Disappearance of Cheryl Grimmer - NSW Police Public Site

Cheryl Grimmer (right) pictured with her brother Paul before she went missing.


 Picture (colourised): Published with permission of Cheryl Grimmer’s brother - Daily Telegraph





                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Fairy Meadow beach and toilet block today. Picture: Stephen Cooper


                      Cheryl and her brothers                                                                                             Cheryl with her father Vince 

Last person to see Cheryl Grimmer alive never interviewed by police |  Illawarra Mercury | Wollongong, NSW



          A composite image assembled by Police depicting how Cheryl may have looked in 2003, when she was 37. 


Disappearance of Cheryl Grimmer

The NSW Government has increased a reward to $1 million for information into the abduction and suspected murder of Cheryl Grimmer five decades ago.

Cheryl Gene Grimmer, then aged three, was kidnapped outside the change sheds at Fairy Meadow Beach on Monday 12 January 1970, where she was spending the day with her mother and three brothers.

Despite extensive searches at the time and over the years, she has never been found.

A Coronial Inquest conducted in 2011 found Cheryl had died but her cause and manner of death remained undetermined. Her body has not been located.

The Coroner recommended the investigation be referred to police for future investigation.

In 2012, a re-investigation was conducted by Wollongong Police District under Strike Force Wessel.

Following a major crime review late last year, the case will be moved to the Homicide Squad’s Unsolved Homicide Unit for potential further re-investigation.

In acknowledgement of today’s 50-year anniversary, the NSW Government has increased the reward for information which leads to the arrest and conviction of those responsible to $1 million.

Homicide Squad Commander, Detective Superintendent Daniel Doherty, said detectives would welcome any information from the community that may help provide answers to Cheryl’s family.

“By offering the highest value NSW Government reward five decades after Cheryl disappeared, we are appealing to those people who know something but have not previously been inclined to assist police,” Det Supt Doherty.

“Witnesses at the time reported seeing an unknown male carrying Cheryl towards the car park 50-years ago today but there has been no trace of her ever since.

“We welcome any information that may assist the investigation. There are now a million reasons to come forward.”

Cheryl’s brother, Ricki Nash, said the Grimmer family are hopeful the reward will help close the case.

“There are no words to describe the pain of losing a sister and the impact Cheryl’s disappearance has had on our entire family,” he said.

“Every day we are reminded of the tragic way she was taken from us and we hope this reward is what is needed to bring justice for Cheryl.”

Anyone with information that may assist Strike Force Wessel investigators is urged to contact Crime Stoppers: 1800 333 000 or Information is treated in strict confidence. The public is reminded not to report crime via NSW Police social media pages.


Mt St Thomas man's emotional plea: Help me find my sister

BY MICHELLE HOCTOR - Illawarra Mercury
01 Aug, 2009 05:00 AM


If Cheryl Grimmer is alive today, an unusual yet recognisable clue remains to her identity.

Cheryl, who disappeared from Fairy Meadow Beach almost 40 years ago, had a medical condition that made her bellybutton protrude about 10mm.

If she was abducted and raised with another family - one theory that was investigated - she would still be carrying this physical feature or would have had it removed.

It is a vital fact about the case that was published only once but never repeated.

With the launch of National Missing Persons Week tomorrow, Wollongong detectives are preparing a report for the NSW Coroner on Cheryl's case that may finally put it to rest.

Cheryl's brother, Stephen, 45, of Mount St Thomas, said his family was hoping a vital clue would emerge beforehand.

Mr Grimmer was just five years old when, on January 12, 1970, he and his elder brother, Ricky, and three-year-old sister Cheryl, went to the dressing-shed at Fairy Meadow Beach.

Within minutes the little girl had disappeared, launching one of the nation's biggest manhunts.

Despite intensive investigations over the years, not a single clue on her fate has been found.

Mr Grimmer said the torment suffered by his family had been immense.

He was extra vigilant with the safety of his own children - Jade, 10, and Aiden, 3 - and checked public amenities blocks with almost obsessive compulsion, making sure the buildings were clear of predators.

"I watch my children like a hawk," he said this week.

"Going to the beach, riding a bike - they are never out of my sight."

Mr Grimmer said he had little recollection about his sister's disappearance, or the intense investigation and media frenzy that followed.

