Two 15 year old girls disappeared on a windy dune covered beach in broad daylight with other people around (although the description of a deserted, wind swept beach is also impressionistically accurate), including a group of younger kids who waited many hours for them to come back.
They were last seen at 1 PM, headed off to the get the rest of their things they had stashed in the dunes, but they were going in the opposite direction of where they said they were going. One of the younger children in their party told them they were going the wrong way, and they just laughed at him. They were beaten, raped and stabbed to death in the dunes.
Christopher Wilder was an avid surfer who lived in the area, and he is now one of the top suspects for the crime. A man at the surf club had seen a “surfie boy” in the vicinity around the time they disappeared. The man at the club was the last to see them alive 400 yards north of the surf club. They seemed to be in a hurry, and one of the girls kept looking behind her as if she were being followed. The surfie boy may have had a speargun or a knife in a sheath by his side.
Derek Percy, one of Australia’s worst criminals, is also a strong suspect in the case. There were other strange suspects, including a man who was seen selling pornographic magazines on the beach and the “man in the iron mask” who worked at a nearby mine. Police have a lot of evidence in the case, including forensic evidence from the rape, but they are mum about it.
There were two other horrible murders in the area around the same time that police feel are linked to the Wanda Beach case. They have not released the reasons they feel for the linkage to the public.
18 days after the killing, Wilhelmina Kruger, a cleaning lady, was murdered in a horrific way. 19 days after the death of Kruger and 37 days after the Wanda Beach killings, Anna Dowlingkoa left a nightclub and was never seen again. 10 days later, her body was found. She had been brutally murdered. Police immediately linked the case to Kruger’s death. Neither of these two killings was ever solved either, though the two women’s deaths are far less well known than the Wanda Beach case.
An Australian man, Alan Bassett was arrested for the murder of a 19 year old girl 5 months after the Wanda Beach case and served 29 years in prison.
Bassett, an artist, gave a police detective who worked on the Wanda Beach case, Cec Johnson, a painting of an abstract landscape. However the detective felt that there were hints and clues in the painting not only to the kills of Dowlingkoa and Kruger but that it recreated a scene from the Wanda Beach case that only the killer could have known (information that was never released to the public).
This became an obsession for the detective who then wrote a book about the case accusing the man of being the Wanda Beach killer. Bassett threatened to sue Johnson for defamation, but he dropped it after Johnson died. Before the book could be published, Johnson was hit by a car and killed.
Although Johnson was sure that the painting proved Bassett was the killer, other detectives who worked on the Wanda Beach case were not so sure. However, Johnson did convince famous Australian crime reporter Bill Jenkings that Bassett was the killer. Bassett has offered to give DNA to clear his name in the case, but there is no information on how that has panned out.
The case remains unsolved to this day, 46 years later.
Along with the case of the Beaumont Children two years later, this case was the death of the Innocent Australia when people let their kids go out by their own. Australia had entered the modern world, and people were now afraid of crime all the time.