Bevan Spencer von Einem
|Bevan Spencer von Einem|
Bevan Spencer von Einem appearing in Adelaide Magistrates Court in 2008
Span of killings
|3 November 1983|
Bevan Spencer von Einem (born c.1945 ), also known as Bevan von Einem (last name sometimes spelled "Von Einem"), is a convicted child murderer from Adelaide, South Australia and suspected serial killer. An accountant by profession, he was convicted in 1984 for the murder of 15-year-old Adelaide teenager Richard Kelvin, the son of local TV personality Rob Kelvin, and is currently serving life imprisonment in Yatala Labour Prison.
The Good Samaritan
The name Bevan Spencer von Einem first came to attention on the night of 10 May 1972 when two homosexual men were thrown into the River Torrens by a group of men believed to be police officers. The river banks, or "Number 1 beat" as it was then known, was a place for homosexuals to meet, as homosexual acts were illegal in South Australia at that time. One of the men, a British Law lecturer who had arrived in Australia only seven weeks earlier, Dr. George Duncan, drowned. The other, Roger James, suffered a broken leg and after crawling to the road was rescued by von Einem, who was driving past. von Einem then took James to Royal Adelaide Hospital. James later declined to identify his attackers.
Within days it was suspected that the group of men who killed Duncan were three senior Vice Squad police officers. Witnesses claimed that the detectives were also accompanied by a tall civilian who was never identified. The detectives were called upon to give evidence at the Coronial Inquiry but they refused to answer any of the questions put to them and were subsequently suspended from duty and eventually resigned. The subsequent investigation, which called the incident a "high spirited frolic gone wrong", failed to find sufficient evidence to prosecute any of the officers. On 30 July 1985 former Vice Squad officer Mick O'Shea told The Advertiser newspaper that the group involved were Vice Squad officers and that there was a cover-up to protect them. A task force was set up, and on 5 February 1986 two former police officers were charged with the manslaughter of Dr. Duncan. Both were eventually cleared of the charges after refusing to testify.
Murder of Richard Kelvin
Richard Dallas Kelvin (1 December 1967 – c.10 July 1983), was the son of Rob Kelvin, a popular and long-time television news presenter for Adelaide station NWS 9. Richard was murdered by Bevan Spencer von Einem in Adelaide, South Australia, in 1983 after having been kidnapped and tortured for five weeks. Kelvin was 15 years old at the time of his death.
At around 6pm on 5 June 1983, von Einem (possibly along with other unknown persons) abducted Kelvin in a North Adelaide street, just 60 metres from Kelvin's home in Ward Street. Kelvin had just seen off a friend at a nearby bus stop on the corner of O'Connell and Marian Streets, North Adelaide and was returning home for dinner. Several witnesses living near to the Kelvins' home heard cries for help, car doors slamming and a car with a noisy exhaust speeding away. Significantly, Kelvin had a dog collar in his possession which was likely to have attracted von Einem's attention. von Einem then tortured, drugged, raped and held Kelvin captive for five weeks, before murdering him and dumping his body alongside an airstrip near Kersbrook in the Adelaide Hills area (to the north-east of the city and close to where relatives of von Einem lived).
Kelvin's clothed body was found by a geologist on 24 July 1983. Little effort was put into concealing the body; Kelvin was found wearing the same Channel 9 shirt, blue jeans and white sneakers which he wore on the day of his abduction, together with the dog collar fitted around his neck. The body was found placed in the foetal position with his legs bent towards his chest and his head forward with his arms wrapped around his legs. This made police suspect that Kelvin was dumped by a single person, most likely after nightfall in order to avoid detection.
The autopsy revealed that Kelvin had most certainly died from massive blood loss from an anal injury, likely caused by the insertion of a blunt object, such as a beer bottle, and he suffered bruising and injuries to his head and back, which were likely to have been caused by blows. Analysis of Kelvin's bloodstream revealed traces of four hypnotic drugs, including Mandrax and Noctec.
With the drugs as their only firm lead at that stage, police began sifting through prescriptions for those drugs. During their search they found a prescription for Mandrax issued to a B. von Einem, a name familiar to police as he was questioned previously over the deaths of three young men and an alleged sexual assault of another.
