The Family Murders

The Family Murders was the name given to an alleged high society conspiracy involving the kidnap, torture, and murder of teenagers, particularly young men and teenaged boys, in Adelaide, Australia and surrounding areas in the late 1970s to the mid 1980s. The term stems from an interview a police detective gave on 60 Minutes[1], claiming the police were taking some action "...to break up the happy family."

Victims

  • Alan Barnes, aged 17, murdered in 1979. Last seen being picked up by a white Holden sedan with three or four people in it while hitchhiking, his body had been hideously 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. He had died several days after he went missing and Noctec was found in his blood suggesting he had been drugged.
  • Neil Muir, aged 25, murdered two months after Alan Barnes in 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. Skin bearing tattoos had been removed and most of the body parts were placed in another garbage bag before being placed in the abdominal cavity. The head was tied to the torso with rope passed through the mouth and out through the neck. 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 and Noctec was found in his blood. A prominent Adelaide doctor was later charged with Muirs' murder but found not guilty. Police are now satisfied he was not involved.
  • Peter Stogneff, aged 14, murdered in 1981. His skeletal remains were found ten months later by a local farmer at Middle Beach, 50 km north of Adelaide. Peter's body had been cut into three pieces in a similar fashion to Neil Muir. Little more could be determined as the remains had been accidentally burnt by the farmer while clearing his property of scrub.
  • Mark Langley, aged 18, murdered in 1982. His mutilated body was found in scrub in the Adelaide foothills nine days after his disappearance. 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. The hair around the area had been shaved as it would have been in an operation in a hospital. The post-mortem revealed that Mark had died from a massive loss of blood from gross injuries to his anus, similar to Alan Barnes. Mandrax was found in Langley's blood.
  • Richard Kelvin, aged 15, murdered in 1983. He was abducted a short distance from his North Adelaide home. His body was found by an amateur geologist off a track near One Tree Hill in the Adelaide foothills. Kelvin was held captive for over 5 weeks and a post-mortem examination revealed that he had died of massive blood loss from an anal injury, likely caused by the insertion of a large blunt object. Analysis of Kelvin's bloodstream revealed traces of four hypnotic drugs, including Mandrax and Noctec.

Of the five murders, there has been one conviction. Bevan Spencer von Einem was charged and convicted in 1984 for the murder of Richard Kelvin. In 1989, von Einem was charged with the murders of Alan Barnes and Mark Langley. However, the prosecution was forced to enter a Nolle Prosequi [no contest] during the trial when crucial similar fact evidence was deemed inadmissible by the presiding judge. The murders of Alan Barnes, Neil Muir, Peter Stogneff and Mark Langley remain unsolved.

A cold case was opened in March 2008 with a $500,000 reward available for anyone who provides information leading to a conviction. The reward carries an offer of immunity to accomplices dependant on their level of involvement. Due to changes in the Forensic Procedures Act which now allows DNA samples to be taken from suspects in major indictable offences, all the suspects were DNA tested. The ongoing investigation featured in an episode of Crime Stoppers which went to air on Monday, 2 March 2009.[2][3]

Key Suspects

Police believe that up to 12 people were involved in the kidnappings. Apart from von Einem they list three other core members directly involved in the murders with the remaining known associates involved to a lesser degree, being either indirectly involved or had knowledge of the murders but continued to interact with the group. The suspects include several prominent members of the legal community, the brother of a well known Olympian and other prominent members of the business community. Although many had previously been named, apart from suspect 2, their identities have been suppressed by the courts. Several suspects have died in recent years and one is currently in prison in Indonesia.[4][5][6]

Bevan Spencer von Einem: Currently serving life imprisonment for the murder of Richard Kelvin, police have evidence he was with Alan Barnes after he was abducted and he was one of the last people seen with Neil Muir following his abduction.

Suspect 1: An eastern suburbs businessman who visited von Einem after his 1984 conviction and is believed to have been with him when Kelvin was abducted. The man he was living with at the time of the murders is also a "person of interest."

Stephen George Woodards[7] (Suspect 2): An Adelaide doctor well known in the gay community. Along with his partner, a well known Adelaide lawyer, both were known to pick up, drug and abuse young men. He is known to have supplied drugs to von Einem and suspect 1 which were used by both to incapacitate hitchhikers. He now lives in Sydney and refuses to co-operate with police investigations. Now aged 61, he was arrested on 1 February 2011 for the kidnapping and torture of several teenagers around the time of the murders.[8]

Suspect 3: A close friend of von Einem and suspect 1 and a former male prostitute. Police have evidence implicating him in drugging and sexually abusing hitchhikers. Police believe he was with von Einem and suspect 1 when Kelvin was abducted. He fled Adelaide and works as a bus driver in Brisbane.

References


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