Above - Linda (right) with sister Karen and brother Gary                                        *Photos kindly supplied by the Stilwell family.



Above - Linda's mother Jean waits for news


Age - 7 years - born 22nd August 1960

Last seen - 10th August 1968, St Kilda Pier

Circumstances - Linda disappeared from the St Kilda foreshore on the 10-8-1968 (a Saturday), about 5pm, a week before her 8th birthday. She was playing with her siblings and some other children near the St Kilda pier or Luna Park or Little Luna Park when she disappeared. Linda has never been found.

Linda's sister Karen has this beautiful webpage in tribute to Linda -





Beaumonts: killer quizzed
By John Silvester
February 3, 2005

Detectives yesterday interviewed Victoria's longest-serving prisoner - killer Derek Ernest Percy - over his suspected involvement in the murders of up to eight children, including Adelaide's Beaumont children.

Percy has been in jail since 1969, when he was arrested for killing 12-year-old Yvonne Elizabeth Tuohy, whom he abducted from a Western Port beach in July of that year, but was found unfit to plead on the grounds on insanity.

But yesterday, police from Victoria, NSW, South Australia and the Australian Federal Police interviewed Percy over the murders of Christine Sharrock and Marianne Schmidt on Sydney's Wanda Beach in January 1965; the disappearance of the three Beaumont children, Jane, Arnna and Grant, in Adelaide in 1966; Alan Redston, a six-year-old murdered in Canberra in September 1966; Simon Brook, a young boy killed in Sydney in 1968; and Linda Stilwell, 7, abducted from St Kilda in August 1968.

Yesterday's move came after police were granted a magistrate's order to interview Percy, who was moved from Ararat prison and taken to the homicide offices in St Kilda Road.

He was interviewed for several hours before being driven back to the city watchhouse.

It is believed Percy was non-committal in some of his answers over the unsolved murders. When interviewed by police, parole officers, psychiatrists and prison officers over the decades, he has always remained evasive.

But diaries and notes seized from his cells have shown detailed plans to abduct, abuse and kill children. The Age revealed in 1998 that Percy was still considered a suspect in the eight unsolved murders.

Police have been able to establish that Percy was near the scene where the children were abducted, either while on holidays or while stationed at military bases while serving as a naval rating.

One of the original homicide detectives, Dick Knight, who became a respected assistant commissioner, believed that Percy had killed before he attacked Yvonne Tuohy. He argued that no one could have committed the Western Port murder "cold" and that it was likely he was responsible for earlier crimes.

When he was questioned about the Sydney murders after he was first arrested, Percy told police: "I could have done it but I can't remember."

On September 30, 1998, Supreme Court judge Geoffrey Eames refused to set a minimum sentence for Percy. "He has demonstrated no significant remorse or anxiety, at least none which I find credible, as to the circumstances which caused him to kill," the judge said.

In similar circumstances to those of the Beaumonts, Linda Stilwell was taken from St Kilda and her body was never found.

Percy abducted and killed Yvonne Tuohy while on weekend leave from the Cerberus navy base. She was playing on the beach with a young friend, Shane Spiller, who told The Age 30 years later: "They always thought he'd killed others but they weren't able to prove it."

One prison officer told The Age: "He was the chess champion, a stamp collector and one of the best tennis players in the division. He's highly intelligent but you could never get a handle on his real feelings," he said. "He's our Hannibal Lecter."

Percy, 55, is a smoker who still keeps himself fit. One police source said: "He's intelligent, cunning and pure evil. There is no way he is mad."

In 1984, Pentridge Prison co-ordinator of forensic psychiatry services, Dr Stephens, wrote: "Percy is sexually grossly disturbed and should never be released from prison." Dr Stephens described Percy as "a highly dangerous, sadistic pedophile who should never be released from safe custody".

"He is not certifiable, neither is he psychiatrically treatable and he is totally unsuited to a mental institution.

"If Percy is ever so transferred, he will, in all probability, earn some degree of freedom as the result of reasonable and conforming behaviour. The consequences of such freedom could well prove tragic."

Our worst child killer

John Silvester - The Age
April 22, 2007



EVIDENCE lost for more than 30 years has implicated Victoria's longest-serving prisoner, Derek Ernest Percy, in a series of unsolved child murders and disappearances around Australia.

The evidence, rediscovered during a cold-case unit investigation into the 1968 disappearance of Linda Stilwell, 7, from the St Kilda foreshore, has convinced detectives that Percy is a serial killer who could have abducted the Beaumont children in Adelaide.

Percy, now 58, murdered Yvonne Tuohy, 12, after he abducted her from the beach at Warneet on July 20, 1969.

He is now a suspect in the murders of Christine Sharrock and Marianne Schmidt on Sydney's Wanda Beach in January 1965; the disappearance of the three Beaumont children, Jane, 9, Arnna, 7, and Grant, 4, in Adelaide in 1966; the murder of Allen Redston, a six-year-old grabbed in Canberra in September 1966; Simon Brook, 3, killed in Sydney in 1968; and Linda Stilwell.

The breakthrough came when detectives re-examining the Tuohy file found a hand-written note that included the registered identification number of a policeman.

Detectives found the retired policeman was a school friend of Percy's and had visited him in a police cell in 1969 at the request of the homicide squad.

When interviewed by the cold-case unit, he said Percy had implicated himself in the abductions of Linda Stilwell and the Beaumonts and the murder of Simon Brook.

The policeman said Percy told him he was in the areas where the crimes were committed but couldn't remember if he killed the victims.

Psychiatric reports show that Percy has the capacity to repress memories of his crimes.

Despite the admissions by Percy, the former school friend was not asked to make an official statement at the time because it had no bearing on the Tuohy case.

But as part of the cold-case unit's review, an investigation involving four police forces, called Operation Heats, has found further evidence linking Percy to the cases. It includes:

■A remarkable similarity between Percy and identikit portraits issued at the time.

■Identical references in writings seized from Percy in 1969 and the unsolved murders.

■Police confirming Percy was in the areas in which several of the murders were committed at the time of the offences.

■An article of clothing that may link him to one of the cases and a connection to a murder weapon in another.

■Percy having maps where some of the murders and disappearances occurred.

