The Family Murders is the name given to a series of five murders in Australia, speculated to have been committed by a loosely connected group of individuals who came to be known as "The Family". This group was believed to be involved in the kidnapping and sexual abuse of a number of teenage boys and young men, as well as the torture and murder of five young men aged between 14 and 25, in Adelaide, South Australia, in the 1970s and 1980s.

The name of the group stems from an interview a police detective gave on 60 Minutes,[1] claiming the police were taking action "to break up the happy family". Only one suspect has been charged and convicted for the crimes: Bevan Spencer von Einem was sentenced in 1984 to a minimum of 24 years (later extended to a minimum 36-year term) for the murder of 15-year-old Richard Kelvin. The other murders remain unsolved.

Case edit

Police believe that up to 12 people, several of them high-profile Australians, were involved in the kidnappings.[2] The suspects and their associates were linked mainly by their shared habits of "actively [having] sought out young males for sex," sometimes drugging and raping their victims.[3]

Von Einem was convicted in 1984 of the murder of Kelvin and sentenced to life imprisonment.[4][5] In 1989, von Einem was charged with the murders of two other victims, Barnes and Langley, but the prosecution entered a nolle prosequi (voluntarily discontinue criminal charges) during the trial when crucial similar fact evidence was deemed inadmissible by the presiding judge.[6] Von Einem was also one of the last people seen with a fourth victim, Muir, following his abduction.[citation needed]

Apart from von Einem, three other core members are thought to be directly involved in the murders; while DNA testing re-commenced in 2008, no further charges have been laid.[7] Suspect 1, an Eastern Suburbs businessman, is believed to have been with von Einem when Kelvin was abducted. The others are Suspect 2, a former male prostitute and close friend of von Einem known as Mr B., and Suspect 3, an Eastern Suburbs doctor.

A cold case review was opened in March 2008 with a $1,000,000 reward available for anyone who provided information leading to a conviction.[8] The reward carried an offer of immunity to accomplices, dependent on their level of involvement. Due to changes in the Forensic Procedures Act, which later allowed DNA samples to be taken from suspects in major indictable offences, all the suspects voluntarily submitted to DNA testing. The ongoing investigation featured in an episode of Crime Stoppers which went to air on 2 March 2009.[5][9] The cold case review was completed in November 2010 with no charges being laid against any of the three key suspects.[4][10]

Some authorities do not recognise the term "The Family", stating that "[t]hey should not be given any title that infers legitimacy. These people have no such bond, only an association that with time probably no longer exists".[5] Others, who have examined the cases, however, argue that there were many more victims. Criminologist Alan Perry, of the University of Adelaide, has argued that the murders were part of widespread series of kidnappings and sexual assaults of boys that might number several hundred victims in South Australia in the ten years from about 1973 to 1983.[11]

Victims edit

Alan Arthur Barnes, aged 16, murdered in 1979. He was last seen while hitchhiking being picked up by a white HQ Holden sedan carrying three or four people on Grand Junction Road. His body had been severely mutilated and dumped in the South Para Reservoir, northeast of Adelaide. A post-mortem examination revealed that Barnes had died of massive blood loss from an anal injury, likely caused by the insertion of a large blunt object. His body also showed signs of beatings and torture. Noctec was found in his blood, suggesting he had been drugged.

Neil Fredrick Muir, aged 25,[12][13] murdered two months after Barnes in August 1979. His remains had been dissected and neatly cut into many pieces, placed in a garbage bag and thrown into the Port River at Port Adelaide.[14][15] Skin bearing tattoos had been removed and most of the body parts were placed in another garbage bag before being placed within the abdominal cavity. The head was tied to the torso with rope passed through the mouth and out through the neck.[15] A post-mortem examination revealed that Muir had died of massive blood loss from an anal injury, likely caused by the insertion of a large blunt object[16] and Noctec was found in his blood.

Peter Stogneff, aged 14,[17] murdered in August 1981.[18] His skeletal remains were found later in October 1982 by a local farmer at Middle Beach, 50km north of Adelaide. Stogneff's body had been cut into three pieces in a similar fashion to Muir.[8] Little more could be determined as the remains had been accidentally burnt by the farmer while clearing his property of scrub.[11][19]

Mark Andrew Langley, aged 18,[17] murdered in February 1982.[20] His mutilated body was found in scrub in the Adelaide foothills nine days after his disappearance.[21] Among the mutilations was a wound that appeared to have been cut with a surgical instrument that went from his navel to the pubic region and part of his small bowel was missing.[14] The hair around the area had been shaved as it would have been in an operation in a hospital. The post-mortem revealed that Langley had died from a massive loss of blood from gross injuries to his anus, similar to Barnes.[16][22] The sedative-hypnotic drug Mandrax, popular in the 1970s disco scene, was found in Langley's blood.

