Step back in time to 1952 Brisbane and retrace Betty Shanks' final steps in a geographic investigation of her unsolved murder.
Retrace Betty's last steps and explore the paths of the suspects identified in relation to her murder.
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The crime that stole Brisbane’s innocence
On a moonless night in the spring in 1952, a bright young woman screamed out in terror as she was overpowered, brutally beaten, and left to die on an otherwise safe suburban street.
The savage murder of 22-year-old Betty Shanks sent shock waves through Brisbane’s tight-knit community of Wilston and became known as the crime that stole the city’s innocence.
World-renowned criminal profiler and cold case investigator, Mike King, returns with award-winning journalist Tory Shepherd to retrace Betty’s tragic final steps to unearth new leads, suspects, and fresh insights into the victim.
Will his investigation bring police closer to solving Queensland’s longest-running cold case and finally answer the question: ‘Who killed Betty Shanks?’
Meet the hosts
Delve even deeper into the characters and clues in Queensland's oldest cold case with a new edition of revelations from Ted Duhs' decades of research.
Hear Mike share his theories on one of Queensland's longest-running cold cases in his interview with News DNA.
If you have information about any unsolved crime or suspicious activity, then you can share what you know with Crime Stoppers, without saying who you are or getting involved. Call 1800 333 000 – or go to crimestoppers.com.au.
Read the transcripts
- Episode 1: Terrain of terror
Mapping Evil Season 2: Episode 1
[00:00:00] Tory Shepherd: This podcast contains detailed descriptions of violence and murder and is intended for a mature audience. Listener discretion is advised.
The material discussed is based on firsthand accounts and publicly available information. In producing this podcast, every effort has been made to show respect to those affected by the crime.
[00:00:26] News reader 1: A Brisbane girl was violently bashed and strangled while walking home at night, the killer has never been caught.
[00:00:32] Ted Duhs: I know who killed Betty Shanks.
[00:00:38] News reader 1: 19th of September 1952, there's been a shocking sex murder at Wilston. 400 police are now involved in a major murder manhunt.
[00:00:50] News reader 2: Although top investigators have worked ceaselessly to track down Miss Shanks’ killer, no trace of him has been found.
[00:01:00] Tory Shepherd: This is Season Two of Mapping Evil with Mike King – the cold case investigator. A four-part series that delves deep into Queensland's most gruesome and longest running cold case.
Mike has been catching killers and tracking down serial predators for over three decades. He's a world-renowned criminal profiler, and he's gone on to use geographic information systems, data, and mapping technology to become a world leading investigator, not to mention famous author and YouTube superstar.
[00:01:29] Det. Merv Chalmers: When I saw the body, I realised just how horrible the whole thing was. She'd been kicked or bashed so hard in the side of the face, that one of her teeth had dislodged from its socket, emerged through the cheek on the other side of her face and landed on the grass.
[00:01:46] Mike King: Betty Shanks was brutally murdered as she strolled along a quiet street in her own neighbourhood. Her story is our story, and she deserves justice.
[00:01:55] Ted Duhs: One of the first things she said to me was, I know who killed Betty Shanks.
[00:02:02] Ken: He did kill her, he did kill her. There's no other answer.
[00:02:06] Tory Shepherd: I'm Tory Shepherd, journalist and slightly obsessed true crime fan.
[00:02:10] Ted Duhs: My dad killed Betty Shanks.
[00:02:16] Tory Shepherd: Just to let you know, where possible the voices you'll hear are of those directly involved in the case, but in some instances, actor's voices have been used.
[00:02:25] Det. Norm Bauer: The murderer could have been lurking in the shadows at the murder spot, and suddenly attacked the deceased as she walked past.
[00:02:32] Tory Shepherd: Episode One: Murdering Betty | Terrain of Terror.
The murder of Betty Shanks sent shockwaves across Brisbane. She was 22, this pretty, confident young woman. I'm looking at her now and she's got sort of curly hair and a bit of a cheeky look in her eyes.
In the 1950s, when Betty was killed, Brisbane was a city of less than half a million people. They didn't even lock their doors at night, not even on the darkest nights.
The murder of Betty Shanks on a moonless September night, spring in Australia, is often described as the day the city lost its innocence.
[00:03:11] Billie Lake: You didn't lock doors, you didn’t close windows. You went out and left the house wide open, you went to the pictures at night and walked home on your own.
[00:03:22] Tory Shepherd: And that was a friend of Betty's, Billy Lake, she lived down the street from Betty and it was on the same tram as her on that fateful night. The next morning at 5:39 AM an off-duty policeman, Alex Stewart discovered her battered body in the front garden of his neighbour's house, on the corner of Thomas and Carberry Street, just 400 yards from Betty's own home.
From the photos I've seen, and I'm looking at them now, they are horrific. The injuries are just shocking. In the reports at the time, they say she was strangled. She was kicked with such force she had a fractured jaw, lacerated cheek, her teeth were found meters from her body.
And there was a pattern mark on her forehead which Mike, we are going to get to this later because this is part of this huge mystery that has endured for seven decades now. And it could be a hidden clue to how she was initially attacked.
Now, Mike King, I was a police reporter, I've been to crime scenes, and it is genuinely shocking to see the force that must have been behind this attack, her arms are akimbo, there's, you know, her belongings kind of scattered. Mike, what do we know?
[00:04:36] Mike King: Well, you're absolutely right this was an incredibly violent crime scene. And the exciting news I think is that we've uncovered a new lead that we're going to talk about a little bit in a moment, but first, let's talk about those crime scenes, and I hope you caught what I just said, Tory, I'm gonna say it again, crime scenes.
I'd also like to more closely examine some of the geography and see if we can tighten down why Betty Shanks became a victim. I'm, really intrigued by some of the behaviours in this case and I think we've uncovered some things that are going to be worth considering.
[00:05:14] Tory Shepherd: And here's what Senior Detective Abe Duncan had to say in a 2004 interview with Crimewatch.
[00:05:19] Det. Abe Duncan: I recall seeing some smudges of blood on the fence, I suppose there was always the possibility that it may have been a random sex attack with a robbery motive, but I don't really think so.
[00:05:37] Det. Norm Bauer: It is unfortunate that none of the persons who heard the screams or cries for help left their homes to seek the cause of such evidence of distress.
[00:05:47] Tory Shepherd: That was Detective Senior Sergeant Norm Bauer who was an essential figure during the Betty Shanks investigation. You're going to hear a lot from him throughout this series.
[00:05:54] Det. Norm Bauer: It is quite probable that had they done so, they would have seen the offender as the injuries inflicted on her indicated that her assailant must have remained at the scene, attacking her for some time after she screamed out.
[00:06:11] Tory Shepherd: I read like maybe seven people heard Betty scream on the night that she was murdered. And Marjorie Hill who lived at the property where Betty's body was later discovered.
So Mike, Brisbane, Queensland, you know, it's hot, it's humid. They have these homes called Queenslanders, which have like a big veranda, like a porch. And before everyone had air conditioning, sometimes people would sleep outside in the, you know, you'd need something to keep them mozzies away.
Anyway, Marjorie Hill was in this veranda, it was called a sleep out. And about 9.35, she heard two pretty loud cries. No words. Just the screams.
[00:06:50] Mike King: Sleep out. You, you captivated me with that one. You know, when we look at these locations where in this case, the actual murder occurred, it's clear that Betty put up one heck of a fight.
Something that I believe her attacker really didn't expect to have happen. And her courageous fight, it distracted the killer who became disorganised in my opinion. I actually think that there were probably multiple crime scenes where this attack occurred Tory, and I want to just kind of explore that just for a second.
One was undoubtedly on the exterior of the property line where she was discovered, and another where her body lay. And I'm going to be really interested in a closer examination to determine if she was actually thrown over the fence like some have theorised, or if perhaps she was trying to elude her attacker.
And I think it's going to be really important to understand that, that the actual assault itself can provide us real invaluable insight into the attacker. Again, think about it as different crime scenes. We'll talk a little more about that as time goes on, but, but there are three primary sites that we're going to look at as we talk about crime scenes and go through our discussion today.
So if you're asking yourself if the geography really matters, I think absolutely. It's the bottom line and it helps us understand more of what was going on that day. And it helps us to somehow tie this killer to Betty Shanks.
[00:08:15] Tory Shepherd: And Mike, this is your thing. You walk us through the scenes. You take us there.
Let us walk in the footsteps of Betty Shanks.
[00:08:24] Mike King: Well, yeah, I mean, let's talk about it. They're kind of three primary locations that we look at when we talk about crime scenes. And sometimes I think the public just focuses on where the actual assault in Betty's case occurred. But we have these locations, first would be the initial contact site, Tory, where the attacker and Betty come into contact with each other.
She may not have even known that this initial contact happened. It could have been the stereotypical guy in the dark corner with a trench coat and dark glasses peering from the shadows at her.
But somehow, they come into contact with each other, and this predator focuses on her and starts to follow her.
Now, that tells us a lot about behaviours that are going on because Betty doesn't look like she's in a hurry. She doesn't look like she's frightened when, when we look at the behaviours of her walking down that street. She's smart, she has a lot of street sense, and we see her crossing over from one side of the street to the other because there's lighting on the street corners and, and it makes it a much safer way for her to walk home.
The second place we look at is the actual place where this crime occurred, where this suspect finally assaults her, and I believe it's in a blitz style attack where she is just suddenly pummeled and assaulted.
And then the question becomes, is there kind of a secondary second crime scene?
And that is, did the assault occur outside of the fence, which I think the evidence supports that it happened outside of that corner property. And then Betty somehow ends up inside the fence. Was she placed there by the offender? Was she thrown over the fence by the offender? Or was it actually an artifact of her trying to escape from this predator in the course of this fight. And it had to have been a brutal fight when you examine the physical evidence that's there.
So then that brings us to the third spot, which becomes kind of intriguing because that third spot we call the disposal site. And so again, did Betty flee over the fence and try to escape her attacker who captured her once again, and finally finishes taking her life? Or is it actually a disposal site where the offender places her to maybe make it easier for him to escape without detection or to further assault her?
All of these things geographically become incredibly important, and when compiled against the behaviour, starts to paint a real picture of this predator.
[00:11:02] Det. Abe Duncan: Particularly vicious murder, particularly vicious.
[00:11:06] Ken Blanche: Oh ferocious. It was a ferocious attack.
[00:11:11] Billie Lake: Teeth were out. Bashing. Bruising. Horrible.
[00:11:24] Mike King: So Tory, instead of pursuing the who done it, which is what we always want to do. I want to do something a little different and it's something I recommend to investigators on cold cases. And that is, let's learn a little bit more about who Betty Shanks is. We call this victimology or the study of the victim.
And think about it, I mean, this is a beautiful, intelligent young woman. Who's somebody that any of us would have been honoured to call a friend. So why on earth does a brutal attack occur on someone like this? You know, I, I learned a great deal from just listening to an old friend of Betty's named Billie Lake, they lived near each other, and she shared some really fond memories she had of her.
[00:12:10] Billie Lake: Lady-like, quiet, genteel. Used to talk about, you know, movies we'd been to, what we were doing at college. What we'd bought, you know, new handbag, new blouse or something like that, just girly things.
[00:12:31] Tory Shepherd: And Mike, it was such a shocking murder that we actually can learn quite a lot about Betty Shanks from the reports at the time, and of course from her friends.
So she went to the University of Queensland. She did an arts course there. She did honors in psychology. She was successful. She was confident, she was popular. She had a lot of friends. She may or may not have had a boyfriend. Again, there was so much coverage of this case that there were rumors at sometimes that she was involved with somebody.
Otherwise, possibly not that interested in boys, we might talk about that a bit more, but she was a very keen student. She worked with the Department of the Interior, which is like a mega department, as we would see it now, it covered a lot of different areas within the government. So really like a solid public service job.
She was politically engaged. She was smart. And on that night, she'd just been to a lecture. So, you know, late at night, that's what she did when she finished work. And she took the tram home.
So Mike, on the fatal night, she's returning home from this lecture, she gets to the Grange tram Terminus. It's a pretty short walk home in the terminology of the day it was about 400 yards, which in Australia talk is about 365 meters. So not very far at all. But she, she never made it, so Mike, you're the detective, you've got decades looking at these cold cases and grisly crime scenes. Talk us through what you think happened at the crime scene or, scenes.
[00:14:14] Mike King: You know, Tory I think we have to acknowledge the fact that policing has evolved a great deal in the last 70 years, but even with the evolution, a lot of things remain constant. I mean, things like the importance of timelines and, and like you've indicated, crime scenes.
Now, today we'd use GIS to examine information that was collected from surveillance cameras that are on businesses or those that are found on front porches of homeowners, but we'd access all this data from these mobile devices. And it would give us an idea, including data from the victim or suspects when we know who they are, about where they were even information like body biometrics.
But we can't forget how important it would be to also geographically profile Betty and any of the potential suspects and their movements. Things like where would the offender hide in order to surprise Betty with a blitz style attack or, or where might an attacker surveil her? That location where he's looking for either this targeted or opportunistic victim.
Geography plays a much bigger role than we may have ever before imagined.
[00:15:35] Tory Shepherd: Mike, it's so fascinating, and because we've talked so much about geography and data, and because I keep picturing Betty Shanks, which trust me is not really a healthy thing to do, a lot of the time I picture that walk from the Terminus to her home. I keep thinking about what it would look like now, she'd be picked up on CCTV at the Terminus.
There might be people snapping her in the background with their mobile phone. She'd walk past their house and they have, you know, those doorbell cameras you can get now that might have, might have snapped her. It feels like she would've been tracked every second of the day. And almost as though, I mean, it sometimes feels like you're almost flying blind looking at what it was like back then, but that's not quite right is it? There's still a lot of work we can do, even in what seems like, I guess the technological dark age.
[00:16:20] Mike King: Yes. There's a lot that we could do with the limited amount of information that we have, but just imagine the amount of data that's sitting in those police files in the basement of those police departments that can be digitized and then put into this geographic perspective where we can really analyse and understand what was going on.
Perhaps, force us to ask questions that we might not have asked otherwise if we were only looking at it in some kind of a tabular form.
[00:16:51] Shepherd: And Mike, this is why you are the king of the cold cases. And I just had a flashback to season one where we talked about you solving the case of King Tut, I mean, you wrote a book about that, right?
