Fingers crossed for Beaumont kids dig
FINGERS are crossed and police are "hoping for the best" as they begin to excavate at an Adelaide factory in a renewed search for the missing Beaumont children.
Attention is focused on a small section of ground at the North Plympton site where recent scientific tests revealed the possible presence of a large hole dug there around the same time the three children went missing in 1966.
Detective Chief Inspector Greg Hutchins said there were innocent explanations for the anomaly those tests uncovered but it could also be a major breakthrough in Australia's most enduring cold case.
"We have our fingers crossed, we hope for the best but we do want to temper expectations," he told reporters at the site this morning.
"Clearly we have an anomaly which we need to investigate."
The dig is expected to continue for at least several hours on Friday. The Beaumont children never returned after leaving their parents' Glenelg home for an afternoon at the beach on Australia Day, 1966.
Their disappearance sparked a wide-scale search operation, but nine-year-old Jane, seven-year-old Arnna and four-year-old Grant were never found.
In 2013, new information focused the investigation on a factory west of Adelaide, after two brothers told police they spent the 1966 Australia Day weekend digging a large hole there at the request of owner Harry Phipps. Phipps died in 2004, but his son, who accused his father of years of sexual abuse, believed he had a part in the crime.
He also bore a resemblance to an identikit picture prepared at the time, and lived close to Glenelg Beach.
An initial excavation at the North Plympton site proved fruitless, but police now believe they may have been digging in the wrong spot.
Insp Hutchins said police had been in regular contact with the parents of the children, Jim and Nancy Beaumont, and had informed them of Friday's activity.
"Clearly the parents of the three Beaumont children have suffered significantly over the last 52 years," he said.
A range of experts are present at the site including a forensic anthropologist, a criminologist, crime scene examiners and officers from the major crime division.
The Beaumont children disappearance case sparked one of the largest police investigations in the country's history.
Clues as to what happened to the siblings have continued to surface since their disappearance from Glenelg Beach on Australia Day 1966, but leads have always led to dead ends.
Sightings of the children at Glenelg on the day they disappeared put them in the company of a tall, blond and thin-faced man with a suntan.
In late 2016, South Australian Police identified a 71-year-old former Adelaide scout leader as a person of interest in the mystery.
Millionaire bar owner and convicted paedophile Anthony Munro is in jail for unrelated child sex offences in South Australia dating back to 1962 - four years before the Beaumonts vanished.
Police interviewed Munro in June 2016 about Australia's greatest child abduction mystery after a child's diary said he was at Glenelg beach in the days surrounding the Beaumont children's disappearance.
The "salvage and exploration club" diary was kept by one boy, and contributed to by another, tracking their adventures diving off the Adelaide coast that summer.
Police have previously said there is no evidence linking Munro to the disappearance of the Beaumont children.
Another man who was linked to their deaths, Munro's friend Allan "Max" McIntyre, died in a nursing home on the Yorke Peninsula west of Adelaide June last year, aged in his late 80s.
His son, Andrew McIntyre, who was sexually abused by Munro, broke his silence last year revealing his father and Munro were frequenting Glenelg beach in the days around the disappearance of the three children.
Highly regarded detective Stanley Swaine, who died in 2002, was widely discredited following his retirement from the South Australian police force, but his obsession with the case continued well into his second career as a private investigator.
Mr Swaine wlead the case from 1967 when the Beaumont parents believed their children could still be alive.
He notoriously made an abortive trip with Jim Beaumont to Melbourne to investigate letters written by a person who claimed to know where the children were and that they were well-looked after.
In 1996, after the 30th anniversary of the children's disappearance, Mr Swaine made the outrageous claim that he had found a 40-year-old Canberra woman who was Jane Beaumont.
He said all three Beaumont children had been taken and raised by a satanic cult.
Weeks before he died, Mr Swaine made another claim about the Beaumont children to a journalist, saying he knew where they were buried and that a priest had told him it was in a church cemetery in Adelaide.
- with staff writers