Age when missing - 38 years

Last seen - 4th July 1975

Circumstances - Juanita Nielsen was a prominent Sydney newspaper publisher, anti-development campaigner and wealthy heiress who went to a 10:30am appointment at Kings Cross nightclub The Carousel and has not been seen since. Her disappearance is being treated as a homicide.

Australian Broadcasting Corporation
Broadcast: 16/02/2004

The Juanita Nielsen mystery
Reporter: Emma Alberici

KERRY O'BRIEN: The story of Juanita Nielsen is one of this country's most baffling mysteries.

She was the grand daughter of department store tycoon Mark Foy who became a central figure in the showdown between residents and developers over one of Sydney's most historic suburbs.

It's nearly 30 years since the Kings Cross newspaper publisher and anti-development campaigner disappeared after meeting the manager of a local nightclub to discuss advertising.

Two of the men at that meeting were subsequently convicted of conspiracy to abduct Juanita Nielsen.

While a coronial inquest did conclude she had been murdered, the crime remains unsolved.

Now a new book has unearthed fresh leads on this crime.

Emma Alberici reports.

LORETTA CRAWFORD, WITNESS: I knew she wasn't being invited there to talk about advertising.

I mean, I was too involved in what was going on to know that that was just a well just a load of garbage, and I honestly did not think she'd turn up.

EMMA ALBERICI: But Juanita Nielsen did show up at the Carousel nightclub on that morning 29 years ago ostensibly to talk to the management about advertising in her local newspaper Now.

She has never been seen since.

Loretta Crawford was the 27-year-old transsexual receptionist who greeted her at the Carousel and later witnessed what she has until now refused to speak publicly about.

LORETTA CRAWFORD: It played on my conscience for a lot of years and it has done to this day.

EMMA ALBERICI: Loretta Crawford lied to police to protect her boss - this man, James McCartney Anderson.

Six months after his death, Loretta Crawford says she's now comfortable to tell her story.

Jim Anderson was not at the club to meet Juanita Nielsen on that July 4 morning in 1975.

That was left to his barman Shane Martin Simmonds and the night manager Eddie Trigg.

According to Loretta, there was also a third man there that day.

LORETTA CRAWFORD: They walked down the stairs.

When they were halfway down the stairs, that I could see from my office, Eddie came back and said: "If anyone asks, sweetheart, I didn't leave with her."

EMMA ALBERICI: What was it you really saw after she walked down the stairs?

LORETTA CRAWFORD: She'd been shot, downstairs.

EMMA ALBERICI: How do you know that?

LORETTA CRAWFORD: Because I saw her.

EMMA ALBERICI: What did you see exactly?

LORETTA CRAWFORD: As I sort of turned to go down the last stairs to the storeroom, she was laying there and this third person was standing there with a gun in his hand.

The bullet wound was only very, very tiny.

It was like, probably like a cigarette butt, the size of a cigarette butt, and there was like maybe a trickle of blood that I saw.

VOICE OF JUANITA NIELSEN: Everyone wanted to be a developer and a developer simply wants empty houses.

EMMA ALBERICI: The weight of evidence before the 1983 inquest jury suggested Juanita Nielsen, heard here on ABC radio just months before she vanished, was killed to silence the damaging campaign she was waging through her newspaper against the redevelopment of Victoria Street - an area the National Trust then described as the Montmartre of Sydney.

FILE FOOTAGE, FRANK THEEMAN, DEVELOPER: The final plan involves a great improvement for the street.

FILE FOOTAGE, POLICEMAN: You're going to endanger your own life, you're going to endanger the life of policemen.

EMMA ALBERICI: Disruptions caused by resident protests and union green bans cost Victoria Point, Frank Theeman's $40 million apartment project, $3 million.

For two years, the Builders Labourers Federation refused to tear down the old terraces and put up the new complex.

With pressure from government, the green ban was lifted in 1975, but Frank Theeman had little time to celebrate.

Juanita Nielsen single-handedly convinced the Water Board Union to refuse work on the site and the delays continued.

With each day that passed, Victoria Point lost another $3,000.

MONET KING, WITNESS: He said to me that she didn't feel a thing.

And I said: "Oh, Eddie", I said: "Well, where is she?"

You know, he didn't answer me.

He said: "What you don't know won't hurt you."

