An investigation into a more than five decade missing child mystery has received a shock new claim from a potential eyewitness who claims he saw a small child carried away on the same day a three-year-old disappeared.
Cheryl Grimmer, who was just three-years-old, went missing from the changing rooms of Fairy Meadow Beach in Wollongong, south of Sydney on January 12, 1970, after her brother turned away for a few seconds.
BBC true crime podcast Fairy Meadow’s most recent episode and first since February 2022 aired the “new lead” which may help police solve the longstanding case.
“When I glanced back at the toilet block, the profile of the guy was sort of full-stride with this baby in his arm, just kind of screaming and yelling at his hip, like low on his hip,” the possible eyewitness said.
“I heard this screaming of the kid. That’s what caught my ear. What was that shrieking sound? I turned around and that’s what I saw.”
He described the teenage boy as having medium-dark hair, short back and sides and was of average build.
The man said he could recall the afternoon of the event was the date Ms Grimmer went missing as he remembered people leaving the beach in a panic after the wind strengthened and changed direction.
He also said he did not tell police as he had not realised a child had been abducted and he and his family could not speak English as they had recently arrived in Australia from eastern Europe, BBC reported.
“We had only been in the country for three or four weeks. We didn’t have a TV and we never read the newspapers at that time. We were oblivious to what was really going on. It wasn’t even on my radar that it was such an important thing that I saw.”
The BBC confirmed NSW Police have made contact with the man in recent days.
A Coronial Inquest in 2011 ruled Cheryl had died however the cause and manner of her death remained unfounded with her body never located.
The response to Cheryl’s disappearance was enormous at the time, sparking involvement from the army in the search, however, to no avail.
In 2016, Wollongong detective Frank Sanvitale joined fellow detective Damian Loone to look further into the case where they uncovered a confession from 1971 from a 17-year-old who claimed he abducted and murdered Cheryl.
He was tracked down and taken for questioning before he was arrested and charged before pleading not guilty.
He was set to face trial in May, 2019, however the case collapsed after his lawyer asked for the original confession to be thrown out as it was inadmissible given it came from a youth who had no parent or guardian present.
Former Det Sgt Loone told BBC the new witness could help solve the mystery.
“He sounded very credible to me – and what he says he saw on that particular day is very important and it should be fully investigated,” he said.
“I can understand the reasons why he didn’t come forward beforehand, but he’s now come forward to you. I have got his permission for an officer from the unsolved homicide unit to contact him.”
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