The Family Murders

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The Family was the name given to a close-knit group of Adelaide men involved in the kidnapping, drugging, sexual abuse and, at times, torture of young men and teenaged boys in Adelaide,the capital city of the state of South Australia, and surrounding areas throughout the 1970s and into the mid 1980s. The existence of the group came to the attention of the public following the murder of five teenagers between 1979 and 1983.[1][2] The high profile occupations of some of the suspects led to claims of an alleged high society conspiracy.[3] The term stems from an interview a police detective gave on 60 Minutes,[4] claiming the police were taking some action "...to break up the happy family".

Victims[edit]

  • 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, probably 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 within 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, probably caused by the insertion of a large blunt object, and Noctec was found in his blood. A prominent Adelaide doctor was initially charged with Muir's murder, but was found not guilty at trial. Police are now satisfied that 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, probably caused by the insertion of a large blunt object. Analysis of Kelvin's bloodstream revealed traces of four hypnotic drugs, including Mandrax and Noctec.

Police do not recognise the term "The Family" stating that "They 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]

Of the five murders, there has been one conviction. Bevan Spencer von Einem was charged and convicted in 1984 for the murder of Kelvin.[5] In 1989, Einem was charged with the murders of Barnes and Langley. However, the prosecution was forced to enter a nolle prosequi (voluntarily discontinue criminal charges) during the trial when crucial similar fact evidence was deemed inadmissible by the presiding judge. The murders of Barnes, Muir, Stogneff, and Langley are unsolved.

A cold case was opened in March 2008, with a $1,000,000 reward available for anyone providing information leading to a conviction. The reward carries an offer of immunity to accomplices, dependent 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 voluntarily submitted to DNA testing. The ongoing investigation featured in an episode of Crime Stoppers which was broadcast on Monday, 2 March 2009.[5][6] The cold case review was completed in November 2010 with no charges being laid against any of the three key suspects.[7][8]

Suspects[edit]

Police believe that up to twelve people, several of them high-profile Australians, were involved in the kidnappings. Apart from Einem, they have listed three other core members directly involved in the murders, with the remaining known associates involved to a lesser degree, being people either indirectly involved or with knowledge of the murders who continued to interact with the group. The suspects include several members of the legal community, the brother of an Olympian, and members of the business community. Although many had previously been named, with the exception of 'Suspect 2' their identities have since been suppressed by the courts.[9][10][11]

The 5 main suspects who police believe are the core group:

  • 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.
  • David Richmond - The eastern suburbs business man ("Mr R") - it is speculated that this man owned an inner city anique shop for a number of years. He was close to Einem and was probably the second biggest player. At the time, he lived with Dr Stephen George Woodards in St Peters. He was referred to as "Mr R" during the court hearings. He still operates his business, but no longer in the eastern suburbs.
  • Denis St Denis - Owned a hairdressing salon in Hazelwood Park. Diaries recently uncovered claim the writer saw Einem and St Denis with pictures of Barnes after he disappeared but before he died. St Denis died in the 90s. St Denis allegedly cut Richard Kelvin's hair whilst he was in captivity. St Denis is also alleged to have rented a terrace house in the inner eastern suburbs with Einem, and this is where the boys were held between abduction and death.
  • Dr Stephen George Woodards - Lived with David Richmond at the time but also had a high profile lawyer lover who was also allegedly involved. Woodards no doubt would have been the supplier of the date rape drugs at the time. Mark Langley had a 16cm incision from just above his penis to the navel area that was stitched up with cotton. Police have speculated this could have been to try to retrieve an object that was stuck in Langley and needed to be retrieved as this object may have had fingerprints. Could be the work of Woodards.
  • Colin Bland - The Male Prostitute ("Mr B") - Was in his early twenties at the time, so was born about 1960. Participated in many abductions, drugging, and raping of young men with Einem. He gave the police a lot of inside information on Einem, and for the most part it correlates with the information the police have. Known to live in Melbourne and Sydney since. His name is in the public domain for an unrelated case. He was most recently reported to be a bus driver in Brisbane.

The people who police believe are associates of the family:

  • Pru Firman - a drag queen who lived in a shared house with two other drag queens in Alberton.
  • Brother of Mike Turtur the Olympic Gold medalist - drag queen who lived in Alberton shared house.
  • Drag Queen 3 - lived in same shared house.
  • High profile lawyer who was Woodard's boyfriend
  • Donald Storen

Further reading[edit]

Bob O'Brien Young Blood: The Story of the Family Murders HarperCollins 2009 ISBN 9780732290368
O'Brien was the lead detective for the "Family Murders" investigation.

References[edit]