EMMA ALBERICI: New Zealand's Auckland Harbour is a long way from the life Monet King knew as a glamorous 31-year-old transvestite in Sydney's seedy Kings Cross.

It was the 70s, and his name was Marilyn King.

He worked as a cocktail waitress at the Carousel nightclub.

Upon his return to New Zealand 20 years ago, he took up painting, became a born-again Christian and a community health worker.

But in all these year he has never forgotten his live-in boyfriend of 10 years, Eddie Trigg.

MONET KING: I said: "Well, what about that blood on your shirt?"

He took off his shirt to change it and there was a piece of paper, notepaper in the top pocket, and he said: "Oh, I'll need that.

Give that to me.

I'll need to show that to the police.

That's my alibi of why I had to see her".

EMMA ALBERICI: That piece of paper was later to become police exhibit eight, a receipt for $130 written by Juanita Nielsen supposedly in recognition of a deposit paid for advertising in her newspaper Now.

MONET KING: I said: "Oh, look, there's a bit of blood on it" and I said: "For goodness sake, what on earth's going on", so the piece of notepaper, instead of being the whole piece, was suddenly cut in half and the piece with her signature on was kept and the other bit with the spot of blood on it, like the spot of blood on his shirt, was cast out into the rubbish.

EMMA ALBERICI: Eight years after Juanita Nielsen's disappearance, Eddie Trigg was sentenced to three years in jail for conspiracy to abduct her.

His colleague from the Carousel, Shane Martin Simmonds, got just two years because he confessed to the crime.

He told police a story about trying to secure advertising in the Now newspaper was just a ruse.

The real intention of a visit to Juanita Nielsen's home in Victoria Street on June 30 was to kidnap her.

But on that day she wasn't alone and their plan was foiled.

PETER REES, AUTHOR, KILLING JUANITA: It's hard to believe that there could be two different plots going on at the same time that were not connected in this way.

After all, both Eddie and Shane were at the Carousel on the morning that Juanita went round to conduct a purported advertising deal which was later proved to be a ruse.

EMMA ALBERICI: For author Peter Rees, Juanita Nielsen's disappearance has become somewhat of an obsession.

He's been following the case since day one and believes his book, Killing Juanita, and the wealth of new information it contains could finally lead to a murder charge, something the coronial inquest, the longest in NSW history, was unable to achieve.

PETER REES: So far as the involvement of the third man is concerned - we don't know, we can't say for certain, that he fired the gun.

He was standing there with a gun in hand when Loretta Crawford walked into the storeroom.

EMMA ALBERICI: What Monet King, formerly Marilyn, reveals in our interview, he has never before told police.

Having previously denied being a witness, he now links Eddie Trigg to a sinister deed.

Monet King says for a month before Juanita's disappearance, he helped Eddie track her movements.

We caught up with Eddie, now 63-years-old, and living in Sydney.

He refused an on-camera interview, maintaining he has no idea what happened to Juanita Nielsen.

His girlfriend at the time believes he's lying.

MONET KING: And I said: "Well, thank goodness.

Is she all right?

Where is she?

Has she gone home?"

And he showed me his fist and it was swollen, dreadfully swollen, and he said: "If the police ask, if the police ask what happened, say that I hit you."

And I said: "Well".

EMMA ALBERICI: Juanita Nielsen wasn't the first anti-development campaigner to face intimidating tactics.

ARTHUR KING, ANTI-DEVELOPMENT CAMPAIGNER: I was asleep at the time, yeah.

Two guys came, one on either side of the door, opened the door, bundled me out, out here to Victoria Street.

We were away from Sydney for three days.

But a condition of my release was that I would take no further part in any anti-development activities in Victoria Street.

EMMA ALBERICI: For a time before his abduction, Arthur King was head of the Victoria Street residents action group, another thorn in the side of Frank Theeman's development plans.

LORETTA CRAWFORD: The entrance was actually those three whole doors.

There was the one entrance to the Carousel Cabaret.

There were three small stairs, then a landing, then two lots of stairs going up which would have led to my office, and after Eddie and Juanita had their meeting.

Then Juanita, Eddie and the third man came down the stairs.

Once they went to the stairs below my office where the grill was, that's where I heard a clang and I heard someone make the statement about trouble makers get what they deserve.

EMMA ALBERICI: The manager of the Carousel nightclub, Jim Anderson, was a close friend of property developer Frank Theeman and his drug-troubled son Tim.