Court accepts girl missing 40 years was murdered

John Silvester - The Age
August 20, 2007


A MELBOURNE court has officially acknowledged that a girl who disappeared from St Kilda foreshore nearly 40 years ago was abducted and murdered.

Linda Stilwell, 7, has not been seen since she disappeared while playing on the foreshore on August 10, 1968. The prime suspect is Derek Ernest Percy, who police say may have abducted and killed up to nine children in the 1960s.

Magistrate Susan Wakeling this month granted the Stilwell family an application for crimes compensation — accepting the missing girl was the victim of foul play.

Ms Wakeling is expected to rule on the size of the compensation package within weeks. The order was made despite crimes compensation not being available at the time of the abduction.

Under the Victim of Crime Assistance Act, the family can receive up to $100,000 compensation.

It is the first time authorities have formally declared the girl was murdered.

Percy was arrested for the murder of Yvonne Elizabeth Tuohy, 12, who was abducted from the beach at Warneet in July 1969.

He was found unfit to plead on the grounds of insanity and is now Victoria's longest-serving prisoner.

While in jail he has continued to receive a navy pension, accruing more than $200,000.

In January 2004, police began to re-examine the Stilwell case. As a result of the probe, police established strong connections between Percy and a series of unsolved child abductions and murders.

A two-year investigation codenamed Heats, which involved detectives from four police forces, has named Percy as a suspect in the murders of Christine Sharrock and Marianne Schmidt on Sydney's Wanda Beach in January 1965; the Beaumont children (Jane, 9, Arnna, 7, and Grant, 4) abducted in Adelaide in 1966; Allen Redston, 6, murdered in Canberra in September 1966; Simon Brook, 3, killed in Sydney in 1968; and Linda Stilwell, 7.

Two days after Percy's arrest for the Tuohy murder, a young policeman who went to school with him talked to the suspect in the city watchhouse.

Asked about Linda Stilwell, Percy said he could not remember if he had killed her but added: "Yes, I drove through St Kilda that day. I had been at Cerberus in the afternoon and was driving along The Esplanade on the way to the White Ensign Club for some drinks."

Asked if he killed her, he said: "Possibly, I don't remember a thing about it."

When Percy was arrested, police found maps marked by hand. One included a line drawn past the spot where Linda Stilwell was last seen.

A woman has come forward to tell police she saw Linda at St Kilda on the day she disappeared near a man wearing a dark spray jacket. When Percy was arrested for the Tuohy murder, he was photographed wearing the same styled jacket.

"I am absolutely sure that the man I saw sitting on the park bench the day Stilwell disappeared is the same man," she told police.

Linda Stilwell's brother, Gary, said the court decision was "a huge relief. It is an acknowledgement of what happened."

"I have been angry for so long because I have always felt we have been let down by the system," he said.

The family's lawyer, Stephen Schembri, said: "They are not motivated by money. It has been extremely important for it to be recognised what happened to Linda."

John Silvester and Julia Medew - The Age
August 30, 2007 - 11:30AM


 A court has transferred Derek Ernest Percy into police custody this morning so detectives can question him about a series of unsolved child murders -  including the unsolved Wanda beach murders more than 40 years ago.

Melbourne magistrate Belinda Wallington said she was satisfied it was in the interests of justice for Percy, 59,  to spend eight hours with the detectives at the homicide squad headquarters in St Kilda Road today.

Percy, who was in court for the brief hearing, sat quietly throughout, occasionally looking around the courtroom.

A detective from Victoria Police's cold case unit told Melbourne Magistrates Court police wanted to question Percy about documents they found at a South Melbourne storage facility.

He said the documents could relate to the abduction, disappearance and murder of Christine Sharrock, Marianne Schmidt, Linda Stillwell and the three Beaumont children, Jane, Arnna and Grant.

Police discovered 35 boxes of files, clippings and handwritten diaries concealed by Percy in a South Melbourne self-storage warehouse that he has rented for 20 years. They also found razor blades similar to one used to mutilate a victim.

The material includes newspaper articles on sex crimes,

pictures of children, a video with a rape theme and handwritten stories on fresh sex offences involving abduction and torture.

Percy managed to collect and transfer the material from jail to his private collection, despite being one of Australia's most violent sex criminals and judged too dangerous for release.

Police now know that Percy, a former naval rating, has maintained storage facilities in Melbourne since the early 1970s.

He was ordered to remain in custody indefinitely when found unfit to plead on the grounds of insanity for the murder of Yvonne Tuohy, 12, who he grabbed from the beach at Warneet, south-east of Melbourne, on July 20, 1969.

He is also a suspect in the murders of Christine Sharrock and Marianne Schmidt on Wanda beach in January 1965; the disappearance of the Beaumont children, Jane, 9, Arnna, 7, and Grant, 4, in Adelaide in January 1966; the murder of Allen Redston, a six-year-old grabbed in Canberra in September 1966; Simon Brook, 3, killed in Glebe in May 1968; and Linda Stilwell, 7, abducted from Melbourne's St Kilda foreshore in August 1968.

The bodies of Christine Sharrock and Marianne Schmidt, two friends aged 15 from West Ryde, were found in the dunes of windswept and deserted Wanda beach the day after they disappeared.

One man, so many faces of evil

John Silvester - The Age
April 22, 2007

THE young sailor slumped on the bed in the watch-house cell was crying with self-pity when an old school friend walked in. It was the first familiar face he had seen since his arrest two days earlier at the Cerberus naval base over the murder of a 12-year-old girl taken from a nearby beach.

But the "friend" was not there out of concern. He was now a young policeman and the homicide squad had sent him to persuade the prisoner to talk about past crimes. The suspect was Derek Ernest Percy — arrested trying to wash away his guilt and a dead girl's blood at the navy base, hours after Yvonne Elizabeth Tuohy had been abducted at Ski Beach, Warneet, and then molested, tortured and murdered.

When Percy grabbed her, he also tried to abduct her friend, Shane Spiller, 12, who escaped by threatening Percy with a tomahawk and running away.

The nature of the crime led detectives, including elite investigator Dick Knight, to conclude this was not Percy's first attack.

It was 1969 and Australia was reeling from a series of child abductions and murders over the previous four years.