[00:17:03] Mike King: Exactly. And isn't that funny? I, I oftentimes think about that, you know Tutankhamun was 3,200 years ago.
[00:17:11] Tory Shepherd: I mean, King Tut that's got to be the coldest case there ever was.
[00:17:15] Mike King: You know, sometimes we think, oh, this case is, in Betty's case 70 years old, there can't be anything possible that we can put together. But that is so far from the truth as we get out and we understand the behaviours, because human behaviour is the same today as it was 70 years ago.
Now there are obviously different nuances, but this mentality of predators that hide - how they hide, how they select their victims, how victims respond or what Betty's daily activities were like and how she got from point A to point B.
All of those things can be geographically examined and start to really paint a picture of what was going on, on that fateful night.
[00:18:01] Mike King: These kinds of investigations are always really interesting because you start to think about whether this is an opportunistic crime or whether it's a targeted event where someone really planned this thing out and planned the location that it was going to happen.
It appears, in looking at this evidence from a behavioural perspective and forensically, that it probably was not targeted, or if it was, it just happened almost minutes before the offender identified Betty and decided to take her as a victim.
But as she walks down the street, again we see this interesting behaviour where we believe she crosses over the street as she reaches an area where it's really dark. It's in a vacant lot area that causes her enough concern that she crosses over.
Now did she cross over because she was approaching someone and that made her nervous or that she identified someone behind her following her and it made her nervous? Either way, she crosses the street and gets to where it's more well-lit. And then of course this blitz style attack happens.
[00:19:08] It's really important for investigators in these kinds of investigations to kind of vicariously roll in the dirt, so to speak.
[00:19:17] Tory Shepherd: I love this phrase, Mike, roll in the dirt, like get into it and put yourself there, right?
[00:19:22] Mike King: Yeah. Yeah, you do, you have to go there and experience the temperature outside the, the amount of humidity, what the darkness feels like and just walk in that area and, and sense what Betty would have sensed as she's walking along.
We have to take these traditional forms of evidence that we're used to looking at like blood spatters or physical damages. And we have to just kind of put them on a shelf for a short season Tory, while we look at the case from a behavioural standpoint.
And as we do that, we recognise that then comes this floodgate of information from our own senses that help us to start to theorise based on facts that we're uncovering.
[00:20:06] News reader 2: Although top investigators have worked ceaselessly to track down Ms. Shanks’ killer, no trace of him has been found. Detectives are still hopeful however, that someday they will receive information, which will furnish a clue to the man's identity.
[00:20:26] Mike King: Within a few weeks of the killings, police were receiving inquiries worldwide as detectives sought persons who had left Australia, including interviewing sailors who had left ports on ships. It was the biggest manhunt in Queensland's history.
We know that in this case there were people who came forward, even confessing responsibility and law enforcement had to exclude them from the investigation.
They put everything they had into this case. This is what the Commissioner in Brisbane had to say four days after Betty's murder.
[00:20:03] Commissioner Smith: We will never give up. All available men would be engaged in the hunt for the murderer of Betty Shanks until an arrest was made. Justice must be done in this case, we will never give up.
This was a brutal and cowardly crime, and I can promise the public that the murderer will not escape if we can help it. This killer will be hounded, relentlessly.
[00:21:25] Tory Shepherd: Oh Mike the red herrings I think are really interesting, like in a newsroom for a newspaper, which is where I have worked for many years. You just get so many people calling in with information. You get people ringing in saying I did it, or I know who did it. And you get flooded. It's like a fire hose and a lot of it is false information.
So I can't even imagine how much those police were getting in terms of people ringing in. It's like when there's such a big story like this, people want to be a part of it. And so they're like just, you know, stretching everything they can to somehow insert themselves in the story. So I think we'll talk a bit more about the red herrings and the various rumours at the time, but let's get back to what we know for sure.
So we know the tram got to the Terminus, stop 28, Days Road, 9.32 PM. People had seen her, people were aware of her movements up till 9.32 PM, but no one saw her after that, except for whoever it was that killed her.
[00:22:27] Mike King: That's right, Tory and you know, one of the best-known detectives in the 1950s in the Brisbane area was Detective Senior Sergeant Norm Bauer. I was really captivated by a comment he made during the murder inquiry about not hearing any fearful shouts or screams near the actual terminus.
[00:22:46] Det. Norm Bauer: This may indicate one of two things, either that the deceased was met at the Terminus by someone she knew and was delayed there speaking to that person, or that person walked with her to the spot where she was murdered.
On the other hand, the murderer could have been lurking in the shadows at the murder spot and suddenly attacked the deceased as she walked past. It would appear that there have been two attacks on the deceased.
This theory is supported by the fact that the deceased’s panties were saturated with urine, indicating that the deceased had experienced acute fear or pain while wearing them. Uh, there was only a small amount of blood staining on the underwear which could have been caused after they were removed by the blood spurting from the deceased's face when she was being kicked or struck with something.
[00:23:40] Mike King: I mean, this is all happening in the 1950s in suburban Brisbane. It's, it's a typical neighbourhood with parks, a post office, cafes. I mean, this is, this is hometown Australia. It, it isn't a violent seedy place, and nobody could have ever imagined that a horrible murder like this could happen in their backyard.
[00:24:04] Tory Shepherd: And Mike, there's also a claim from Detective Sergeant Chandler, who was the first detective on the scene. He thought there was no way Betty's attacker could be identified because, well, he kind of thought his superiors had bungled the case. They're his words, not mine.
[00:24:20] Det. Chandler: It was not long, however, before several senior officers from the CIB arrived at the scene, uh, obviously expecting a quick arrest, and they rode rough shod over those who were painstakingly checking on available clues at the scene. If ever a murderer was protected, this was one.
[00:24:39] Mike King: That was really interesting to me as well. And I found it interesting that Sergeant Chandler later theorised that the crime scene was staged. In a book that he wrote later in his life, Chandler stated that the offender made the crime scene look like it was a sexual assault and a robbery.
Noting the contents of Betty's purse had been strewn across the lawn. With her clothing pushed and pulled in a way that would support that the body was sexually assaulted. But you know, I'm only agreeing with Chandler to a degree. I don't think this was about robbery and I really don't think it was about sexual assault.
Yet, I recall one newspaper headline that called this a "Shocking sex murder". In my opinion, this could have been the ultimate red herring. Think about this, Chandler went on to say, "If ever a murder was protected, this is one". I don't know that I believe that there was any cover-up and I'm not sure I'm comfortable with claiming it was a sexual assault or a robbery.
Just as unnerving as this might be for a community, if somebody is trying to minimise these kinds of crimes in the public's eye, I don't think they'd say there's a sexual predator or a robber running around in the neighbourhood. It just doesn't make sense to me.
[00:25:57] Tory Shepherd: Here's Senior Detective Abe Duncan speaking about the doctor as a suspect in this case.
[00:26:02] Det. Abe Duncan: I still have a theory first advanced by Ted Chandler, about a possibility which existed at the time and which, which I believe was never properly followed up. Uh, which may well have resulted in some sort of success. In any case, let's put it down this way, that, that's one of the disappointments of my service, the unsolved murder of Betty Shanks.
[00:26:32] Mike King: What I really think Tory is that, perhaps the investigators came up with a theory before they had facts that were there to support what the theory was. And you've heard me say it over and over again as I quote Sir, Arthur Conan Doyle who penned that really cool phrase as he was speaking for Sherlock Holmes in the book, "A scandal in Bohemia". He says, “It is a capital mistake to theorise before one has data. Insensibly, one begins to twist the facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts.”
[00:27:06] Tory Shepherd: Oh, that's so true, Mike. And one of the facts in this case was mentioned by Detective Chandler. Remember he wrote in his report that he'd noticed Betty Shanks' watch had stopped at 9:53 PM. And that coincided with that timeframe where several people reported hearing screams in the area, at least five people heard those screams around that time. And maybe as many as seven.
[00:27:26] Mike King: It's facts like this that lead to solid theories in my book, Tory. And I'm really hoping in this episode that we can get closer to identifying Betty Shanks' killer. I mean her family quite frankly, deserve to see this woman get justice after 70 years.
[00:27:44] Tory Shepherd: I agree Mike, it's amazing that seven decades and we still haven't got any closer, although you were giving us that tantalizing hint earlier about a possible new lead. I'm sure we'll come back to that.
All right. Let's go back to what we know about Betty's last movements. Let's go back to, as you say, the facts. And hey listeners, if you really want to visualise this, you can go to mappingevil.com.au and there is, you can literally walk her steps and you can see what we're talking about. It will take you back to, you know, 1952 Brisbane. And you can see where, where she went, where she crossed the road like Mike was talking about.
So, she gets off the tram to the Grange Terminus. It's 9.32. September 1952. She's walking home. Her home's on Montpelier Street. On that same tram was a Mrs. Osborne who walked along the same path a bit before Betty. She said she heard nothing. This is important because there were reports at the time from Clarice Ansell, now her husband was in a doctor's surgery nearby.
Sometime between 8.15 and 8.45, she saw a man she said was restless. He was pacing to and fro. She described him as tallish, well-built, looked like he was waiting for someone. And also, he walked halfway across the street and peered into the back of her car. So Clarice Ansell and her kids are sitting in the car and he comes and peers in before turning on his heels and walking away, understandably, she got chills up her spine from that.
She noticed he was nearly six feet tall, very square shouldered, round faced. Good head of hair. Well brushed back, wearing a light brown double-breasted suit. So she was quite observant, Clarice Ansell.
[00:29:37] Mike King: I mean, what an incredible, uh, description that she provided here. So here is this unknown man in a brown suit. And I don't know about you Tory, but this one has really captured my attention. This, seemingly well-dressed man in the suit continues to haunt me to this day since I heard about this.
I think we need to dig deeper into this person. I mean, is it possible that he's responsible for this horrible crime? And should this man in the brown suit be added to some of the other theories of people who might've killed Betty Shanks?
And Tory, how do we somehow reconcile the suspects of the past? An ex-soldier, a case of mistaken identity. Was Betty Shanks a case of mistaken identity and she was actually not the intended victim for this predator, who knows?
[00:30:33] Tory Shepherd: Oh, Mike, you know, I can so clearly picture this man in the brown suit now, I can't picture his face, but I can picture this guy sort of shuffling across the road. But then, there was also a married doctor who was rumored to be having an affair with Betty who committed suicide a couple of days after the murder. There was the off-duty police officer. There were reports that maybe he hit her on a motorbike and threw her body over the fence.
And then there was a suspicious man who got into a taxi at 10.40 that night. So just over an hour after she got off the tram, who had blood on his clothes. So we're not short of suspects, Mike.
[00:31:11] Mike King: No. And the blood on your clothing is in police terms, a tip or a lead. I think we've really uncovered some interesting angles that our listeners are going to want to learn more about in the next episode.
And I think it's time to start unmasking each of these possible suspects once and for all. Including, one in particular that seems really compelling to me.
[00:31:35] Tory Shepherd: Mike, that was quite the tease to end on and listeners fear not, this is a four-part series, and you can actually listen to them all right now and find out just what Mike King is hinting at.
[00:31:48] Desche Birtles: I know who killed Betty Shanks.
[00:31:52] Tory Shepherd: If you found any content in this podcast distressing, help is available. Call lifeline on 13 11 14. And if you have any information about unsolved crimes, contact Crimestoppers, they're on 1800 333 000, or crimestoppers.com.au.
[00:32:09] Tory Shepherd: Research for this episode included reading through media reports, which we sourced through Trove Archives and Ken Blanche's book “Who Killed Betty Shanks”. We also watched a 2004 episode of Channel Nine's Crimewatch from which you heard interviews with Senior Detective Abe Duncan and Betty's friend Billie Lake.
And of course, we have to give a huge thank you to author and historian, Ted Duhs for being so generous with his time and sharing his research about Betty's murder.
If you're interested in learning more about Betty's story, we recommend you read the third edition of Ted's book, “I Know Who Killed Betty Shanks”. There's a link to where you can get a copy of the book on the Mapping Evil website.
Another big thank you goes out to the Queensland Police Museum for access to their archives, including historical images from the scene and information about the case. The museum is open to the public and actually has a display dedicated to this very case.
This is a Boustead Geospatial Technologies production.
This episode was narrated by me, Tory Shepherd and Mike King. Production and sound design by Fig Media with support from Circa3 and Podbooth Studios. Artwork by Tell Brand Creative.
Our Supervising Producer is Kim Douglas, and our Executive Producer is Raquel Jackson.
And finally, this production would not be possible without the support of Esri Australia.
- Episode 2: Geography of crime & punishment
Mapping Evil Season 2: Episode 2
[00:00:00] Tory Shepherd: This podcast contains detailed descriptions of violence and murder and is intended for a mature audience. Listener discretion is advised. The material discussed is based on firsthand accounts and publicly available information. In producing this podcast, every effort has been made to show respect to those affected by the crime.
[00:00:29] News reader 1: A Brisbane girl was violently bashed and strangled while walking home at night, the killer has never been caught.
Ted Duhs: Betty was very highly respected. She was liked by everybody in the suburb of Wilston. They were shocked at the brutality of the murder of Betty Shanks.
News reader 1: 19th of September 1952. There's been a shocking sex murder at Wilston. 400 police are now involved in a major murder manhunt.
Det. Norm Bauer: The murderer could have been lurking in the shadows at the murder spot and suddenly attacked the deceased as she walked past.
[00:01:10] Tory Shepherd: I'm Tory Shepherd, a journalist with a strong interest in true crime and anything mysterious. And this is Mapping Evil with Mike King. Mike has spent his life exploring the darker side of humanity. He's a world-renowned criminal profiler. He's written multiple books. He runs his own YouTube channel and he's pioneered the use of geographic information system technology in law enforcement.
Over the years, Mike has sat face-to-face with abusers, rapists and murderers, to try and understand how they choose their victims and why.
[00:01:42] Mike King: It has been over 40 years. It's hard to believe.
[00:01:45] Ted Duhs: They heard two screams. These were female screams and there was about one or two seconds between the first scream and the second scream.
[00:01:56] Tory Shepherd: Today, we're going to talk about who could have been responsible for the death of this incredibly fascinating young woman. And Mike, I say fascinating because I've learned there is a lot more to Betty Shanks than I initially realised. She's not just a headline.