Four days after the body was discovered, von Einem was questioned about the murder of Kelvin by police. He initially claimed that he had no knowledge of what happened to Kelvin and said that on the night of abduction he was in bed with the flu. Police also searched his home in the northern Adelaide suburb of Paradise, and seized a bottle of Mandrax. von Einem admitted that the drugs were his and said that he used them to help him sleep. He denied having any other drugs in his possession, but police also seized a bottle of Noctec, concealed on a ledge behind his wardrobe. von Einem also allowed police to take hair and blood samples, as well as carpets and other materials for testing.
There were three major factors in von Einem's initial questioning that led police to become increasingly suspicious that they had found their prime suspect:
- When police knocked on von Einem's door and enquired about whether they could ask him a few questions, his immediate reaction was to say that he wouldn't answer anything without speaking to his lawyer first. This made police suspect that von Einem had something to hide.
- When questioned about the Kelvin murder, rather than profusely denying any involvement, von Einem simply said that he wouldn't do such a thing because it would be "unethical". This came across as a strange thing for an innocent person to say.
- When asked about drugs, von Einem did admit he had Mandrax. He was asked if he kept any other drugs in his possession, and he said no. However, the police then found the bottle of Noctec and von Einem immediately became nervous and told police that he "rarely used those drugs".
As von Einem went on holiday in the Soviet Union and the United Kingdom during August and September 1983, the case against him began to mount up. Forensic investigators were able to match the many fibres found on Kelvin's clothing to those taken from von Einem's home, along with hairs found which matched those belonging to von Einem. Forensics also determined that Kelvin was murdered between 8 July and 10 July 1983 and was dumped at the airstrip no later than the 10th. However, police raids on various locations around Adelaide linked to von Einem yielded few clues. Police also searched for a man who previously claimed to police during the investigation of the unsolved murder of Alan Barnes in 1979 that von Einem was involved in his death and also that he was a former associate of von Einem. Barnes' fatal injuries mirrored those of Kelvin's closely. The man, known as "Mr. B", was located and informed police in great detail how he and von Einem picked up young male hitchhikers, gave them alcoholic drinks laced with hypnotic drugs, and took them to von Einem's previous home in the Adelaide suburb of Campbelltown, where the young men were abused overnight and sent home the next day. "B" also provided further information about other associates of von Einem, but claimed he took no part whatsoever in any murders. Police also questioned other people who von Einem associated with, but they volunteered little information. With enough evidence, along with the information given by "B", to indicate that Richard Kelvin was at von Einem's home around the time of his death, police arrested and charged von Einem with murder on 3 November 1983. Von Einem still denied ever coming into contact with Kelvin.
The committal hearing to determine if there was sufficient evidence for von Einem to stand trial for murder began on 20 February 1984. Faced with irrefutable evidence from prosecutors that Kelvin was in his company, von Einem suddenly changed his alibi to answer that evidence and claimed that he was in contact with Richard Kelvin on the night of 5 June 1983. von Einem said that he was driving along O'Connell Street in North Adelaide looking for a parking spot in order to buy some dinner. While looking for a parking spot in a side street, von Einem said that he nearly ran over Kelvin as he jogged in from his side. von Einem stated he thought Kelvin had bisexual tendencies and said that the two of them then had a conversation about problems Kelvin had been having at school, and Kelvin willingly got into the car and they drove to von Einem's home. This answered the question of how fibres from von Einem's carpet got onto Kelvin's clothes. To answer evidence about how fibres from von Einem's bed came to be on Kelvin's clothes, von Einem stated that the two of them sat on his bed and played with the large harp which he kept in his bedroom. Police previously did see this harp in his room when they seized the drugs. Finally, to answer evidence about how fibres from von Einem's cardigan got onto Kelvin, von Einem stated that he put his arm around Kelvin and hugged him because Kelvin was upset about how his peers had been bullying him at school. With all the fibres being accounted for with his alibi, von Einem concluded his statement by saying that Kelvin stayed for two hours before von Einem dropped him off in the Adelaide CBD near the Royal Adelaide Hospital and gave Kelvin $20 to catch a taxi home.