The inquest heard that on Sunday May 25, 1975, just six weeks before Juanita Nielsen's appointment at the club, the Theeman's family company, FWT Investments, paid $25,000 to Jim Anderson.

Anderson claimed the cheque was an advance for a club bought here on Bondi Beach on behalf of Tim Theeman.

He told the jury he paid $23,000 to a local club owner.

But when questioned at the inquest, the club owner said he'd never received any money from Anderson or the Theemans.

So the question still remains - what was that $25,000 for?

PETER REES: That's very much the case.

EMMA ALBERICI: What do you suspect it was for?

PETER REES: I suspect the money was paid to remove Juanita Nielsen.


PETER REES: Hit money indeed.

EMMA ALBERICI: Those close to Juanita Nielsen have all passed away and are resting here in the Foy-Smith family crypt.

A lone cross stands in the place she would have been buried had the 38-year-old's body ever been found.

Her nemesis, property developer Frank Theeman, died in 1989.

But the three men present on the morning of her last apparently fateful meeting are still alive.

Twenty nine years on, the project Juanita fought so desperately against now dominates the harbourside landscape.

LORETTA CRAWFORD: I felt guilty, I think, yeah.

Because I often wonder what would have happened if I would have sort of said something to her like: "Just go.

Just don't stay here". I just want the people who did this to be brought to justice.

KERRY O'BRIEN: And police have confirmed they'll follow up those fresh leads in the Nielsen case.

Juanita Nielsen, casualty of ideological war
By Padraic P. McGuinness
March 3, 2004 - Sydney Morning Herald

The mystery of the disappearance, and certain death, of Juanita Nielsen of Kings Cross in 1975 remains unsolved despite the publication of a new account of the circumstances.

Was Nielsen the first victim of urban developers (have there been any others?), of local thugs working for developers who exceeded their brief, or of anyone else? Did the police and the National Crime Authority have any culpability for a lack of zeal or incompetence in pursuing the matter?

Is there any chance of someone coming forward who can testify as to what actually happened?

In Killing Juanita, Canberra journalist Peter Rees, with the help of long-term collaborator Arthur King, has put together what is so far the best account of the whole issue. They think they know who murdered Nielsen, and quote a person who claims to have been a witness to the killing. They may be right, but their informants have yet to give new evidence either to police or in public.

King, who runs a small business in Sydney, has good reason for his deep interest in this case. It could have been him.

In July 1973 he was abducted from his flat in Victoria Street, Kings Cross, by a couple of thugs who shoved him into the boot of a car and held him for a couple of days in a motel somewhere on the South Coast. He was threatened about his part in the protests about redevelopment plans for Victoria Street and was in real fear for his life. Finally they let him go with further threats. Not surprisingly, his fright soon gave way to anger.

There is no doubt that there were criminals closely involved in the whole business.

One of the chief of them was the late James McCartney Anderson, who seems to have cleverly played along the police, and especially the NCA, by acting as an informant.

The police role was also curious, in that while the immediate investigators seem to have been straight, there was a curious lack of interest in higher circles. Anderson may not have been Nielsen's murderer, but he was certainly not far from it.

There is evidence that Anderson received money from Frank Theeman, the developer. But there is no other reason to suspect Theeman of culpability, except in encouraging Anderson and his friends in their threats and violence against the protesters.

Nielsen was essentially a loose cannon. She ran a little local rag largely as a hobby, initially, and it was mainly the accident of her connection with Victoria Street, where she had lived for some time as a child and where she at this time owned a house, which led to her involvement in the protests.

But by the time of her death she had become just one of a motley movement of protest by residents, joined by ideologues of various kinds and the leading figures of the Builders Labourers Federation (BLs), then headed by the now well-known figure, Jack Mundey.

It was the first alliance of note between the upper middle class (anarchists and communists) and the working class left. The reality was that neither Theeman, Anderson, nor Nielsen understood what was happening around them.

They were all caught up in the passions created by the youth movements of the 1960s and the opposition to the Vietnam War.

Most of the most vocal activists of Victoria Street were educated and middle class, and many were liberated feminists in their first flush of enthusiasm. Some became sexually involved with the working class BLs, who did not understand such women, and were, in effect, destroyed by them. So the BLs fell apart, and Norm Gallagher from Melbourne moved in to pick up the pieces.