Joanne RATCLIFFE

 

                                                                                              

 

*See also Kirste GORDON

                                                       Joanne RATCLIFFE

 

Rewards up to the amounts shown will be paid by the Government of South Australia, at the discretion of the Commissioner of Police, to anyone who provides information leading to the apprehension and conviction of the person or people responsible for crimes posted.

 

REWARD $200,000

 

RADCLIFFE, Joanne - Photo

Joanne RATCLIFFE

 

On 25/8/1973 Joanne RATCLIFFE, 11 years, went missing with Kirsty GORDON from the Adelaide Oval.

 

 

Anyone with information is asked to contact BankSA Crime Stoppers on
1 800 333 000 or on-line at www.sa.crimestoppers.com.au

 

 

*Please join Joanne's Facebook page, click here

 

Joanne RATCLIFFE

Circumstances of Disappearance


On the 25th of August, 1973, a South Australian National Football League game was in progress at Adelaide Oval. Joanne Ratcliffe was at the match with her parents. Kirste Gordon was there with her grandmother. The two families had season tickets to the football and always sat next to one another every week. When Joanne went to the toilet, Kirste Gordon's grandmother asked her to take Kirste. They returned after a few minutes. A little over half an hour later, Kirste again wanted to go to the toilet. Again, Joanne took her, but this time they did not return.
Fifteen minutes later, after a discussion between the families they all went looking for the girls, with most areas of the football stadium being searched and Kirste's grandmother staying at the seats in case the girls found their way back. The girls were not at the toilet. Mr and Mrs Ratcliffe, and Kirste's grandmother, spent the rest of the football match searching for the girls. The Assistant Curator of the oval, Ken Wohling, saw the girls leaving the Oval with a man. Over the next 90 minutes, four different sightings of the man and the two girls were made. In three of these sightings, Joanne appeared distressed. In one case a man driving past went so far as to stop his car, but then decided that it was none of his business, and drove on. Kirste Gordon and Joanne Ratcliffe were seen with the man about 3 kilometres from the Oval, 90 minutes after they had left it. This was the last sighting. Neither they nor the man were ever seen nor heard from again.

 

This message is from Suzie Ratcliffe, who is Joanne's sister -

"The monster behind our pain robbed us not only of a dearly loved daughter but a sister, friend and confidante. My sister was kidnapped 14 months before I was born so I never got to know her, but through all that I have learnt from family I know I would have loved her dearly. Not only did this monster destroy our lives by taking Joanne, but in the long run I  feel it ultimately killed my father too. You see he passed away in 1981 due to cancer, and we (and the doctors) believe it was thru stress. If only someone would come forward just so we could lay her soul to rest and feel
it would lay my fathers soul to rest as well. I am sure wherever he is, he lays tormented with the loss of my sister.

 Reading your website helps me get through the hurt and pain especially as the anniversary of her disappearance and birthday bring so many thoughts of her. My heart truly goes out to all the families living through this torment, and hope that theirs does not last as long as ours.

Regards, Suzie Ratcliffe"

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"Joanne Ratcliffe aged 11 years old - 25th of August 1973, the day that ripped apart the hearts of my family..... 36 years may have passed but not a day goes by that you are not remembered and loved by those you left behind. If I could turn back the clock Jo I would take your place, to have you back in the arms of family where you belong. Instead of the cold heartless place you were taken to. I will never rest and never give up hope of finding you and bringing you home. You belong with us... we miss you so much sissy. They say the pain starts to fade in time, but they didn't tell us how long that time will take. RIP sweetheart, forever in my heart you will never be forgotten. Your loving sister Suzie xxxxxxx" - 2009

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"Another year passes and yet we are still no closer to finding my beloved sister Joanne. 38 years have now passed and we still miss Jo like it was yesterday. I will never give up hope, I will never up the fight, to bring her home where she belongs. My heart breaks just a little more each year. Please if someone out there knows something, anything that may lead us to where she is buried, please come forward so se can finally lay her at peace. My ultimate wish is to bring her home. "