Despite the intricate details of von Einem's alibi and his version of events, his alibi had two huge problems. It completely contradicted his initial statement of his whereabouts on 5 June 1983, when he said he was in bed with the flu. Plus, the quantity of fibres on Kelvin's clothes was far too large to suggest that Kelvin was in his company for only 2 hours. Given these facts, on 25 May 1984, Magistrate Nick Manos ordered von Einem to stand trial for the murder of Richard Kelvin.
The trial against Bevan Spencer von Einem for the murder of Richard Kelvin opened at the Supreme Court Building of South Australia on 15 October 1984 before Mr. Justice White. A jury of 12 people (seven women and five men) were selected and were agreed upon by the prosecution and defence. von Einem pleaded not guilty, and his defence was led by barrister Barry Jennings, and was assisted by Helena Jasinski, who was von Einem's solicitor from the start of the police investigation of him in the murder during the previous year. The prosecution was led by Brian Martin QC (later the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory), with assistance from Paul Rofe QC (who went on to be Director of the Department of Public Prosecutions). For the prosecution, it was a matter of proving von Einem's guilt (along with unknown persons) by presenting the strong scientific evidence that was gathered during the investigation, and disproving von Einem's story of being in contact with Richard Kelvin on the night of 5 June 1983. For the defence, it was a case of trying to make von Einem's story hold up in court, and raising doubts about his ability to keep Richard Kelvin captive for five weeks and committing the murder.
The prosecution opened their case with the jury being taken to the various sites around Adelaide that were important in the trial, and over the first week they called various witnesses to the stand. Kelvin's parents, girlfriend and best friend were called to testify that Kelvin was an average 15-year-old who would not willingly get into a car with a stranger, was heterosexual with no homosexual or bisexual tendencies and that he was wearing the dog collar as a prank. People living close to the Kelvins then testified that they heard noises and commotion corresponding to the abduction taking place on the night of 5 June at around 6pm. Forensic pathologists were called to testify about the injuries to the head and anus on Kelvin's body and the likely cause of his death, and pharmacists gave evidence of the excessive amount of different hypnotic drugs von Einem had been prescribed (5172 tablets and capsules of six different brands of drugs between 15 December 1978 and 10 August 1983), and showed that von Einem often had prescriptions for drugs issued from different chemists on the same day or during the same weeks. Various police who worked on the case testified to their investigation of von Einem since they first questioned him about the murder, as well as their visit to von Einem's home where a police officer claimed that von Einem's bedroom appeared to have been unusually cleaned quite "extensively".
Forensic scientists were called next to testify firstly when Kelvin died and when his body was dumped in the Adelaide Hills area, and a leading entomologist claimed, from the larvae cycle of flies that were on the body, and comparing these to the larvae cycle of flies on a dead dog that was nearby, that Kelvin's body must have been dumped beside the airstrip near Kersbrook on 10 July 1983. Other forensic scientists were called to testify about the hair and fibre samples collected that were linked to von Einem himself and his home. Hairs from von Einem were found on and inside Kelvin's clothing and of 925 fibre samples found on Kelvin's clothing, 250 came from von Einem's home environment, with just seven from Kelvin's home. The scientists stated that if von Einem's story was true, then there should be a very small amount or even none of the fibres and hair samples from that night still on Kelvin's clothing some 36 hours later, let alone five weeks later. Faced with such damning scientific evidence, the defence tried to counter this during cross-examination by floating a possible theory that after von Einem's last contact with Kelvin, he was abducted by other people, who stored his clothing for five weeks before murdering him and re-dressing him. While the forensic scientists conceded that this was a possible scenario, under recross-examination by the prosecution, they conceded that it would be still unlikely given the whole science of how fibres and hair are transferred from surface to surface over time. The prosecution then rested their case.
The defence opted for von Einem to give an unsworn statement from the dock, rather than given sworn evidence from the witness box. In his unsworn statement, von Einem detailed his alibi with what he claimed happened between 5 June and 11 July 1983. He again claimed that on 5 June he had picked up Kelvin in North Adelaide, driven him to his home, and then dropped him off in the Adelaide CBD. He also claimed that he was sick with the flu for the next week after that and did not return to work until 14 June. von Einem was quite sketchy on his activities after that, however he did remember what he did on 10 July, the day the body was dumped on the airstrip. He said that he was at a relative's birthday party with his mother for most of that evening, and after dropping off a friend on the way home, went straight to bed and then to work the next day. He also addressed the issue of the noisy exhaust on the car heard during the abduction of Kelvin, by stating that the exhaust on his Ford Falcon (which he sold on 16 July 1983 to raise money for his overseas trip) was less than two years old and in good condition. He closed his unsworn statement by again claiming his innocence.
