Cheryl Grimmer: Man arrested over girl’s 1970 disappearance

Cheryl Grimmer pictured in a family photoImage copyright
NSW Police

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Cheryl Grimmer disappeared when she was three years old

A man has been arrested over one of Australia’s longest-running mysteries – the suspected murder of a UK-born toddler nearly 50 years ago.

Three-year-old Cheryl Grimmer went missing from a shower block at a New South Wales beach in 1970.

A 63-year-old man, originally from Britain, was arrested in Melbourne on Wednesday. Detectives said he would be charged with abduction and murder.

Despite the breakthrough, police doubt Cheryl’s body will ever be found.

When was she last seen?

Cheryl disappeared from Fairy Meadow beach in Wollongong, a city south of Sydney, on the afternoon of 12 January 1970.

She was there with her mother, Carole, and her brothers Ricki, seven, Stephen, five, and Paul, four.

When the weather worsened, Mrs Grimmer sent the children to shower at the public block about 100m (328ft) away.

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NSW Police

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Fairy Meadow surf club in the 1970s

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NSW Police

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Cheryl with her late father, Vince Grimmer

Moments later, Ricki ran back and reported Cheryl would not emerge from the girls’ change room. She was never seen again.

“She was gone in just a minute or two,” Ricki Grimmer said last year.

“It’s something I still live with every day.”

The family had only recently emigrated from England. Cheryl’s parents have since died, never knowing what happened.

How did police make the arrest?

Cheryl’s disappearance sparked a massive search at the time, but it failed to provide a breakthrough.

Last year, detectives re-examined the case and revealed they had a new clue. Three witnesses had said they saw a teenager “loitering” near the scene.

On Wednesday, detectives held a man in custody after he went to a police station in Frankston, in outer Melbourne, for questioning.

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NSW Police

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Cheryl’s brother, Stephen Grimmer, returned to Fairy Meadow Beach with witnesses

Originally from the UK, the man would have been 16 in 1970.

Det Insp Brad Ainsworth, from Wollongong police, confirmed the man “was a person of interest” in the initial investigation almost 50 years ago.

The detective said he doubted Cheryl’s body would ever be found.

“I’m not going to get into the specifics, of the actual details of the offences but I can say that they are quite horrific,” he said.

The man in custody is expected to appear in a Wollongong court on Friday.

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