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Missing Persons- Joanne Ratcliffe/ Kirste Gordon
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SA Police are working to establish possible links between the murders of two Townsville schoolgirls and the abduction of five Adelaide children.
They are co-operating with Queensland colleagues and the Canberra Bureau of Crime intelligence, and have established a special file with their Crime Stoppers office to assess calls from the public.
Major Crime Task Force chief, Supt Paul Schramm, confirmed yesterday a joint inquiry was under way into any possible connections between the 1966 abductions of Jane, Anna and Grant Beaumont, the 1973 disappearance of Joanne Ratcliffe and Kirste Gordon and the arrest of Arthur Brown, 86.
Brown was arrested in Townsville two weeks ago for the alleged murder of MacKay sisters Judith, 7, and Susan, 5, in 1970. The arrest followed statements to police by his grand-daughters. He has denied the murders.
It was a picture of Brown alongside police sketches of the man seen in the Beaumont and Gordon-Ratcliffe cases that prompted media attention and revived SA police interest in the cases.
Supt Schramm told interstate media: "We are taking it seriously and we are seeing if there is any connection. We have analysts working very closely together to try and piece together the past 30 years.
Since the Queensland arrest, police have opened a new file in its Crime Stoppers office and reports a "significant" number of contacts from the public volunteering information.
Mr Schramm said the number of calls to Crime Stoppers indicated an on-going interest in the two SA abduction cases.
"We are quite happy for the public to volunteer useful information and will look closely at what comes in."

Adelaide Advertiser 13-12-1998
Peter Haran

Browns trial for the murders of the Mackay sisters did not reach a verdict and a 2nd trial abandoned as Brown had become unfit to stand trial. Brown died in 2002.

Sketch of suspect in abductions

I Saw Kidnap

A FORMER SA woman has claimed to have witnessed a double abduction at Adelaide Oval 25 years ago.
She contacted an Adelaide radio station and said she watched for "60 seconds" as a young girl fought and punched a man carrying a, little girl near the oval on Saturday, August 25,1973. It was on that day Joanne Ratcliffe, 11, and Kirste Gordon, 4, were abducted by a mystery man from the rear of the oval during the North Adelaide-Norwood clash.
No trace of the abductor or the two girls has been found, and the double- disappearance remains one of Australia's most baffling mysteries.
Sue Laurie, 40, told radio 5AA she was 14 at time of the abduction.
She said she "put things together" three or four years later and made a statement to police. No further action was taken.
Last week a friend in Adelaide contacted Ms Laurie at her Victorian home and told her about the photos recently published of Arthur Brown. arrested in Townsville.
Ms Laurie later spoke to the Sunday Mail and said: "We walked out from the zoo and were about midway between Popeye and tne University Bridge. I looked across the river and saw a very young girl being carried by a man who I thought was her grandfather. He had a hat and a checked jacket on.
"She was crying and the older girl, I think she was a few years younger than me, was running after him.
"She was thumping him and punching into him and crying out at him. I saw all that for about 60 seconds.
"The thing seemed wrong because I would have thought if he was a relative he would have shooed her...
"It was after I married, I was about 18 or 20, 1 kept on and on at my husband about my memories - and I read another article on the abduction. My husband said 'go and do something about it'. I went to the chief investigator in about 1979-80 and made a full statement.
"I was sure of many things, including the time, because the siren went for the beginning or end of the third- quarter. Dad remarked on the game, but I don't think he saw what I was watching on the other side of the river. I believe on the day of the abduction the police were looking in an opposite direction to where we were walking.
"The only other thing I need to say is the parents of Joanne should take heart that little girl did everything she could to protect her little friend."
Sue Laurie's description of the mystery man tallied with two other descriptions made at Adelaide Oval on the day the girls were abducted.
Queensland police and SA detectives have still to determine the movements of Brown 25 years ago.
Senior police stress Mr Brown is not a suspect. The photo similarities are not evidence.
On Friday, Brown, a retired school maintenance man, was freed on bail.
He has been charged with murdering the MacKay sisters, who were on their way to school. They had been raped, stabbed and suffocated. Their dresses were folded beside their school bags, shoes and socks.
He also was granted ball on 45 charges involving alleged offences against six girls aged three to 10 between 1970 and 1977, including rape, sodomy, deprivation of liberty and administering drugs.

Adelaide Advertiser 13-12-1998
Peter Haran

Joanne Ratcliffe

Kirste Gordon


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