"I just remember standing outside the dressing-shed with my older brother, waiting for my sister," he said.

The sensation surrounding the case eventually died down, only to resurface over the years when new policing technology emerged.

In 2003, police used photographs of Stephen, who is similar in appearance to his blue-eyed, fair-haired sister, to compile a computer image of what she might look like at the age of 37.

With the advent of DNA technology, he provided his DNA to the NSW Police database.

After 40 years, Mr Grimmer said his sister was always at the back of his mind, especially as his son is now the same age as Cheryl was when she disappeared, and bears a strong resemblance to his dad.

"I take the young bloke to the playground at the lagoon there, and look across Puckey's Estate and it makes me think. My mind goes back."


Old sighting raises hopes in Cheryl Grimmer cold case

BY MICHELLE HOCTOR - Illawarra Mercury
17 Aug, 2009 10:15 AM


After nearly 40 years, a vital clue may have emerged in the case of missing Fairy Meadow youngster Cheryl Grimmer.

Wollongong detectives are investigating the sighting of a child matching the three-year-old's description, six months after she disappeared from Fairy Meadow beach on January 12, 1970.

If the claim proves correct, it would mean Cheryl might still be alive.

Cheryl disappeared after attending the men's amenities shed with her brothers Ricky and Stephen, following a day at the beach.

After the story of Cheryl's disappearance was recounted in the Mercury on August 1, the newspaper was contacted by a 79-year-old Windang man who was adamant he saw Cheryl on Windang Beach in the winter of 1970.

The man, who asked not to be named, said the sighting had haunted him for 39 years.

''I tried twice to tell police. The second time I was told the case was too old and to just forget it,'' he said.

The man said he was with his four-year-old daughter on the beach in June or July of 1970 when a little blonde girl approached them.

''A cold westerly wind was blowing and this little girl came from nowhere. She was a blonde girl with a fringe, exactly the same as what was in the paper.

''She was wearing a pair of black school shoes with no laces in them. She had the same chubby legs.

''She was more interested in our dog than she was in us. I thought, 'what would she be doing running around by herself?'

''I asked her, 'How are you?' She just looked at me and ran off.

''I followed her back to the caravan park.

''She went into this bus where two dark people were, they were Portuguese or something and I thought, 'how could they have a little girl that fair?'''

Despite living at Windang since the 1950s, the 79-year-old said he did not connect the youngster on the beach with the Grimmer case.

''About five years later the Mercury put out a photo of Cheryl with her father and when I saw it I said 'that's the little girl from the beach'.''

The man said he reported the sighting to police, but baulked after being asked why he had not reported the information sooner.

''I thought I was interfering with somebody's life. They might have been a legal family so I left it.''

Another Mercury article in 1980 prompted the man to contact a detective who was a family friend.

''He said he would pass the information on. A couple of days later he said, 'Just forget about it, it's gone on too long'.

''But I've been unable to forget about it.

''I've worried all this time that it was her.''

The man described the vehicle in which the child entered as a newly reconditioned early model school bus that was about 6m in length.

It had a dark blue body, black mud guards and black roof and ''brilliant'' white wheels.

''Somebody must have seen those two people with a blonde girl, if not at Windang then elsewhere moving around in that bus.''

The man's sighting has some correlation with Cheryl's disappearance, when a dark skinned man was also reported carrying a small blonde girl wrapped in a blanket leaving the Fairy Meadow surf club amenities block.

Wollongong Detective Senior Sergeant Brad Ainsworth said the man's claim was being looked into.

He said if police believed it held substance, it would be included in a report to the NSW Coroner.

''The report is 95 per cent complete and the coroner will make a directive based on the information provided in the report,'' he said.

Cheryl's brother Stephen, 45, of Mt St Thomas, said he would let the detectives decide what to do.

''It's been so long,'' he said.


Cheryl Grimmer disappearance: ‘A cheeky grin’ at brother and then she was gone

THE cheeky smile on Cheryl Grimmer’s face as she stood in the doorway of the beach toilet block nearly 47 years ago, ­refusing to come out, is etched forever in the memory of her oldest brother Ricki.

It was about 1.30pm on a boiling hot January day at Fairy Meadow beach near Wollongong.