The defence then called various witnesses in an attempt to corroborate von Einem's story. The witnesses included colleagues and friends who testified to him being unwell and at home during the first week of Richard Kelvin's captivity. Also testifying for the defence was the bushwalker, who while walking his dogs through the airstrip discovered Kelvin' body on 24 July. The purchaser of von Einem's Ford Falcon detailed the condition of the car, and the relative who hosted the birthday party on 10 July stated that von Einem and his mother arrived there at 5:30pm and left at 10:30pm. Photographs of von Einem at the party were also tendered to the court. Finally, the defence called von Einem's mother to testify about her son's activities over the weekend upon which Richard Kelvin was kidnapped. Under cross-examination, the prosecution were able to show inconsistencies in her current testimony compared to her earlier statements to police about von Einem's whereabouts on the weekend of 4–5 June, which weakened the defence case considerably as this highlighted von Einem's change the previous February of his account of what happened on the night of 5 June 1983.
In their summation, the prosecution stated that the evidence they presented proved that von Einem's story was full of lies and inconsistencies, and that he did murder (with the help of others) Richard Kelvin. They also stated that his admission that he had picked up Kelvin showed that he was in contact with him on 5 June; that the fibres and hairs proved that von Einem was with him at the time of just before and/or at the time of death; and that the drugs proved von Einem was with Kelvin in between those times. The prosecution also answered the doubts raised by the defence about when on 10 July the body was dumped at the airstrip by suggesting that von Einem could have dumped the body sometime very late on 10 July or in the early morning of 11 July before going to work for the day.
The defence stated in their summary that the prosecution had failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt that von Einem was guilty of murder and also weren't able to establish the exact cause of Kelvin's death, so therefore the jury must give von Einem the benefit of the doubt.
Mr. Justice White then gave his summation of the trial, and in the early afternoon of 5 November 1984, the jury retired to consider their verdict.
After 7½ hours of deliberation, the jury returned to give their verdict. Bevan Spencer von Einem was found guilty of the murder of Richard Kelvin and was automatically sentenced to life at Yatala Labour Prison. Mr. Justice White imposed a non-parole period of 24 years. Under South Australian law, a third of the non-parole period could be taken off for good behaviour in prison. Based on this reckoning, von Einem could conceivably have been eligible for parole in late 1999.
The Attorney-General of South Australia immediately appealed the leniency of the non-parole period, and on 29 March 1985 the Court of Criminal Appeal in South Australia increased the non-parole period to 36 years, a record at the time in that state. The earliest von Einem could be released on parole was therefore on 31 October 2007.
von Einem's defence team (now consisting of barrister David Peek with assistance from Helena Jasinski) appealed the conviction to the Court of Criminal Appeal in South Australia and requested that a new trial be set. The basis for this appeal was the evidence given about Kelvin's heterosexuality, the references to von Einem's own homosexuality through the trial and the negative impact that might have had on the jury, and also how Mr. Justice White in his summation did not include reference to the testimony given by von Einem's relative about his attendance at the birthday party on the day Kelvin's body was dumped. The Court of Criminal of Appeal rejected the appeal, saying that the trial was conducted fairly and just throughout, however they did concede that Mr. Justice White should have included the evidence relating to the birthday party.
Additional murder charges
Bevan Spencer von Einem was the leading suspect in the unsolved murders of four other young men between 1979 and 1982, and police continued to pursue leads on those cases in the years after his murder conviction. The four murdered were Alan Barnes in June 1979, Neil Muir in August 1979, Peter Stogneff in August 1981 and Mark Langley in February 1982. In February 1988, the State Coroner at the time in South Australia, Kevin Ahern, ordered an inquest into the deaths of these four young men, and on 24 March 1988, the State Coroner in his findings stated that manner and circumstances in which the four were murdered were very similar to that in the case of Richard Kelvin, particularly the murders of Barnes and Langley. The reward for any information leading to an arrest for the murders was increased to $250,000, and this was later increased to $500,000 in September 1989.