[00:02:12] Mike King: Boy, isn't that the truth. And I I'm really getting the impression that you're ready to tackle the intriguing links that we've discovered, especially about ASIO.
[00:02:22] Tory Shepherd: Oh absolutely. I mean, I, I guess I thought she was just a, a university student, but there is this ASIO link and that is the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation here in Australia.
[00:02:34] Mike: I guess everybody in Australia knows what ASIO means, but for everybody in the US I'm glad you called it out.
It's kind of the equivalent to the CIA or the Central Intelligence Agency here.
[00:02:45] Tory Shepherd: It is. It's a little more local, not so much about the, uh, regime change. Not so much about overthrowing the dictatorships, but yes, it's, it's one of our spy organisations.
[00:02:54] Mike: Oh, okay. Now listen, if we're jumping into the conspiracy theories, you know, it, it really makes me think about these regime changes, but this one is a little different, cuz there's a bunch of conspiracy theories out there.
And this thing makes me think about the recent research that Ted Duhs undertook. I mean, this guy says he's uncovered information that suggests Betty Shanks was being recruited by ASIO. Agents from Melbourne were coming there. They were completely unaware that that Betty had been murdered until they showed up at her home, hoping to recruit her.
[00:03:29] Tory Shepherd: So that timing's kind of incredible, isn't it like just a few days between the visit from the spy chiefs and when she was actually murdered?
It makes the case more intriguing. And Mike, leaves us with even more unanswered questions.
[00:03:43] Mike: These brutal cases haunt us, Tory. They don't make sense to us, but they make perfect sense to these predators who commit them.
[00:03:55] Tory Shepherd: The murder of Betty Shanks sent shockwaves across sleepy, serene Brisbane. At that time, pretty much just a town, a hot and humid town in Australia in Queensland. People often call it the day the city lost its innocence.
[00:04:07] Billie Lake: You didn't lock doors; you didn't close windows. You went out and left the house wide open. You went to the pictures at night and walked home on your own.
[00:04:19] Ted Duhs: Betty was certainly kicked. She was kicked so hard, the autopsy said fractured mandible. Her jaw was broken.
[00:04:31] Tory Shepherd: Episode Two: Murdering Betty | Geography of Crime and Punishment.
And just to let you know, where possible the voices you'll hear in this podcast are of those directly involved in the case. But in some instances, actor's voices have been used.
It's been 70 years, making this Brisbane's longest running cold case. The murder of 22-year-old Betty Shanks. This violent, horrific crime still lives on in people's psyche. Even today, there's a reward of $50,000 for information which could help catch Betty's killer. It was 1952 so, they would, they would be quite old by now.
But at the time police grilled thousands of people, there was this long list of suspects. We're going to talk about a lot of them. there were confessions, hints, leaks, leads, red herrings. Over the years, at least seven men have confessed to the murder of Betty.
In this episode, we're going to look at a few of those suspects and hopefully get a little closer to who would do such a violent and horrific deed.
Here's what Detective Senior Sergeant Merv Chalmers said about the murder.
[00:05:38] Det. Merv Chalmers: When I saw the body, I realised just how horrible the whole thing was. She'd been kicked or bashed so hard in the side of the face that, one of her teeth had dislodged from its socket, emerged through the cheek on the other side of her face and landed on the grass.
I was put on the Shanks case two weeks after the murder, and it stayed with me until I retired. In all that time, we didn't come close to finding the murderer. Not once.
[00:06:05] Tory Shepherd: Betty was strangled, kicked, viciously bashed as she was walking home from the tram after 9.30 at night to her family home in Montpelier Street. It's really astounding to hear about the violent nature of this crime. It was out of control, this just doesn't seem like, you know, an opportunistic crime or, or just a crime of passion. It was somebody who really had lost control.
And it certainly baffled the detectives at the time because of the nature of it. And so they really wanted to hear from the public and gather up any information they could.
This is what Detective Senior Sergeant Bauer told the inquiry inquest.
[00:06:42] Det. Norm Bauer: The murderer would have been absent from his place of residence on the night of the 19th of September for some hours and would no doubt have returned to his home with his hands and clothes heavily stained with blood. It would have been necessary for him to wash and dry, burn or otherwise destroy his bloodstained clothing as secretly as possible.
[00:07:05] Mike King: These things are so difficult to talk about Tory and think about it, murdering somebody in this manner isn't easily done. Betty Shanks would have undoubtedly fought like a lioness. This predator couldn't have come out of this unscathed. He, he'd likely would have blood all over him, perhaps scratches on his face and arms and hands.
His clothing would have certainly been torn and certainly disheveled. There's evidence like blood transfers on the top rail of the fence that support this theory. You know, and I've always been a little bit troubled by the news report that stated the assault was the result of a sex maniac on the loose. Developing theories like this quickly in an investigation can create a lot of red herrings that really foul things up.
Listen to what Detective Senior Sergeant Norm Bauer had to say about this case.
[00:08:00] Det. Norm Bauer: The post-mortem examination has revealed that sexual intercourse did not take place. And the deceased was a virgin. It would appear from the partial undressing of the body and from the position in which the body had been placed, that the objective of her assailant was to make a sexual attack, but that he had been thwarted in some way.
It may have been that the deceased came to her senses and screamed out, upon which her attacker made a frenzied attack on her, cruelly kicking or striking her about the face and throttling her. The grass stains on the deceased's knees and the black marks as of boot polish on her legs, allied to the fact that her blouse had been torn open, and that the top of her brassiere was torn, would support the suggestion that the deceased had made a struggle for her life.
[00:08:59] Tory Shepherd: So, Mike, as a journalist, I can also imagine what would have happened at the time, this huge public interest, I mean, everyone would have been talking about it. Journalists would have been looking for clues, new ways to discuss it, new headlines and so we saw at the time and the newspapers, things like, “sex, maniac murder”, and we heard Bauer talk about it there. There were just so many theories, and I guess people were just trying to work out what had happened.
[00:09:25] Mike King: I mean, think about this. We have suspects that, that are from such differing backgrounds, and it is so important that we look at the fact of whether they're a police officer or a soldier or a doctor or somebody else, the butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker. It just doesn't matter. What really matters is focusing in on the behaviour.
And does that behaviour tie to this criminal case?
[00:09:50] Tory Shepherd: You're so right, Mike. And I feel like it's one of the real hallmarks of this case, that there were just all these suspects that popped up. There's the man in the brown suit, there's the soldier, there's the policeman. And it's really quite satisfying when we start to really whittle that down.
But we need to start looking at these suspects, Mike, and I'm really keen to hear what your thoughts are. Firstly, there's the doctor.
So on the 22nd of September in 1952, the Queensland Times newspaper reported two headlines. One was, "Nationwide search for sex killer," so they're still calling it a sex killer. And the story next to that was about a possible suicide by a doctor.
[00:10:30] Newspaper article: Death of an Ipswich doctor. The body of prominent Ipswich medical man, Dr Carter aged 39, was discovered by his wife in his garden at 1:00 AM. Dr. Carter had sustained a throat wound and a knife was found nearby.
[00:10:52] Tory Shepherd: So we know Dr. Carter died two days after Betty's murder. And there was all this speculation that maybe the two were connected. There were rumors that he'd met Betty Shanks at university lectures, that he'd maybe been trying to form a relationship with her, but that she had rejected him because he was married, but it's all speculation.
[00:11:11] Mike King: Yes, and the speculation just continues. Let's not forget that Betty also received a mysterious phone call a few days before she was murdered. Her boss said that the call really rattled her and I'm left wondering what were the behaviours that he observed that led him to this conclusion? I mean, was his assessment accurate or did he read more into the call than there was, creating a potential red herring?
I remember comments made by Detective Chandler during the early stages of this case. As you recall, he was the first detective that arrived on the crime scene and he theorised that the doctor was the killer. Well, according to media reports, he also advised the inspector handling the case that he believed it was the doctor who phoned Betty at work.
He believes she refused his advances over the phone, and that's why he murdered her. Holy cow I'm kind of perplexed by this, I mean, what evidence did he have to arrive at this kind of conclusion? And frankly could it have pushed the entire investigation in the wrong direction?
Now we know that the inspectors disregarded the detective's theory, although he continued to say that he believed the doctor met Betty at the tram Terminus, and then he killed her after an argument.
[00:12:30] Tory Shepherd: Here's Senior Detective Abe Duncan, speaking about the doctor as a suspect in this case.
[00:12:36] Det. Abe Duncan: 50 hours after Betty Shanks' deaths, that doctor committed suicide, and he cut his own throat with a butcher's knife in the yard of his own residence of Ipswich.
[00:12:51] Tory Shepherd: Well, Mike, I may have been a bit mean about my colleagues in the press earlier saying that they, you know, put all these headlines together, but that information came from somewhere and the police also had all these different theories that they were bandying about.
And you add to that, the fact that again, the public interest was so high that people were calling in with their own ideas or confessions or things that they thought they knew. And we know that some alleged that the doctor's suicide was in fact, a murder. But actually in the end, there's no known evidence connecting him to the murder.
And the doctor, his two sons as well they were really plagued by their dad's connection to the Betty Shanks murder. And relatively recently they put forward a DNA test, but it wasn't matched against a contaminated sample from Betty's clothing. And I guess that really underlines part of the challenge in this case Mike, there aren't conclusive DNA samples from the murder scene.
We hear a lot about DNA now, but in 1952, not, not so much. And look, we might talk about that a bit later, Mike. But with Dr. Carter, he was cleared of any involvement in Betty's death and there doesn't even seem to be evidence that the two had ever met. So he lived in Ipswich which is a bit more than 30 kilometers from Brisbane.
Uh, and his own death was pretty mysterious. More of those unanswered questions, Mike, but definitely not related to Betty's murder.
[00:14:13] Mike King: I don't know why it is that we want quick answers to these mysteries. And I've wondered if the two deaths, because they appear on the cover of the same newspaper, led to these ghost stories that connect the doctor.
There were interesting tidbits of information, even some that was relational, but at the end of the day, I feel pretty comfortable in ruling out Dr. Carter as one of those suspects.
[00:14:36] Tory Shepherd: I think I'm with you, Mike. I know that that's how it often works with the media. You just you're, it's almost febrile, you're picking up on little bits of information and, and seeing what kind of pattern you can form.
And sometimes it's just the wrong pattern.
[00:14:46] Mike King: You mentioned DNA Tory, and it's important to think about the fact that DNA has changed dramatically over the years. It's certainly much better today than it was when Betty Shanks was murdered. We were able to collect some things back then, but the ability to analyse it and tie it to cases is so much better today.
But the question just drives me batty at times wondering if there truly was DNA in the crime files somewhere, if it was destroyed if they had it, or if it ever existed.
[00:15:19 ] Tory Shepherd: We still have so many questions, but let's talk about the soldiers. It's strange to picture this now, but in 1952, when Betty Shanks was killed, there were all these soldiers in Brisbane. It was the middle of the Korean War and the first of Australia's original national service intakes had started. So it was a fairly common sight to see soldiers on the streets.
A newspaper reporter at the time, that's author, Ken Blanch, who you know Mike, said that the mark left on Betty Shanks' forehead after her death suggested a person wearing shoes that left a particular pattern had kicked her during the attack.
So he thought it was basically a footprint there on her forehead. And he says he formed that opinion that she was kicked by someone wearing heavy footwear because of the force that was used. So that's another theory from Ken Blanch. Here's the thing, fresh boot polish was definitely found on her body Mike.
[00:16:10] Mike King: We're so lucky to have reports from people like Ken. And I also had the chance to speak with Ted Duhs, the author of the book, "I know who killed Betty Shanks", we talked about the case in detail. Mr. Duhs is confident in his assessment that a soldier had nothing to do with this murder. He thinks it was much more personal.
I wanna pause and listen to some of what Ted Duhs had to say when we spoke.
[00:16:34] Ted Duhs: The particular image you're talking about is the patent mark on Betty's forehead. It's rectangular. It's spots of hemorrhage. Now, Ken Blanch early on had the idea that Betty was killed by a soldier, and in his book, Ken Blanch has a photograph of the rectangular mark on Betty's forehead which is about four centimeters square. And juxtaposed against that is a photograph of the marks that a soldiers' gaiter, which at the time, canvas gaiter, soldiers wore around their ankles. And the patterns are similar, but they're not identical. So that's one reason why I don't think Betty was killed by a soldier.
[00:17:35] Tory Shepherd: Mike, it's so complicated. Here's another confounding fact that not long before she was killed, Betty Shanks won the Golden Casket Lottery. So she won the Lotto right. And in 1952, the paper published all the winners' names. I mean, that's astounding to me, the idea that anyone who wins a large sum of money has their name put in the paper.
So people have suggested, could the mysterious phone call that she got at work, the one you mentioned before that really rattled her, could it have come from someone demanding money from her? Could somebody have gone after her and tried to snatch her handbag? Could it be just a theft that went wrong? So that's another theory, but let's park that for now and move on to the policeman on the motorbike.
Now, this theory is backed by the Ipswich historian, Lyle Reed, who says a rogue police officer struck Betty with his motorcycle as she was crossing Carberry Street from Thomas Street, and that he rode away, and came back later and strangled her to make sure she was dead. And again, we've got those maps on the website at mappingevil.com.au, so you can kind of picture how this might've happened.
Ted Duhs also mentioned this theory.
[00:18:44] Ted Duhs: The motorcyclist picked her up and he walked further along the footpath in Thomas Street and threw her over the fence into the backyard of the Hill's residence, which is where Betty's body was found on the Saturday morning by Constable Stewart.
Now the Ipswich historian then says that an hour later, the motorcyclist came back to verify that Betty was dead, and he strangled Betty, and she was finally dead. This happened at around about 10.30.
Now this is easily disproved because there is a photograph in my book of blood spots on the asphalt footpath and there's about 20 or maybe 30 blood spots identified by the police. Now, those blood spots are located on the footpath in Thomas Street very, very close to the third Bauhinia tree, and they would have come from an attack on Betty in the backyard of the Hill's residence.
They could not have come from an accident with a motorcycle, 30 yards away in Carberry Street.