Mum-of-four Carole had told Ricki to take his two brothers — Stephen, 5, and Paul, 4 — and his three-year-old baby sister Cheryl to change out of their wet swimmers in the nearby block.

Carole was just metres away on the sand when Ricki went to ask for her help to get Cheryl out of the toilets.

It took just 30 seconds, but by the time they got back to the block Cheryl was gone, never to be seen again.

“I can still see her standing in the doorway, saying she wouldn’t come out, and I said ‘I’d better go get mum so she can get you out’ and she was laughing,” Mr Nash, 54, who changed his name due to the publicity and for other personal reasons, recalls.

“It’s something our family has had to put up with for over 40 years. I think it put both my parents in early graves.

“Hopefully, this new investigation gives us some kind of resolution. I don’t want to blame the past for never dealing with it, but it probably caused my marriage breakup.”


Cheryl Grimmer disappearance: Cops close in on little girl’s killer 47 years later

DETECTIVES have made a spectacular breakthrough in the unsolved abduction of a three-year-old girl from a NSW beach almost 47 years ago and have a suspect they believe was missed in the original investigation.

A review of the tragic kidnapping and presumed murder of bubbly three-year-old Cheryl Grimmer at Fairy Meadow beach near Wollongong has led police to believe she was taken by a teenager who would now be in his 60s.

Her disappearance from outside a shower block on the afternoon of January 12, 1970, sparked a massive search but no trace of the little girl or her body has ever been found.

Two weeks ago, detectives staged a re-enactment of that fateful day, and today they are due to hold a press conference in Fairy Meadow with Cheryl’s three brothers, who were with her on the day she disappeared, to appeal for the killer to turn themselves in.

“Cheryl never came home to the family that day and her parents died without knowing what happened,” Detective Sergeant Damian Loone, who is leading the investigation, told The Daily Telegraph.

“She leaves behind three other brothers who terribly miss her to this day.

“We are appealing to the conscience of that person to come forward and tell us what happened to Cheryl.

“It’s time to come clean and absolve yourself and tell us what happened on that day — and, more importantly, for the family. If not for yourself, do it for them.’’

The re-enactment was sparked by a review of the case when Det Sgt Loone and fellow Wollongong officers Detective Senior Constables Frank Sanvitale and Craig Barrass picked up Cheryl’s file and found information they believe was not followed up thoroughly at the time.

Unlike many cold cases, the new information was not from advances in forensics but came from going over boxes and boxes of paper to find any forgotten clues.

The officers are now working with the state’s Unsolved Homicide Squad on the leads.

It was a family day at the beach when the weather turned about 1.30pm and Cheryl’s mum Carole Grimmer sent her and her brothers Ricki, 8, Stephen, 6 and Paul, 5, to shower at a toilet block near the surf club.

Just minutes later Ricki ran to his mother and said Cheryl wouldn’t come out of the shower block. She followed Ricki back to the sheds, but by the time they got there, Cheryl was gone. And she has never been seen since.

“She was gone in just a minute or two,’’ Ricki, 54, said last week. “It’s something I still live with every day.’’

There were reports that a man was seen lifting a girl to drink at a bubbler before racing off with her. Another report said she was seen being driven off in a white car.

The current investigators say there are a number of reasons why they are now convinced the person most likely responsible for taking Cheryl was in fact a teenager seen running from the area towards bushland.

“As a result of that reinvestigation and examination of all the information in the files, we are looking at a particular suspect originally missed on the day little Cheryl Grimmer was taken from the beach,’’ Det Sgt Loone said.

“We now believe the person responsible would be in his early 60s, and it’s quite possible that he (is) still alive.’’

The youth was described at the time as caucasian, aged between 16 and 17, with a medium build, brown hair, blue eyes and fair complexion. He was about 152cm tall.

“We don’t want to release all the information — suffice to say we are confident we are on the right track,” Det Sgt Loone said. “We are calling this a breakthrough in the investigation. It’s something that was missed over the years.’’

Grimmer family’s torment still goes on

FOR nearly 50 years, the kidnapping of Cheryl Grimmer has haunted team after team of detectives who have tried to find out what happened to the gorgeous little girl.

Her parents, John and Carole, had come from England the previous year and were living in a hostel not far from the beach.