 - Suzie, 2011
 

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In 1998, a joint inquiry was started to look into any possible connections between the 1966 abductions of Jane, Arnna and Grant Beaumont, the disappearance of Joanne Ratcliffe and Kirste Gordon.
Arthur Brown was arrested in 1998 for the murders of 2 young girls. Brown closely resembles the suspect sketch in the disappearance of Joanne Ratcliffe and Kirste Gordon. He also resembles the suspect sketch in the the abductions of Jane, Arnna and Grant Beaumont.

**Sketch on this page is the image of the man seen with the girls as they left the oval

 

I Saw Kidnap


Adelaide Advertiser 13-12-1998
Peter Haran


A FORMER SA woman has claimed to have witnessed a double abduction at Adelaide Oval 25 years ago.
She contacted an Adelaide radio station and said she watched for "60 seconds" as a young girl fought and punched a man carrying a, little girl near the oval on Saturday, August 25,1973. It was on that day Joanne Ratcliffe, 11, and Kirste Gordon, 4, were abducted by a mystery man from the rear of the oval during the North Adelaide-Norwood clash.
No trace of the abductor or the two girls has been found, and the double- disappearance remains one of Australia's most baffling mysteries.
Sue Laurie, 40, told radio 5AA she was 14 at time of the abduction.
She said she "put things together" three or four years later and made a statement to police. No further action was taken.
Last week a friend in Adelaide contacted Ms Laurie at her Victorian home and told her about the photos recently published of Arthur Brown. arrested in Townsville.
Ms Laurie later spoke to the Sunday Mail and said: "We walked out from the zoo and were about midway between Popeye and tne University Bridge. I looked across the river and saw a very young girl being carried by a man who I thought was her grandfather. He had a hat and a checked jacket on.
"She was crying and the older girl, I think she was a few years younger than me, was running after him.
"She was thumping him and punching into him and crying out at him. I saw all that for about 60 seconds.
"The thing seemed wrong because I would have thought if he was a relative he would have shooed her...
"It was after I married, I was about 18 or 20, 1 kept on and on at my husband about my memories - and I read another article on the abduction. My husband said 'go and do something about it'. I went to the chief investigator in about 1979-80 and made a full statement.
"I was sure of many things, including the time, because the siren went for the beginning or end of the third- quarter. Dad remarked on the game, but I don't think he saw what I was watching on the other side of the river. I believe on the day of the abduction the police were looking in an opposite direction to where we were walking.
"The only other thing I need to say is the parents of Joanne should take heart that little girl did everything she could to protect her little friend."
Sue Laurie's description of the mystery man tallied with two other descriptions made at Adelaide Oval on the day the girls were abducted.
Queensland police and SA detectives have still to determine the movements of Brown 25 years ago.
Senior police stress Mr Brown is not a suspect. The photo similarities are not evidence.
On Friday, Brown, a retired school maintenance man, was freed on bail.
He has been charged with murdering the MacKay sisters, who were on their way to school. They had been raped, stabbed and suffocated. Their dresses were folded beside their school bags, shoes and socks.
He also was granted ball on 45 charges involving alleged offences against six girls aged three to 10 between 1970 and 1977, including rape, sodomy, deprivation of liberty and administering drugs.

 

 

Suspected mass child killer dies

By Andrew Rule - The Age
July 22 2002
 

Now no one will ever know if an old man called Arthur Stanley Brown was Australia's worst serial child killer. The retired Townsville carpenter, charged in 1998 with a notorious double murder - and suspected of others - has died, aged 90.

His death ends any chance of proving he was guilty, as police firmly believe he was, of the rape-murder of Mackay sisters Judith, 7, and Susan, 5, in Townsville in 1970.

But it also leaves unanswered questions hanging over other families robbed of their children.

Did Brown, subject of a Sunday Age investigation in July last year, abduct and kill other children over several decades - and not just in Queensland, where several cases remain unsolved?