Following the inquest, police pushed on with their investigations and attempted to locate von Einem's former associates to question them about the murders. And during 1989 media interest in the four unsolved murders increased, with extensive news coverage in Adelaide about who was involved in the murders. The media dubbed those involved "The Family", an alleged group of homosexual child sexual abusers possibly involving high-profile Adelaide establishment figures (doctors, lawyers, judges and politicians), a theory that still persists to this day. Although the suspects do include several well-known members of the legal community, the brother of a well-known Olympian and other well-known members of the business community, police believe that the group doesn't include any high-profile people in Adelaide. However, fuel was added to the rumours of a conspiracy, when on 28 August 1989, von Einem gave his one and only interview from prison, given to The Advertiser journalist Dick Wordley. In the interview, von Einem again pleaded his innocence in the murder of Richard Kelvin and of the four other young men, and regretted taking his lawyer's advice to keep silent during the early stages of the Kelvin investigation. He also hinted that he could name people that could help police with their investigation, but feared for his life if he did and also claimed that his life was already threatened once by two police officers who ordered him not to give evidence in the inquest into the death of Dr. George Duncan in 1972.
Shortly after von Einem's interview, police interviewed "Mr. B" again who was now living in Sydney. "B" gave a statement about the Alan Barnes murder that convinced prosecutors to grant him immunity if von Einem was brought to trial. Police, now with "B"'s statement and the similar fact evidence from the Richard Kelvin case, then arrested von Einem at Yatala Labour Prison on 15 September 1989 for the murder of Alan Barnes. On 10 November 1989, von Einem was also arrested for the murder of Mark Langley. Police were never able to obtain enough evidence for charges in the murders of Neil Muir and Peter Stogneff. In the case of Muir an Adelaide doctor had been tried for his murder in 1980 but was found not guilty.
The committal hearing to determine if von Einem should stand trial for the murders of Barnes and Langley began on 5 March 1990 before magistrate David Gurry. von Einem plead not guilty to both murders, and his defence counsel (now consisting of barrister Mark Griffin with assistance from Marie Shaw) immediately claimed that it would be an abuse of justice for their client if he was ordered to stand trial given the mass coverage of the murders in the media in the past year. The prosecution was led again by Brian Martin QC, who was assisted this time by Tom Birchall, and their case against von Einem relied on evidence of the Richard Kelvin murder, with the details of the crime being so strikingly similar to the murders of Barnes and Langley. The prosecution's case also relied on evidence given by former associates testifying to von Einem picking up boys hitchhiking and sexually abusing them, as well as "B"'s sensational evidence being in the company of Barnes and von Einem at the time just before Barnes' murder. "B" also gave startling allegations of von Einem being involved in the unexplained Beaumont children disappearance in 1966, as well as the disappearance of two girls at the Adelaide Oval in 1973. However, it turned out to be impossible to corroborate these allegations. Another witness also came forward to claim he'd seen von Einem and Barnes together drinking in the weeks before Barnes' death. Also entered as evidence was samples taken from Barnes' body which showed that sedative drugs were present. Little evidence was presented for the murder of Mark Langley, as prosecutors felt if they could prove that von Einem murdered Barnes, then it would naturally follow that he murdered Langley as well.
On 11 May 1990, Magistrate Gurry ordered von Einem to stand trial for the two murders of Alan Barnes and Mark Langley. von Einem's defence counsel appealed the decision, launching an abuse of process action in the Supreme Court of South Australia to achieve a permanent stay of proceedings, as well as stating that the huge media interest in the charges would result in their client not getting a fair trial. Proceedings began on 19 June 1990 before Justice Kevin Duggan, and six months later on 17 December 1990, Justice Duggan released his findings. He ordered von Einem to stand trial, however he expressed concerns with most of the prosecution's evidence.
