‘I can still see her there’: Brother of British girl Cheryl Grimmer who was snatched from Australian beach 52 years ago today says he is haunted ‘every day’ over leaving three-year-old sister for a few seconds when he was seven

  • Cheryl Grimmer was kidnapped 52 years ago from Fairy Meadow beach in Wollongong, New South Wales 
  • Vince and Carol Grimmer emigrated with daughter and three sons to Australia from Bristol in the late 1960s
  • Cheryl disappeared from women’s changing rooms after her brother Ricki left her alone for only 90 seconds
  • New BBC podcast by reporter John Kay delves into the tragedy, hearing from relatives and others involved
  • Ricki told the BBC that he can ‘still see’ his sister at the place she was taken, with the image in his ‘nightmares’ 

The brother of a British girl who went missing on an Australian beach more than 50 years ago said he continues to have nightmares about the tragedy.

In what remains one of Australia’s most high-profile unsolved crimes, Cheryl Grimmer, who was then three, was kidnapped 52 years ago from Fairy Meadow beach in Wollongong, New South Wales.

As part of wave of Britons in search of a sunnier climate and new opportunities, her parents Vince and Carol Grimmer had emigrated with their daughter and three sons to Australia from Bristol in the late 1960s.

But 52 years ago today, on January 12, 1970, tragedy struck when she was taken after her oldest brother Ricki, who was aged just seven, left her at the beach changing room for just 90 seconds.

Now, as a new podcast by BBC journalist John Kay delves into what happened, Ricki Nash has told of his ongoing trauma.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Wednesday, the heartbroken brother, now aged 59, said he can ‘still see her’ at the place she was taken, with the last sighting ‘in my nightmares’.

Cheryl’s aunt, Pam, who still lives in Bristol, added on the programme said the child was ‘so cute’ and that she did not talk about what had happened for years afterwards because ‘it was painful’.


The brother of British girl Cheryl Grimmer, who went missing on an Australian beach more than 50 years ago. said he continues to have nightmares about the tragedy. In what remains one of Australia’s most high-profile unsolved crimes. Above: Cheryl alone and with her father, Vince

The Grimmer family had emigrated from Knowle in Bristol to Wollongong in 1969 in search of a better life.

When she was taken from the local beach, Cheryl had been staying with her family at Fairy Meadow Migrant Hostel.

Her other siblings were Stephen, then aged five, and Paul, who was four at the time.

Cheryl’s mother had taken her and her siblings to the beach. Vince Grimmer was away working for the Australian Army.

When it became windy and sand whipped around everywhere, the Grimmers decided to head home, with Carol telling her children to wait for her at the changing rooms while she packed up.

Cheryl was taken when Ricki briefly left her to go and tell his mother that she was cheekily refusing to leave the ladies’ changing room.

‘To be honest I can still see her there. I have got that image all day every day. I have got it in my nightmares. I don’t really like being her to be honest John, I get nauseas, I get headaches,’ he was heard saying on BBC Radio 4 on Wednesday.

In what remains one of Australia’s most high-profile unsolved crimes, Cheryl, who was then aged three, was kidnapped 52 years ago from Fairy Meadow beach in Wollongong, New South Wales. Above: Cheryl with one of her older brothers

Now, as a new podcast by BBC journalist John Kay delves into what happened, Ricki Nash has told of his ongoing trauma. Above: Ricki (centre) with younger brothers Stephen (second from left) and Paul (right) speak to the media in 2016

On January 12, 1970, tragedy struck when she was taken after her oldest brother Ricki, who was aged just seven, left her at the beach changing room (pictured) for just 90 seconds

Because Vince was working at the Australian army’s barracks further up the coast, he did not arrive at the scene until the evening. But, because of his job, he arrived with 500 other soldiers who helped to look for the little girl. Above: Members of the military helping to look for Cheryl 

‘I keep coming back here in the hope we will get answers and keep fighting for Cheryl, she would be fighting hard for me, so I have got to keep fighting for her.

Speaking on the first episode of the podcast, Ricki said that the last time he saw his sister she was standing in the doorway of the women’s changing rooms and was smiling and giggling.

‘Boys didn’t go into the ladies’ changing rooms,’ he said.

‘I said to her “come on, you’re going to get into trouble if I have to go down and get her [Mum].”