Cheryl’s father was a Sapper in the Australian Army whose barracks were located in Penrith. He was not at the beach the day his daughter vanished.

At first, local detectives thought the toddler may have wandered off before stories about a “mystery’’ man in an orange swimsuit seen grabbing her and running off emerged.

Then there were stories of a man in a white car seen with a child fitting Cheryl’s description in the front seat.

Three days after her kidnapping, a ransom note for $10,000 was sent to Cheryl’s parents.

Police set up a trap at the drop-off location with officers nearby disguised as council workers — but no one made the pick-up.

There were a number of confessions that never checked out, and one particularly cruel phone call to the Grimmers from a man saying he strangled Cheryl the same way he had killed Vicki Barton in the Blue Mountains 18 months earlier.

A man arrested for Vicki Barton’s murder was never connected to Cheryl’s case.

There were also stories that she had been snatched to live with a childless couple.

The family clung to a forlorn hope that she might still be alive.

But a coroner’s inquest in 2011, after a reinvestigation of the case three years earlier, found Cheryl was presumed dead after being kidnapped.


Development in 46-year kidnap/murder mystery - Illawarra

Monday, 05 December 2016 10:03:00 AM - NSW Police


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


That’s when detectives believe she was snatched.


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


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


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


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


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


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


Police are urging anyone with information in relation to this incident to call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or use the Crime Stoppers online reporting page: / Information you provide will be treated in the strictest of confidence. We remind people they should not report crime information via our social media pages.

Cheryl Grimmer murder trial dropped

A man accused of murdering missing toddler Cheryl Grimmer almost 50 years ago has succeeded in having a crucial piece of evidence against him ruled inadmissable.

Margaret Scheikowski, AAP 15, 20195:00PM

The trial of a man accused of murdering missing toddler Cheryl Grimmer almost 50 years ago will not go ahead after a judge ruled that his 1971 police interview was not admissible.

The man, who cannot be named as he was underage at the time, pleaded not guilty in September 2018 to murdering the three-year-old.

Cheryl vanished from outside a shower block while with her mother and three older brothers at Fairy Meadow Beach in NSW’s Illawarra region on January 12 in 1970.

Justice Robert Allan Hulme in the NSW Supreme Court on Friday ruled that a police interview with the accused in 1971 — when he was 17 — could not be used as evidence at his trial which was listed for May.

“The Crown accepts that its case cannot succeed without it,” he noted.

In a later statement, a media spokesperson said the NSW Director of Public Prosecutions had directed that no further proceedings take place following the judge’s ruling about the record of interview.

In the absence of that interview there was insufficient evidence for the case to proceed, she said.

Cheryl Grimmer’s family devastated as murder charge dropped

Margaret Scheikowski and 7NEWSThe West Australian

The family of murdered NSW toddler Cheryl Grimmer say they are outraged the man accused of the 1970 murder has walked free from court.

Charges against the man, who cannot be named, have been dropped after a judge ruled his 1971 police interview - during which the then 17-year-old confessed to murdering the little girl - was inadmissible and could not be used at his trial which was due to start in May.

“Am I angry? I’m past that. Do I want revenge? You betcha,” Ricki Grimmer told Network Ten.

“Police tell you 200 per cent they’ve got the right person sitting behind bars. He’s going to walk out.

“You let a three-year-old’s murderer go free - twice.

“He walked in and gives you a full confession and you let him walk away? The laws were different back then - he’d probably have been tried and convicted - now he hides behind a technicality.

“I don’t know how this can happen. Someone’s got to be accountable for this.”

In finding the police interview was inadmissible, Justice Robert Allan Hulme noted: “The Crown accepts that its case cannot succeed without it.”

Prosecutors later withdrew the charge because there was insufficient evidence for the case to proceed in the NSW Supreme Court without the interview.

The man was arrested in Victoria in March 2017 and pleaded not guilty in September 2018 to murdering the three-year-old.

He spent almost two years behind bars before the charges were dropped.

Cheryl vanished from outside a shower block while with her mother and three older brothers at Fairy Meadow Beach in Wollongong on January 12, 1970.

The former accused was 15 when Cheryl disappeared and 17 when he was interviewed by police for one hour and 40 minutes in April 1971.