Richard Dallas Kelvin, (born 4 December 1967) aged 15,[23] murdered in July 1983. The son of popular local Nine Network news presenter Rob Kelvin, he was abducted a short distance from his North Adelaide home on 5 June.[14][24] His body was found on 24 July by a geologist who was searching for moss-covered rocks near a dirt airstrip at Kersbrook. Kelvin was held captive for approximately five weeks[24] and a post-mortem examination revealed that he had died of massive blood loss from an anal injury,[25] likely caused by the insertion of a large blunt object. Analysis of Kelvin's bloodstream revealed traces of four hypnotic drugs,[11][26] including Mandrax and Noctec. Trace evidence, including hair and fibres from von Einem's home, was found on Kelvin's body and clothing.[11]

See also edit

References edit

  1. ^ Von Einem: Lawyers in new bid to re-open Kelvin case 27 October 1996
  2. ^ "Reward Doubled to Solve Family Murders". The Sydeney Morning Herald. 28 October 2008. Retrieved 24 November 2019.
  3. ^ Hunt, Nigel (1 April 2008). "Shadowy clique preyed on the young". The Advertiser. Retrieved 5 January 2016.
  4. ^ a b Hunt, Nigel (26 October 2008). "$5m reward bid to solve Family murders". Retrieved 5 January 2016.
  5. ^ a b c Hunt, Nigel (29 March 2008). "DNA tests for Family murder suspects". The Sunday Times. Retrieved 5 January 2016.
  6. ^ "Murder case abandoned". The Canberra Times. 2 February 1991. p. 10. Retrieved 3 January 2017.
  7. ^ Dowdell, Andrew (18 July 2015). "Doctor found not guilty of 'Family' murder of Neil Muir dies in NSW". The Advertiser. Retrieved 3 March 2016.
  8. ^ a b Malkin, Bonnie (28 October 2008). "Australian police reopen notorious 1970s Family murders case". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 26 January 2016.
  9. ^ Family Murders – Adelaide Crime Stoppers 2 March 2009
  10. ^ Hunt, Nigel (5 December 2010). "Family murder truth may never be known". The Advertiser. Retrieved 15 March 2012.
  11. ^ a b c d "The Butchered Boys". Crime Investigation Australia. Series 1. Episode 16. Crime & Investigation Network.
  12. ^ "Neil Fredrick Muir". Crime Stoppers. Retrieved 11 April 2016.
  13. ^ "Body in bag: jury acquits doctor in Adelaide". The Sydney Morning Herald. 10 October 1980. Retrieved 5 January 2016.
  14. ^ a b c Brown, Malcolm (25 May 1999). "A deadly serious State". The Sydney Morning Herald. Archived from the original on 6 March 2016. Retrieved 29 October 2017.
  15. ^ a b Dowdell, Andrew (18 July 2015). "Doctor found not guilty of 'Family' murder of Neil Muir dies in NSW". The Advertiser. Retrieved 26 January 2016.
  16. ^ a b "Sex murder 'could have been prevented'". The Sydney Morning Herald. 25 March 1988. Archived from the original on 7 March 2016. Retrieved 29 October 2017.
  17. ^ a b Hunt, Nigel (8 February 2014). "Lost diary gives South Australia police new lead into Alan Barnes murder by The Family". The Advertiser. Retrieved 5 January 2016.
  18. ^ "South Australia Family Murders Reports". 3 March 1988. Retrieved 17 April 2021.
  19. ^ O'Brien, Bob (2014). Young Blood: The Story of the Family Murders. HarperCollins. p. 13. ISBN 978-1-4607-0370-0.
  20. ^ "Mark Andrew Langley". Crime Stoppers. Retrieved 11 April 2016.
  21. ^ "Murderer quizzed on death of youth". The Sydney Morning Herald. 15 July 1987. Retrieved 26 January 2016.
  22. ^ "Fresh look at teenage sex murders". The Sydney Morning Herald. 13 July 1987. Archived from the original on 7 March 2016. Retrieved 29 October 2017.
  23. ^ "Many Theories, Few Clues in String of Adelaide Murders". The Canberra Times. 14 August 1983. p. 2. Retrieved 3 January 2017.
  24. ^ a b "Richard Kelvin". Crime Stoppers. Retrieved 26 January 2016.
  25. ^ "Sex assault victim tells of ordeal". The Canberra Times. 31 March 1990. p. 10. Retrieved 3 January 2017.
  26. ^ "Record 24-year non-parole period for boy's killer". The Canberra Times. 10 November 1984. p. 10. Retrieved 3 January 2017.

Further reading edit

External links edit