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Police Quiz Killer Over Child Deaths, Beaumonts Mystery

Cold case detectives question Victoria's longest-serving prisoner over the unsolved murders of up to eight children.

DETECTIVES yesterday interviewed Victoria's longest-serving prisoner killer Derek Ernest Percy over his suspected involvement in the murders of up to eight children, including Adelaide's Beaumont children.
Percy has been in jail since 1969, when he was arrested for killing 12-year-old Yvonne Elizabeth Tuohy, whom he abducted from a Western Port beach in July of that year, but was found unfit to plead on the grounds on insanity.
But yesterday, police from Victoria, NSW, South Australia and the Australian Federal Police interviewed Percy over the murders of Christine Sharrock and Marianne Schmidt on Sydney's Wanda Beach in January 1965; the disappearance of the three Beaumont children, Jane, Arnna and Grant, in Adelaide in 1966; Alan Redston, a six-year-old murdered in Canberra in September 1966; Simon Brook, a young boy killed in Sydney in 1968; and Linda Stillwell, 7, abducted from St Kilda in August 1968, The disappearance of Jane, aged 9. Arnna, 7, and four-year- old Grant near Glenelg beach, on Australia Day 1966, remains one of Australia s most baffling mysteries.
Yesterday's move came after police were granted a magistrate's order to interview Percy, who was moved from Ararat prison and taken to the homicide offices in St Kilda Road.
He was interviewed for several hours before being driven back to the city watchhouse.
It is believed Percy was non- committal in some of his answers over the unsolved murders when interviewed by police, parole officers, psychiatrists and prison officers over the decades, he has always remained evasive.
But diaries and notes seized from his cells have shown detailed plans to abduct, abuse and kill children. The Age revealed in 1998 that Percy was still considered a suspect in the eight unsolved murders.
Police have been able to establish that Percy was near the scene where the children were abducted, either while on holidays or while stationed at military bases while serving as a naval rating.
One of the original homicide detectives, Dick Knight, who became a respected assistant commissioner, believed that Percy had killed before he attacked Yvonne Tuohy. He argued that no one could have committed the Western Port murder "cold" and that it was likely he was responsible for earlier crimes.
When he was questioned about the Sydney murders after he was first arrested, Percy told police: "I could have done it but 1 can't remember."
On September 30, 1998, Supreme Court judge Geoffrey Eames refused to set a minimum sentence for Percy. "He has demonstrated no significant remorse or anxiety, at least none which I find credible, as to the circumstances which caused him to kill," the judge said.
In similar circumstances to those of the Beaumonts, Linda Stillwell was taken from St Kilda and her body was never found.
Percy abducted and killed Yvonne Tuohy while on weekend leave from the Cerberus navy base. She was playing on the beach with a young friend. Shane Spiller, who told The Age 30 years later: "They always thought he'd killed others but they weren't able to prove it."
One prison officer told The Age: "He was the chess champion, a stamp collector and one of the best tennis players in the division. He's highly intelligent but you could never get a handle on his real feelings," he said. "He's our Hannibal Lecter."
Percy, 55, is a smoker who still keeps himself fit. One police source said: "He's intelligent, cunning and pure evil. There is no way he is mad."
In 1984, Pentridge Prison Co-Ordinator of Forensic Psychiatry Services, Dr Stephens, wrote: "Percy is sexually grossly disturbed and should never be released from prison."
Dr Stephens described Percy as "a highly dangerous, sadistic pedophile who should never be released from safe custody. He is not certifiable, neither is he psychiatrically treatable and he is totally unsuited to a mental institution.
"If Percy is ever so transferred, he will, in all probability, earn some degree of freedom as the result of reasonable and conforming behaviour. The consequences of such freedom could well prove tragic."

The Age (3-2-2005)
John Silvester

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