“He told the detectives that he intended to have sexual intercourse with her; he did not because she started to scream as soon as he took a gag off her; so he then strangled her, she stopped breathing and he thought she was dead,” the judge said.

“He said he then ‘panicked and covered her up with bushes and run for it’.”

Justice Hulme said no parent, adult or legal practitioner was present at any stage of the police interview. At the time, there was no mandatory requirement, legislative or otherwise, or even a guideline by way of police instruction, for an adult support person to be present during the interview.

The judge also heard evidence from two psychiatrists, who agreed the teenager had a very disturbed mental state at the time and was acting out in various ways.

They also said he had a low average intelligence, was immature and more vulnerable than the average 17-year-old as a result of his disturbed upbringing, difficult relationship with his parents, history of running away form home, moving countries, low intellect and limited education.

He described the interview as “somewhat troubling”, noting a caution was only given during, not at the start of, the interview when the teenager started confessing.

Further, the interview was held in a juvenile detention facility where he was being held against his will.

Soft DPP quits Cheryl Grimmer cold case fight

EXCLUSIVE: The family of three-year-old child victim Cheryl Grimmer has slammed the state’s top prosecutor as “spineless” after he ruled out appealing the decision to drop charges over her 1970 murder.

Attorney-General Mark Speakman has also demanded an explanation from the Director of Public Prosecutions Lloyd Babb SC, as The Daily Telegraph can reveal the shocking fresh evidence in the 48-year-old case that a jury will now never hear — including an eyewitness.



Cheryl disappeared from a shower block at Wollongong’s Fairy Meadow beach about 1.30pm on January 12, 1970 and her body was never found.

A man, who was aged 15 at the time and cannot be named, was charged in 2017 with her murder.

Now aged 65, his trial stalled last month when the Supreme Court threw out the police interview with him in 1971 during which he confessed to her abduction, rape and murder.

Just 12 weeks before the trial was due to start, the court ruled his confession was inadmissable because, as a juvenile, he should have had an adult with him — even though that was not a legal requirement in 1971, nor required by police guidelines.

The DPP on Wednesday said there would be no appeal against the court’s decision despite the fact it had not yet received a submission being prepared by police, who argue the judge was wrong.

“I have asked the Director of Public Prosecutions for information about the decision not to appeal from the judgment of the Supreme Court,” Mr Speakman said.

He said the DPP would now be meeting with police.

Cheryl’s family are desperate for the case go to before a jury and one of her older brothers, Ricki Nash, said they were “furious”.

“The DPP is spineless to drop the case so quickly and not appealing,” Mr Nash, 55, said on Wednesday.

“They have ripped the heart out of our family.

“The cops are sure they have the right man. No one else would have known the level of detail in his statement and furthermore, the police did a great job corroborating what he said.”

The Daily Telegraph has obtained court documents that reveal how police tracked down a witness who picked the man out of a photo identification parade in 2017 and recalled his distinctive tattoo.

Another witness confirmed the man’s story that there was a steel cattle grid at the property where he said he had carried a gagged and bound Cheryl.

Detectives who recorded the man’s confession in 1971 had been unable to confirm his claim about the cattle grid but police who reinvestigated the cold case in 2016 believed the fresh evidence from the cattle grid witness was crucial in establishing the credibility of his confession.

In court last month, the man’s lawyers did not dispute what he said to police in 1971, but submitted it was a “false confession” from a disturbed teenager with mental problems who had been in and out of care and was vulnerable to suggestion.

As a juvenile at the time he can still not be named and was given the court alias “Mercury”.

Documents tendered to the Supreme Court show Mercury came to the notice of police 15 months after Cheryl’s disappearance while he was in a juvenile custody shelter, and told the manager he “had informed him that he was responsible for (Cheryl’s) murder”.

“Yes I am worried, I did that to the little girl, I didn’t mean to do it,” the man told the two detectives interviewing him in April 1971.

He told detectives he had seen some children come up from the beach and enter the changing rooms.

Cheryl and her brothers Ricki, then seven, Stephen, five, and Paul, four, had gone to the shower block as their late mother Carole, 26, packed up.

The man correctly described the girl’s swimsuit “came down the front with two straps over the shoulder” and said he saw her being lifted up by the torso to use the water bubbler.

He said he “grabbed her and put one hand over her mouth and carried her away”.

