Andrew Cowen

1_Colley Reserve_TM
2_River Torrens_TM
3_Adelaide Oval_TM
4_Swamp Road Truro_TM
5_Greenhill Road_TM
6_South Parra Reservoir_TM
7_Mutton Cove_TM
8_Sprigg Rd_TM
9_Middle Beach Road_TM
10_Airstrip Road_TM
11_Waterloo Corner Road_TM
12_Burdekin Ave Murray Bridge_TM
13_Railway Tce Snowtown_TM

Colley Reserve, Glenelg, South Australia: On January 26, 1966, Jane, Arna and Grant Beaumont left their home in Somerton Park and caught the bus to nearby Glenelg Beach for a swim and never returned home. The disappearance of the Beaumont children resulted in the largest criminal investigation in Australia’s history and remains unsolved.

The children were observed by several witnesses in the company of a tall, blond man in Colley Reserve, next to Glenelg beach. Neither the children nor the man were seen again. The huge amount of attention given to this case and the fact that their disappearance was never explained has resulted in this story being regularly revisited by the press. The Beaumont abduction is viewed as a significant event in the social evolution of Australian society, resulting in people changing the way they supervised their children.

On the night of May 10, 1972, gay university lecturer Dr George Duncan was bashed and thrown into the Torrens River where he drowned. The banks of the Torrens were a known “beat.” At this time homosexuality between consenting adults was still a crime in South Australia, as it was in all Australian states.

The Duncan case was sensational in Adelaide as it was alleged that a group of vice squad detectives were responsible for the drowning. The detectives would routinely go to the banks of the Torrens River where they would go “poofter bashing.” Two former detectives were charged with the manslaughter of Dr Duncan but were found not guilty. The Duncan case sparked community outrage and debate which resulted in South Australia becoming the first state in Australia to decriminalize homosexuality.

Adelaide Oval, North Adelaide, South Australia: On August 25, 1973 two young girls were abducted during a National Football League game at Adelaide Oval. They were 11 year old Joanne Ratcliff who was at the match with her parents, and 4 year old Kirste Gordon who was with her grandmother. Although they did not know each other, Gordon’s grandmother asked Joanne Ratcliff to take the younger girl with her to the toilet. They soon returned without incident and later when Gordon wanted to go to the toilet again, Ratcliff took her. This time they didn't return. After fifteen minutes Mrs Ratcliff went looking for the girls but they weren't to be found. The Ratcliffs and Gordon’s grandmother searched unsuccessfully for the rest of the game. The assistant curator of the oval observed the girls leaving the oval with a man. Over the next ninety minutes four different sightings of the man and the girls were made. They were not seen again. The description of the man and the circumstances of the abduction were extremely similar to the Beaumont abduction in 1966 suggesting the same person was responsible for both.

Swamp Rd, Near Truro: On Anzac Day in 1978, the remains of a body were discovered by a man who was picking mushrooms on Swamp Rd, near the town of Truro, approximately eighty kilometres north east of Adelaide. The body was identified as missing eighteen year old Veronica Knight. A year later the remains of another missing girl, sixteen year old, Sylvia Pittman were discovered nearby. Investigating police linked these crimes to the 1977 disappearances of five other young women. The case became known as the “Truro” murders. Police received information that a man named James Miller had incriminated himself and another man, Christopher Worrell, in the murders. Worrell, a convicted rapist and Miller’s homosexual partner, had been released from Adelaide’s Yatala prison in October 1976, just weeks before Knight went missing and was killed in a car accident, one week after the disappearance of the last woman in 1977. In April 1979, two more skeletons were found in a paddock near Truro and identified as two more of the missing women. Miller confessed to his involvement and showed police the locations of three other sets of remains. The deaths of seven young women were attributed to Miller and Worrell.

House at Greenhill Rd, Parkside: In June 1979 the dead body of prominent criminal lawyer Derrance Stevenson was found in a freezer in his home and office with a gunshot wound to his head. The lid of the freezer had been glued closed.
Stevenson’s homosexual lover, David Szach who was 18 at the time of the murder, was convicted of the crime and sentenced to life imprisonment. Szach has always maintained his innocence and is thought by many to have been set up for the murder. He was later released from prison without fanfare. An alternate theory is that Stevenson’s death is connected to his knowledge of or involvement in Adelaide’s so called “Family “.
It is worth noting that Szach has stated that Stevenson was associated with Alan Barnes, a young man who was murdered at the end of the same month Stevenson was killed. Barnes’ murder is considered part of the “Family” murders, for which Bevan Spencer von Einem is thought responsible.

South Para Reservoir, Williamstown: On July 24, 1979, two bushwalkers discovered the body of seventeen year old Alan Barnes in the South Para Reservoir, in the Adelaide hills north east of the city. Barnes’ body had been dropped from the bridge that crosses the reservoir between the towns of Kersbrook and Williamstown. He had last been seen alive hitchhiking near Grand Junction Rd, north of the city.

