The Family Murders

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The Family was the name given to a close-knit group of men believed to be involved in the kidnapping, sexual abuse and, at times, torture of young men and teenage boys in and around Adelaide, South Australia, from the 1970s to the mid-1980s.[1]

The existence of the group came to the attention of the public following the murder of five teenagers between 1979 and 1983.[2][3] The high-profile occupations of some of the suspects led to claims of an alleged high-society conspiracy.[4] The name of the group stems from an interview a police detective gave on 60 Minutes,[5] claiming the police were taking action "to break up the happy family".

Four of the five murders remain unsolved.[6] Only one suspect has been charged and convicted for 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.[6]


  • Alan Arthur Barnes, aged 16, murdered in 1979.[7] Last seen being picked up by a white Holden sedan carrying three or four people while hitchhiking, his body had been severely mutilated and dumped in the South Para Reservoir, northeast of Adelaide.[8] A post-mortem examination revealed that Barnes had died of massive blood loss from an anal injury,[9] likely caused by the insertion of a large blunt object.[10] His body also showed signs of beatings and torture.[8] Noctec was found in his blood, suggesting he had been drugged.
  • Neil Fredrick Muir, aged 25,[11][12] murdered two months after 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.[9][13] 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.[13] 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[10] and Noctec was found in his blood.
  • Peter Stogneff, aged 14,[14] 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 Muir.[15] Little more could be determined as the remains had been accidentally burnt by the farmer while clearing his property of scrub.[8][16]
  • Mark Andrew Langley, aged 18,[14] murdered in 1982.[17] His mutilated body was found in scrub in the Adelaide foothills nine days after his disappearance.[18] 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.[9] 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.[10][19] The sedative-hypnotic drug Mandrax, popular in the 1970s disco scene, was found in Langley's blood.
  • Richard Dallas Kelvin, aged 15,[20] murdered in 1983. The son of popular local Nine Network news presenter Rob Kelvin, he was abducted a short distance from his North Adelaide home.[9][21] His body was found by an amateur geologist in the Mount Crawford Forest.[8] Kelvin was held captive for over five weeks[21] and a post-mortem examination revealed that he had died of massive blood loss from an anal injury,[22] likely caused by the insertion of a large blunt object. Analysis of Kelvin's bloodstream revealed traces of four hypnotic drugs,[8][23] including Mandrax and Noctec. Trace evidence, including hair and fibres from von Einem's home, was found on Kelvin's body and clothing.[8]


Police believe that up to 12 people, several of them high-profile Australians, were involved in the kidnappings.[citation needed] 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.[2]

Von Einem was convicted in 1984 of the murder of Kelvin and sentenced to life imprisonment.[6][24] In 1989, von Einem was charged with the murders of 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.[25] Von Einem was also one of the last people seen with Muir following his abduction.[citation needed]

Apart from von Einem, three other core members are thought to be directly involved in the murders, although while DNA testing re-commenced in 2008 no further charges have been laid.[26] Suspect 1, an eastern suburbs businessman, is believed to have been with von Einem when Kelvin was abducted. Suspect 2, prominent Adelaide physician Peter Leslie Millhouse, was initially charged with Muir's murder but found not guilty at trial in 1980.[12] Millhouse died in a nursing home at Cessnock in NSW on 30 June 2015, aged 80.[26] Suspect 3 was a former male prostitute 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. Another Adelaide doctor, Dr Stephen George Woodards, was also alleged to have links to the 'family' and in 2011 stood trial on child sexual abuse charges. The statutory suppression order on his identity lapsed during the course of his trial and an application for a new order was denied.[27] Other 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.[2][6][28]

A cold case review was opened in March 2008 with a $1,000,000 reward available for anyone who provides information leading to a conviction.[15] 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.[24][29] The cold case review was completed in November 2010 with no charges being laid against any of the three key suspects.[6][30]

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".[24] 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 from about 1973 to 1983.[8]


  1. ^ "New information on sex murders". The Canberra Times. 20 January 1990. p. 7. Retrieved 3 January 2017.
  2. ^ a b c Hunt, Nigel (1 April 2008). "Shadowy clique preyed on the young". The Advertiser. Retrieved 5 January 2016.
  3. ^ The "Family" Murders TruTV
  4. ^ Ellis, Mark (14 August 2002). "Lock up your sons in the world's murder capital". The Age. Retrieved 5 January 2016.
  5. ^ Von Einem: Lawyers in new bid to re-open Kelvin case 27 October 1996
  6. ^ a b c d e Hunt, Nigel (26 October 2008). "$5m reward bid to solve Family murders". Retrieved 5 January 2016.
  7. ^ "Alan Arthur Barnes". Crime Stoppers. Retrieved 5 January 2016.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g "The Butchered Boys". Crime Investigation Australia. Series 1. Episode 16. Crime & Investigation Network.
  9. ^ a b c d 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.
  10. ^ a b c "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.
  11. ^ "Neil Fredrick Muir". Crime Stoppers. Retrieved 11 April 2016.
  12. ^ a b "Body in bag: jury acquits doctor in Adelaide". The Sydney Morning Herald. 10 October 1980. Retrieved 5 January 2016.
  13. ^ 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.
  14. ^ 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.
  15. ^ a b Malkin, Bonnie (28 October 2008). "Australian police reopen notorious 1970s Family murders case". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 26 January 2016.
  16. ^ O'Brien, Bob (1 September 2014). Young Blood: The Story of the Family Murders. HarperCollins. p. 13. ISBN 978-1-4607-0370-0. Retrieved 11 April 2016.
  17. ^ "Mark Andrew Langley". Crime Stoppers. Retrieved 11 April 2016.
  18. ^ "Murderer quizzed on death of youth". The Sydney Morning Herald. 15 July 1987. Retrieved 26 January 2016.
  19. ^ "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.
  20. ^ "Many theories, few clues in string of Adelaide murders". The Canberra Times. 14 August 1983. p. 2. Retrieved 3 January 2017.
  21. ^ a b "Richard Kelvin". Crime Stoppers. Retrieved 26 January 2016.
  22. ^ "Sex assault victim tells of ordeal". The Canberra Times. 31 March 1990. p. 10. Retrieved 3 January 2017.
  23. ^ "Record 24-year non-parole period for boy's killer". The Canberra Times. 10 November 1984. p. 10. Retrieved 3 January 2017.
  24. ^ a b c Hunt, Nigel (29 March 2008). "DNA tests for Family murder suspects". The Sunday Times. Retrieved 5 January 2016.
  25. ^ "Murder case abandoned". The Canberra Times. 2 February 1991. p. 10. Retrieved 3 January 2017.
  26. ^ a b Dowdell, Andrew (18 July 2015). "Doctor found not guilty of 'Family' murder of Neil Muir dies in NSW". The Advertiser. Retrieved 3 March 2016.
  27. ^ Fewster, Sean (15 June 2011). "Doctor with alleged links to The Family identified as Stephen George Woodards". The Advertiser. Retrieved 3 March 2016.
  28. ^ "Focus on three key suspects". The Advertiser. 5 December 2010. Retrieved 5 January 2016.
  29. ^ Family Murders – Adelaide Crime Stoppers 2 March 2009
  30. ^ 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.