The Family Murders

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The Family was the name given to a close-knit group of 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 name of the group stems from an interview a police detective gave on 60 Minutes,[4] claiming the police were taking action "to break up the happy family". Four of the five murders remain unsolved.[5]


  • Alan Barnes, aged 17, murdered in 1979.[6] 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,[7] 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.[8] 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.[8] 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.
  • Peter Stogneff, aged 14,[9] murdered in 1981. His skeletal remains were found ten months later by a local farmer at Middle Beach, 50 km north of Adelaide. Stogneff's body had been cut into three pieces in a similar fashion to Neil Muir.[10] 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,[9] murdered in 1982. His mutilated body was found in scrub in the Adelaide foothills nine days after his disappearance.[11] 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 Langley had died from a massive loss of blood from gross injuries to his anus, similar to Alan Barnes. The sedative-hypnotic drug Mandrax, also known as a "Quaalude" and popular in the 1970s disco scene, was found in Langley's blood.
  • Richard Kelvin, aged 15,[9] murdered in 1983. The son of popular Adelaide Channel 9 News presenter Rob Kelvin, he was abducted a short distance from his North Adelaide home.[12] 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 five weeks[12] 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.


Police believe that up to 12 people, several of them high-profile Australians, were involved in the kidnappings.[citation needed] Authorities 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".[13] Of the five murders, there has to date been one conviction.[5] Bevan Spencer von Einem was convicted in 1984 of the murder of Richard Kelvin and sentenced to life imprisonment.[5][13] In 1989, von Einem was charged with the murders of Alan Barnes and Mark 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. Von Einem was also one of the last people seen with Neil Muir following his abduction.

Apart from von Einem, three other core members were directly involved in the murders. Suspect 1, an eastern suburbs businessman, is believed to have been with von Einem when Kelvin was abducted. Suspect 2, a prominent Adelaide doctor, was initially charged with Muir's murder but found not guilty at trial in 1980.[7] Suspect 3 was a former male prostitue and a close friend of von Einem and suspect 1. The remaining known associates were involved to a lesser degree; they were either indirectly involved or had knowledge of the murders but 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. Two men who were living with suspects 1 and 2 respectively at the time of the murders were also "persons of interest". Although many had previously been named, with the exception of Suspect 2, their identities have since been suppressed by the courts.[1][5][14]

A cold case was opened in March 2008 with a $1,000,000 reward available for anyone who provides information leading to a conviction.[10] The reward carried an offer of immunity to accomplices dependent on their level of involvement. Due to changes in the Forensic Procedures Act which now allow 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.[13][15] The cold case review was completed in November 2010 with no charges being laid against any of the three key suspects.[16][5]


  1. ^ a b Hunt, Nigel (1 April 2008). "Shadowy clique preyed on the young". The Advertiser. Retrieved 5 January 2016. 
  2. ^ The "Family" Murders TruTV
  3. ^ Ellis, Mark (14 August 2002). "Lock up your sons in the world's murder capital". The Age. Retrieved 5 January 2016. 
  4. ^ Von Einem: Lawyers in new bid to re-open Kelvin case 27 October 1996
  5. ^ a b c d e Hunt, Nigel (26 October 2008). "$5m reward bid to solve Family murders". Retrieved 5 January 2016. 
  6. ^ "Alan Arthur Barnes". Crime Stoppers. Retrieved 5 January 2016. 
  7. ^ a b "Body in bag: jury acquits doctor in Adelaide". The Sydney Morning Herald. 10 October 1980. Retrieved 5 January 2016. 
  8. ^ 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. 
  9. ^ a b c 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. 
  10. ^ a b Malkin, Bonnie (28 October 2008). "Australian police reopen notorious 1970s Family murders case". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 26 January 2016. 
  11. ^ "Murderer quizzed on death of youth". The Sydney Morning Herald. 15 July 1987. Retrieved 26 January 2016. 
  12. ^ a b "Richard Kelvin". Crime Stoppers. Retrieved 26 January 2016. 
  13. ^ a b c Hunt, Nigel (29 March 2008). "DNA tests for Family murder suspects". The Sunday Times. Retrieved 5 January 2016. 
  14. ^ "Focus on three key suspects". The Advertiser. 5 December 2010. Retrieved 5 January 2016. 
  15. ^ Family Murders - Adelaide Crime Stoppers 2 March 2009
  16. ^ Hunt, Nigel (5 December 2010). "Family murder truth may never be known". The Advertiser. Retrieved 15 March 2012. 

Further reading[edit]

  • O'Brien, Bob (2002). Young Blood: The Story of the Family Murders. HarperCollins. ISBN 073226913X.  O'Brien was the lead detective for the "Family Murders" investigation.