepers of a dark and dreadful family secret, they claim, a secret they kept so well and for so long that hardly anyone now believes their account of that day.

The siblings believe the bodies of the three missing Beaumont children—Ruth says she saw them mangled in the trunk of a sedan—are buried in a McIntyre family well. And they blame two people for the deaths: their father, Max McIntyre, and Mr. Munro, a convicted pedophile now awaiting sentencing in an Australian jail.

“It didn’t end on that day,” said Ruth Collins, who was 10 at the time. “It ended for the children, which sounds awful, but it went on and on for us.”

For 50 years, Australians have been gripped by the unexplained disappearance of the Beaumont children—Grant, 4, Arna, 7, and Jane, 9—from the sandy shores of Glenelg Beach that holiday afternoon.

A series of special investigators have tried to unravel the case over the years, pursuing a seemingly endless supply of tips. In the months immediately following the incident, a Dutch psychic flew to Australia to help locate the bodies. Later, a factory was excavated after a tipster said they might have been buried beneath it.

Two years after the disappearance, the children’s parents received two ransom notes, allegedly from Jane, leading police on what initially seemed to be a promising hunt. The author was later determined to be a 14-year-old boy.

“The story of the Beaumont children, which has become a long and tangled tale, has lost none of its potency.”

Nearly 30 years after that, a retired detective identified a woman, 40 and living in Canberra, who he said might be Jane Beaumont, temporarily reviving hope that the three might be found alive. But police soon determined the woman was not Jane.

“The story of the Beaumont children, which has become a long and tangled tale, has lost none of its potency,” the Sydney Morning Herald reported in 1997. “At its heart is an act of unspeakable cruelty: of parents being robbed of their children and of never knowing their fate; of being tormented, year after year, with theories, rumors and speculation, false leads, false hopes and false prophets.”

To this day, leads still come in weekly, but none has led police closer to the truth about the fate of the Beaumont children, South Australian Detective Senior Sergeant David Sheridan said in a recent interview.

The steaming hot day the Beaumont children disappeared is vividly etched in Andrew and Ruth’s memories, they said during interviews by telephone and email over the past four months.

Their mother had taken the train to work as their father had loaned the family’s white Ford Zephyr to a friend, Ruth said. Their father, 36 at the time, had previously promised a family trip to the beach to revel in the children’s time off school for the holiday, she said. But those plans fell apart with a morning phone call.

Max McIntyre, center, with his children and nephew at a beach in the early 1960s, in a photograph supplied by Ruth Collins.
The front page of Australia’s The News newspaper on January 27, 1966, the day after the Beaumont siblings’ disappearance.
Top: Max McIntyre, center, with his children and nephew at a beach in the early 1960s, in a photograph supplied by Ruth Collins. Bottom: The front page of Australia’s The News newspaper on January 27, 1966, the day after the Beaumont siblings’ disappearance.

“The phone kept ringing, he went inside to answer it, and then he just emerged all dishevelled,” Ruth said.

Soon after, Mr. Munro stopped by the family’s Macklin Street house and told Andrew he was no longer included in the holiday diving trip, according to a 2015 written statement he submitted to police investigating the disappearance.

“Then a car rolled up,” Ruth said.

Hopping in a friend’s black sedan, her father was dressed in full-length trousers, she said. He had no shirt, goggles, snorkels, air tanks nor flippers with him—uncharacteristic for a man who never went to the beach “purposeless,” Ruth added. His arm draped out the car window, a beach towel dangling from it.

They were all heading to Glenelg Beach, he told his daughter, and the family trip to the same spot would have to wait.

During the hours that her father and Mr. Munro were gone—between about 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., Ruth said—the Beaumont children disappeared from the sandy beachfront.

“Police now believe that the missing Beaumont children made friends with a sun-baking swimmer at Glenelg on Wednesday,” the Canberra Times reported in the following days.

The man, whom the kids were seen “frolicking” with that morning, “had ‘a big mop of hair’ in need of cutting, fairish to light brown in colour.” He was “partly clothed, [and] had been lying face down on the lawn near the children,” the article read.

The description perfectly matched her father at the time, Ruth said.

Within a matter of days, the paper would report that the hunt for the children had “proved unsuccessful.” But the attempt to discover their fate carried on, and about 10 years ago, Ruth provided her first account of that day to police. Andrew gave his first verbal account in the months after.

Back at the McIntyre house that afternoon, the bob-haired girl heard the front door slam as she washed dishes. Her dad had returned home, she said.

