dungeon hidden on a mountain property may hold
the key to a 30-year mystery.
Police searching for the body of a missing
Sydney woman yesterday discovered the
underground chamber at a walled, electric-fence
rimmed Blue Mountains property.
Jill Gamblin was last seen leaving the
Paris Theatre in the city in 1979.
Investigations yesterday led to the
Blackheath home of her now dead former
boyfriend, Adrian Chenhall.
A buried shipping container he told
neighbours was his nuclear shelter is the focus
at the overgrown and unoccupied bush property.
Police opened the bunker but Detective
Inspector John Maricic, who is co-ordinating a
three-day search, said police were yet to
forensically examine it.
Mr Chenhall had tried to strangle Ms
Gamblin, 30, when she spent a weekend at the
sprawling property shortly before she vanished,
a coroner heard last year.
"Everybody has always said there was a
body buried," said a neighbour, who asked not to
"There were a lot of crazy things that
went on in there. We heard he had built a
concrete nuclear bunker and one morning we woke
up to find he had put these big fences up."
Other neighbours described Mr Chenhall as
an eccentric and said rumours had circulated
about the house for decades.
Ms Gamblin's sister Sandra Copland, who
lives in Western Australia, yesterday said the
family was braced for bad news.
A coroner told the family last November
that Ms Gamblin was dead and that she may have
been murdered. The family now hopes her body
will be found.
"At least we could bury her next to Dad,"
Ms Copland said.
"My mother is 93. I don't know how she
would deal with it if they find out what really
She said police were of little help when
friends and family first reported Ms Gamblin
She said she was relieved police had
finally acted and were "bending over backwards
to try and find out what happened to Jill".
Police said yesterday a tipoff last year
to the Crime Stoppers hotline led to the
reopening of the case and to yesterday's
The vanishing of Jill Gamblin
(A true story)
23 June 1999
*Reproduced with kind permission.
The week was cold and wintery, so I holed up in the office with the
heater on and picked through my old file on the Jill Gamblin case.
It's coming up on 20 years since Jill vanished. Twenty years.
Somewhere out there there's an undiscovered killer. Perhaps a serial
killer. Or perhaps a serial killer already locked away who hasn't
confessed to this one.
Jill had been a regular at French's Tavern on Oxford Street where I
dropped in to listen to rock music from time to time. She was a
lively English girl of about 30, living in a shared house in
Bellevue Hill. She worked as a punchcard processor, made jumpsuits
she sold at the markets and hunted the singles scene for a partner.
I remember her as a wild space cadet.
On the night of Sunday 2 December 1979, she left Bellevue Hill with
about $9 in her purse. She turned up at the old Paris Theatre on the
corner of Wentworth and Liverpool, wearing her lurid, spangled,
'Queen of the Night' makeup. The Boy's Own Macbeth, starring
Graeme Bond, was playing there, and Jill's boyfriend was doing the
She spent the evening there but left by herself, for whatever
reason, at about 10.15. The theatre crowd had dispersed. According
to her boyfriend she said "Strange things could happen tonight, it's
a full moon". She left him standing there and crossed Liverpool
Street to catch a cab -- to Bellevue Hill, he thought. It was the
last time anybody claims to have seen her.
On the following Tuesday a flatmate found a note to Jill from her
boyfriend lying on Jill's bed. She realised that Jill hadn't been
with her boyfriend since Sunday evening. The bed hadn't been slept
in, and presents for her family in England were packed but unposted.
Her flatmate raised the alarm and her friends reported her missing
and began to search. That was when I got involved.
We organised the usual stuff. Her friends put up posters with her
photo around her old haunts and questioned her acquaintances in
Martin's Bar at Taylor Square. The denizens of the bar took it
pretty calmly. Jill had probably just met some bloke with a bag of
dope and headed off for Queensland, they said. I saw Missing
Persons, but they took it pretty calmly too, which was
understandable. She was after all, an adult, and the vast majority
of missing persons turn up eventually. Maybe, they said, she was
fleeing an abusive relationship, and they asked how we were related
Nowadays it would be taken more seriously, but in 1979 'serial
killer' wasn't a household word.
I interviewed her friends and checked the morgue, the hospitals, the
psychiatric hospitals, the Wayside Chapel and the Balmain Markets,
where she sold the clothes she made. We even visited the gay bars on
Oxford Street where smart arse barmen asked me if Jill was my
We went through her room carefully. There wasn't much to show for
her years in Australia. We fitted it all in a couple of green
garbage bags. There was a bank account with $120 and $4.80 in cash.