A post mortem revealed Barnes died from massive blood loss caused by an injury to his anus. Drugged and plied with alcohol, Barnes had been missing for a week but had died within forty eight hours of the discovery of his body. Barnes had been redressed after his death and there was no evidence of blood on his clothing.

Mutton Cove, Osborne: On August 23 1979, the dismembered body of Neil Muir was found floating in a plastic bag at Mutton Cove in the Port River at Osborne. The torso, from which the intestines had been removed and the dismembered legs placed inside, had the head tied to it with a cord. These had been placed in a plastic bag and dropped into the river. When the body was examined it became evident that Muir had died as a result of anal injuries similar to those sustained by Alan Barnes.

Sprigg Rd, Summertown: On March 8 1982, the mutilated body of nineteen year old Mark Langley was found on the edge of Sprigg Rd, Summertown in the Adelaide Hills.

Just over a week earlier Langley had left a party with two friends and driven into the city. After parking by the Torrens River an argument broke out which resulted in Langley walking away. Nine days later Langley’s body was found on the edge of Sprigg Rd. No attempt had been made to hide the body. Examination revealed similar anal injuries to the previous two victims however Langley also had a 16.5cm incision in his abdomen. He had been crudely operated on and then sewn up before being murdered.

Middle Beach Rd, Two Wells: Peter Strogneff had taken the day off school and had planned to meet friends in the city on August 27 1981 but never arrived. He was reported missing the same day. It was not until June 23 1982 that his body was found on the side of Middle Beach Rd, Two Wells, approximately forty kilometres north of Adelaide.

A farmer checking fires on Middle Beach Rd after a burn off found a skeleton. The remains of a body had unknowingly been burned. Dental records confirmed it was Peter Strogneff. It was not possible to determine a cause of death because of damage from the fire however the body had been dismembered which clearly linked it to the “Family “ case.

Airstrip Rd, Kersbrook: On June 5, 1983, fifteen year old Richard Kelvin, son of Channel Nine Adelaide newsreader Rob Kelvin, was abducted from within 500 metres of his North Adelaide home. Richard Kelvin’s body was found seven weeks later on July 24 in bush next to an airstrip near Kersbrook in the hills north east of Adelaide.

The autopsy revealed that, like three of the previous victims, the cause of death was massive blood loss from a severe anal injury. Four different drugs were found in Kelvin’s body indicating he had been kept heavily sedated. Kelvin had been missing for seven weeks and the time of death was determined as being two weeks prior to the discovery of his body, therefore he was kept alive for five weeks before being murdered and dumped.

203 Waterloo Corner Rd, Salisbury: John Bunting’s first place of residence was 203 Waterloo Corner Rd, Salisbury, having moved in the early 1990’s from Brisbane. It was at this address that the first murders occurred, with two bodies later being found buried in the backyard.

Due to it’s horrific history and extensive excavation work, the house was eventually demolished after the Snowtown trials and another rebuilt in it’s place. This address remains well known due to the notoriety of the case.

3 Burdekin Ave, Murray Bridge: Bunting’s second place of residence in South Australia was Burdekin Ave in Murray Bridge, eighty kilometres south east of Adelaide. It was at this address that victims began to be tortured before being murdered. The tortures included being beaten, having toes crushed with pliers and the use of electric shocks. The use of torture guaranteed confessions of being a homosexual or a paedophile, justifying the need for victims to be taken to the “clinic”.

It was here that Bunting began to keep victims in large barrels of acid.

State Bank of South Australia, Railway Tce, Snowtown: Eight bodies were found in barrels on May 20, 1999 in the vault of the former State Bank of South Australia building. The bodies kept in barrels were stored in several locations before being moved to the disused bank vault at Railway Tce, Snowtown. These included the shed behind Bunting’s house in Murray Bridge and on Mark Haydon’s property in Smithfield Plains in Adelaide’s northern suburbs. The movement of unfamiliar vehicles to Snowtown and loading activity at the old bank opposite the town’s only hotel led to the building being searched.

ADELAIDE  1966-1999

This project began when a friend was appointed director of the Fringe Festival of the Arts in Adelaide. She encouraged everyone she knew to contribute work from their chosen field, which got me thinking about doing a project specifically for this festival. It seemed logical that the project would be about Adelaide, the place where I was born and raised.

Adelaide is generally known as a quiet, conservative city where little happens. But behind this peaceful façade there is a darker reputation; of a macabre place where strange crimes routinely occur. When Salmon Rushdie visited for the Adelaide Festival of the Arts in 1984 he caught a sense of this, prompting him to write on his return to London, “Adelaide is the perfect setting for a Steven King novel or a horror film. You know why those films are always set in sleepy, conservative towns. Because sleepy, conservative towns are where those things happen”.