[00:20:15] Mike King: It's clear that if Betty Shanks were hit in the intersection by a passing vehicle or the motorcycle theory, there would have been physical evidence at the point of contact, not to mention all the debris that would indicate the direction of the impact and the direction that she would have gone.
I've not personally studied the forensic information on this thing up close, and reprints can be kind of misleading. But the direction in which the blood spatter originates and the location it lands is conclusive in nature and would paint a much clearer picture of at least that piece of the puzzle Tory. So I'm having trouble with that one.
[00:20:54] Newspaper article: Reward poster. 30th of March, 1953. Wilful murder, £1,000 reward. The cooperation of the general public is sought by the police department to trace the murderer of Betty Thomson Shanks, aged 22, single, who met her death by violence and whose body was found at 5:35 AM on the 19th of September 1952.
[00:21:21] Mike King: Well in cases like this, the investigators, police commanders and government officials in general are under an incredible amount of pressure. I mean, not only did they want to personally solve these crimes, they also want to reassure the public that they are safe out there. That pressure has remained even now, even after 70 years. And the only thing that they know today though, is that the killer had large hands, and they got that by evidence on the, on the fence where those large bloody handprints were. And the fact that the predator likely wore highly polished black footwear.
[00:21:58] Tory Shepherd: So Mike, we talked about this a little bit last episode about all the new technology. So if investigators were looking at Betty's murder today and they had access to all the GIS, all the crime mapping technology that you're now so familiar with, what would they do now? How would they drill down on all these different suspects that we've talked about?
[00:22:16] Mike King: I, I think they'd first do it exactly the same as far as collecting the information, but what we can do today that is so darn exciting is we can look at people like the doctor or, or the soldier or the policeman out on his motorbike.
And we can examine that information, something, some of it that comes from eyewitness accounts or confessions or admissions. Uh, but now we can add things like CCTV footage from local businesses or, uh, doorbells that are collecting imagery out on the street. All of that information really helps us bring these cases together and it actually supports or excludes certain things that before, would've sent us down crazy rabbit holes.
[00:23:03] Tory Shepherd: And I think one of the interesting things about all that new technology is it can probably help people remember something like, did I see something? And then sometimes they can go back and look it up. Whereas I guess back in the day, you might be able to just jog their memory and they can access that the, wild, access their memories without the help of a smartphone.
So look, as we go on Mike and we work our way through these suspects, we cannot forget about the, quote, "indistinct man in the brown suit". He just keeps cropping up as a person of interest.
[00:23:36] Ted Duhs: That meant that there were four people that night who saw the man in the brown suit. And the police eventually came to believe that it was the man in the brown suit who very likely killed Betty Shanks.
[00:23:53] Mike King: So here we have four different people who have seen this man in the brown suit, the person that likely killed Betty Shanks. We need to understand why this person is in the area. Was it someone that was there because she was a target or did it just happen to be that two people came together in space and time, and then this horrible event occurred?
This is going to be really interesting as we learn more about the man in the brown suit.
[00:24:23] Tory Shepherd: And in our next episode, we hear an account that this man in the brown suit was the murderer, a handyman working at Betty's house at the time, and supposedly obsessed with Betty. And his daughter is convinced that he did it. So that'll be episode three of Mapping Evil Mike, I can't wait.
[00:24:39] Mike King: Thank you, Tory. I can't wait either, and I love the fact that we are now starting to narrow some of these possible suspects down to who's more probable, and that's going to get us a little closer to bringing some justice to Betty Shanks.
[00:24:54] Tory Shepherd: If you found the content covered in this podcast distressing, support is available from Lifeline on 13 11 14. And if you have any information about any unsolved crime, please contact Crimestoppers on
1800 333 000 or go to crimestoppers.com.au.
If you're interested in learning more about Queensland's longest standing cold case murder, we recommend Ted Duhs' book, "I know who killed Betty Shanks," the third edition. And if you've got a strong stomach and you're keen to take a look at the news reports of the time, check out Trove Archives.
This is a Boustead Geospatial Technologies production. This episode was narrated by me, Tory Shepherd, and Mike King. Production and sound design by Fig Media with support from Circa3 and Podbooth Studios. Artwork by Tell Brand Creative.
Our Supervising Producer is Kim Douglas, and our Executive Producer is Raquel Jackson.
And finally, this production would not be possible without the support of Esri Australia.
- Episode 3: Locating justice
Mapping Evil Season 2: Episode 3
[00:00:00] Tory Shepherd: This podcast contains detailed descriptions of violence and murder and is intended for a mature audience. Listener discretion is advised.
The material discussed is based on firsthand accounts and publicly available information. In producing this podcast, every effort has been made to show respect to those affected by the crime.
And special thanks to author and historian, Ted Duhs for sharing his research and knowledge on the Betty Shanks murder, and for taking the time to walk us through some incredible insights into the case.
[00:00:30] Just to let know, where possible the voices you’ll hear are of those directly involved in the case, but in some instances, actors’ voices have been used.
[00:00:44] News reader: A Brisbane girl was violently bashed and strangled while walking home at night, the killer has never been caught.
[00:00:54] Mike King: This was this beautiful, low-risk woman, murdered and left on the side of a road, thrown over a fence and into a backyard.
News reader: The 19th of September 1952, there's been a shocking sex murder at Wilston. 400 police are now involved in a major murder manhunt.
[00:01:15] Tory Shepherd: I'm Tory Shepherd, a journalist and a lover of intrigue, mystery, and true crime. And this is Mapping Evil with Mike King, a world-renowned investigator and criminal profiler who uses smart mapping technology to track and catch criminals around the world. He’s a bona fide cold case expert.
It's a four-part series that delves deep into Queensland's most gruesome and longest running cold case.
[00:01:37] Ted Duhs: One of the first things she said to me was, "I know who killed Betty Shanks".
Ken: Joe murdered Betty Shanks and I raced in to my wife and I said, “He did kill her, he did kill her – there’s no other answer.”
[00:01:50] Mike King: Crimes like this change a community, they steal our innocence. And they cause us to lock our doors and look over our shoulders at night.
[00:02:00] Tory Shepherd: It's become sort of a cliche, but the murder of Betty Shanks really was the day Brisbane lost its innocence. You know, it's the day after which people locked their doors at night, pulled their kids in when the sun went down, it sent shockwaves across Brisbane.
In this episode, we're going deep into a suspect who definitely knew Betty.
[00:02:20] Ted Duhs: Her father had driven her to the Grange tram terminus on two occasions to meet Betty Shanks. Desche went public with her story that her father killed Betty Shanks.
[00:02:35] Det. Chalmers: She'd been kicked or bashed so hard in the side of the face that one of the teeth had dislodged from its socket, emerged through the cheek on the other side of her face and landed on the grass.
[00:02:46] Tory Shepherd: Episode Three: Murdering Betty | Locating Justice.
Okay. So just a quick recap on the Betty Shanks murder, it was the 20th of September in 1952. The body of the 22-year-old was found in the front yard of a house. It was the corner of Carberry and Thomas streets in Grange in Brisbane. She'd been violently kicked and beaten. The details are horrific. Many men confessed and others had fingers pointed at them, but no one's ever been found guilty.
Okay. Mike, we've been moving through these suspects, having a good look at what the evidence is, and now we hope that we're getting close to a potential killer.
[00:03:27] Mike King: I always marvel at how seemingly intelligent people will confess to serious crimes that they never committed. Could that be the case in some of these people that we've looked at in this particular case? I mean, there is so much more to explore in this perplexing “who done it?”, and I'm looking forward to getting closer to that person in the brown suit.
So let's take this back to the night that Betty caught the tram. Recently we spoke with the author of the book, "I know who killed Betty Shanks", Ted Duhs. You know, he told us that after a lecture he gave one night a woman approached him.
[00:04:06] Ted Duhs: She came forward and she said, I'm Marie Patton, I was on Betty Shanks' tram that night. And she subsequently told me that she was in the back of the tram that night — this is tram 434. She saw Betty in the front of the tram and Betty saw her and they waved but didn't speak because they were in different parts of the tram.
Marie Patton said she got off the tram and walked quickly down Thomas Street because she was in a hurry to get home. And as she walked down Thomas Street, she saw a man in a brown suit under the streetlight of the Carberry Street and Thomas Street intersection.
Now that was about 30 yards from where Betty Shanks was killed only seven or eight minutes later. So that meant that there were four people that night who saw the man in the brown suit. And the police eventually came to believe that it was the man in the brown suit who very likely killed Betty Shanks.
[00:05:18] Mike: This recollection from Marie who now goes by the married name of Billie Lake is really interesting to me for a number of reasons. First, was Marie walking in the same direction as Betty was walking? If so, why didn't they just wait and walk together? Or did she start a few minutes later and then looked down the street where she saw this mysterious man in the brown suit?
That troubles me a little bit because it would have been about 140 meters from the Terminus if that were the case. It would have been dark, now there was spotty lighting, and it was much better at the street corner, but how accurate could her description be? And frankly, why didn't she hear Betty's screams if she was that close, it's really troubling.
[00:06:03] Tory Shepherd: It is troubling. If she was that close, that she didn't hear the screams. I, again, I put, try to put myself onto that map and work out who heard it, and if there's any reason why they might not have, and look listeners, if you're like me and you wanna follow those kind of twists and turns of Betty's last moments, steps, get to the website, Mapping Evil, and you can see all our maps there that just set out those crime scenes for you.
[00:06:27] Mike King: You know, eyewitness accounts in reality are some of the most challenging forms of evidence we ever have in criminal cases. The problem is, eyewitness accounts are a process of what is seen by influenced lighting, our personal biases, or maybe even our past experiences.
And I am in no way discounting what was said, but I need to keep in mind that investigators, and ultimately the courts, are going to require multiple forms of evidence to believe that something occurred, not just the testimony of one person. And so I'm led to look at this from a behavioural perspective and frankly, from a behavioural perspective, my first question would be, why Betty and not Marie? If they walk the same pathway, why was one picked and the other wasn't?
That demands a follow up question then: was Betty a victim of opportunity or was she a target?
And we keep looking at this man in the brown suit and we ask ourselves who on earth is this person? And slowly over the course of this investigation, the name Eric Sterry comes to the surface.
[00:07:40] Tory Shepherd: Mike, as you say, it's so complicated and I think that's what makes this so fascinating. There are so many different characters woven through this narrative. A woman named Desche Birtles, claimed that her father, an ex-soldier who'd become a locksmith, was the one who killed Betty Shanks, and we actually know there is a connection between Eric and Betty.
Here's what historian and author Ted Duhs had to say when we spoke with him.
[00:08:04] Ted Duhs: Desche's mother, Bernadette told Desche that after Betty Shanks won half share in first prize of the Golden Casket Lottery in April of 1952 — this was six months before she was murdered — that Betty Shanks spent quite a bit of that money, uh, well, she gave it to her parents and it was spent renovating the house.
And one of the jobs that was done was to replace the locks on the house.
And Bernadette said that Eric Sterry did that particular job for Betty Shanks.
[00:08:45] Tory Shepherd: Did they have a relationship beyond that professional association?
[00:08:49] Ted Duhs: Well, Eric, from his medical records was psychotic. He joined the RAAF in 1943, and in 1944, it was clear to his air force superiors that he had severe mental problems, uh by the way, he was discharged five months before the war in the Pacific ended, with severe mental problems.
Now, the psychiatrist who examined Eric in 1944, diagnosed him as psychotic. A closer diagnosis was that he was quite possibly schizophrenic or suffered from paranoia, employing delusional insanity. Desche herself told me that he suffered from three principal delusions.
His first delusion was that he was a war hero and expected to be treated like a war hero. Yet he never left Australia. He was never in combat. Yet in his photograph album, which is in my possession, I've got it at home, one of the photographs in the album is a photograph of Betty Shanks.
It's a 1952 photograph.
And on the back of the photograph, there are the words, Betty Thomson Shanks, murdered 1952. Now I asked Harold Birtles, Desche's third husband, to have a look at that photograph and the writing on the back because he was very familiar with Eric Sterry and he was very familiar with Eric's writing. And he told me that he believed that those words had been written by Eric Sterry.
[00:10:47] Mike King: Holy cow, Tory! Why on earth does this guy have a photograph of Betty Shanks in his album? I mean, did they truly have a relationship or was this a one-sided relationship, part of a bigger fantasy that he might've had? And then I have myself asking, could it have been in a wacky sort of way, a Memorial. Kind of like you see those people that walk around with wristbands lending support to a missing person case, or in this case, a violent murder in his own neighbourhood.
It is so important that we examine these kind of weird pieces of information thoroughly, but also that we avoid jumping to conclusions.
[00:11:27] Tory Shepherd: Let's go back to the actual attack. I mean, I don't want to sound gratuitous, but one of the really striking things about it was the violence and the chaos. I can't get it out of my head, the idea that teeth were found metres away from her body. And we talked about that patterned mark on her forehead that was maybe a footprint.
She was partially undressed, but we don't think that it was a sexual assault, despite what some of the newspapers said at the time. I mean, is it that it had to be committed by somebody who was having something like a psychotic disturbance? That would maybe support Desche's theory about her dad because she says her upbringing was very violent.
Now listen to this story from Ted, it's pretty disturbing.
[00:12:11] Ted Duhs: And Desche said it was fairly common in the house at Bowen Hills — where Desche, and her brother Darryl lived with Bernadette and Eric —for Eric, if he was displeased with his wife, Bernadette, or displeased with Desche, he would pull their panties down and say, "Who's been at ya?”
And Desche said, when she studied the crime scene, she was struck by the fact that Betty's panties had been pulled down, taken off and left by the fence. And she said that reminded her of her father's behaviour at home when both Bernadette or Desche had acted in a way which annoyed Eric.
So, I think the police also came to believe that the few blood spots on the panties had come from an aerial spray of blood as Betty was kicked, which means that they were removed initially. And well, if they were removed, initially it's likely they were removed by the murderer.
[00:13:36] Mike King: These cases are challenging when we examine the behaviours of a violent crime, we have to think about it in a couple of different ways. With Betty's case, we have to consider whether the attacker knew her and consequently, whether she knew the attacker. That's going to tell us whether this was an opportunistic assault or whether she was a target of this violence.
And these violent assaults could be planned actions, or they could be fantasised and then acted out, something from a sadistic predator for instance.