Is it just a coincidence that he matched the descriptions of a thin-faced, middle-aged man who abducted Kirste Gordon and Joanne Ratcliffe from an Adelaide football game in August, 1973? Was he the same thin-faced man seen with the Beaumont children before they vanished from an Adelaide beach in 1966?

Brown not only took his secrets to the grave - he ensured his own death was kept quiet. He left instructions that no funeral notices be placed.

Only one of his second wife's daughters knows any details of his funeral, but when The Age reached her yesterday she wasn't talking. All that is known is that after his wife, Charlotte, died last April, he was put in a home at Malanda, north of Townsville. He died alone on July 6.

Brown has no known living blood relatives. His only kin are the children and grandchildren of two widowed sisters he married - the second one soon after the suspicious sudden death of the first.

Brown's name hit the headlines in 1998, after a woman broke a 30-year silence to tell police he had molested five children related to his first wife - often at the same spot where the Mackay sisters' bodies were found in 1970.

He had also owned a car in 1970 with one odd-coloured door, matching a description of one driven by the man who had abducted the Mackay girls. Relatives believe he replaced the door and buried it days after the murders.

Brown's first wife, Hester, crippled by arthritis, became a virtual prisoner in their neat fibro and timber house in Rosslea, an old suburb of Townsville. She died suddenly in May, 1978, from injuries Brown claimed she suffered in a fall.

Police believe the family doctor wrote out a death certificate without examining the body, which Brown had cremated immediately. Already close to Hester's younger sister Charlotte, a mother of five, he married her soon after.

Brown, a fit, wiry man, was unusually strong and obsessively neat, wearing pressed clothes to work as a maintenance carpenter on state government buildings. The Mackay sisters' clothes were found neatly folded near their bodies.

The evidence against Brown was strong but circumstantial. He twice blurted cryptic confessions to the Mackay girls' murders, once to a workmate and once to a stranger in a pub.

A Queensland jury could not reach a verdict in 1999, and a new trial was blocked on the ground that he was too senile to be tried again.

If Brown was a monster, what made him so? A stepson, Robert Neilsen, says Brown talked incessantly - but rarely mentioned children. "Except once, when the subject of little kids came up and he started to cry and said we had to look after the little children."

But Neilsen has no sympathy for the man his mother stuck with to the end of her life. "I can't believe such an insignificant little arsehole had such a profound effect on so many people's lives."

The Oval Abduction

From - http://www.beaumontchildren.com/beaumontTheOvalAbduction.html

On Saturday 25 August 1973, a South Australian National Football League game was in progress at Adelaide Oval. North Adelaide was playing Norwood. Joanne Ratcliffe, aged 11, was at the match with her parents. Kirste Gordon, aged 4, was there with her grandmother.

The Ratcliffes were regular visitors to the Adelaide Oval. So too was Kirste Gordon's grandmother, who knew the Ratcliffes, but Kirste never been there before. She was being looked after by her grandmother while her parents had a weekend away. The Ratcliffes, Kirste and her grandmother were all sitting in the Sir Edwin Smith stand.

Joanne was the motherly type and when Kirste needed to go to the toilet, Joanne offered to take her. The toilets were about 300 metres away on the other side of the ground. They went and came back without any problems. Later in the match, the two girls went out of the stand to get some straws for their drinks.

Kirste needed to go to the toilet again during the third quarter, at about 3:45pm. This time they did not return and at 4:06pm Mrs Ratcliffe left the stand and went to the secretary's office, to report them missing. She asked if an announcement could be made.

The request was refused. The explanation given later was that nothing would have been heard over the crowd noise. This may have been true, however Mrs Ratcliffe was given the distinct impression that the staff in the office did not want the match interrupted. Mrs Ratcliffe was advised to return to her seat and report the matter to the police if the girls didn't turn up.