Christine Sharrock and Marianne Schmidt were murdered on Sydney's Wanda Beach in January 1965; the Beaumont children (Jane, 9, Arnna, 7, and Grant, 4) were abducted in Adelaide in 1966; Allen Redston, 6, was murdered in Canberra in September 1966; Simon Brook, 3, was killed in Sydney in 1968; and Linda Stilwell, 7, was abducted from St Kilda in August 1968. All cases remain officially unsolved.

For nearly 40 years police have wondered if Percy was responsible for nine murders. Now, after a complex investigation involving old memories and new techniques, they have built a compelling case against Australia's longest-serving prisoner.

But in July 1969, the novice policeman was supposed to listen to his old schoolmate in the hope he would open up. And it almost worked. The policeman left the force 18 years ago to return to country Victoria and a quiet life. But when contacted by cold case unit detectives he immediately knew why.

Unprompted, he recalled his last conversation with Percy.

"He had been sobbing and was very distraught.

"He said, 'Looks like I've f---ed up this time'. I said, 'It certainly looks like it, Derek'.

"Derek put his head in his hands for a while, then he looked up at me again and he had tears in his eyes and panic written all over his face. He also looked at me with a plea for help."

The schoolmate gently asked: "Were there any others, mate?"

"Derek put his head in his hands and began to sob again. He said, 'I cannot remember'."

It was the same response he'd given two days earlier to homicide detectives over the Tuohy murder, until confronted with incontrovertible evidence.

The schoolmate, a policeman for barely six months, pushed on. "Well look, Derek, I'll ask you about some of the ones that I know about. You don't have to say anything. If you remember I will jot it down and it could be used in court."

Asked about Linda Stilwell, Percy again said his memory was blank but then made the first of several telling admissions: "Yes, I drove through St Kilda that day. I had been at Cerberus in the afternoon and was driving along the esplanade on the way to the White Ensign Club for some drinks."

Asked if he killed her, he said: "Possibly, I don't remember a thing about it."

Questioned on Simon Brook, he admitted being in Sydney at the time and said he had driven his brother to work, turning off at the railway cutting where the body was found.

The policeman, who cannot be named because of a suppression order, pressed him: "So you drove past the same spot in Sydney on the day Simon Brook was killed." Percy said, "Yes".

Question: "Do you remember if you killed him?"

Answer: "I wish I could. I might have. I just don't remember."

Question: "What do you know about the Beaumont children in South Australia."

Answer: "I was in Adelaide at the time."

Question: "You were what? You remember being in Adelaide when they went missing?"

Answer: "Yes."

Question: "Whereabouts were you when they disappeared?"

Answer: "Near the beach. But nothing else."

Percy was placing himself at each crime scene. Perhaps with more time and pressure he would confess, as he had done over the Tuohy murder.

But at that moment, the watch-house keeper told the junior constable he had no business being in the cell. The young copper said he was on homicide squad business, but when he turned back to Percy the spell was broken. The killer knew his former schoolmate was no longer a friend, but trying to find the secrets of his dark past.

In April 1970, Percy was found not guilty of Yvonne Tuohy's murder on grounds of insanity. He has never been charged with any other crime. But prison officers, psychiatrists, judges, police and welfare officers consider him the most dangerous man in Australia.

The policeman, now long retired, has never been in doubt. When he left the cell that day, another former schoolmate, called to Russell Street to make a statement, saw him. He was upset and shaking. "That f---ing bastard, I hope they hang him," he said.

FOR the cold case unit, going over Linda Stilwell's disappearance from St Kilda 36 years earlier was meant to be a case of tidying up loose ends to provide the coroner with a summary of facts. With no real chance of finding a body, the unit did not want to waste time needed for other cases. But when Senior Detective Wayne Newman started to delve in January 2004, he began to discover evidence that pointed to Percy.

For Newman, the "quick" investigation turned into a two-year quest linking Percy to baffling murders that have long seemed unsolvable. It would involve police from four forces, psychiatrists and forensic experts.

The investigators, many of whom were not born when the murders were committed, co-operated in a unique operation, codenamed Heats. To establish that Percy had killed more than once, detectives retraced the life of the quiet country boy who became a monster.

ERNEST PERCY was a NSW railway electrician for nearly 25 years before taking a job with the State Electricity Commission in Victoria, first moving to Chelsea, then relocating his young family to Warrnambool in 1957.

Ernest Percy's passion was sailing. His eldest son, Derek, just nine when they moved to Warrnambool, shared the hobby.

In 1961, Percy senior was promoted and the family went to Mount Beauty, near Bright. The Percys took caravan holidays, often travelling interstate to yachting competitions in their V8 Studebaker. Much later, police would track these holidays against their murder map from the 1960s, with intriguing results.

In 1961, Derek started at Mount Beauty High School. The school uniform included a green and gold striped tie. Other students noticed that Derek's tie was made of coarse fabric and not a perfect match for the school pattern — although it was close enough.

He became a friend of a local farmer's son who had also just moved to town and was one of few who liked Percy. Others found him intense, abrupt and at times unsettling. But no one thought he was dangerous. Yet.

When police from Operation Heats approached the friend, he told them: "One thing that stood out about Derek was that he was very intelligent. Most or nearly all of us at school had to work and study very hard but not Derek." He also noted that Percy was shy and never had a girlfriend.

Banned by his worried parents from playing football, Percy would sometimes borrow a friend's gear for the occasional game, convincing his mate's mother to wash the clothes so he would not be caught.

If the Percys were over protective, it was understandable. Their third-born, Brett, died from diphtheria when aged only 10 months. They were to have three surviving sons.

Derek earned his pocket-money working in the tobacco fields with friends — buying a second-hand red bike with racing "ram's horn" handlebars.

He carried his sharp knife everywhere, but in country Victoria that did not make him unusual. In the 1960s a pocket-knife was more a tool than a weapon, used to solve a problem rather than create one.

But when Percy used his to help a mate make running repairs to the sole of a shoe during a handball game, he showed a glimpse into his future.

"I remember Derek getting his pocket-knife out and telling me that he would cut (the sole) off … Derek began to cut the sole off my shoe and all of a sudden the blade went into Derek's left thigh about three quarters of an inch (about two centimetres). The blade went deeply into his thigh and I recoiled back in surprise.

"I was amazed that Derek just looked fascinated with what had happened. He didn't scream, cry or really show any sort of emotion that you would expect from someone with a knife in their leg.