There is a palpable sense of danger on Adelaide’s empty suburban streets. This has been the dominant enduring feeling about the city and seems to lurk, not just in the back of my mind but in the minds of a generation of people who grew up in Adelaide at the same time as me. It was this quality that I most wanted to express in this project.

A number of horrific crimes have occurred in Adelaide over the years and although not represented in it’s crime rate the city seems to have had more than it’s fair share of strange abductions and grim murders. Growing up in Adelaide in the seventies I had a vague awareness of this. The name Beaumont was well known in relation to the unsolved abduction of three children in the sixties. These children were abducted from a public place, in broad daylight and never seen again. This event occurred over forty years ago, before I was born, yet it still attracts plenty of media coverage as it remains one of the countries most mysterious unsolved crimes and has been written into Australian folklore.  The fact the abduction happened on Australia Day, means there is extra media attention on this day every year.

It was the abduction of two young girls from a football game at Adelaide Oval in 1973 that fascinated me as a child. As I became old enough to read a newspaper I could read this for myself. But it was the identikit picture that really stayed with me. The face in that picture lurked in every shadow and was essentially the face of evil for me as a young boy.

These abductions were followed in the late seventies by the “Truro” murders, a case involving the abduction and murder of seven young women and, at the end of the seventies into the beginning of the eighties, the “Family” murders which involved the abduction and murder of five young men. The family murders held particular interest because I knew the last victim – Richard Kelvin went to my high school; he was a couple of years older than me and a friend of my sister. His abduction and death confirmed that Adelaide was indeed a dangerous place and that horrible crimes didn’t just occur to people unknown to me.

Over a decade has passed since I permanently relocated to Sydney. This amount of time has enabled me to look at the past events as a whole and reflect on them from a distance. This distance has, if anything, confirmed my feelings about Adelaide. Discussing this project with friends and family from Adelaide, has further confirmed this. Being such a small place everyone has a story relating to one of the murders or abductions or of potentially dangerous situations which people have found themselves in on the street.

When I tell people I’m from Adelaide, more often than not they ask, “Isn’t that where the bodies in the barrels were found?” They are referring to the “Snowtown” murders – the worst serial murders in Australia’s history, with twelve victims in total. These murders occurred throughout the nineties and ended in 1999 with the discovery of barrels containing the remains of eight people in a disused bank in Snowtown, north of Adelaide. Though I was not living in Adelaide during this period, the Snowtown case was so gruesome and received so much media coverage both nationally and internationally, everyone knew about it. The presentation of evidence at the trial was so traumatic for the jury that they were all stood down and replaced. The case confirmed everyone’s sense of Adelaide being a weird place.

I began thinking about these abductions and murders in Adelaide and I realised how little I really knew about them. Even though the names of the cases, or of specific individuals were well known to me, the details were sketchy. So I began researching the details and a project began to form. The more I researched the more compelling the subject became. I began to realize that the events I was researching had directly contributed to my feelings about Adelaide. I gathered information about the places relating to the cities most infamous abductions and murders and went to these places and made photographs.

The photographs were made in and around Adelaide and, while providing a record of specific places, the also record in a general way what Adelaide and South Australia look like. Some of the locations were extremely beautiful and some were banal suburban scenes but all conveyed a melancholy, which is peculiar to Australian urban and natural environments. When I have discussed this project people often ask if these places were spooky which, mostly they were not. Having my burly father with me, some of the time, probably helped make it less scary.

The project covers a period of time commencing with the abduction of the Beaumont children in 1966 through to the discovery of barrels containing bodies in a bank vault in Snowtown in 1999. This project was undertaken with neither the knowledge nor the consent of the families and friends of the victims named in this project. It is not meant to sensationalise but rather record a set of important events that have enormously influenced the psychological atmosphere of Adelaide.


ANDREW COWEN‘s love of photography is evident from the moment you meet him. Rarely without a camera in his hand, he shoots every day documenting the intricate details of his environment and the people around him. Cowen’s work explores Australian culture through intimate portraiture and landscape studies. His photographs depict the beauty in ordinary moments, each with their own story. His series on the crime sites of Adelaide captures the dark heart of his hometown. In contrast, his family photographs touch on the simplicity of a single moment and bring a smile to your face.

Born in Adelaide, Cowen studied Fine Art majoring in photography at the North Adelaide School of Art. He has also completed a Bachelor of Design from the University of South Australia. Based in Sydney since the early 1990s, his commercial work contrasts with his personal series’, typically exquisite still life and portraiture for both editorial and advertising clients.

More of Andrew’s work can be viewed at his website and on his blog.