“He comes in quite robotic and covered in sand and splattered with blood,” Ruth said. A tight, white Coca-Cola promotional shirt that she said she recognized as Mr. Munro’s stretched across her father’s chest, stained with the deep red substance she would later find coating the trunk of the family car. He headed straight for the bathroom.

Emerging from the shower a few minutes later, her father began bragging about having helped three children load the bus after the youngest, whom he identified as Grant, had been run over by a vehicle while he was buried in sand, Ruth said.

“My father told me he was the man last seen with the children on the beach,” she said. “He said, ‘They were alive when I left them at the bus stop’—and that’s a very strange thing to say.”

As her father talked about the hours he’d spent playing with the children, the inquisitive young girl began asking questions, and her father’s demeanor changed from elated to frustrated, she said.

“If the boy hurt his leg, how could he catch the bus?” Ruth remembered asking. “It didn’t make sense, and I was only 10.”

Around that time, Andrew heard a knock at the door. It was Mr. Munro.

“I opened the door. Tony went straight past me, through the lounge and into the kitchen,” Andrew said in his statement. “He was really upset and crying.”

The two men stepped aside for a brief, quiet conversation, the two siblings recalled.

“Whatever Tony was saying to my father, I could not hear, but my father put his hands up to the side of his head and started rocking back and forwards and saying ‘Shit, Shit, Shit,’” according to the statement.

Then her father turned back toward her, Ruth said.

Anthony Munro on a beach in South Australia in 1966.
Anthony Munro holds a fish he caught during a skin diving competition in 1963.
Max McIntyre, left, in diving gear at a beach in South Australia in the mid 1960s.
Top: Anthony Munro on a beach in South Australia in 1966. Middle: Anthony Munro holds a fish he caught during a skin diving competition in 1963. Bottom: Max McIntyre, left, in diving gear at a beach in South Australia in the mid 1960s.

“Those poor sweet children, Ruthy. They hurt those children—they’re dead,” she recalled him saying to her. “My father blamed Tony back then, and he continues to blame Tony.”

He began barking orders at Mr. Munro, the siblings both recalled.

According to Andrew, the two men left the house in Mr. Munro’s car and returned about an hour later. Mr. Munro then instructed Andrew to stay upstairs, he said.

Ruth, meanwhile, said her father escorted her outside, where the family’s white Zephyr was parked once again. There, she recalled, he opened the car, where the three Beaumont children’s bodies lay limp in the trunk.

“There was no fuss. It was all very calm. My father was quite euphoric and took me over the injuries,” she said, recalling seeing the boy’s twisted leg and watching her father pull apart the lips of Jane Beaumont, revealing her teeth.

He told her he had put the children in the trunk of the car so they could be taken to the hospital because they had been injured during “children’s games gone wrong.” But that they had died before arriving, she said.

Neither Ruth nor her brother know how or why the children died. They don’t know who was responsible for their deaths. What they do know, they said, is that their father and Mr. Munro were somehow involved.

After her father revealed the bodies, he asked Mr. Munro to prepare the family’s boat and diving gear, she said. Their older sister, Claire, then 13, her father and another man she did not recognize drove off in the car, she said.

Moments later, Andrew piled into the front seat of Mr. Munro’s car and drove with him to his mother’s house, according to his statement.

“I didn’t understand what was happening at home, but it was very strange and upsetting,” he said.

As they drove, he said he realized he was “sticking to the seat and then I noticed it was covered in brown stuff, with sand stuck to the seat where I was sitting. Tony’s car was always very clean, but the front seat on my side was a mess.”

When they arrived, Mr. Munro ran inside and returned with a vacuum, a large bucket of soapy water and a rag, the statement says.

“There was a lot of sand and blood on the front passenger’s floor and the seat. He removed the sand and scrubbed the seat,” the statement reads. That afternoon, Mr. Munro drove Andrew to stay with relatives in Loxton, South Australia, a town about three hours away, it said.

When Claire returned home that night, she told her sister she had watched their father dispose of the bodies at a nearby dam. Later that night, her father moved out of the house, taking Claire with him, Ruth said.

She said she still saw her father regularly, but he did not return to the house until later that year, after her mother abruptly died.

Max never told his younger daughter where he moved the bodies, she said. But both of the McIntyre children remembered visiting a plot of land their father owns in Stansbury, South Australia, over 200 km away, in the coming weeks and hearing their grandfather complain about a rancid smell coming from a well on the property. Their father then filled it in with cement, Ruth said.