The pre-trial hearing began on 19 December 1990 in the Supreme Court of South Australia, with Justice Duggan as the presiding judge. The prosecution decided after Justice Duggan's findings two days earlier to have von Einem tried separately for the murders of Alan Barnes and Mark Langley. Justice Duggan ruled that the evidence relating to the Richard Kelvin murder and from the various associates of von Einem and hitchhikers was inadmissible, although he did rule that "B"'s evidence could be heard, but with the defence allowed to question the evidence as it was being given. This was a shattering blow for the prosecution's case, and on 21 December 1990, on advice from the Attorney-General of South Australia, prosecutors withdrew the charge for the murder of Mark Langley. The prosecution tried to continue with the charge for the murder of Alan Barnes, however with the problems of getting enough evidence admitted into court from associates about von Einem picking up hitchhikers to convict von Einem still too great, the final charge was withdrawn on 1 February 1991. The prosecution, on the advice of the Attorney-General, then entered a nolle prosequi for the Alan Barnes murder charge.
On 29 January 2006, the Sunday Mail reported that von Einem is currently being investigated for allegedly raping an inmate several times at Yatala Labour Prison.
On 29 October 2006, The Australian reported that von Einem had been selling hand-painted greeting cards to prison officers for $20 each.
On 12 November 2006, the Sunday Mail reported that von Einem was receiving preferential treatment by some prison officials at Yatala Labour Prison which included home cooked meals for him and the use of a mobile telephone.
On 4 February 2007, the ABC reported that von Einem had been charged over commercial dealings during his incarceration, including selling hand-painted greeting cards.
On 14 June 2007, the ABC reported that von Einem has been charged with producing and possessing child pornography, with police alleging that he handwrote three fictitious stories describing sexual acts between a child and a man. His lawyer believes a handwriting analysis will clear von Einem.
On 11 August 2007, The Australian reported that detectives are calling for information to establish the identity of a young man seen in the Seven Network's news archive, showing police searching a storm water drain in the days after the Beaumont Children's disappearance. The man bears a striking resemblance to a youthful Bevan Spencer von Einem. On 13 August 2007, the Seven Network followed this with a story that the man standing next to the von Einem lookalike in their archived film matched the police sketch of the suspect seen with the Beaumonts at the beach on the day of their disappearance.
On 1 November 2007, the ABC reported that after 24 years behind bars, von Einem is now eligible to apply for parole. However, South Australian Premier Mike Rann has vowed to enforce new legislation to ensure von Einem never leaves prison alive.
On 7 December 2007, the ABC reported that von Einem has been granted a further adjournment before answering charges of possessing child pornography.
On 28 March 2008, the ABC reported that the child pornography found in von Einem's cell has been determined to not have been written by von Einem and that fingerprints do not match. Defence lawyer Sam Abbott said he expects the Director of Public Prosecutions to drop the most serious charge of producing the material and, if not, he will argue there is no case to answer. It was also announced that von Einem has been excused from attending his court hearings so he can avoid an "unpleasant" three-hour drive with other inmates.
On 30 March 2008, it was announced that key suspects in Adelaide's notorious 'The Family' murders are being DNA tested as part of a new inquiry into the sex killings. Although von Einem is the only member of 'The Family' who was convicted, police are now reviewing the cold case.
On 13 April 2008, it was announced that police conducting fresh investigations into the unsolved Family murders will quiz transvestites who have information that could assist the inquiry. Some are former associates of von Einem and are likely to provide valuable information into the inquiries.
On 27 April 2008, it was announced that police are set to travel overseas to interview several key witnesses as part of their new investigations into the Family murders.
On 4 May 2008, it was announced that an Adelaide chiropractor who fled Australia while being investigated for involvement in the Family Murders is now being sought in Europe by Police. He was a former associate of von Einem.
On 6 June 2008, it was announced that prosecutors have dropped one charge of producing child pornography; however von Einem is still facing charges of possession.
On 18 September 2008, it was announced that prosecutors have dropped allegations that von Einem wrote stories of child pornography in his jail cell.
On 28 October 2008, it was announced police hope one of four suspects in the notorious Family sex murders will come forward to help solve the case after the State Government doubled a reward to $1 million. This announcement comes just days after Major Crime detectives interviewed von Einem from his prison cell.
On 27 May 2009, von Einem plead guilty to possessing child pornography – the first time he has ever confessed to a crime.
On 24 June 2009, von Einem was sentenced to a further 3 months for the possession of child pornography.
Bob O'Brien, Young Blood: the Story of the Family Murders, 2002 ISBN 0-7322-6913-X
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