"I thought his reaction was extremely odd," the friend said. "He seemed happy about it."

Kiewa Valley's hydro-electric plant was no Snowy Mountains Scheme but it gave tradesmen the chance to raise families in one of Victoria's prettiest spots.

There was little violent crime in the town of fewer than 2000 people, no need to lock houses or cars. But in late 1964, a small crime wave began: women's underwear began to disappear from clothes lines — and Derek Percy was rumoured to be the thief. Until then he had been a model student and a school prefect, but in 1965 his grades plummeted.

Ernie Percy threatened to sack any hydro worker who suggested his son was the phantom "snowdropper", but by late 1964 at least two locals knew that Derek was the culprit and that he was much worse than just a petty thief. He was dangerously disturbed and, they believed, a potential killer.

On a warm Sunday, two teenagers, Kim White and Bill Hutton, walked to a local swimming hole. There they saw what they thought was a girl in a petticoat. Then they realised it was Percy in a pink negligee.

"Well, at least it fits," one joked to his mate. But any humour was lost when Percy began to slash wildly at the clothing, then cut and stabbed at the crotch of a pair of knickers.

Hutton could see Percy's face. "I would describe Derek's eyes as being full of excitement, a glazed look, but I recall there was something very cold and sinister in the look," he told police much later.

The boys told a teacher the next day and were accused of making up stories. They confronted Percy but he denied everything. Most fellow students thought their story was fabricated. After all, Percy was the obedient student and his accusers loved a little mischief.

The following year Ernie Percy took a job with the Snowy Mountain Scheme and moved his family to Khancoban in NSW, but to allow Derek to finish school at Mount Beauty the teenager boarded with another family.

The woman who lived next door remembers how the new boarder would watch her hang out washing. One Saturday she took her daughters, then aged seven and nine, to visit a relative. When they returned they found the girls' wardrobes had been rifled through and their underwear and dresses stolen.

The mother reported the theft to the police, who asked her if she suspected anyone. She suspected Percy but did not want to say so, she admitted years later.

A few weeks later a local found some of the dresses in a bundle hidden under some bushes. With it was a girl's doll, with the eyes "blinded" and newspaper clippings of women in bikinis. The women's eyes were pencilled out and the bodies mutilated with razor blades. The slashes would match some of the wounds inflicted on the children murdered around Australia in the 1960s.

The blinded doll belonged to the girl next door to where Percy was living.

Percy moved from Mount Beauty to join his family in Khancoban after he failed his exams in 1965, a strange result for a student with an IQ of 122.

In his entry in the Mount Beauty school magazine he revealed a little of his concealed thoughts. His favourite saying was: "It depends." Perpetual occupation: "Isolating himself." Ambition: "Playboy." Probable fate: "Bachelor." Pet aversion: "Girls."

When Percy left Mount Beauty the "snowdropping" stopped, only to begin near his new home in Khancoban. There were also reports of a Peeping Tom.

While at Khancoban a neighbour found that Percy had lured her six-year-old daughter into the family caravan to sexually assault her. The girl's father decided to deal directly with Ernie Percy, who promised it wouldn't happen again. And it didn't. At least not there.

While both parents said they thought their eldest son was shy but normal, deep down they had growing fears.

One Mount Beauty local said that while Mrs Percy allowed her middle son freedom, the elder brother was kept on a tighter rein. "Derek had to get permission to go anywhere with us outside of school hours and she would question his intentions."

Ernie Percy would later tell NSW police he had once found Derek dressed in woman's clothing. The parents also found some disturbing sexual writings by their son and immediately burnt them. Later Percy's grandmother found letters filled with "rude" thoughts. Percy denied they were his. Again they were burnt.

Percy began writing down bizarre and violent sexual fantasies in 1965 — around the time his school grades collapsed. He continued the self-incriminating habit for years.

Much later police would allege the writings were plans for the crimes he was to commit and directly linked him to the series of unsolved child murders.

At the end of 1966, having repeated year 11, Percy was ready to leave school. His father also decided to leave the mountains to move into private enterprise. He invested his payout on a Shell service station in Newcastle.

Derek tried year 12 in a NSW school, dropped out, worked at the service station, and in November 1967 joined the navy, graduating top of his class a few months later.

Nearly four decades later, detectives started trying to piece together his movements around Australia over the crucial four-year period in the 1960s.

They knew the Percys often took their caravan to holiday near beaches during yachting regattas. They also could prove Percy was harbouring thoughts of molesting and killing children at the same time as the series of shocking abductions were carried out in four states and territories — and with one exception — all near beaches.

But was it simply a series of coincidences? How could a teenager from country Victoria grab kids hundreds of kilometres away? And how could a young sailor murder and return to his base undetected?

On a windy Monday — January 11, 1965 — teenage neighbours Marianne Schmidt and Mary Sharrock went to Sydney's popular Cronulla Beach area with Marianne's four younger siblings. After a picnic, the younger children stayed in a sheltered area at Wanda Beach and the two 15-year-olds started talking to a fair-haired youth.

Peter Schmidt, 10, saw his sister and her friend with the teenager. His brother Wolfgang, 7, had also seen them talking to the boy earlier. The youth had a knife in a sheath and carried a spear.

The girls' mutilated bodies were found the next day, partially buried near a sand dune.

As in the Tuohy case, the victims were taken from the beach and dumped nearby. The crotch area of one of the girls' bathers had been cut. Percy had been seen slashing female underwear at Mount Beauty in late 1964 — just weeks earlier.

Some people remembered that the Percys had gone to Sydney for a holiday that summer. The mother of one of Percy's closest friends in Mount Beauty told detectives that she had always suspected that Percy might have been "a suspect in that case".

Ernie Percy took holidays to coincide with yacht races around Australia. That summer the national yachting regatta was at Botany Bay Yachting Club — near Wanda Beach. Percy's grandparents lived walking distance from the West Ryde railway station where the two girls caught the train.

After police arrested Percy at Cerberus, they found a diary in which he described his urges to sexually abuse, torture, murder and mutilate children. They also found drawings of naked children and women.

In one excerpt, Percy wrote he would force one of his victims to drink beer. Autopsy results showed that Mary Sharrock had a blood alcohol reading equivalent to drinking about 300 millilitres of beer.