“We know something was rotting down the well,” she said.

There, Ruth and Andrew believe, the bones of the Beaumont children are covered in cement. While they want to dig up the well, their father, Max, who has Alzheimer’s and lives in an assisted care facility, according to a family friend, has so far refused permission.

Police have not shown any interest in pressing the issue.

“Anthony Munro was involved, my father was and quite a few people were,” Andrew said in an interview.

“It’s about getting proof—and the proof is in the ground,” Ruth said.

Max was quoted last year in a sit-down interview with a South Australian newspaper, The Advertiser, conceding that his children “know something” about the Beaumont children, but denied his own involvement in their deaths.

A man, whom he identified as Mr. Munro, “turned up with the three bodies in the back of the car,’’ he told Bryan Littlely, a reporter for The Advertiser at the time.

Anthony Munro rides a bicycle in Cambodia, in an undated photo supplied by Guido Eglitis.
Anthony Munro rides a bicycle in Cambodia, in an undated photo supplied by Guido Eglitis.

Mr. Munro, through his lawyer and during questioning with police, has repeatedly denied any involvement in the disappearance and deaths of the three Beaumont children.

Now 71, he is jailed in Australia awaiting sentencing for a series of convictions for sexual assaults against children stretching from the late 1960s to the early ‘80s, including charges Andrew brought against him for abusing him when he was a boy.

He was previously convicted in 1990 of indecent assault and sentenced to seven months in prison. The age of the victim was not listed, but Australian media have reported it was an 11-year-old boy.

Stephen Ey, his lawyer, said there was no evidence to support claims that Mr. Munro was involved in the Beaumont children’s disappearance.

“That’s absolute rubbish,” he said. “The police are satisfied that the allegations that have been made are unsubstantiated.”

In Cambodia, Mr. Munro has also been under investigation in Siem Reap City since September 2014, having been accused of sexually abusing at least two boys there, according to anti-pedophile NGO Action Pour Les Enfants.

An ongoing probe by Siem Reap anti-human trafficking police is looking into whether Mr. Munro was a part an alleged pedophile ring there, according to the NGO’s country director, Samleang Seila.

While there have been “investigation updates from police” as recently as a two months ago, Mr. Seila said he was not at liberty to discuss the details.

Duong Thavary, chief of the Siem Reap anti-trafficking police, confirmed that a case was “still under investigation” and said the victims were under the age of 15. She declined to comment further amid the ongoing probe.

Mr. Ey said his client “denies anything in Cambodia.”

In Siem Reap, Mr. Munro—a millionaire, according to Australian media—owns the Station Wine Bar, known for its extravagant drag shows and imported wine selection. He also developed luxury condominiums in 2014 in central Siem Reap City. He’s listed online as the managing director and company secretary of a family horticulture company in Australia dating back to the late 1980s.

He also was known for philanthropy over his six years in Cambodia, having been involved with NGOs in Siem Reap. They were all children’s orphanages, said Mr. Seila, of the anti-pedophile group.

Mr. Munro returned to his home country in June after being contacted by the Australian Embassy, according to Keo Piseth, the manager of the Station Wine Bar.

“He told me on a few occasions…that he didn’t want to feel regret again and again,” Mr. Piseth said in August while standing behind the bar.

Mr. Munro had expressed regret over abusing children in Australia “30 to 40 years ago,” he said, and had begun donating to Cambodian NGOs “to clean himself to make himself better.”

“He realized that he had made mistakes,” Mr. Piseth said.

Mr. Munro was arrested upon returning to Australia and, on August 4, he admitted to 10 counts of sexual assault involving several children in South Australia’s Kangaroo Island, Rapid Bay and the Glenelg suburb between 1965 and 1983. The District Court convicted him of all 10 counts on December 9 and revoked his bail.

“We are realistic that he is going to get an immediate term in prison, and that is why we asked that our bail be canceled…so he starts serving his sentence,” Mr. Ey, his lawyer, said following the conviction. “It’s likely he’s going to receive a significant term of imprisonment.”

According to Mr. Piseth, this is where Mr. Munro’s criminality ends.

“He has been accused of being involved in the disappearance of three children also,” he said, citing Australian media. “But he has only admitted to the one mistake.”

Anthony Munro, right, on a trip abroad with a Cambodian business partner in an undated photograph supplied by Guido Eglitis.
Anthony Munro, right, on a trip abroad with a Cambodian business partner in an undated photograph supplied by Guido Eglitis.