You know, Tory I think back to the Robert Ben Rhoades case that we talked about during season one of Mapping Evil, that case specifically points out some really important ways in which geography can play a role in helping solve these violent crimes.
If you recall, Rhoades was believed to have killed as many as 300 women before he was put in prison for the rest of his life. This was a massive case that covered the entire United States, and it was a truck driver who was travelling from community to community. Law enforcement looked at each murder as a local crime, rather than a serial criminal who was, uh, responsible for everything.
It wasn't until we were able to start looking at things like the trucking logs, and, and using GIS to do some spatial analysis and some – we call it geoprocessing – where we analyse how far this offender could get from point A to point B and still make it to the next truck stop, where he was logged.
We were able to look at things like credit card charges and weigh stations where his vehicle went through official locations with information. And plot all of that out on maps to put together a really systematic and easy-to-understand timeline of where this predator travelled. That has been used and is still being used today to try to solve unsolved homicides or missing persons that would fit within his footprint of destruction.
[00:15:40] Tory Shepherd: Mike, you and I spent, uh, a lot of time talking about serial killers and serial rapists. And you taught me a lot about how they have these like a modus operandi, and then a signature and like something that's a pattern that's particular to them. So I think that's what's really interesting about Betty Shanks, where we've had all these random suspects and what we don't have yet is that overlay to fit it onto something that's been done elsewhere to get that kind of modus operandi, that's why, I guess it's still such a big mystery.
[00:16:13] Mike King: The thing I find so intriguing Tory is that Betty's case could have been an opportunistic case, or it could have been that she was targeted. And this is why it's so important that we look into the organisational levels and, and the things that happened in this case, because it appears that in her case things didn't go like this predator planned.
So as we look at each of these suspects in closer detail, I find myself discounting behaviours based on an accident. And I find myself leaning more heavily toward characteristics that suggest that this killer knew Betty and he wanted to punish her.
Now, Desche Birtles said that she went to the authorities several times to tell her story but they didn't believe her. According to an article in the Daily Mail newspaper, Birtles said she witnessed her father burning his clothes in the backyard on the same night that Betty Shanks was murdered.
Now that's huge to me, her father, who she claimed was physically and sexually abusive toward her, then asked her to clean his leather boots and that they were stained with blood and tissue. And here's a really important part, Birtles was eight years old at the time. She said her father told her “Don't say anything or you'll end up like Betty Shanks.”
[00:17:39] Tory Shepherd: So Birtles' upbringing, it was obviously really traumatic, Mike, she'd run away from home in 1960 when she was 16 years old. And she went to the police.
And when they asked her why she wanted to run away. She said she had to, in order to live because her father would kill her otherwise, quote, "just like he killed Betty Shanks".
Now that's damning and disturbing. We kind of do have to keep in mind that the trauma that she'd been through and the fact that she was quite young, but she also goes on to say that the police said she shouldn't say things like that. They knew her father because he worked at the station, remember he was a locksmith, so he worked on the locks at the station.
[00:18:19] Mike King: Wouldn't that be tragic if, because of relationship, he wasn't looked at more closely, but here we have a woman whose opinions are based on her childhood memories. Now that was a six-to-eight-year difference between when this happened and when she went to police. All of these memories have been supported over the years by pieces of perceived or real evidence. But she truly believes that Betty and her father, Eric Sterry were having an affair.
Now here's where I have a trouble with this from a behavioural perspective, Tory. Sterry was 10 years older than Betty. Now some people may not think that that's too big of an age difference, but when you're 22 years old, that's a big difference in age. So I'd like to know a little bit more about their relationship, because I really question the relationship since Betty seemed to be attracting the attention of others that were her age. She was running in pretty impressive government and academic circles.
Why on earth would she be leaning toward a handyman or a locksmith? And could that guy really be the apple of her eye? I just have trouble with this. And we can't discount the story. But I personally need more behavioural information before I'm ready to say I'm feeling strongly about this one way or another.
So this was one of the questions I put to Ted. Let's have a listen to that conversation.
[00:19:47] Mike King: Why would he leave his vehicle and walk down the road, unless you're saying he was laying in wait, which makes it difficult to think that some conversation occurred at the Terminus, unless it was someone entirely different.
[00:20:02] Ted Duhs: You see, Desche's mother, Bernadette, was dissatisfied with the marriage from a very early stage and had her own life outside the marriage. She was, what Desche calls a party girl. And Desche's mother wasn't home that weekend, Desche remembers that very well. So that meant that the two children were in Eric's charge. And Eric took them and drove them to the Grange and parked the car near Wilston School and told them to go to sleep. And he left them in the back seat, and they went to sleep according to Desche. And then Eric left the car.
Now, this was not the only time in 1952 that this happened, it happened also in the winter of 1952, when Desche said that Eric went to the Terminus and brought Betty back to the car. And Desche remembers Betty being brought back to the car in the winter of 1952. Desche said that she and Eric argued quietly in the front seat while Desche and Darryl were in the backseat, pretending to sleep. And Desche said that after they’d argued for quite a long while, uh, in subdued tones – they weren’t shouting at each other – Betty got out of the car on the passenger side and went around the front of the car in order to go home.
The car was parked about a hundred yards from Betty’s house at 54 Montpelier Street. And Eric got out of the driving seat and went around the front of the car at the same time. And then he put his hands around Betty’s throat. And at that moment, Darryl, the younger brother, woke up in the back seat and saw through the windscreen, his father with his hands around a woman’s throat.
And he shouted out: “Mum!” because he thought his father was assaulting his mother, as he commonly did. And that is what Desche told me and if it happened like that, it would have astonished Betty Shanks who was used to civilized behaviour. But I don't think Betty was in danger at that time, or even felt in danger, but she may have resolved at that time to put a stop to seeing Eric again.
[00:22:53] Mike King: You know, I find Desche's comments and her testimony to be really interesting, mostly around where she says her father parked the car. Again, I wonder why on earth, if this was a planned meeting, he would park there other than maybe to keep his children from knowing that he was meeting with Betty.
But, again, I think about that and I think about the distance he would've had to cover. If a concealment was all that mattered, there were a lot of places he could have parked that car alongside that road. Today we'd have the benefit of, of cameras inside of police vehicles or body cameras that the officers are wearing as they patrol an area or as they respond to this attack that night. All of that information could be used to validate whether vehicles parked along the road belonged in that area or not.
And I really want to encourage everybody to just go back to the website, look at our interactive map where this claim of parking occurred. And then I want you to just think about it. Does it make sense to you? Is it relational to where Betty was attacked? You decide. You see if the geography and the behaviours and the way in which Betty was attacked, help you to come to some conclusion that he was responsible.
For me personally, I'm just not convinced.
[00:24:16] Tory Shepherd: You know, I was thinking, Mike, we're talking about Brisbane as a, as a much quieter town than it is now. And so today you might be like, oh, well, he probably just couldn't get a closer park but what we can still do is ask a question about whether anyone saw it parked there near the Wilston State School.
And then we can start to go: was that for a reason, like, was it to keep the kids hidden away? Still not clear on why the kids were there in the first place. And then we can start talking about, you know, was this relationship with Betty, was it real? Was it a fantasy? Was it, you know, how Desche remembers it?
There's there are a lot of questions still here for me.
[00:24:51] Mike King: Yeah. I mean really, if, if this guy planned on killing Betty Shanks, would he take his children? Would he subject them to what could eventually be him in a dishevelled state? We would have in today's day, we would have the ability to see if he was in that neighbourhood by a lot of different resources.
We'd be able to go and grab data off of the car's computer to see if that vehicle was in that location. There are so many things today that we could do that, then couldn't be done. But the bottom line is behaviour doesn't change.
[00:25:27] Tory Shepherd: All right, Mike, let's just, let's just take a second here, cuz this is a really good time to go back to one of the questions that we kept asking throughout Season One. And I just can't stop thinking about what if it happened today? What role would GIS technology play in investigating the crime and how would they use it to make sense of all of this information?
[00:25:45] Mike King: You know, GIS plays a huge role in these kinds of investigations, but not only GIS technology. Sensor data is a huge help in these kinds of investigations.
I think back to Betty Shanks' watch, and it became a really important part of understanding when a certain event happened. Imagine if she had had on a smart watch like today that would've given us biometrics on what her pulse was doing, what her heart rate was like, or, or when she fell. All of that information could really help us to start to hone in on things.
Then you start adding all that other stuff that we've talked about, like data from vehicles or from cameras on buildings or doorbell cameras. All of that information added with, with weather, traffic conditions, lighting. It, it is so exciting to think about what today we can do in comparison to what people had to try to use and put together cases 70 years ago.
[00:26:50] Tory Shepherd: But what's wild about that isn't it is that even though we don't have the biometrics of Betty Shanks' body as she got attacked, we do have a watch that stopped at exactly 9.53 PM.
[00:27:01] Mike King: Yeah, isn't that amazing. And could you imagine today what law enforcement could do with just that piece of information, knowing that now they're gonna go into a community and say, hey, we want everyone in this community to check your doorbell camera footage, or your security camera footage, or if you were driving through the neighbourhood at that time to tell us what you saw or what you're finding.
This is how cases are being solved so quickly today, and frankly, this is what is so frustrating when we look at these old cases, when we try to apply today's technology against those is we have to use data collected 70 years ago. But science and technology today can still bridge that gap.
[00:27:46] Tory Shepherd: And yet still, hopefully we have enough to start ruling people in and out this whole grab bag of suspects that we've had Mike.
And one of the people who I really wanna rule in or out, because, we keep talking about him and I'm still very unsure about who he is, the mysterious man in the brown suit. So when we talked to Ted, I actually put the question to him, let's have a listen to what he said.
[00:28:12] Tory Shepherd: Who do you believe the man in the brown suit was?
[00:28:15] Ted Duhs: Well, Eric Sterry the father of Desche Birtles. And Desche, who was eight years old at that time, when she contacted me, one of the first things she said to me was “I know who killed Betty Shanks.”
[00:28:35] Tory Shepherd: It's also interesting that there were three people at that tram terminus at Grange on the night of the murder who gave evidence at the inquest in February 1953, they said they saw the man in the brown suit. They described him moving restlessly about as he was apparently waiting for a tram passenger to arrive.
So not to go somewhere but waiting for someone to arrive to him. And one of those witnesses was Clarence Arthur Hovelroud. He'd been at a doctor's appointment and was walking back to his car. It was about 9.25. And he saw this man loitering nearby. And this is what he told the investigators at that inquest.
[00:29:13] Clarence Hovelroud: I spoke to this man dressed in a darkish suit. I asked him if he had missed a tram and he never answered me. I said, look, I'm going up as far as the picture show, if you wanna catch the tram. He did not seem to be interested, all he said to me was: “I, I've waited on a couple now. I'll wait for another.”
[00:29:31] Mike King: There is no question that there is a man in a brown suit skulking around either at the Terminus or down the street. There's no question that Betty Shanks gets murdered a block from the tram. And, uh, that that piece is important to kind of put together. But we have to look at a couple of other clues in this case. And I want to start with that patterned imprint that ended up on Betty's forehead.
It's described as a series of small round dots, and it's been the subject of a lot of discussion by not only law enforcement, but the true crime community. And there are numerous explanations for the wound. Including a theory that it happened when Betty was kicked in the head causing this transfer mark, this imprint, and then of course, a transfer of something else, a little more unique. Shoe polish.
Now Desche believes that the marks came from her father's shoes since she vividly recalls taking her father's shoes to a boot maker to have rubber soles glued on. That's pretty interesting she remembers those shoes so well. But she states that her father was wearing those same shoes that night. In fact, she remembers having to put polish on those brown brogues on the weekend of the murder.
And she shared this information with Ted Duhs in 2013.
[00:30:50] Desche Birtles: When we got home, we were told to go to bed. My brother shared a bed with me — he was too scared to sleep alone. My father stayed out in the yard and after a while I smelled smoke. When he walked past our bedroom, he was naked. There were no doors on any of the rooms in the house and the light from his room, shined down the hall.
[00:31:14] Tory: And then, again according to Ted, he told her to clean the front seat of the Vanguard. To wash out the floor of the car on the driver's side. And to clean those brown brogue shoes. She thought she was cleaning mud, but she later realised it was blood, skin and tissue. Mike, what are your thoughts about that idea that he asked her to clean up after him?
[00:31:35] Mike King: I believe this woman remembers what she remembers. Now whether it's accurate or not, I'm still kind of having some trouble understanding, especially because of the young age and the trauma that she went through, and how our memories can sometimes evolve over time. This term, the blood, skin and tissues may have been even some creative writing on the author's part, or it could be factual.
I just don't know. And I don't know how this many years later, you, you remember it in such detail, unless it was really stamped into the mind. The question I have is why is she required to clean out the floor of the car. There's no indication that Betty was transferred anywhere. There's certainly indication that there was a great deal of blood, but I don't know that that would be dripping in the car.
It really appears that Betty remained in one general crime scene. And I don't know, I'm struggling with that a little bit. But I have to keep reminding myself, can you imagine this child, having these memories about her father throughout her entire life?
Whether they're true or not, this is a sad, sad story, and I hope that she's gotten the appropriate level of counselling that's needed to work through memories like this.
I just don't know how to conceptualise this and put it against other evidence. Because again, I go back to that thing a single piece of evidence is not strong enough to make decisions on.
[00:33: 07] Tory Shepherd: Look just before we get to that, I did ask Ted who has done all this work, what his gut feeling was about who killed Betty Shanks.
[00:33:16] Ted Duhs: Oh, yes. I believe Desche. All of Desche's evidence I've checked out and I believe the evidence points almost unmistakably to Eric Sterry being the man in the brown suit at the Terminus.
[00:33:35] Mike King: I really want to compliment Mr. Duhs and frankly, thank him for his relentless pursuit of Betty Shanks' killer. This has been a life conquest for him, and I think his assessment about the doctor, the soldier and the motorcycle accident all make really good sense to me. They just don't seem to fit in my mind. But I find myself waffling back and forth between Betty being a target of this horrific crime, or a woman who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
I believe that Sterry's daughter believes what she testified to. I'm just not sure I believe Sterry's the killer. And I want to make that distinction really clear that, I mean, the location of his car, the physical assault, and the staging that occurs at that crime scene just leave too many unanswered questions in my mind.