In his murder blueprint he wrote about abducting and killing "Two girls at Barnsley", a NSW beach in northern NSW. Police believe it was code for Wanda Beach.

It was 1966 and Percy had moved to Corryong High when classmate Wayne Gordes decided to tease the new student after he saw the obvious resemblance to the photo-fit. "I jokingly thought to myself 'That's Derek', because of the description and I knew that they went to a beach in Sydney.

"A group of us were standing in the quadrangle when Derek Percy walked past. I said, 'We know it was you that killed those girls in Sydney. You have the same haircut and we know you were there.'

"With that Derek went berserk. He said, 'Don't you say that' … I think he wanted to fight me for what I had said. I had never seen Derek behave like that before."

ON WEDNESDAY, January 26, 1966, the Beaumont children — Jane, 9, Arnna, 7, Grant, 4 — caught the bus from their Somerton Park home to Glenelg Beach, Adelaide. They left about 9.45am; their mother, Nancy, expected them home about midday.

A friend of Jane's saw them sitting near the Holdfast Bay Sailing Club about 11am. A man was seen talking to them and at 11.45am the children bought a pie and two pasties from a bakery in Jetty Road.

The man almost certainly gave them cash for the food as they paid with a £1 note — more money than their mother had given them. They were never seen again.

The suspect was described as in his 30s with light brown, short swept-back hair parted on the left side, a thin face and clean-shaven. He was suntanned and wearing blue bathers with a white stripe down the side.

Could it have been Percy? He was only 17 at the time but was sometimes mistaken for being older. His writings showed he planned to give food to the children he would kidnap before killing them. The Beaumonts were in the age group Percy fantasised about and they went missing from the beach, as did Yvonne Tuohy, Marianne Schmidt, Mary Sharrock, and Linda Stilwell.

Some elements of the description fitted Percy, some didn't. The original sketch of the suspect was done by a non-police artist and is not considered accurate.

Was Percy in Adelaide? He told police he had been there on holiday but couldn't remember when. His brother confirmed they had been there. The mother of one of Percy's friends told police: "I can also recall that Derek travelled to Adelaide on holidays by plane on one occasion."

Asked by detectives in 2005 if he was in Adelaide when the Beaumonts went missing he answered, "I don't know".

They then asked if he was blocking out thoughts "because something horrible happened in Adelaide and you don't want to remember it?" and he said it was possible.

Five days after the Tuohy murder he was interviewed by prison psychiatrist Dr Allen Bartholomew who found Percy had the capacity to repress memories of the crimes he committed. He said that if Percy had been arrested a week after the murder he would no longer have been able to recall what he had done.

Without bodies or a confession, Percy heads a short list of suspects for the Beaumont children. Evidence is too scanty to prove or disprove his involvement but the similarities of the crime with Percy's modus operandi are striking.

Detective Sergeant Brian Swan from Adelaide's major crime investigation branch said Percy remains "a person of interest in the disappearance of the Beaumont children".

And Dr Bartholomew observed after interviewing Percy: "It is not beyond the bounds of possibility that there is some other great harm been done in the past and there is no way of knowing it."

ON SEPTEMBER 27, 1966, Allen Geoffrey Redston, 6, left his home in the Canberra suburb of Curtain to go to the nearby milk bar to buy an ice-cream.

The following day his body was discovered concealed in reeds by a local creek. The body was hog-tied and had plastic wrapped around the throat.

A police investigation found that in the days leading up to the murder, a fair-haired teenager had been forcing boys to the ground, tying them up and placing plastic over their heads in an apparent attempt to asphyxiate them.

The identikit closely resembled Percy and the suspect was riding a distinctive red pushbike with "ram's horn" handlebars — the type Percy rode at Mount Beauty and took with him on caravan holidays.

When Dick Knight questioned Percy in 1969, he confirmed taking a family holiday in Canberra in 1966. Police established he had a Canberra relative but have found no records to pinpoint the exact date of the holiday.

Percy's writings detail using plastic and his plans to tie up and asphyxiate victims. Both Redston and Tuohy were tied and gagged when their bodies were found.

Percy was the product of an otherwise stable family. But there was a secret. When Derek was young and being cared for by his grandmother, she would use a bizarre form of punishment: she would lock him in a room and hog-tie him — feet and hands bound the way little Allen Redston's were.

One item found at the crime scene puzzled the original investigators. Along with other material used to used to bind the child was a tattered green and gold striped tie. It was similar to the Mount Beauty High School ties but was made of a distinctive coarse cloth, like hessian. It matched the school tie Percy no longer needed after transferring to Corryong High earlier that year.

That is one reason why federal police say that Percy cannot be eliminated "as a person of interest in relation to the death".

AFTER three months in the navy, Percy was posted to the aircraft carrier HMAS Melbourne on March 9, 1968. But the ship was in Cockatoo Dry Dock at Sydney Harbour for a year-long refit and the junior sailor was assigned fire sentry duty.

He lived at the naval base at nearby Garden Island and commuted through the suburb of Glebe to the dock. On Saturday, May 18, 1968, Simon Brook, 3, went missing from the front yard of his family home in Alexandra Lane, Glebe. The house was next to Jubilee Park on Sydney Harbour, close to beach and yachts.

A truck driver later said he'd seen a boy matching Simon Brook's description holding a young man's hand near Jubilee Park.

The mystery man was well-groomed with a neat haircut, and an identikit image has a startling similarity to a photograph of Percy in his school year book.

The little boy's body was found behind a building site about 350 metres from the Brooks' home. There were several signature injuries similar to those inflicted on Yvonne Tuohy. When police examined the scene they found two Gillette razor blades probably used in the attack. The same brand was issued to sailors.

But the most damning evidence comes from Percy's own hand. In his diary, he wrote of abducting and killing a three-year-old "baby" and described in detail the exact injuries inflicted on Simon Brook. Detectives say it is a virtual confession.

When Dick Knight interviewed Percy in 1969 he asked him, "Did you kill Simon Brook?", and Percy said "I could have". When Percy talked to the young policeman who was his old schoolmate, he admitted he had been in the Glebe area at the time "turning off at the railway cutting where the body was found".