There were also some new leads. It seemed that Jill had been mixed
up with a group called Cabaret Conspiracy and a shadowy bunch of
mystics called The Temple of Ra. I tried hard, but I never did find
anybody who claimed to be a member.
Months passed and I used my contacts to check her bank account.
There had been no withdrawals. She never registered with Social
Security either, and she never again paid taxes. She never rang
anybody and her family never heard from her. Eventually the case was
put in the hands of Homicide.
The trail is very, very cold now. The Paris Theatre was pulled down
a few months after Jill disappeared and the Bellevue Hill place went
too. Martin's Bar and French's closed years ago and punch cards have
gone the way of all technology. Jill's friends got married and had
kids and moved to the suburbs.
But every few years I get out the file and make a phone call to the
cops, or somebody in the media, and on a couple of occasions they've
run the story. And I've waited for a call, but nobody has ever rung.
search operation in 29-year-old missing
person case – Blackheath
Nov 2008 05:21am
NSW Police will today brief the media
regarding a search operation in the Blue
Mountains relating to the disappearance
of a woman almost 30 years ago.
At 10am today a team of officers will
begin searching an unoccupied property
in Wombat Road, Blackheath. This
operation is expected to take several
The search follows fresh information
provided through Crime Stoppers into the
disappearance of Jill Lesley Gamblin.
Ms Gamblin, 30, vanished after she was
last seen leaving the old Paris Theatre
on Liverpool Street on the night of
December 2, 1979.
A Coroner’s inquest in November last
year concluded Ms Gamblin was possibly
the victim of a homicide but no suspects
Following new information provided by
the public, the case was re-opened in
December last year by Rose Bay
detectives who established Strike Force
Magdala to investigate.
death cast by a full moon
Nick O'Malley - SMH
November 15, 2008
THE last time anyone claims
to have seen Jill Gamblin, she
was crossing the road towards
Hyde Park on a warm Sunday night
in December 1979.
"Strange things could happen
tonight, it's the full moon,"
she told her companion. Then she
vanished. It was 10.15pm.
This week Rose Bay
detectives dug under a
cottage at Blackheath hoping to
find Gamblin's remains. To the
disappointment of a handful of
friends who had never given up
on the search, the fragments
unearthed were those of a sheep.
Gamblin was short, blonde
and beautiful, an unpredictable
English expat who, at 30, had
been in Australia for four years
and moved easily through a fast
One of her favourite
haunts was Martin's Bar on
Oxford Street, above what is now
the Balkan Grill near Taylor
Square. The club was frequented
by artists, filmmakers and
journalists, who were served by
topless young women, many of
them students at East Sydney
Tech across the road.
Gamblin worked as a
punchcard operator, the
equivalent of a data entry job
today, and was having some
success selling clothes she made
at Paddington and Balmain
markets. Jenny Kee was said to
have taken an interest.
"She was stylish but she
was poor. She'd been in Sydney
for years but her life was
shit," says Gavin Gatenby, a
friend who has kept up the
search since helping to raise
the alarm two days after her
On the last night she was
seen, Gamblin was excited about
a date with Wallace Randolph,
the set designer of a cult
musical, Boy's Own Macbeth.
She planned to join him for a
performance at the Paris Theatre
and go on to a cast party.
"To get invited to a party
with the cast and crew was a
really big thing for her. She
thought something was finally
happening in her life," says
She prepared for the date
over a glass of wine with her
flatmate, Jean Hawkins, in their
Bellevue Hill share house, a
tumbledown mansion that was once
home to the Soviet consulate.
Hawkins says Gamblin chose
a silver jumpsuit of her own
design and lurid sparkling
make-up, a look she called
"queen of the night". Another
flatmate recalls the make-up,
but a cream outfit.
No one noticed Gamblin was
missing until Tuesday, when
Hawkins found a note from
Randolph on the pillow of her
unmade bed. "I missed you last
night. Where were you?" it said,
or something along those lines,
Gatenby recalls. "We hit the
panic button then."
Gatenby and his partner,
Lee Hoffmann, called the police
and with Hawkins began trawling
the bars of Oxford Street. The
police and the Darlinghurst
barflys were not too worried at
first. Gamblin was an adult and
known to be footloose. Gatenby
recalls his shock at seeing her
leap into a stranger's car
outside Martin's Bar on the
promise of a party.
For days they visited
hospitals, railway stations and
psych wards. They pestered
police endlessly and had
Gamblin's description broadcast
by radio stations.