As you can see, I'm kind of struggling in part Tory because there's still one more really important piece to this mystery that needs to be explored.
[00:34:38] Tory Shepherd: Well, Mike, we've heard about a range of suspects, the policeman, the soldier, the doctor, and now Eric Sterry. I've got to say there is a lot more evidence for that theory, but as you say, there's still a lot of questions. But I guess what we're leading into now, a brand-new suspect. Somebody that hasn't spoken publicly before and Mike, this is your story to tell. What, how did you find this new suspect?
[00:35:04] Mike King: It was incredible. I was actually in Australia doing some interviews with ABC and they kind of surprised me with the Betty Shanks case. And they asked, what really will it take to break this case in your opinion? And I shared my thoughts that in these kinds of cases, it takes someone over the course of a lifetime sometimes, getting enough courage to step up and make the phone call.
Perhaps the person is finally strong enough to make the call and say, I'm no longer afraid of this person. Like Desche getting the courage to finally step up and say, I think my father was involved. That takes an incredible amount of courage that can't happen when she's a child. It takes a while.
Well, I finished the interview Tory and I jumped on a plane and headed back to the United States. And as I exited the plane in Los Angeles, my phone rang, and on the other end of the line was a man and when I answered the phone, he said, "I listened to your interview on the news. My father killed Betty Shanks".
[00:36:07] Tory Shepherd: Mike, isn't it extraordinary as a cold case investigator, you can slog away for years and sometimes the breakthrough just lands in your lap. I can't wait to hear all about this new suspect.
If you found the content covered in this podcast distressing, support is available from Lifeline on 13 11 14. And if you have any information about any unsolved crime, please contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or go to crimestoppers.com.au.
For this episode, Mike and I interviewed author and historian, Ted Duhs who generously shared his decades of research and insights into the tragic case of Betty Shanks.
The third edition of his book, "I know who killed Betty Shanks", is available on the Mapping Evil website, so go and check it out if you haven't already.
This is a Boustead Geospatial Technologies production. This episode was narrated by me, Tory Shepherd and Mike King.
Production and sound design by Fig Media with support from Circa3 and Podbooth Studios. Artwork by Tell Brand Creative.
Our Supervising Producer is Kim Douglas and our Executive Producer is Raquel Jackson.
And finally, this production would not be possible without the support of Esri Australia.
- Episode 4: Mapping a monster
Mapping Evil Season 2: Episode 4
[00:00:00] Tory Shepherd: This podcast contains detailed descriptions of violence and murder and is intended for a mature audience. Listener discretion is advised. The material discussed is based on firsthand accounts and publicly available information. In producing this podcast every effort has been made to show respect to those affected by the crime.
[00:00:29] News Broadcaster 2: A Brisbane girl was violently bashed and strangled while walking home at night, the killer has never been caught.
[00:00:35] Ken: I believe he’d come out of the shadows, followed her down that hill to the darkest spot in that street and did what he did.
[00:00:43] News Broadcaster 2: 19th of September 1952. There's been a shocking sex murder at Wilston. 400 police are now involved in a major murder manhunt.
[00:00:53] Murray Templeton: The first thing I noticed was that he had blood on his clothes and face, he gave me the impression that he wanted to get away from the locality as soon as possible.
[00:01:03] Tory Shepherd: I'm Tory Shepherd, a journalist and a lover of intrigue, mystery, and true crime. And this is Mapping Evil with Mike King, one of the world's top experts in criminal profiling, violent crime investigation, and solving cold cases with cutting-edge geographic information system technology.
He’s worked with law enforcement agencies across the globe, consulted with media and universities and architected new ways to train investigators in the art of tracking and catching serial predators.
[00:01:31] Ted Duhs: One of the first things she said to me was…
[00:01:34] Desche Birtles: I know who killed Betty Shanks.
[00:01:37] Mike King: Betty Shanks didn't deserve the horrible abuse she endured at the hands of a madman. She does deserve justice.
[00:01:46] Commissioner Smith: This was a brutal and cowardly crime and I can promise the public that the murderer will not escape if we can help it. This killer will be hounded relentlessly.
[00:01:56] Tory: The murder of Betty Shanks sent shockwaves across sleepy, serene, Brisbane. People often refer to it as the day that city lost its innocence. In this episode, we're going to delve deep into a new suspect.
[00:02:08] Ken: Joe murdered Betty Shanks and I raced in to my wife, and I said: “He did kill her. He did kill her, there's no other answer.”
[00:02:15] Tory Shepherd: Over this series we've looked at a range of men suspected of killing young Betty Shanks. Was it the policeman, the soldier? Was it a sex crime or was it a case of mistaken identity? This is someone who had a loving family she'd even used her lotto win to pay off her parents' mortgage.
On her last day alive, Betty had lunch with her mum. They went shopping. And later that night, this beloved daughter was found dead not far from her family home. Now we're into the final episode of this series on this most baffling, most notorious murder. All these years later, we have a new suspect.
[00:02:49] Tory Shepherd: Episode Four: Murdering Betty | Mapping a Monster.
[00:02:59] News Broadcaster: 19th of September, 1953. Tributes mark one year since the murder of Betty Shanks. Hundreds of beautiful blooms decked a quiet house in Montpelier Street, Wilston today. Floral tributes have been arriving continuously in the past 24 hours, as many people remembered the night, a year ago, when a young girl died defending herself from the savage attack of a sex maniac.
Betty Shanks' mother said today that she had received scores of flowers and letters of sympathy in the past two days. Mrs. Shanks said, “Today's the anniversary of Betty's death. But to us, it is no different from the other days. We have our sorrow with us each and every day.”
Although top investigators have worked ceaselessly to track down Ms. Shanks' killer, no trace of him has been found. Detectives are still hopeful, however, that someday they will receive information, which will furnish a clue to the man's identity.
[00:04:07] Tory Shepherd: Now, Mike, let's go back to where we left off last episode and look, you're a little older than me, so let me just remind you exactly what you said.
[00:04:16] Mike King: It was incredible. I was actually in Australia doing some interviews with ABC and they kind of surprised me with the Betty Shanks case. And they asked, what really will it take to break this case in your opinion?
And I shared my thoughts that in these kinds of cases, it takes someone over the course of a lifetime sometimes, getting enough courage to step up and make the phone call. Perhaps the person is finally strong enough to make the call and say, I'm no longer afraid of this person. Like Desche getting the courage to finally step up and say, I think my father was involved. That takes an incredible amount of courage that can't happen when she's a child. It takes a while.
Well, I finished the interview Tory and I jumped on a plane and headed back to the United States. And as I exited the plane in Los Angeles, my phone rang, and on the other end of the line was a man and when I answered the phone, he said, "I listened to your interview on the news. My father killed Betty Shanks."
[00:05:16] Tory Shepherd: Oh Mike, ‘my father killed Betty Shanks’ what a, what a cliff hanger. So, who is this guy? What's his story?
[00:05:24] Mike King: Well, for now, we're gonna just refer to him by the name of Ken and, and I think Ken's story is best told in his own words.
So, let's pause and listen to some of the conversation that I had with Ken, and for the audience, I wanna just remind you, when Ken talks about Joe, Joe is his father.
[00:05:44] Tory Shepherd: Okay. Mike let's…let's have a listen to your conversation with Ken.
[00:05:49] Ken: Just a couple of minutes after that the tram with Betty Shanks on it, turned up at the Terminus. The Conductor saw her walk across the road in the pitch-black night, he said it was the blackest night, no moon, nothing.
Well, Joe hiding amongst the shadows, the sight of Betty Shanks and the resemblance to my mother would've pulled that big trigger in his mind. I mean the big one. And once that big trigger was pulled, he was lethal, I told you about the term he used to use. They're all tarred with the one brush.
I believe, he'd come out of the shadows, followed her down that hill to the darkest spot on that street and did what he did. I 100% believe that.
[00:06:32] Det Abe Duncan: I was associated in the investigation of several murder cases.
[00:06:38] Mike King: This is Senior Detective Abe Duncan speaking about the case after he retired.
[00:06:43] Det Abe Duncan: But I do recall one of the disappointments of my life has been the, the fact that, the matter of the murder of Betty Thomson Shanks, in 1952, at the Grange in Brisbane was never solved. Until this day, I still have a theory, first advanced by Ted Chandler about a possibility which existed at the time and which, which I believe was never properly followed up, uh, which may well have resulted in some sort of success.
In any case, let's put it down this way, that that's one of the disappointments of my service the unsolved murder of, of, Betty Shanks. And I believe that, that will be followed up in the future.
[00:07:37] Tory Shepherd: And Mike, Abe Duncan predicted it. Here we are in the future. Still follow, following it up.
[00:07:44] Mike King: You know, we, we used to think that time was the enemy, but in reality, with technology, with the advances in forensics, how GIS can bring all of this data together, time really has become the friend of law enforcement in many of these cold cases. We are seeing more cold cases solved today than we ever thought was possible 20 or 30 years ago, let alone 70 years ago.
Detective Abe Duncan said that he was haunted by Betty's murder. Well, hopefully, all these years later, the information provided by everyone out there and all of the information that's coming in, is helping to bring truth and closure to this case.
[00:08:27] Tory Shepherd: And as you said, it's, it's seventy years from that horrific murder and we're following up a confession. So, some new information. Mike, Ken truly believes it was his father.
[00:08:37] Mike King: We've talked about how important victimology is, equally important is suspectology or this study of who the suspects are. In this inquiry, we better understand if a predator has a motive, means, and opportunity to commit such a murder.
[00:08:56] Ken: A high percentage of mornings were quite traumatic. Like when, when Joe was in a rage he'd stomp up and down the hallway. He'd refer to us as bludgers and things like that. That was very disturbing. And it was so constant. The most violent part in our life was probably up to the age of 12 or so. And that's when we, you think there's a predator in every house, you know.
[00:09:21] Mike King: Tell me first how your father, Joe would discipline your sisters. And then we'll talk about you.
[00:09:30] Ken: There was very little respect shown for my three sisters. You could probably put her like that. Like my oldest sister received some brutal beatings and they still called him dad. I used to wonder how can they call this person Dad?
[00:09:43] Mike King: Describe how discipline was for you when something went wrong.
[00:09:48] Ken: The first time that he physically abused me was when he had the pillow on my head for so many minutes, and he was nearly successful what he was trying to do, but it was more mental abuse.
You know, say if he considered I'd done something wrong he wouldn't physically assault me he'd assault my mother. She could antagonize him at times if she said a word out of place. For instance, we were all going out one day, this does describe the manner in which he treated her, and she got in the back seat because of some argument or something, she got in the backseat, which really pulled the trigger.
You know, the old gear sticks, they had a knob, but as he drove, he slowly screwed that knob off, turned round and threw it right into her face. Hit her right between the eyes with it, you know, it bled something terrible.
[00:10:43] Mike King: And why do you suppose she remained with Joe?
[00:10:46] Ken: Uh, well, I asked her that same question. And, uh, I said, well, why don't you pack us up and we'll leave, you know? And, and she said, at least there's food on the table. She watered it down to the following, which I could never, ever comprehend. You might cop a punch now and then, but there's food on the table.
[00:11:08] Tory Shepherd: Mike it's interesting because it's still an issue now, you know, 2022 as we speak, it's really hard for women to leave abusive relationships. And I can only imagine back in the 1950s, I mean, we hear Ken say, you know, why don't you just pack us up and go, but it's not that easy now. And it wouldn't have been easy then.
[00:11:25] Mike King: Yeah. Think about how difficult it would have been just from a societal standpoint to pick up and leave. I mean, in the public people didn't really do that. They didn't walk away from marriages, and they didn't walk away from families. And then think of the responsibility that his wife must have felt for that little family. Who was going to take care of the children? How was she going to take care of the children?
Today, women might be more prone to have careers and something else to back them up, but back then they were considered homemakers and really didn't have a way to provide for themselves.
[00:12:05] Tory Shepherd: So for all those reasons, Ken's family stayed together. And Mike, you spoke to him about the impact his father's behaviour had on him.
[00:12:13] Mike King: He talked about how terrible it was at times. And I'm sure that for that mother, it was terrible to have her children being put in a position to have to witness the kinds of abuses that were going on. Domestic violence is a horrible thing. It's a horrible situation where families try to hang together and yet they know that they can't.
We see this vicious domestic violence cycle repeat itself over and again, whether it was 70 years ago or today. We're so much better off today because we have resources that help families get through this. We have law enforcement agencies that are required to get people in front of a judge and in front of counseling when they know about domestic violence situations, but not 70 years ago.
[00:13:00] Tory Shepherd: So, Mike, I think I've read before about how, when people mistreat animals, when they abuse, you know, smaller, less powerful creatures, that's often a precursor to them becoming psychopaths or murderers later in their lives.
[00:13:14] Mike King:I know that there were a number of studies back in the 1970s by the FBI and psychologists, where they looked at something they later termed the homicidal triangle Tory, and it's such an interesting thing because what they found among serial killers, was that there was a common thread among all serial killers.
There was this problem with control…back then they just said, enuresis or this bedwetting problem. They had backgrounds that talked about fire starting and about animal cruelty. Throughout my career, I've noticed that many predators started first with animals and there's something in their psychopathy that just disconnects them from suffering. Whether it's an animal at first or a human later, it's terrifying to think about this.
[00:14:09] Mike King: Did he ever kill animals in front of the family?
[00:14:12] Ken: There was a lot of cats, and the cat would have kittens and the heads would be ripped off. Joe used to claim that the father of the cats had ripped the heads off. But one major incident, which traumatised me to a great degree in my childhood. I was in his backyard one day and he’d come out from under the house with a box and a new batch of kittens and a sugar bag, and a rock and a tie for the top.
And I can still close my eyes and picture the scene, he walked out from under his house and he saw me on the pathway. He walked up to me, he said: “Put these kittens in this bag, put the rock in tie it up, take it down to the local creek and drown ‘em.” You know, I used to get comfort out of the animals, you know, singing and animals were my only comfort.
I think he recognised that, and he said: “I'm too busy to go down, you take ‘em down and you drown ‘em.” And I sort of had a fear of what might happen to my mother if I didn't, I started progressing down to the creek and I thought, well, maybe he's not looking, I'll let them go. I looked behind, he was right behind me.
