Monday, May 23

Cheryl (3) disappeared on the beach. The brother has had guilt for 52 years

January 12, 1970 was a scorching hot day in the Australian state of New South Wales. The Grimmer family – consisting of mother Carole and children Paul, Stephen, Richard, and Cheryl – decided to spend the day at Fairy Meadow Beach in Wollongong City.

FAIRY MEADOW BEACH: The Grimmer family were regulars on this beach Photo: Picasa

Cheryl (3) and the brothers played in the sand and swam, before the weather took a complete turn around half past one in the afternoon.

Carole asked the eldest of the sons, Richard (7), to accompany the younger siblings to the cloakroom by the beach so that they could shower and change their clothes.

The boys quickly finished, and while the others went back to the beach, Richard waited outside Cheryl’s booth. When he thought it had been too long, he ran to fetch his mother a few meters away.

When they returned a minute later, the booth was empty and Cheryl was nowhere to be found.

Richard Grimmer, who now goes by the name Ricki Nash Grimmer, is currently in the running for one BBC-podcast about the case, which broadcasts new episodes every Wednesday.

– Someone knows something, you can not keep something like that a secret for over 50 years, Grimmer says in the podcast.

Went from England for a better life

The Grimmer family migrated to Australia from the Bristol district of Knowle in England in the spring of 1968, when Cheryl was two years old. They stayed at the Fairy Meadow Migrant Hostel near the beach they often visited.

ON THE BEACH: Cheryl and her brothers photographed on the beach the same day she disappeared.

ON THE BEACH: Cheryl and her brothers photographed on the beach the same day she disappeared. Photo: New South Wales Police

With a promise of cheap rent, job offers, and a more optimistic everyday life, more than a million British migrants went to Australia between 1945 and 1972. However, many were – like the Grimmer family – placed in worn-out migrant hostels, and the job offers they was promised was not there.

Cheryl’s father, Vince Grimmer, on the other hand, worked as a combat engineer for the Australian Army, and was out on a mission that fateful day.

More theories and a ransom demand

On the beach, they quickly got lifeguards and other people on the beach in search of the little girl.

However, the phone was not as available as it is today, so Carole went to the nearest house and had to borrow the landline to call the police. They arrived at the place after only a few minutes.

Cheryl’s disappearance triggered a massive search operation, and during the first day, the police in New South Wales announced that they had four theories:

She could have hidden and fallen asleep, gone down to the water and drowned, fallen into a ditch, or she could have been kidnapped.

It did not take long before the police rejected the first three theories, and quickly began to follow other tracks. Among other things, they searched for a blue Volkswagen van that had been observed with a man driving in the area.

It soon became apparent that the police were convinced that she had been kidnapped.

WAS OBSERVED: It was a blue car of this type that was observed in the area Cheryl disappeared.  Photo: Wikimedia Commons

WAS OBSERVED: It was a blue car of this type that was observed in the area Cheryl disappeared. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

On January 14, police received a letter stating that Cheryl was unharmed and would return her for a ransom of $ 10,000.

The police obtained ransom, and disguised themselves before showing up in the Wollongong suburb of Bulli, but no one showed up to claim the money.

The person who wrote the letter never contacted the police again, and it was finally concluded that it had all been a hoax.

FAMILY LOVE: Cheryl and the brothers have always been good friends Photo: New South Wales Police

FAMILY LOVE: Cheryl and the brothers have always been good friends Photo: New South Wales Police

The confession

Further in the investigation, the police had three main suspects, but no one could be identified with certainty as the man who was observed in the blue van from Volkswagen.

In 1971, 18 months after Cheryl disappeared, a local teenager confessed to abducting and killing her. He is referred to by the police as “Mercury”, as he was a minor and is therefore shielded from the public.

He gave the police a detailed description of the course of events that day, among other things, he explained how he strangled and killed Cheryl with shoelaces.

Furthermore, he told where he had hidden the body. A property where, according to him, there was a path across a stream, was a gate, and a ferist. “Mercury” took the police to the property, where he thought they would find the body. When they arrived at the scene, he became unsure, because the area had been renovated since the alleged murder.

Police questioned the owner of the property, who opposed “Mercury”‘s description of what the property looked like at the time of the crime, including the tourist, the gate and the path.

The incorrect information “Mercury” had provided led the police to believe it was a false confession, and released him. There was no development in the investigation, and the case became cold.