The Ratcliffes and Kirste Gordon's grandmother spent the remainder of the match searching for the missing girls. Mr Ratcliffe searched the back of the stands, the carpark, the bowling area and the tennis courts. His wife searched the female toilets. Mr Ratcliffe was convinced that his daughter would not have left the oval "on her own steam." 81

At match end Mr Ratcliffe spoke with Mr Blundell, secretary of the South Australia cricket association, and told him that the children were missing. Mr Blundell had an announcement made immediately.

The girls were reported missing at police headquarters at 5:12pm. Police began an immediate search of the area.

Several eyewitnesses were located. Anthony Kilmartin was a thirteen-year-old who'd been selling lollies in the Sir Edwin Smith stand. He'd had to move over for two girls who came walking down the stairs. He'd also seen a man, who'd been watching the girls, go "running or trotting" 81 after them towards the gate.

In the statement he gave to police, Kilmartin said the man had caught up with the girls, had lifted the little one up, and had carried her to the gate. The bigger girl looked frightened and had grabbed at the man.

"He told her to 'take off' or something, and I thought he must have been a friend and they had just had an argument," Kilmartin said 81. He assumed the man was the girls' father.

The man had grabbed the bigger girl and gone towards the corner of the tennis courts near a pine tree. After that he hadn't seen anything more.

The assistant curator of the oval, Ken Wohling, saw two girls trying to lure some kittens out from under a car. There were plenty of cats at the oval and children were always trying to play with them. However, Wohling then heard a man's voice say "I'll try and get him out for you." 83. Joanne's father later commented that his daughter was a "terror for cats and dogs" 82

Wohling saw a man walk towards the southern gate, the two girls following a few metres behind. They then rounded the corner and were gone. Wohling only saw the back of the man but noticed he was slightly stooped.

"Not long afterward the father came looking in the shed," Wohling said later. "I assumed he was looking for the two girls. I said to him, 'they're not here!'" 82 Unfortunately neither man realised the significance of the conversation until much too late.

Over the next 90 minutes there were four different sightings believed to be of the man and the two girls. In three of these sightings the older girl appeared distressed. In one case a man driving past went so far as to stop his car, but then decided that it was none of his business and drove on.

The girls were last seen with the man about three kilometres from the Oval, 90 minutes after they'd left. Neither they nor the man have been seen since.

It needs little imagination to suggest that the Beaumont disappearance and the Oval abduction were the work of the same man. The artist pictures of the men are very similar. The modi operandi, or what was known of them, were similar. And in both cases the suspect and the children vanished, as though into thin air. Months of intense investigation produced no identity for the suspect and nothing to go on.

References:

The Age (Melbourne), 10, 13 July 1979; HALL, Timothy, Wanted; WHITICKER, Alan J., Searching for the Beaumont children

Did Arthur Brown Kill All These Girls

Sun Herald

Sunday July 8, 2001

By ANDREW RULE - Sun Herald

THE disappearance of Judith Mackay, 7, and her sister Susan, 5, shocked the city of Townsville.

When their bodies were found in a creek bed on August 27, 1970 the day after they vanished on their way to school it was discovered they had been raped and stabbed in the chest.

Susan had been strangled. Judith choked from having her face rammed into the sand. It looked as if she had fled while her little sister was being killed, and was then run down.

Beside the bodies, their school uniforms were folded inside out and placed with an awful neatness. Their shoes, socks, hats and school bags were nearby.

A senior sergeant cried when he saw it.

Another policeman said he wouldn't go home until they caught the killer. He didn't, until he died of a heart attack two weeks later.

At 8.15am on the day the girls disappeared, road worker Bill Hankin noticed a man in a car with two girls in school uniforms; while everyone else was driving children towards the school ``like ants to a nest", this man was taking children away from it.

Hankin noted automatically that the driver was thin-featured, swarthy, not tall, and drove badly. He looked middle-aged, with a tanned complexion and dark wavy hair, cut short.