[00:15:23] Mike King: He wanted to make sure you did it didn't he?
[00:15:25] Ken: Yeah. I can shut my eyes now and still see that sugar bag disappearing into the deep water. I had to do it.
[00:15:34] Tory Shepherd: Okay. So, we're starting to, I guess, get the idea about Ken's family home. And what happened next was that his parents wanted to do a renovation, and they got a tradesman in his name was Jack. I think this was someone that Ken's dad actually knew, but also Ken's dad was a little bit paranoid and jealous, and you spoke to him about that.
[00:15:55] Mike King: Jack now, uh, was doing some carpentry work that he and your mom uh, got to know each other. Here here's a direct question. Was your mother having an affair with Jack?
[00:16:08] Ken: In her eyes at the time looking back, she'd have thought, if I had an affair it'll be fatal, but it didn't enter her mind, you know. Like, in the early years of the marriage, she used to watch the clock. She used to tell me about it, watch the clock? Where is he? Where is he? You know, then she'd find out he'd told lies he was with people in hotels and women and that. He controlled her so brutally, that she would have been terrified of having an affair.
[00:16:34] Mike King: Do you believe your father thought she was having an affair?
[00:16:38] Ken: Uh, well, absolutely. Absolutely. And it was common for him to accuse her. You know, and as I say, the incidents where she made eye contact with another male one night at a neighbours’ house she was brutally beaten.
[00:16:56] Mike King: Ken, we've covered a lot about your childhood, some about your mother and your father. We call that victimology and suspectology as criminal investigators. It's this study of who people are.
What I want to do now is just really focus on the night that Betty Shanks died. So I'd like to take you back and again, you were just the boy at this time. But you've relived these memories throughout your life. Was your mother home on the evening that Betty Shanks died?
[00:17:25] Ken: Yeah, she certainly would have been at home. She spent every Friday night at home. She never went anywhere. You know.
[00:17:31] Mike King: Your mother, the following day, with what you thought was that she became very suspicious, that he might be responsible for her death because of some behaviours that happened that your father did, and some things your mother did. Can you describe that?
[00:17:46] Ken: Well, the first sign was, she became agitated when she was reading the newspaper on the Sunday morning. That was the first knowledge we had of the murder, not far away, you know. And it was perhaps the following Tuesday, I was leaving for school and I saw two people, I now know that they were detectives, one I believe his name was Abe Duncan.
They were talking to Joe and Jack in the yard, and this was early in the morning, you know. And I got home from school, and I walked up the back stairs of Joe's house and she approached me hysterical and collapsed across my shoulders. The police have been here all day she said, and she virtually fainted across my shoulders.
That shows me that she believed that he did kill Betty Shanks, she may have seen a photo of Betty Shanks, the resemblance to herself, put two and two together, which I did eventually.
[00:18:41] Tory Shepherd: On that night, at about 10:40 PM, and remember, this was 47 minutes after Betty Shanks' watch had stopped. A taxi driver named Murray Templeton picked up what he described as a well-built, tallish man near the Newmarket Hall.
[00:18:55] Murray Templeton: He gave me the impression that he wanted to get away from the locality as soon as possible, giving me the directions as he got in.
The first thing I noticed was that he had blood on his clothes and face. It appeared to me at first that he'd been hit on the nose and had bled down the front of his clothing.
[00:19:19] Mike King: Ashgrove was the destination at first, but apparently the farer asked to be driven to the Red Hill Post Office. It struck Templeton as strange because it was a roundabout way to reach Red Hill. His passenger sat back in the car and spoke of having had a win at cards. He walked around the back of the car toward the Kelvin Grove side of the Windsor Road and he disappeared into the darkness. He's not been seen since, and it creates a deeper mystery to this unsolved cold case.
This is what Sergeant Bauer said about this suspect at that time.
[00:19:57] Det Norm Bauer: There would've been sufficient time for the murderer of Betty Shanks to have walked from where the murder was committed to the corner of Enoggera Road and Ashgrove Avenue by 10:40 PM. This distance would be about one and a half miles.
[00:20:14] Mike King: Now, looking at the maps, it would be about three kilometres from Thomas Street to where the taxi driver picked up this bloodstained passenger at Newmarket.
[00:20:26] Tory Shepherd: And of course, you can look at that map on the website, at mappingevil.com.au. You can see where Murray Templeton picked up his passenger and that really strange route he was directed to take, which eventually brought him to the Red Hill post office.
We've also mapped out where Ken thinks his father travelled on the night of the murder. And you can see how those locations tie in with the facts of the case. All right, Mike, let's get back to your discussion with Ken.
[00:20:50] Mike King: Well, let's take just a little bit of a skip forward. You have grown in age and now you start having these opportunities to try to ask your father, because you start building suspicion that Joe was responsible for Betty's death.
[00:21:08] Ken: I was always suspicious, and I even said to people, I'm sure Joe killed Betty Shanks, his behaviour, the lies he told, you know, about Betty Shanks getting off the tram at another destination.
You know, the old tram line, it looked like a second Terminus because the road was so narrow, they converted from two lanes to one. But about 4 to 500 yards in the distance, you could see where the trams would wait, because it's only a single line down to the Terminus. They'd have to wait for the other tram to go.
And he painted the picture in our minds that she got off up there you know, 400 metres prior. That was would have been to divert the attention away from Jack's house directly at the Terminus, you know?
[00:21:51] Mike King: So tell me about the first time you challenged your father, or even accused him of having something to do with this.
[00:21:58] Ken: Probably about 16 or 17 years ago, I was standing in the driveway of my house, and something dawned on me, you know, as if all the subconscious came up and said, Joe murdered Betty Shanks and I raced in to my wife. And I said, he did kill her. He did kill her, there's no other answer. And we got out the internet and suddenly a picture of Betty Shanks comes up, the image of my mother.
And I thought, oh no, and then it gave the addresses. And contrary to all the lies he had told, the lies were all dismantled in that one afternoon.
[00:22:32] Mike King: But the day comes along where you actually are visiting him when he's in his nineties...
[00:22:38 ] Ken: Well, this is how it happened. Uh, my sister come to me and said, look, I'm still terrified of him but I'm associated with him down here, can you give me a hand? I didn't do it for him. I'd done it for that sister. The holy grail for me, would be, get one word of guilt out of him. You know, and I thought this is not possible. He will never admit to it.
[00:23:00] Mike King: Let's go now move forward to the day that you're in the yard and two men show up in front, let's walk through that whole scenario.
[00:23:10] Ken: He appeared from the front yard in a scowling type manner, talking about these jokers out the front. What are they doing, you know. In his mind he thought, the possibility they may have been police. So I said, look, you just wait here Joe, I'll, I'll go round the front and I'll sort it out. The possibility though the police are still there, but most certainly, I think they were real estate agents or something similar you know.
So I went back after 20 minutes and I hated doing it and I felt as guilty as all hell. It's not in my character to torment a 94-year-old man, regardless of what had happened to me, you know, I had compassion. But I thought I can't miss this opportunity. And I said, look Joe, they're the police, it's homicide. They know about the Betty Shanks murder. And he just fell apart, you know, fell apart completely.
And so the cogs are still ticking over, you know, how can I get yer? And I said, look, hang on. They know nearly every detail of what happened. Under the circumstance and your age. And you know, you're not travelling too well, they said if you fill a few gaps for them they'll go away – they won't pursue it. He seemed to comprehend what I was saying and looking for an out.
[00:24:29] News Broadcaster 3: 8th of October 1952. Two suspects remain a mystery. So far, no trace has been found of two men that detectives want for questioning on the murder of Betty Shanks at Wilston on September the 19th. One of the men was seen acting suspiciously at the Grange tram Terminus shortly before Ms. Shanks was murdered. The other man was picked up by a taxi driver at Newmarket on the night of the murder and was reported to have had blood on his shirt.
[00:25:05] Ken: And I said, look, we'll just go through it, what they know, and you just fill in the gaps. And so, I commenced on my 100% belief I knew what happened. And I said, you were at the tram terminus that night weren't you, you were there, you thought Mum was having an affair. I said, you were there, you approached a woman in a car with three kids.
He mumbled agreement, and a fella called Hovelroud approached him. I said, a fella approached you and he just seemed bewildered that all this knowledge was in my head. You know, as if the police had told me. And I said, you were, hiding in the shadows, well witnesses almost verified that.
And I said, the tram pulled up, a woman got off the tram, the image of Mum. He mumbled agreement again. And I said, you followed her down the road didn't you? And I said, you lost it completely and you killed that woman. A mumbled agreement. I can't say a word that he verified. It was just mumbling agreement. You know, acknowledgement.
But then I said to him, I always had the idea that after he'd done it, living in his brain the way I did know the functions of his brain, like on the woman's underwear which was stripped off, there was no bloodstains on it, how could a person create so much damage to a woman, blood everywhere, and not, if he ripped her underwear off why isn't there bloodstain? I had the idea that he'd cleaned himself up somewhere.
So I took a punt on it, I, believed he would have gone to a park cause he, I know he had girlfriends in parks and I said, which park did you go to, to clean yourself up? He said, Bancroft Park. That was the only comprehensible word that he said, but in my eyes, that was the Holy Grail of a confession. You know, that was just the Holy Grail. I got that one word out of him. He cleaned himself up at Bancroft Park and actually he would have gone back to the murder scene with clean hands tried to make the scene look like a rape scene.
[00:27:17] Tory Shepherd: So Mike, it's so interesting. Ken calls it a holy grail of a confession. Is that the impression you got that it's sort of done and dusted there?
[00:27:26] Mike King: You know, I have a hard time with accepting this as a confession, but Ken was there. He got to witness his father's look in his eye the way in which he responded, the emotion that he was feeling. Even maybe the panic he was feeling, thinking that law enforcement was coming to get him for something.
He didn't necessarily confess, but he did what we would call an admission. And so it's a little bit different than confession Tory, but in reality, when you put all the nonverbal behaviour with the verbal behaviour, it becomes really valuable.
And most importantly, Ken believed it was a confession.
[00:28:05] Tory Shepherd: He really does. So let's hear from Detective Norm Bauer about the post-mortem.
[00:28:11] Det Norm Bauer: The post-mortem examination has revealed that sexual intercourse did not take place. And the deceased was a virgin. It would appear from the partial undressing of the body and from the position in which the body had been placed, that the objective of her assailant was to make a sexual attack, but that he had been thwarted in some way.
It may have been that the deceased came to her senses and screamed out, upon which her attacker made a frenzied attack on her, cruelly kicking or striking her about the face and throttling her. The grass stains on the deceased's knees and the black marks as of boot polish on her leg allied to the fact that her blouse had been torn open and that the top of her brassier was torn, would support the suggestion that the deceased had made a struggle for her life.
[00:29:11] Mike King: This many years later, does Betty Shanks deserve to have justice?
[00:29:16] Ken: Absolutely. You know, she was buried probably within 50 meters of where Joe was buried. Which is disturbing to me, the same cemetery. They're in the same graveyard, not far apart.
[00:29:30] Tory Shepherd: Wow. Buried in the same graveyard within 50 meters of each other. I mean, whether you believe Ken or not, this is this kind of creepy.
[00:29:46] Tory Shepherd: All right, Mike, I reckon now is a really good time to go back over what we know about all the suspects. And we've talked about quite a few and see if we've come any closer to identifying the now notorious man in the brown suit.
[00:30:00] Mike King: I'll tell you what - I really like it when we return to the basics, because it's back when you get into the basics that you start to see things that you didn't notice before or that new information has brought and all of a sudden made more, uh, interesting, more complex or maybe not important at all.
So walking through this exercise is really important and I'm looking forward to it. So let's go for it, Tory.
[00:30:26] Tory Shepherd: And Mike, from my part, um, you have a mind like a steel trap, I tend to forget things pretty quickly. So let's, let's just walk through it all.
So, the evening of Friday, 19th of September, 1952, Betty Shanks went to a night lecture at Brisbane Commercial High School, and then she got the tram home. So, she arrives at the Tram Terminus in Grange, gets off with a handful of other people. And that was exactly 9:32 PM.
[00:30:50] Mike King: Yeah. And this, this is where Marie Patton comes into the story. She apparently knew Betty and coincidentally saw her as she was exiting the tram at that same Grange Terminus. Now she not only remembers vividly seeing Betty. But she remembers this guy in the brown suit. And to me that's really important Tory because this guy in the brown suit is identified by several witnesses.
What was it about his behavior? The way he looked at them, or the maybe the way he lurked, who knows, that was so behaviourally significant that he stood out and was remembered.
[00:31:29] Tory Shepherd: Indeed, and I, I suspect brown suits may have gone out of fashion in Brisbane in 1952, after so much speculation about our, our man in the brown suit.
So four people, at least four people saw him behaving unusually at that tram stop. Or as you said, lurking. And then, almost an hour before that tram arrived, those witnesses reported seeing him pacing up and down near the tram stop. And Clarice Ansell said a man in a brown suit even came up to her car and peered in the back seat as if he was looking for someone.
Um, that's a little creepy, a little more than lurky. So she definitely remembered that.
[00:32:06] Mike King: Yeah, that's right. And don't forget this mysterious guy who also spoke to Clarence Hovelroud a guy who offered him a ride, believing this guy in the brown suit was agitated because he'd simply missed his train, but the unidentified person didn't accept the ride Tory this is really significant to me. Instead, he remains behind as Hovelroud drives away.
[00:32:32] Tory Shepherd: And I suppose we should point out that at that time, in that place, it was probably normal to accept a lift from a stranger, unlike, perhaps today. So yeah, so the man in the brown suit said, no, he was happy to just continue to wait at that tram stop.
And, uh, we don't know exactly what he was waiting for, but there are certainly some theories.
[00:32:48] Mike King: Yeah, and like you, this one's the one that really makes me start to concentrate and focus in on this guy in the brown suit. The Grange Terminus, I, I mean, especially at that late hour, isn't a stopover spot for tourists or business people.
I mean, this is a community, it's frequented by locals. This guy would've undoubtedly heard that police and media reports were asking for the guy in the brown suit to come forward. I mean, Betty's gruesome murder was big in the news, and yet he doesn't come forward. He never steps up. And it makes you wonder why.
This, this lack of response led Detective Norm Bauer and the other investigators working on the case to, to believe that the guy in the brown suit, is likely their prime suspect, probably even responsible for Betty's death.