Only someone with a detailed knowledge of the area would know that Simon Brook lived near a railway cutting, and if Percy turned off at the railway cutting he would have driven straight past the Brooks' street.

Crime profiler Detective Senior Sergeant Debra Bennett concludes "there is all likelihood that the offender for Simon Brook's murder and the offender for Yvonne Tuohy's murder is one and the same".

And NSW Coroner John Abernethy agrees. A new inquest was held in 2005 and after just two days he found the evidence so compelling he closed the hearing and referred the case to the Director of Public Prosecutions. Percy was flown to the inquest but chose not to give evidence on the grounds of self-incrimination.

Abernethy said he believed there was a "reasonable prospect … that a jury would convict a known person in relation to the offence". Charges might still be laid.

LINDA STILWELL was four when her family arrived in Melbourne from England on the migrant ship the MV Fairsky in April 1965. Linda was the second youngest of four children. For her mother Jean and father Brian the new start could not save their marriage. In July 1968, Brian left for New Zealand with their youngest child, Laura. Jean stayed in Melbourne with the other three, took a job at an Albert Park hotel and moved into a flat in nearby Middle Park.

On Saturday, August 10, 1968, she told her children to stay home while she went grocery shopping. But the lure of the beach was too much for the two eldest, who wanted to explore the new neighbourhood.

When Mrs Stilwell arrived home about midday, Karen, 11, and Gary, 9, had left. She dressed Linda, 7, and told her to go and find her brother and sister to bring them home for lunch. Three hours later Karen returned to say Gary and Linda were fishing on the St Kilda Pier.

About 4pm Gary returned, saying Linda had gone to Little Luna Park to "look at the rifles" with some boys. His mother sent the boy back to find his sister but he came back saying he thought she might have gone to the police station to collect some fishing rods.

Stilwell rang the police and was told that two boys had been in to get the rods but there was no sign of a little girl. Three small boys told police they had last seen Linda at Little Luna Park.

Two days later a woman contacted police and said she had seen a girl matching Linda's description rolling down a grassy hill near the Lower Esplanade. She said she saw a man near her. She described him as having an olive complexion, thin features and wearing dark clothing.

She said the man was wearing "a deep navy blue, almost black, spray jacket, similar to that worn when sailing. The man was sitting with his legs crossed looking out to sea quite intently, but appeared relaxed."

About 80 suspects were questioned but no leads came up. Linda was never seen again.

Percy had transferred to the troop ship HMAS Sydney (based in Melbourne) on July 1, 1968, but was on leave for 18 days from August 5, five days before the abduction.

After Percy was arrested for the Tuohy murder the following year, the woman witness opened the paper to see the picture of the suspect. He was wearing a dark spray jacket. "I got the biggest shock of my life. This was the same man that was sitting on the park bench the day that the little Stilwell girl disappeared in St Kilda," she said.

About two years ago, when Percy's arrest photo was again published, identifying him as a suspect in a series of unsolved murders, the witness came forward again. "I am absolutely sure that the man I saw sitting on the park bench the day Stilwell disappeared is the same man," she said.

When Percy was asked by his policeman friend about Linda's disappearance, he said that he had driven through St Kilda that day. Asked if he was the killer, he said: "Possibly, I don't remember a thing about it."

In his belongings police found maps he had marked. One was in West Ryde near where the Wanda Beach victims caught the train, one was marked through Glebe where Simon Brook was killed, and another was marked with a line past the spot where Linda Stilwell was last seen.

Victoria's State Coroner Graeme Johnstone is expected to hold an inquest into her disappearance. Whenever Linda Stilwell's mother, Jean Priest, moved house, she would go to the homicide squad to pass on her new address in the hope that one day she would get the call that there had been a breakthrough. But over the years she found the new generation of detectives no longer even recognised her daughter's name.

Operation Heats has given her new hope. "It has helped me to know that people like (Senior Detective) Wayne Newman have cared so much and done so much work," she said last week. "You learn to live with what has happened but you can never forget."

All she wants now is for the evidence against Percy to be produced at inquest. "Then I will be able to put a name to the face … I just hope he would finally admit what he has done."

Derek Percy was surprisingly chatty when Operations Heats investigators questioned him in early 2005. Balding with a long grey beard, he has retained his striking cold blue-eyed stare. He chatted happily while drinking tea with three sugars and nibbling on a cheese and tomato sandwich.

He is serving an indefinite sentence under the insanity verdict, but he has previously applied for a minimum term — an appeal that has failed because he is considered a danger to the community.

He still hopes to be released, and a confession that he had killed many times would destroy that dream. Having received a navy pension since his arrest, he is one of the richest inmates in prison, with nearly $200,000 in the bank.

Detectives were to ask him 1535 questions. He could recall details of his childhood but when asked about the murders he grew quiet.

NSW Detective Sergeant Adam Barwick said that when Percy was asked about the Brook murder he was "visibly different, in that his lip quivered, and his answer was 'I can't remember'. I formed the opinion that Percy was lying when answering these questions."

Police believe that Percy's claim that he cannot remember is self-protection rather than self-deception. They think he is bad — not mad.

Ironically, detectives say, the charade that he was insane at the time of the crimes is in the public interest. If he had stood trial and been convicted in 1970 for the murder of Yvonne Tuohy he would have been released years ago … and would inevitably have struck again.


