Development in 46-year kidnap/murder mystery in Illawarra

Fresh information has led to a new development in a 46-year mystery in the state’s Illawarra: the kidnapping and suspected murder of three-year-old, Cheryl Grimmer, NSW Police say.

The toddler was abducted outside the change-rooms of Fairy Meadow Beach on 12 January 1970, and despite decades of determined investigation, she has never been found.

Now, almost 50 years later, detectives have received new information about Cheryl’s suspected kidnapper.

The investigation under Strike Force Wessel, comprising officers from Wollongong Local Area Command and the Homicide Squad’s Unsolved Homicide Team, is focusing on a male youth seen in the immediate vicinity of the surf club pavilion in the morning and afternoon of the day Cheryl was taken.

The youth is described as being of Caucasian appearance, about 152cm or 5’ tall, with a medium build, brown hair, blue eyes and fair complexion.

At the time, it is believed he was aged between 16 and 17, and would now be aged in his early 60s.

Acting on that information, strike forces detectives recently returned to Fairy Meadow Beach with several key witnesses in a bid to further draw on their memories.

Now aged in their 50s, those witnesses were aged nine, 10 and 12 at the time.

They were joined by Cheryl’s brother, Stephen, who has never stopped trying to find his sister.

Mr Grimmer, now aged 52, was sent with Cheryl and their two brothers by their parents to the change-rooms to use the showers after a day at the beach.

That’s when detectives believe she was snatched.

The case was subject to a Coronial Inquest in May 2011, the Coroner ruled Cheryl had died sometime after her disappearance, and the cause unknown. It was then referred to the Unsolved Homicide Team for review.

Wollongong Local Area Command Crime Manager, Detective Inspector Brad Ainsworth, said Cheryl’s disappearance is a mystery they still desperately want to solve.

“Cheryl’s kidnapping sparked a massive manhunt and stunned the Illawarra,” Det Insp Ainsworth said.

“Cheryl’s dad, Vince, a former soldier, and her mother, Carole, died never knowing what happened to their daughter.

“The witnesses’ return to the beach has yielded promising results, and we hope someone in the community may be able to help us identify this male youth.

“We would dearly love to provide answers to Steve and his family, solve this matter for the people of the Illawarra, and ultimately provide Cheryl with some dignity in death,” Det Insp Ainsworth said.

Police are urging anyone with information in relation to this incident to call Crime Stoppers.

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