Neil Lunney, running late for work at the army barracks, was incensed when a car in front of him sped up and veered to block him when he tried to overtake.

Mr Lunney said: ``I did my cool. I was going to bumper roll him but, when I got up level with him, I saw the kids in the car." The older girl, on the passenger side, had shoulder-length hair, as Judith Mackay did.

The younger one, sitting in the middle, had shorter hair, like Susan Mackay. Both wore green Aitkenvale school uniforms.

Mr Lunney, a Vietnam veteran who had been taught recognition in the army, said the driver had high cheekbones, short hair, and ``Mickey Mouse" ears stuck out from a narrow skull.

Jean Thwaite was cleaning a car in the Shell service station she and her husband ran at Ayr, more than an hour's drive south-west of Townsville, when a car pulled up.

The car's petrol inlet was on the left side, and she had to open a flap to get at the screw-on cap, similar to her own 1965 EH Holden. This ruled out the car being a 1950s Holden but, unknown to her, was a design feature shared with the Vauxhall Victor, uncommon in country Queensland.

In the back seat, a small girl who looked as if she had been crying, asked: ``Are we there yet?" In the front seat was an older girl, who said to the driver: ``When are you taking us to mummy? You promised to take us to mummy."

Both wore green school uniforms.

Despite matching descriptions of the driver apart from his age there was no sketch or photofit picture of him published. Instead, the newspapers and television ran pictures of FJ Holdens, believed to be the model the man drove.

It put the investigation so far off course it never recovered.

In September 1970 trainee psychiatric nurse John White, 19, met a man called Arty Brown, a carpenter, in the bar of the White Horse Tavern in Charters Towers.

White guessed the man was perhaps in his 50s, but wiry and fit. He put his height at about 172cm and his weight at no more than 70kg.

He asked Mr White if he'd been following the murder of the Mackay sisters a few days before. Mr White nodded, and the man stated that the police, were ``looking for the wrong sort of car". Before Mr White could ask how he knew that, the man kept talking quickly. ``You know," he said, ``I killed those two girls."

Mr White alerted police who interviewed Mr Brown but found nothing suspicious.

In late March 1972, a cane farmer's teenage daughter, Marilyn Joy Wallman, vanished at Eimeo on the Queensland coast near Mackay.

The Wallman mystery was as brazen as Judith and Susan Mackay's abduction 20 months earlier, but with no clues. No cars. No suspects. No leads. Not even a body.

Then on August 26, 1973, the third anniversary of their girls' murder, Bill and Thelma Mackay, who had moved to Toowoomba, woke to the news two girls had been abducted from a football game in Adelaide. In a public place, in daylight, like the three Beaumont children seven years earlier in Adelaide, and their own girls and Marilyn Wallman.

Joanne Ratcliffe, 11, had taken Kirste Gordon, 4, to the women's lavatory, about 300m from the Adelaide Oval stand where her parents were sitting with Kirste's grandmother.

A teenager selling lollies, Anthony Kilmartin, saw a man lift the younger girl under his right arm and start walking fast. The older girl, whom he later identified from photographs as Joanne Ratcliffe, had looked frightened and tried to stop the man.

The older girl had kicked the man in the knee.

Sue Lawrie, her father and little sister heard the football siren as they left the zoo, about a kilometre from the oval on the other side of the Torrens River. Minutes later Sue, then 14, saw a middle-aged man hurrying towards them, carrying a small girl.

Behind him was a girl about 11, running to keep up, punching him in the back and yelling: ``We want to go back."

Merle Martin Moss was sitting alone in a flat in suburban Perth in October 1998, looking through her family ``birthday book" when a wave of revulsion hardened her resolve to unlock a terrible secret.

On the page under May was the name of an old man who, she knew, had molested at least five female relatives among her extended family.

After ringing police in Queensland, she poured out her story about an old man in Townsville called Arthur Brown. Ms Moss's younger sister Christine Millier and two cousins by marriage filled the gaps for police investigators in a horror story played out among three generations of apparently respectable folk.