  • 1948, SEPTEMBER 15 Born in Strathfield, NSW
  • 1954 Attends primary school, Missions Point, NSW
  • 1956 Family moves to Chelsea
  • 1958 Moves to Warrnambool
  • 1961 Moves to Mt Beauty
  • 1964 Seen slashing women's clothing. A suspect for "snow dropping".
  • 1965, JANUARY 11 Wanda Beach murders. Mt Beauty locals see resemblance between Percy and identikit of suspect.
  • 1965 Starts keeping graphic diary. School grades plummet. Fails year 11.
  • 1966 Moves to Khancoban. Molests young girl.
  • 1966, JANUARY 26 Beaumont children go missing. Mt Beauty residents recall Percy holidaying in Adelaide. Percy later says he was in Adelaide on the beach on the day.
  • 1966, SEPTEMBER 28 Allen Geoffrey Redston, 6, is abducted and murdered in Canberra. Percy later tells police he has holidayed in the capital but can’t recall details. In the days leading up to the murder there are reports of a teenager attempting to suffocate children in the area. The description fits Percy. Suspect rode a bike similar to Percy's and victim was bound with a tie similar to Mt Beauty school uniform tie.
  • 1967, NOVEMBER 25 Joins navy.
  • 1968, MARCH 9 Stationed in Sydney.
  • 1968, MAY 18 Simon Brook, 3, abducted in Glebe. Percy writes in his diary of abducting and murdering a three-year-old. The details in the diary match the fatal injuries inflicted on the victim.
  • 1968, AUGUST 5 Goes on 18 days’ leave from navy. Tells police he stays in Melbourne.
  • 1968, AUGUST 10 Linda Stilwell abducted from St Kilda foreshore. Percy on leave at the time. Had a map that was marked in the area she went missing and told police he was in the area that day.
  • 1969, APRIL 1 Stationed on the Cerberus.
  • 1969 Attempted abduction of a 12-year old girl on a bike near the Cerberus base. Victim later identifies Percy as the attacker.
  • 1969, JULY 27 Abducts and murders Yvonne Tuohy from Ski Beach. Arrested later that day. Police find his diary filled with violent sex fantasies.
  • 1970 Found not guilty of the Tuohy murder on the grounds of insanity. Jailed for life.

Inquest examines 1968 child murder

Posted Tue Dec 8, 2009 12:21pm AEDT  - ABC

A coronial inquest has begun into the suspected abduction and death of a seven-year-old girl in Melbourne 41 years ago.

Police believe Linda Stilwell was abducted from the St Kilda foreshore in 1968. She was only a few days shy of her eighth birthday.

Her body has never been found.

The inquest is expected to hear evidence from up to 10 witnesses, including members of her family.

The longest-serving prisoner in Victoria, Derek Ernest Percy, may also be a witness.

He has been in custody for 40 years since being found mentally unfit to stand trial over the murder of 12-year-old Victorian girl Yvonne Tuohy.

The lawyer representing the family, Elizabeth McKinnon, told the court Percy knows where Linda Stilwell is and he was in the area when she disappeared.

The hearing continues.


Witness saw inmate Percy near missing child

By Emma O'Sullivan - ABC

Posted Wed Dec 9, 2009 1:05pm AEDT

A witness has told an inquest into the disappearance of a Melbourne child that she felt the little girl was in danger.

Seven-year-old Linda Stilwell went missing from St Kilda Beach in 1968.

A coronial inquest has heard prison inmate Derek Ernest Percy is a suspect in her disappearance.

He has been in custody for 40 years, since being found mentally unfit to stand trial over the murder of 12-year-old Victorian girl Yvonne Tuohy.

Edith Jamieson was on the beach with her young children on the last day Linda Stilwell was seen there.

Mrs Jamieson said she saw a little girl rolling down the hill on the Esplanade.

She also said she saw a man with olive skin on a seat nearby.

She said she heard a voice inside her say "Go home little girl, you're in grave danger."

Mrs Jamieson also told the inquest she recognised the man as Derek Percy when she later saw his photograph in a newspaper.

The inquest also heard that Percy told a former schoolmate he could not remember killing the girl.

A man, who later joined the police force, has testified he spoke to Percy in prison, and asked whether he killed Linda Stilwell.

He testified, Percy said the words: "possibly, I don't remember a thing about it."

The court heard Percy admitted he had driven through St Kilda on the day Linda Stilwell disappeared.

Percy will not be forced to testify

By Emma O'Sullivan - ABC

Posted Fri Dec 11, 2009 1:04pm AEDT

The Victorian Coroner has ruled that child killer Derek Percy will not be compelled to give evidence at an inquest into the disappearance of Linda Stilwell 41 years ago.

Coroner Iain West said he had enormous sympathy for the Stilwell family, which has been waiting a long time to hear from Victorian Prisoner, Derek Percy.

But he did not grant their wish to call Percy as a witness.

The inquest into the 1968 disappearance of seven-year-old Linda Stilwell has previously heard that Percy can not be ruled out as a suspect.

Percy was brought from prison into the public gallery of the court today to await the decision on whether he would be called.

The Coroner could have granted Percy immunity from prosecution and called him as a witness, but ruled that would not be in the interests of justice.

The family will now appeal against that decision in the Supreme Court.

'Psychotic episodes'

Percy is Victoria's longest-serving prisoner.

The inquest had previously heard that Percy could not be ruled out as a suspect in Linda Stilwell's disappearance.

The inquest was told that Percy told a police officer he in was in the St Kilda area at the time the child went missing.

Percy's lawyer argued that his client should not be compelled to give evidence.

He said that Percy would be asked questions about a time when he was experiencing psychotic episodes.

He also argued that the media always treated Percy as a guilty man.

Mum fears child death will remain mystery

AAP January 27, 2011, 4:55 pm - Channel 7

A pensioner whose daughter was abducted and believed murdered 42 years ago fears she'll never know her fate after a failed costly bid to force a child killer to give evidence.

Seven-year-old Linda Stilwell was abducted from the St Kilda foreshore in Melbourne in 1968 and her body has never been found.

The Supreme Court has ordered her mother Jean Priest, 72, to pay the $32,247 legal costs of Derek Percy after a failed court battle to force him to give evidence about his suspected part in Linda's killing.

"I am 72 now and I have waited 42 years and I can't see that I am ever going to find out. But I'd like to," Ms Priest said on ABC Radio.

She said she hated the idea of paying money for a convicted child murderer.

Ms Priest said she learnt of the court's ruling and the amount of costs earlier this week.

She said she had initiated the legal action to gain some closure.

"We would like to bury her with some dignity," she said.

A coroner found Percy was in St Kilda on the day Linda disappeared.

Percy, Victoria's longest-serving prisoner, is linked to some of Australia's most notorious child slayings.

He was acquitted on grounds of insanity in 1970 over the murder of 12-year-old Yvonne Tuohy after she was snatched from Warneet Beach, southeast of Melbourne.

A coroner and a Supreme Court judge have both ruled that Percy should not be compelled to give evidence in relation to Linda's death because it would be unreliable given his mental state at the time.

Victorian Deputy Premier Peter Ryan said it was inappropriate to comment on Ms Priest's plight as it was still before the courts.

