The Wanda Beach Murders!

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.

Wanda Beach! Creepy, huh? The Wanda Sand Hills as they appear today.

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.


Filed under Australia, Crime, Regional

15 responses to “The Wanda Beach Murders!

  1. Dúnedain

    I’d never heard of this case. Christopher Wilder pleaded guilty to gang-rape in 1962 or 1963 according to Wikipedia. He was only put on probation for that. If he would’ve been locked up for life, none of the other rapes or murders he committed would have happened.

    It’s unfortunate that children are no longer safe going out on their own both in Australia and here in the U.S. Actually, it’s not even safe for women to go out on their own.

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  3. The Wanda Beach murders and especially the disappearance of the Beaumont children are two of Australia’s most sad and sinister unsolved crimes.

    A book I can very much recommend is Alan J. Whiticker’s ‘Wanda: The Untold Story of the Wanda Beach Murders’ (2003). As well as going into great detail about the case, it provides a fascinating glimpse of a more innocent-seeming Australian society that soon changed dramatically – but as with many surfaces, there were dark undercurrents. Even without the murders, Wanda Beach comes across as an eerie place indeed – its dunes have hidden many secrets.

    I’ve never been to Wanda Beach, but as a child in the late 1970s and early 1980s I grew up near Wollongong and a few times I visited the shopping centre where Wilhelmina Kruger was murdered. By then the centre was called Piccadilly Place, and I can still remember the jingle from a TV ad at the time: “Piccadilly Place – it’s the bright new centre of Wollongong!” It’s still there, although nowadays it’s a very grim and rundown place.

  4. Rahna Hollis

    When finally the DNA results can be forensically tested and proven I feel we will find out who this terrible criminal is who has done such horrific things to these young girls at Wanda Beach.

  5. james gervaise

    I spent the first 9 years of my life in Cronulla form 56 to 65. We used to play at the Wanda sand hills all the time. I would have definitely been there in the summer of 65. How terrible to think that I was so close to these awful events.

  6. Kay Wood

    The Wanda Beach Murders actually happened a full year before the disappearance of the Beaumont Children and Murders of Wilhelmina Kruger and Anna Dowlingkoa. The Wanda Beach Murders happened in January 1965 and the others happened in January of 1966. Wilhelmina Kruger was murdered only 3 days after the Beaumont Children disappeared. I have read Alan Whittaker’s book on the Wanda Beach Murders and it is a very interesting read. Unfortunately, a lot of time has been spent looking at known Sex Offenders as being responsible for this Crime causing Police to not look any further than that. Not all Sex Offenders and Murderers are caught and I know at least one such man who was in the Wanda Beach area at the time of the Murders who died many years later without ever being suspected, let alone convicted, of a multitude of crimes. I visited Wanda Beach for the first time recently and I was blown away by how absolutely beautiful it is. I can see why those poor girls traveled so far to go to this particular beach. It is truly stunning. Wanda Beach is a treasure and it is such a shame that its name is renowned for this tragic crime. I hope that the DNA finally answers the question as to who is responsible but that will only happen if Police take note of new information that is coming in and not focus solely on the known Offenders.

    • Pat Thornton

      Hi Kay,
      I know a main suspect also, a man who ideally fits what you are saying but I am not aware that he has died – this is what I want to know. So if you could just name say 3-5 suburbs, one of which your suspect comes from for me before I speak to you further – I have an identikit and require people to ID this culprit on a stat dec – it is a ‘virtual picture’ of the Fat Man wanted ‘at that time’. Police are more than aware of this man.

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  8. Philip Lindsay

    Robert. I know more about this case. Contact me.

  9. SK Cooper

    I have written a screenplay about the Wanda Beach murders and the evidence doesn’t point to an established sex offender but to a young perpetrator who was closeted by family. Much of the direct testimony of the siblings of Marianne Schmidt was discounted- I have had 2 separate accounts that details the perpetrator to be living in Oatley at the time and having moved from there, returning in later years. The perpetrator appears to be alive

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