He said he took her up to Bulli Pass intending to have sex with her but when she started to scream, he put his hands around her throat and panicked when she died, putting dirt and bushes over her body.

In May 1971, he took police on a walk-through but where he said there had been a cattle grid and a small creek, the area had by then been bulldozed for housing.

In January 2017 a witness told police he remembered the cattle grid was still in place early in 1970 because he drove over it regularly while demolishing a farmhouse.

“He stated that the gate was made of tubular steel and that the track leading from the gate into the property crossed a small creek,” police told the Supreme Court in a submission.

“Those features were described by the accused in his 1971 walk-through.”

Another witness who had not previously been interviewed told police he recalled a little girl being lifted up to use the bubbler.

“Prior to that statement being made, no record of (an) eyewitness had ever disclosed that (she) was lifted up by the torso at the bubbler, as stated by the accused in his interview,” the police submission said.

Another man — interviewed in Tasmania — said that as a 10-year-old he remembered being at the beach that day and saw a man who had the distinctive tattoo on his upper right arm.

He picked a photograph of “Mercury” and three other men out of an ID parade of 20.

Police records showed Mercury had a tattoo on his left forearm, similar to the one described.

Arrested in 2017, the man said he had made a false confession in 1971 and had taken police to an area “at random and made up a story”.

He had been in custody for over two years and was released on February 15 after prosecutors told the Supreme Court they would no longer proceed with the case following Justice Robert Hulme’s ruling.

He has returned to his home in Victoria — just four kilometres from where Ricki Nash lives.

“The NSW Police Force is continuing to consider the court’s decision and is exploring its legal options,” a NSW Police spokesman said.

Mr Babb’s spokeswoman said the DPP would not be appealing the decision to exclude the 1971 police interview.


Cheryl Grimmer cold case: Retired cop believes he’s uncovered fresh evidence

Retired detective Frank Sanvitale is tortured by the abduction of little Cheryl Grimmer 51 years ago, but now believes he has fresh evidence that could finally bring peace to her shattered family.

It was the case that brought a seasoned homicide detective undone. Not because Frank Sanvitale had any doubts about his meticulous re-investigation of Cheryl Grimmer’s abduction 51 years ago, but because he was riddled with guilt that he gave her family false hope the man he charged with her murder would be convicted.

The case collapsed and the suspect walked free – but now, in his retirement, the former detective senior constable believes he has uncovered fresh evidence that could help police secure the long-awaited conviction.

“I don’t sleep. Cheryl comes to me at night,” Sanvitale says.

“This little blonde girl in her swimsuit holding out her hand to me. I can’t let this go. This case broke me. It was the last straw but I can’t let this go.”

Sanvitale spends hours a week hunting for fresh evidence, new leads, anything that will convince the Department of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to reopen the case and bring the suspect before the courts.

The Saturday Telegraph can reveal he presented fresh evidence to Detective Chief Inspector David Laidlaw of the NSW Unsolved Homicide Team on May 27, urging police to follow his leads.

For fear of hindering any new investigation, Sanvitale did not want the names of potential witnesses made public, but says they were close to the suspect and had relevant details about his behaviour around the time the toddler disappeared.

It is understood informants have told of the suspect being fascinated with the Grimmer cold case, showing them pictures on the internet of Cheryl, and talking about being in the Fairy Meadow beach area in the year she disappeared.

When he was first interviewed by Sanvitale he re-signed his confession that he made when he was 17.

“I want them to investigate. They need to look into this fresh evidence,” Sanvitale says.

“I know my investigation was all by the book, all done properly, and yet the suspect walked away twice.”

In his letter, Sanvitale expresses his frustration at the lack of urgency to solve the case: “It is very sad NSW Homicide have closed this case. I believe it can be solved if someone took some initiative. (I’ve) lost my faith in the NSW Police Force and our legal system expected better.”

Cheryl was just three years old when she went missing from the change room at Fairy Meadow Surf Club on January 12, 1970, after spending the day at the beach with her mother Carole and brothers Stephen, Paul and Ricki.

A search of the area by bystanders uncovered nothing. Despite a high-profile police investigation in the following months, no arrests were made and the case quickly went cold.