But, he said, under new laws to be introduced to parliament, victims of serious crimes may be able to be compensated with funds earnt by convicted criminals.

"Whatever might be the source of funds that a convicted criminal has within his or her asset base while they are in the prison system, then we will make sure ... that there is able to be access to that money for those who are the victims of crime."

Mr Ryan said the legislation would not be retrospective.

Grieving mother thrown a legal lifeline

CHILD killer Derek Percy may yet be forced to give evidence about a 43-year-old murder mystery after grieving pensioner Jean Priest was thrown a legal lifeline by the Baillieu Government.

Ms Priest has launched civil court actions in a bid to compel Percy to answer questions on any involvement he had in the murder of her seven-year-old daughter, Linda Stilwell.

Percy, Victoria's longest-serving prisoner, has hit Ms Priest with a $48,000 legal bill in her Court of Appeal challenge to force him into the witness box at a coroner's inquest into the abduction and death of Linda, who disappeared from the St Kilda foreshore in 1968.

The move follows reports in the Herald Sun that revealed Ms Priest, 72, faced bankruptcy as a result of Percy's demands for legal bills, which to date amount to more than $80,000.

Victorian Attorney-General Robert Clark yesterday lodged an application to join with Ms Priest in the Court of Appeal to clarify the interpretation of a new law, enacted in 2008, which allows a coroner to compel a witness to give evidence.

The government decision to join the court case means it will assume the cost risk associated with the appeal.

Despite finding Percy was in St Kilda and in the vicinity of Linda on the day of her abduction, Deputy State Coroner Iain West decided in 2009 not to use his new powers to grant Percy a certificate of indemnity and force him to give evidence in the case.

Percy had told police in 1969, when he was arrested for the mutilation murder of Yvonne Tuohy, 12, that he "possibly" killed Linda, but said "I don't remember".

After Ms Priest lost her first appeal to overturn Mr West's ruling, she was hit with a legal bill from Percy of $32,247 - an amount that may be erased if she is successful at the Court of Appeal.

The A-G's application to join the action is due to be heard by the Court of Appeal on March 11.


Victorian Attorney-General to cover mother's costs for Percy testimony

THE Victorian Attorney-General will guarantee any legal costs that may be ordered against Linda Stilwell's mother to have child killer Derek Percy testify at an inquest.

A Victorian coroner and Supreme Court justice have ruled Percy should not be compelled to give evidence at an inquest into Linda's 1968 disappearance.

Seven-year-old Linda disappeared from St Kilda foreshore. Neither she nor her body have been found.

The Supreme Court has ordered Ms Priest, 72, to pay Percy's $32,247 in legal costs after a failed court battle to force him to give evidence about his suspected part in Linda's disappearance.

Today, a barrister for the Attorney-General told the Victorian Court of Appeal he felt that the issue of whether someone should be compelled to testify at an inquest was one that should be debated by Victoria's highest court.

"The issue raised by the appellant is important for determination by this court," barrister Ian Freckelton SC said.

He gave an undertaking to the court that if costs were awarded against Linda's mother, the Attorney-General would meet those costs.

Mr Freckelton stressed he was not taking sides on whether Percy should be compelled to give evidence in Linda Stilwell's abduction.

The hearing before Court of Appeal President Chris Maxwell and justices David Harper and Emilios Kyrou is continuing.

Percy, Victoria's longest-serving prisoner, is linked to some of Australia's most notorious child slayings. He was acquitted on grounds of insanity in 1970 for the murder of 12-year-old Yvonne Tuohy after she was snatched from Warneet Beach, southeast of Melbourne.

He has been detained ever since.

Percy has also been named as a suspect in the murders of Christine Sharrock and Marianne Schmidt on Sydney's Wanda Beach in 1965; the disappearance of the Beaumont children, Jane, nine, Arnna, seven, and Grant, four, in Adelaide in 1966; the murder of six-year-old Allen Redston in Canberra in 1966 and the murder of Simon Brook, three, in Sydney in 1968.

Family of Linda Stilwell hoping for death bed confession from child killer Derek Percy

THE brother of suspected murder victim Linda Stilwell is "devastated" that a lengthy court process means child killer Derek Percy may take his secrets to the grave.

Percy is gravely ill in hospital with cancer but attempts to get him to talk about murders he is suspected of committing are failing.

Neither Victoria Police nor Corrections Victoria would confirm Percy, the state's longest serving prisoner, was being treated in a secure ward at St Vincent’s Hospital.

The Herald Sun understands Percy’s prognosis is serious but his death is not imminent.

However, there were reports that the notorious prisoner has only days to live.

Percy, who has never been convicted of a murder, has been serving time in jail after being found not guilty on the grounds of insanity over the brutal killing of Yvonne Tuohy more than 40 years ago.

Police, who have long tried to get confessions from Percy, have again attempted to talk to him about abductions and murders he is suspected of committing after visiting him in hospital.

The twisted killer, who has since been deemed to be sane, refused to co-operate, Ten News reported.

In April, Percy was named as a witness in a reconvened inquest into the presumed death of Linda Stilwell, a schoolgirl who disappeared from the St Kilda foreshore in 1968 and was never found.

Percy is the prime suspect in the seven-year-old's suspected murder.

Ms Stilwell’s mother, Jean Priest, has fought a legal battle to force Percy to give evidence at a coronial inquest to locate her daughter’s remains.

Linda's brother, Gary, said he had been told that Percy's illness was terminal, and that he was "devastated" that nothing had happened after being "dragged through the courts for four years".

"The court date hasn’t been reconvened for the inquest and it’s now too late. So yes I’m angry," Mr Stilwell told 3AW this morning.

Mr Stilwell said the family was hoping for a death-bed confession, but he wasn't "holding his breath".

"I mean he (Percy) hasn't spoken for close to 50 years so I don't see him doing it now," Mr Stilwell said.

Percy was found not guilty by reason of insanity of the July 20, 1969, murder of 12-year-old Ms Tuohy, who was snatched from Warneet Beach, south-east of Melbourne.

He is also a suspect in numerous other unsolved child vanishings and murders in the 1960s, including the abduction of the Beaumont children from Glenelg beach near Adelaide and the Wanda Beach murders of Christine Sharrock and Marianne Schmidt, both aged 15, in 1965.

With Anthony Dowlsey