‘And that’s when I made that error to go down and get my mother. When we came up, I was probably standing somewhere here, my mother first of all went into the ladies’.

‘Then she walked around, there was still no panic from my mother. There was no need to be.

‘She walked around a couple of times, she was looking around. Then she started saying “where did you leave her?”

‘That’s when she started shaking me a little bit there. I said I just left her in the doorway. Then she started asking other people for help. Had they seen a little girl.

‘Everyone started calling out her name.’

The Grimmer family had emigrated from Knowle in Bristol to Wollongong in 1969 in search of a better life. Above: The family are seen after Cheryl’s disappearance

When she was taken from the local beach, Cheryl had been staying with her family at Fairy Meadow Migrant Hostel. Her other siblings were Stephen, then aged five, and Paul, who was four at the time. Above: Cheryl (second from right) with her brothers

Cheryl was taken when Ricki briefly left her to go and tell his mother that she was cheekily refusing to leave the ladies’ changing room. Above: Cheryl with one of her brothers 

He added: ‘It happened so fast and it’s just panic from there and running down onto the beach and people running everywhere, trying to help us locate her. But it was so quick, she was there and she was gone.

‘I will never forgive myself for that.’

The distraught brother had a mental breakdown after his sister’s disappearance and did not speak to his family for years. He has since been married three times and has had problems with alcohol.

Although he now has a new job and partner, Ricki said he spends ‘hours’ every day working to find out what happened to his sister, sending emails and making calls.

‘I am just consumed by it, he said. I want to hear the truth. I work extremely hard and I just don’t stop.’

Ricki’s younger brother Paul said Cheryl’s disappearance ‘shattered’ his parents.

‘Dad was only a young fella with a wife and four beautiful kids that wanted a better life for us so he brought us to Australia, so when Cheryl went missing it absolutely shattered him,’ he said.

‘After that, I think it changed my dad which changed our whole family and to this day now even with my own kids and grandkids, I don’t let them out of my sight. When we go out I don’t enjoy the day.

‘My family enjoy the day but I am just too busy counting numbers, checking heads, making sure everyone is there.’

Because Vince was working at the Australian army’s barracks further up the coast, he did not arrive at the scene until the evening.

But, because of his job, he arrived with 500 other soldiers who helped to look for the little girl.

Ricki said that the last time he saw his sister she was standing in the doorway of the women’s changing rooms and was smiling and giggling. Above: Cheryl with two of her brothers

Ricki said he spends ‘hours’ every day working to find out what happened to his sister, sending emails and making calls. Above: Ricki (centre) with Stephen (left) and Paul

Wollongong resident Stephen Caskey, who helped with the search, said: ‘It was so hard, bloody hard.

‘We couldn’t see anything, you had to move every blade of grass, every bush every thistle, everything that was there, you had to move physically with your hands to see if there was any sign of a little girl there.

‘She was only tiny but we couldn’t find her, because she wasn’t there.’

Speaking of Cheryl’s parents’ hope that they would one day find their daughter, Cheryl’s aunt, Pam, said to the BBC: ‘They never stopped thinking that if Cheryl was alive, one day they might see this smart young lady walking in saying ‘hello Mum, hello dad’.

‘It was a fantasy. And she was so cute. She really was so cute.’

She added: ‘I shut it out of my mind, I shut it right out of my mind. Because it was painful. If you block it out, it hasn’t happened.’

Both Carole and Vince passed away without knowing what happened to their daughter. In 2011, a coroner ruled that Cheryl had died at some point after her disappearance.

In 2012, the New South Wales government offered a $100,000 reward for new information into what happened.

Then, in 2016, a man who had confessed to the crime in 1971 had been due to face trial before a key piece of evidence was ruled inadmissible by Australia’s supreme court.

The man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, claimed to have murdered Cheryl when he was aged just 16. He said he dumped her body and burnt her clothes.

But this confession was then not followed up until 2017. When police interviewed the man for a second time, he claimed his first statement was made up.

However, police went on to charge him with the little girl’s murder, before judges said the evidence was inadmissible because there had been no parent, adult or legal practitioner present at any stage of the interview.

Then, in 2017, the reward for information was upped to A$1million.

Source: Read Full Article