Hawkins recalls visiting
Randolph at his home in
Paddington to ask about the
Sunday date. According to a
letter the three wrote to
Gamblin's sister at the time,
Randolph said Jill left him at
the theatre, looking for a taxi,
excited by the moon.
During a coronial inquest
into the case last year,
Randolph, who still lives in
Sydney and works as an artist,
denied any memory of the evening
or the police interviews
When Gamblin's distraught
friends finally ransacked her
bedroom they found Christmas
presents wrapped and ready to be
sent to family in England and a
notebook with references to the
power of the moon and a new age
group in Balmain called the
Temple of Ra. There was also an
address: 20 Wombat Street,
Gatenby had been a
political activist with the
Socialist Labour League but had
quit politics and begun driving
a taxi. His search for Gamblin
soon became a full-blown amateur
He discovered the
Blackheath home was owned by
Adrian Chenhall, a young man
known to regulars at Martin's
Bar as the son of a well-to-do
doctor, Hilton W.T. Chenhall,
who lived in Palm Beach but ran
a practice near the old
Herald building at Broadway,
an insalubrious part of town.
"Women liked him. I've
heard him described as Jack
Nicholson - good looking," says
charismatic and smart, Chenhall
had never studied or worked as
far as anyone knew. He ran with
a group known as the Bayview
Push, an artistic offshoot of
the intellectual Sydney Push.
Gatenby learnt that
Chenhall drank a lot of whisky,
used the drug speed and
manufactured LSD in a backyard
Hawkins says she has heard
he was at first charming to
women, then dark and
Gatenby claims to have
spoken with people who knew
first hand that Chenhall was
into sadomasochistic sex.
Accounts given by
Gamblin's friends - and found in
her notebook - suggest that she
stood up Randolph on the weekend
before she disappeared, and
instead of attending the musical
with him spent the weekend with
Chenhall at Blackheath.
Gamblin wrote of working
in his garden and, as they drove
back to Sydney (drunk), fighting
so viciously that he stopped the
car and tried to strangle her.
During questioning by
police, Chenhall, who died 10
years ago, admitted to the
drunken roadside fight, but
claimed he had hit her rather
than throttled her.
Weeks after the disappearance
Gatenby and Hoffmann drove to
Blackheath to confront Chenhall.
"When we drove down Wombat
Street and there was this
cottage, we were horrified,"
"There were these huge
bars on the windows and the
front door and side door had
been reinforced with sheet
steel. The fortress-like nature
of the place was something I
passed onto the cops.
"I banged on the door but
I couldn't raise anyone."
Gatenby says cold case
detectives who interviewed him
for three hours at Kogarah
police station late last year
were interested in his
recollection and sketches of the
He claims they told him
they were looking into links
between Chenhall and two other
young women who disappeared
about the same time, though Rose
Bay police deny this.
Detective Inspector John
Maricic said "a number of items"
that may be relevant were
retrieved from the house and
more people had come forward
claiming to have fresh
Hawkins is angry about the
original police response, but
relieved by the renewed
investigation. "They said she'd
probably just gone off
somewhere, and we tried to tell
ourselves that too. But deep
down we knew she hadn't."
Gatenby does not believe
the mystery will be solved until
more is known about that night
on Liverpool Street at the Paris
Theatre. Randolph is the only
person who has ever confirmed
Gamblin was even there.
Dungeon property bones are animal's, not those of Jill Gamblin?
November 12, 2008 05:35pm
POLICE have found bone fragments at a Blue Mountains property where officers are searching for the body of missing Sydney woman Jill Gamblin - but tests have confirmed they are animal bones.
Meanwhile, another former girlfriend of Adrian Chenhall has come forward to describe her relationship with the now dead Blackheath man whose property is being searched.
Police unearthed a dungeon buried in the bush property this week which he had told neighbours was a nuclear fallout shelter.
Ms Gamblin, 30, was last seen outside the Paris Theatre in the city in 1979 but information to Crime Stoppers placed Ms Gamblin at Chenhall's secluded bush property.
A coroner heard last year he had tried to strangle her shortly before she vanished.
"I found him very weird, very strange," the former girlfriend, who declined to be named, said today.
"He was very, very good looking at that point in time. He could charm women until they found out how strange he was."
The woman dated Chenhall for six months in 1984 and said he drank heavily.
Detective Inspector John Maricic said the search of the property was expected to finish today.
Her sister Sandra Copland this week told The Daily Telegraph the family was braced for bad news but were hopeful they could lay her to rest next to their father.