Thought Cheryl could be alive

In the early 2000s, New South Wales Police Chief Michael Gallagher talked about the possibility of both Cheryl and her abductee dying. He nevertheless acknowledged that there could be a possibility that she was alive, and encouraged anyone who thought they might be Cheryl to sign up.

One of Cheryl’s unique physical characteristics was that her navel protruded one centimeter due to a medical condition.

In 2008, a woman who thought she could be Cheryl submitted a DNA sample, but it was not a match.

Nevertheless, in May 2011, a forensic pathologist formally declared that Cheryl had died shortly after she disappeared.

The forensic pathologist also requested that the police reopen the investigation so that they could find and target a perpetrator.

New investigation

In 2016, the police went through all the documentation related to Cheryl’s disappearance again, and all evidence was digitized – including witness statements.

This review led the police to uncover many new clues, revealing information that had not been thoroughly pursued in the original investigation. Especially the case with the confession of “Mercury” in 1971.

FRANKSTON: It was in this city that the man was arrested Photo: Wikimedia Commons

FRANKSTON: It was in this city that the man was arrested Photo: Wikimedia Commons

When they returned to the place where “Mercury” told that he had dumped Cheryl’s body, the police questioned the previous owner’s son.

He opposed his father, saying that there must have been a tourist there when Cheryl disappeared. He could also remember the path that went over the creek, and the gate.

Police said they then had a suspicion of a man who was seen carrying a child at the time Cheryl disappeared. They assumed he would be in his 60s and encouraged him to stand up.

On March 22, 2017, police arrested and arrested a man in the Melbourne borough of Frankston, and had him extradited to the neighboring state of New South Wales. He was charged with Cheryl’s abduction and murder, and was remanded in custody at the Silverwater Correctional Complex in Sydney.

PRISON: Here the arrested man was in custody Photo: Wikimedia Commons

PRISON: Here the arrested man was in custody Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The patient record was not examined

To the little surprise of the general public, the police announced in May 2017 that the man they had in custody was the same person who had confessed to the murder of Cheryl in 1971 – “Mercury”.

The man, who had turned 63, was born in the UK and had been in Australia since the late 60s.

“Mercury” allegedly a year before the murder told doctors that he had obsessive thoughts about “killing himself and other people”. It had not been investigated when he confessed in 1971.

Killed her with the shoelaces

In his original statement, “Mercury” had said that after the kidnapping, he had gagged Cheryl with a handkerchief and tied his hands behind her back with shoelaces, and then hid with her in a nearby drain for about half an hour.

After getting out of the drain, he took her three kilometers on foot to the district of Balgownie, where he intended to sexually assault her. In court in 2017, he denied ever saying that, calling it “bullshit”.

He had also told police that Cheryl had started screaming when he tried to assault her, and in an attempt to silence her, he strangled her to death with shoelaces.

“Mercury” had said he panicked, took off her clothes and placed bushes and soil over her body. Then he went back to the beach.

The confession also included information he would not have known unless he had at least seen Cheryl that day.

OUTSIDE THE WALLONGONG COURT: Stephen Grimmer (right), Cheryl's brother, leaves the Wollongong courtroom in March 2017. Photo: AAP Image / Dean Lewins

OUTSIDE THE WALLONGONG COURT: Stephen Grimmer (right), Cheryl’s brother, leaves the Wollongong courtroom in March 2017. Photo: AAP Image / Dean Lewins

The suspect was due to appear in court in May 2017, but due to the fact that he was a minor and did not have an adult or a lawyer present during the interrogation in 1971, it became difficult to bring a case against him.

The prosecution dropped the charges against him in February 2017.

Cheryl’s brother: – Can never forgive myself

This case sent shock waves through New South Wales and Australia as a whole, and remains one of the country’s most famous unsolved mysteries to this day.

In the 1970s, the case became so well known that the Grimmer family moved back to England for ten years afterwards to escape media pressure. Both Carole and Vince Grimmer passed away without knowing what happened to their daughter.

Cheryl’s brother Richard, who left her at the locker room to pick up her mother, has lived with guilt all her life after her sister’s disappearance. When asked by journalists if he has ever forgiven himself, he replied:

Never, ever. I can never do that. Everyone says “It was not your fault”, but try to walk in my shoes and see how it feels

Richard Grimmer

Reference-www.tv2.no

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