In 1982 a tearful teenager told her parents Mr Brown had molested her as a small girl.

Arthur Stanley Brown was born at Merinda, near Bowen, on May 20, 1912. After spending several years in Melbourne he returned to Queensland and attached himself to the Anderson family.

Mr Brown was to marry two of the six Anderson sisters and was close to two others. He was first married in June 1944 to Hester, then freshly divorced, with three small children.

They lived an outwardly normal life for 34 years, but Hester's oldest sister Milly, now dead, told relations that Hester feared him, and had once confided to her: ``He doesn't just like big girls - he likes little girls too."

Hester, a virtual prisoner in the house Mr Brown had built in Rosslea, an old suburb of Townsville, died on May 15, 1978.

Mr Brown told the family doctor by telephone she had fallen while trying to get on the commode next to her bed, hitting her head and killing herself.

The doctor apparently wrote a death certificate at home without viewing the body, which Mr Brown took to an undertaker.

Hester Brown was cremated, which meant the injuries to her skull could never be examined. Hester's younger sister Charlotte moved in with Mr Brown and married him the following year.

The day the Mackay sisters were murdered, Christine Miller, 20, was staying at Mr Brown's.

The only unusual thing she remembers is that the radio, normally on, was switched off that night and next morning. She didn't hear news of the abduction until she reached Cairns the following evening.

Detectives came for Arthur Brown after breakfast on December 3, 1998.

When the officer in charge read the warrants, detailing allegations of murder and sexual abuse, the old man did not seem shocked. ``Didn't raise an eyebrow," one detective recalled.

When Mr White heard a man had been charged for the Mackay sisters' murder he told his partner: ``I bet his name is Arty Brown."

Sue Lawrie was living in Melbourne when she saw footage of an old man in Townsville on the television news.

The next day, talking to a friend in Adelaide, she screamed into the phone: ``My God! It's him." The man she'd seen on television was the same one she'd seen on the banks of the Torrens 25 years earlier.

Driving past Townsville police station in 1975 in Mr Brown's Vauxhall, John Hill, then a 16-year-old apprentice, had remarked that the police hadn't solved the Mackay sisters' murder.

Mr Brown replied: ``I know all about that. I did it."

MENTALLY UNFIT TO STAND TRIAL

Two charges of murder against Arthur Stanley Brown, 89, of Townsville, have been dropped. Queensland's Director of Public Prosecutions Leanne Clare said on Tuesday the charges would be discontinued because Mr Brown was mentally unfit to stand trial.

Mr Brown faced trial in October 1999 charged with the 1970 murders of Judith Mackay, 7, and her sister Susan, 5, but the jury was unable to agree on a verdict.

He was to be re-tried in July last year, but that decision sparked a year-long legal battle over his mental state which stretched to the Court of Appeal.

The Mental Health Tribunal found Mr Brown was unfit for trial a decision overturned on appeal by the Attorney-General over the tribunal's jurisdiction.

A psychiatrist hired by the DPP found Mr Brown had degenerative Alzheimer's disease and was unfit for trial.

LINKED IN DEATH

Susan Mackay

The five-year-old was abducted with her sister, Judith, and raped and murdered near Townsville on August 26, 1970.

Judith Mackay

The seven-year-old was raped and murdered with her sister, Susan. It appeared she fled while her sister was being killed, but was then run down.

Marilyn Joy Wallman

Marilyn, aged 14, vanished at Eimeo on the Queensland coast near Mackay on March 21, 1972.

Joanne Ratcliffe

The 11-year-old vanished at a football game at the Adelaide Oval, believed abducted, on August 26, 1973.

Kirste Gordon

The four-year-old was believed to have been abducted from the same football game as Joanne Ratcliffe.

Hester Brown

The wife of Arthur Brown, she died after hitting her head in a fall in her bedroom on May 15, 1978. Her body was cremated without a medical examination.

 

 

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