Ruth said she regularly notified officials in Australia when she knew Mr. Munro was visiting Adelaide over the years so that he could be questioned in the Beaumont case. Both she and Andrew said police were unresponsive to their tips until after his arrest in June, when he was first interviewed in the case.

She has kept meticulous records of phone calls, police interactions and newspaper articles related to the case, her father and Mr. Munro, and has “cupboards full of files” to show for it, she said.

Sgt. Sheridan, currently the lead investigator on the Beaumont case, said the siblings’ tips regarding their father and Mr. Munro have proved unconvincing. “You can never clear them completely, but there’s just absolutely no evidence that they’re involved,” he said.

“Munro comes back to the credibility of the information that’s been provided. The people that provided information, their credibility is very questionable because they’ve made allegations of various people and different murder cases,” he said.

“It makes it hard to take things they say as true.”

Ruth, left, and Andrew at their first communion church ceremony in 1963.
Sue Appleby, left, and Max McIntyre pose outside a church on their wedding day in 1966.
Top: Ruth, left, and Andrew at their first communion church ceremony in 1963. Bottom: Sue Appleby, left, and Max McIntyre pose outside a church on their wedding day in 1966.

Nonetheless, Sgt. Sheridan said, “We obviously take it very seriously” and have conducted “three independent inquiries” into the claims against Mr. Munro and Max in the Beaumont case. That will likely be where it ends, he said.

Criticism of Ruth’s crusade against Mr. Munro and her father, from whom she is long estranged, has not only come from police. People who frequent online forums dedicated to conspiracy theories surrounding other unsolved Australian mysteries have skewered her.

“It seems when there is trouble Ruth Collins is connected to it,” one poster named Andy wrote in February. “Alan Maxwell McIntyre is, apparently, responsible for, or intimately connected to, every major cold case in the state, according to Ruth Collins,” another wrote in May 2015.

They also have supporters, however. Their stepmother, Sue Appleby, 71, whom Max married in the months following the Beaumont disappearance and stayed with for 20 years, said she believes their claims against him.

“I do believe it. I didn’t at first, but I do,” she said last month.

“All the things Andrew and Ruth have told me, I think he was capable of,” she said, noting claims by his own daughters that he had sexually abused them. “He was definitely manipulative of me.”

Because she and her ex-husband had parted ways on cordial terms, they continued to speak on occasion—until she received a letter a few years ago from Max asking if she remembered spending the day of the Beaumont children’s disappearance with him.

“Can you remember Australia Day 1966 we had been going out for about two months and of course we spent that day together,” the letter reads. “I wasn’t even living at Macklin Street but living with my parents at that time.”

According to Ms. Appleby, the two did not start dating until weeks after Australia Day, as he had canceled their holiday plans at the last minute.

“I really think he wanted an alibi,” she said. “But he was looking at the wrong person.”

While Sgt. Sheridan brushed off the siblings’ claims against Mr. McIntyre and Mr. Munro, he agrees with them on one matter.

“This is a case that will be solved by people,” he said in a video-interview with BBC News ahead of the 50th anniversary of the siblings’ abduction last January.

“There is no crime scene. There is no clues. There’s nothing to submit for DNA analysis. This is a case that won’t be solved by technology.”

But the siblings said investigators’ repeated dismissal of their statements makes them question the authorities’ desire to solve the case.

“They want to wait till everybody dies, including me if they could, and then it just becomes part of myth and legend.”

“They keep saying that they want people to come forward,” Ruth said. “After 50 years, who do they think is going to come forward if not children?”

“They want to wait till everybody dies, including me if they could, and then it just becomes part of myth and legend.”

A couple of years ago, Ruth and her brother submitted a police statement admitting to being accomplices in the crimes, because as witnesses they had not immediately reported the day’s events, she said.

“They’re afraid to look because then what I’ve said is true,” she said. “And then they’ll get the fight of ‘why didn’t they do this years ago?’ ‘Why did they wait so long?’”

While the full events of January 26, 1966, remain a mystery to the siblings, they said Mr. Munro has the answers that so many Australians have been waiting on for decades.

“Tony Munro knows what happened to the Beaumont children,” Andrew said. “I’d like to invite him to the stand to say what happened.”

According to Mr. Ey, however, Mr. Munro, who could not be reached for comment, has revealed all he needs to.

“He has been interviewed and they are satisfied that he is not involved—unequivocally,” he said. “There’s not a hope in hell that he’s involved.”

(Additional reporting by Phan Soumy)

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