And that leads me to something else that I can't get out of my mind. And that is that from the time Betty leaves the tram, to the point that neighbours report hearing her screams, nearly 8 minutes passed without anything accounting for that time, that’s suspicious.
[00:34:00] Tory Shepherd: Isn’t it… it's extraordinary, how much more we would have now with CCTV and so on. But even back then, we had, we had a pretty good idea and we had a pretty good idea that some time was missing.
So the question Mike is what happened. So it's up to eight minutes, right? But the location of Betty's body was just two- or three-minute walk from the Terminus. So something delayed her, something held her up for a few minutes.
Did she stop to talk to someone she knew? Or is it maybe that like Hovelroud, she was trying to help someone she thought was stranded? And look, they, these are questions we just don't know the answers to.
[00:34:32] Mike King: Yeah. And we've gotta keep in mind this is her neighborhood so the chance of her running into somebody that she knows is, is really pretty strong.
But frankly, we just don't know how reliable the timeframe is either. I mean, after all, this was, decades ago, and these decades have slowly creeped by, clouding the remaining witness' memories. But here's something that we do know. We know that without question, Betty Shanks was brutally murdered.
We know that the neighbours reported to the media and police that they heard screams that evening at around 9:39. These are absolutes that we know.
Now we can assume, based on Betty's discovery location, that those screams were hers. And we also know the exact location of those crime scenes. Presumably the crime scene where Betty and her killer first come into contact with each other. The crime scene where the actual assault occurs down on Thomas Street. And the place where her body is ultimately discovered in a home's backyard on Carberry Street.
[00:35:39] Tory Shepherd: And listeners, if like me, you struggle a little bit to visualise this clearly you can go to the Mapping Evil website. We've put all these locations on maps. You can check them out and try and puzzle it through for yourself.
[00:35:51] Mike King: Yeah. And I don't think people realise how absolutely important these locations are. I mean, every single piece of information, whether it's blood spatter evidence found on the fences or a location where a piece of clothing or another article that belonged to Betty was recovered. The place where she got out of the tram Terminus and starts to make her walk down the street, which side of the street she's on.
Everything is incredibly important when you look at it geographically and each movement that she makes tells us something about what's going on behaviourally. We talked about it early on about the fact of moving from one side to the other side of a street. And why would that have happened? We talk about the evidence that's located.
And yet all of this leaves us scratching our head and it reminds us that there are still some really important questions that we need answers to.
[00:36:45] Tory Shepherd: so many questions, Mike, and this is maybe where those statements from Desche and Ken could help play a role in answering at least some of those questions.
[00:36:55] Mike King: I think you're absolutely right. I mean, cold cases are invigorated by the testimony of people who were close to the victim, or to people who know the suspects in the case. And when an investigator can skillfully extract the memories of these people, we can gain insight into how the victim and the suspects interacted with each other.
I mean, think about this, this is such a great time to remind ourselves and our listeners, that this new testimony is one more theory in a case. It it's something that, if law enforcement weighs it against the physical, forensic and eyewitness testimony, they could either eliminate or really focus in on the most probable suspect: the person responsible for killing Betty Shanks.
[00:37:47] Tory Shepherd: and Mike, you've done a lot of these cases. A lot of these cold cases, you are Mike “Cold Case” King. What seems to be missing, I guess, is the corroborating evidence. Something that really pins this on someone. So there are all these interesting theories and they all have bits of evidence that maybe back them up or they fit the pieces of the puzzle seem to fit.
But where do you think the real corroborating evidence is.
[00:38:12] Mike King: Well, it's exactly what you're saying, in in order for a criminal case to move forward, it can't rest solely on a single form of evidence. It needs to have multiple forms that corroborate and validate things that we believe, or that we've learned. You know, sometimes it takes a lifetime for people to share a terrifying memory, especially if it had something to do about a family member.
It, it just is mind blowing at times, but, but if we just stopped and focused on the information that Ted Duhs has uncovered around Desche's father, Sterry, for instance, or if we add this new suspect, Joe, things continue to build and get more interesting.
Uh, for instance, Tory I was just really captivated by Joe's son, Ken, and the information that he's provided on his father's movements on the night that Betty was killed.
It's pretty dang compelling. And, you know, we've uncovered two really interesting people that we're now talking about more. It makes me want to ask, did either of them own a brown suit?
[00:39:17] Tory Shepherd: And we're back to the brown suit, the man in the brown suit. Can I just quickly say Mike, as well as you were talking, I was thinking about this whole thing as being like a magic eye puzzle where maybe just the next sort of layer of information could bring it all, all into focus.
We do actually have a lot of information. Uh, so let's talk about these suspects. So we've discussed the potential suspects. In earlier episodes. Uh, we've talked about the soldier, the doctor, the policeman on the motorbike. Are we at a point now where we can rule them out?
[00:39:49] Mike King: In my opinion, based on the information that we've uncovered, and the research done by professionals like Ted Duhs, I think they seem less likely.
And I say that based on all the public information that we've been able to scour through, including the information we've seen from forensics or physical evidence, The eyewitness accounts. These suspects just seem less probable to me, always possible. Now, personally, I've never felt like this was an opportunistic attack Tory, that, that she was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.
And some guy skulking in the bushes grabbed Betty Shanks. I think that that's always gonna remain a possibility, but I don't think it's probable.
[00:40:35] Tory Shepherd: Yeah, I, I agree, Mike, it's really hard to think of a stranger being just that brutal towards somebody they don't know. I mean, today you might explain it because of meth or some kind of drug addiction, but 1952 Brisbane, it's very hard to picture that level of aggression.
And remember to the point where I think her teeth were knocked out quite a distance away.
[00:40:57] Mike King: Oh, the crime scene photos I think tell a story of a very brutal assault that included blood spatter, it included her teeth, it included personal effects of hers. It was a horribly tough crime scene. And I'm with you on this one, it does make me think a little bit about this account from Eric Sterry's daughter Desche though. And I think that thing is, is worth continued investigation because based on what we've learned, reports support the idea that Sterry seemed pretty darn troubled, and he appeared to have the ability to really punish the women in his life.
[00:41:32] Tory Shepherd: And he did actually know Betty, so it wasn't a stranger just kind of picking Betty at, at random. They had some kind of relationship, but what I guess we don't know is whether that was because I think he was a locksmith, he did some work on her family home, or whether Desche was right and they were having some kind of romantic affair.
[00:41:50] Mike King: Yeah, I mean, this might be a Beauty and the Beast story, but I don't buy it. I, I just think it's less likely. I mean, there's an age difference that really makes me think it's less likely. Socioeconomic differences that make me think it's less likely. And I don't know about you Tory but common-sense kind of tells me these two weren't, a thing.
Now we probably will never know the truth about their relationship though, because here's one of the breakdowns. Sterry was never questioned about his relationship with Betty Shanks.
[00:42:21] Tory Shepherd: That's a, seems like a glaring omission, doesn't it? And I agree it doesn't kind of ring true. Although I feel as though you never know how other people's relationships work, do you, in terms of who they're gonna end up with?
Meanwhile, Eric is not the only suspect who could be the man in the brown suit. Who else have we got?
[00:42:41] Mike King: Well, not that's right. Not in the assessment. We've been doing Tory. I mean, things really seemed to open up when Ken reached out to us and shared the story about his father. The things that he personally witnessed. And here's a biggie, things that his father allegedly told him.
And, and I want to thank Ken publicly for having the courage to step up after so many years. Could you imagine how frightening that would be as a child, even now in, in a much later point, to step up and say, my dad was the boogeyman. He's proof that people who at one point in their life were intimidated can get the strength to reach out and do the right thing.
So I, I guess what I'm rambling about here is that in my opinion, Joe is absolutely a viable suspect in Betty's murder. Even though his theory, hasn't been fully investigated to the same degree as the suspect Sterry for instance. And, and, oh, how I wish we had more time on, uh, Mapping Evil to share Ken’s full compelling story in detail. It is my hope that law enforcement will be inspired by all of this and dig deeper into his hypotheses.
[00:43:57] Tory Shepherd: Mike King it sounds like you’re pitching for a bonus episode.
[00:44:00] Mike King: Well, it's, it's the only way I think I'm gonna be able to get more airtime with you, Tory, I mean, this thing who knows where it's gonna end up? My, my hope is, that there are more Kens and Desches out there who, when they hear Mapping Evil season two and Betty's story, they step up and say, you know what, I've been hanging onto something for a long time.
That's how we got where we are today, quite frankly. Or again, perhaps, police will actually step up, get into those old police files, the media archives, and look at the geographic data in a different way, and map out this pathway to Betty's killer.
[00:44:40] Tory Shepherd: I would love to see that. I think seven decades is long enough to wait for justice for Betty Shanks.
[00:44:51] Ted Duhs: I know who killed Betty Shanks.
[00:44:54] Det Abe Duncan: I still, have a theory, which I believe was never properly followed up. 50 hours after Betty Shanks' death, that doctor committed suicide.
[00:45:07] Ted Duhs: One of the first things she said to me was, my dad killed Betty Shanks.
[00:45:13] Tory Shepherd: The policeman on the motorbike.
[00:45:15] Ted Duhs: I don't think Betty was killed by a soldier. It was the man in the brown suit who very likely killed Betty Shanks.
[00:45:25] Ken: Joe murdered Betty Shanks and I raced in to my wife and I said he did kill her. He did kill her there's no other answer.
[00:45:35] Tory Shepherd: Wow. There's no other answer, Mike. I mean, again, that sounds pretty definite, but then every now and then I think back to the evidence we heard about the other suspect, the time that has passed between now and then, I really think it's one of the amazing things about this case that so many people put themselves forward as suspects or put people they knew forward as suspects.
Have you come to a conclusion, Mike?
[00:46:01] Mike King: You know, I go back to stepping off a plane in Los Angeles and getting that first phone call from Ken. And there's just something about that gut feeling you have in these kinds of investigations. I haven't been able to put a whole lot of evidence behind it, but I think the real thing here is we're going to leave the choice of whether Ken's story is believable to our listeners.
Heck, I feel like I am doing closing arguments in a murder trial right now. Like a juror in a trial Tory, they've got this incredible responsibility to form an opinion now that we've given them as many facts as we have. Ken certainly believes his father killed Betty Shanks.
Remember, Ken heard and observed Joe's response about the accusation of killing Betty Shanks. Joe, didn't say, no, I didn't do this, nor did he give a confession, but he did the next best thing. He gave this reconciliatory admission.
I mean, it's really compelling when coupled with the photographs we have of Betty and Ken's mother, the photographs of Joe's suit that matched the taxi driver's description. Shoes, his tie, the testimony of the cab driver. Now, maybe Joe was simply involved in a fistfight at a local bar, or perhaps his hands were bloodied after brutally murdering this brilliant, bright, young, intelligent woman on a dark Brisbane street corner.
[00:47:45] Tory Shepherd: Oh, Mike I've got chills, what's that thing, oh, that you've, you've, we've talked about this before. You've got a roll around in it?
[00:47:52] Mike King: You know, Tory throughout this discussion, we've talked a lot about what I call vicariously rolling in the dirt. And holy cow, has there ever been a lot of dirt in this case.
[00:48:03] Tory Shepherd: Mike, you are so good at making me visualise very specific things. And I do visualise you like literally rolling in the dirt.
[00:48:12] Mike King: You know, Tory we really have gone down a lot of weird rabbit holes to use a term of yours. You'd know by now that as an investigator, I don't just rely on my gut alone. I mean, technology is at our fingertips. And today as law enforcement professionals, we have not only technology, but we have this ability to tip the scale against perpetrators like the vile human that killed Betty Shanks. And this technology, this is the cool part, it's readily available to law enforcement to help 'em solve crimes like this, no matter how cold they might be.
So my gut's telling me that this is still a solvable crime. And I really do believe that GIS has a role to play in finding justice for Betty Shanks.
[00:49:04] Tory Shepherd: Your gut, GIS, and a little roll in the dirt. We've got this, Mike.
[00:49:12] Tory Shepherd: Mike, I've said this before, and I'm gonna say it again. There couldn't be a nicer guy to take us inside the minds of psychopaths and killers and ritual abusers, and some of the most terrifying people on the planet, seeing how you handle that, and keep your cool and your humour has been really fascinating.
[00:49:30] Mike King: Well, thank you, Tory I mean, getting to know Betty Shanks has been more of a privilege than I can ever express and uncovering her case with you has been an absolute rare treat. Thank you.
[00:49:43] Tory Shepherd: If you found the content covered in this podcast distressing, support is available from lifeline on 13 11 14. And if you have any information about any unsolved crime, please contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000, or go to crimestoppers.com.au.
Research for this episode included media reports sourced through Trove Archives, Ken Blanche's book, "Who Killed Betty Shanks?", resources held at the Queensland Police Museum and the third edition of Ted Duhs book, "I know who killed Betty Shanks". There's a link on the Mapping Evil website if you're interested in a copy.
And finally, to Ken who was so generous with his time, we wanna say thank you for trusting us to help you tell your story.
This is a Boustead Geospatial Technologies production. This episode was narrated by me, Tory Shepherd and Mike King.
Production and sound design by Fig Media with support from Circa3 and Podbooth Studios. Artwork by Tell Brand Creative.
Our Supervising Producer is Kim Douglas, our Executive Producer is Raquel Jackson.
And finally, this production would not be possible without the support of Esri Australia.
What's the magic word?
A big ‘thank you’ to our amazing team of contributors including: hosts Mike King and Tory Shepherd; sound design and production partner Fig Media; Circa3 and Podbooth Studios; Tell Brand Creative; Wildbear Productions; Deadset Studios, Historian and author Ted Duhs; Profiling Evil - who kindly provided the audio content featuring ‘Ken’s story’; The Footage Company who were awesome in helping us secure the Crimewatch 2004 interviews featured through the series; Trove Archives; Queensland Police Museum; Scout Management; and our wonderful cast of voice actors Tony Ryan, Roy Billing, Dan Brumm, Ian Bolty, Julie Nihil and Mark Saturno.
That’s a ‘big thanks’ – from the team at Boustead Geospatial Productions.
If you found the content covered in this podcast distressing, support is available from Lifeline on 13 11 14.