Years later detective senior constable Sanvitale took charge of the cold case and after months of trawling through old case files, statements, newspaper clippings and other evidence, Sanvitale and his partner found a confession in one of the dusty boxes. They built a case and arrested a suspect in 2017.

The man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was charged with murder and extradited from Victoria.

Just as he was due to stand trial, the NSW Supreme Court found the confession he made when he was 17 years old during a police interview in 1971 was inadmissable.

He was again a free man and returned to Victoria to resume his life.

Justice Robert Hulme formed the view that admitting the confession into evidence would be unfair as the accused was more vulnerable than an average 17-year-old.

Having an adult or legal representative present during his interview may have gone a long way towards overcoming the unfairness.

It took just 90 minutes for the Director of Public Prosecutions to decide not to appeal a judge’s shock decision to exclude a murder confession – something Sanvitale and Cheryl’s family have never come to terms with.

While Sanvitale has spent the first four years of his retirement from the NSW Police Force gathering new evidence, a team of lawyers has been closely examining the Supreme Court ruling and believe there is a possible line of inquiry to have the matter brought back before the court.

In a letter to NSW Police with the assistance of Canberra barrister John Masters, solicitor Henry Marjason on behalf of Cheryl’s brother Ricki Nash, wrote: “This matter has an unfortunate investigative and prosecutorial history and understandably our client is not inclined to simply sit back and let nothing more happen while there is a person who has confessed to the murder of their sister.”

Raising the issue of the confession that was ruled inadmissable, the lawyers argue “the accused was known to authorities, had experience with police interviews and was only months away from becoming an adult at the time of the incriminating police interview. If he were interviewed nine months later then none of these issues would have arisen”.

The NSW Supreme court accepted evidence from psychiatrists, who relied on documents, never having interviewed the accused, that he was more vulnerable than an average

The legal team argues “the problem is that there was not a finding as to what age the accused did align with”.

“The psychologist who assessed the accused on 13th May 1970 concluded that he was of average intelligence,” the legal team argues.

“About 15th May 1970 he was examined by a psychiatrist who concluded that the accused was an immature, attention-seeking 16-year-old whose core problems centred on his relationship with his parents, particularly his stepmother.

“His repeated absconding from home was directly related to tensions in that situation. The final diagnosis was immature impulsive personality: exogenously depressed at present and utilising histrionic behaviour.

“Unlike the modern day psychologists, these experts did examine the accused.”

The lawyers contend that the conclusion of the court that the accused was more vulnerable than the average 17-year-old as a result of his disturbed upbringing was potentially a red herring.

“If, for example, he at the age of 17 fell within the vulnerability age bracket of a 15- or 16-year-old, this may not have affected material vulnerability for the purposes of the offending,” they say.

“If he displayed the competence of a 15-year-old should it have made any difference that he was 17 years of age? Criminality surely could have been considered in the context of the age bracket he was deemed to fall within.”

The lawyers have urged NSW Police to develop a detailed plan to further explore psychological and psychiatric issues focusing on overcoming the inability of the Crown to satisfy the Court that the evidence should be admitted.

“The rejection of the evidence essentially was brought about by limited contemporary opinions based on historic psychiatric records,” it said.

“One must not forget that there was no suggestion that there were psychological or psychiatric issues compromising the ability of the accused to engage in records of interview. It is not a case of this being the first instance that he was interviewed by police. Why was he more vulnerable on this occasion than he was when he was younger?”

The fact that the DPP discontinued the prosecution means police can pursue more detailed psychiatric evidence.

“We urge that you develop a detailed plan to more fully explore psychological and psychiatric issues that may overcome those concerns which resulted in having the most incriminating evidence being disallowed,” they ask.

The letter urged police not to forget the “haunting words” of his Honour when he said: “I accept that it is quite likely the accused realised he was confessing in clear terms that he abducted and murdered the little girl.”

For Cheryl’s brother Ricki, who was the last person to see the toddler alive that summer’s day, the case is clear cut.

“The person who has confessed has never tried to clear his name and never once complained about being incarcerated for near on two years while he awaited trial,” he said.

“Our family continues to fight to hear the truth.

“It seems some people have forgotten Cheryl was a little three-year-old girl that did not stand a chance against this evil that took her to sexually abuse her.

“Cheryl had more courage than this thing, she at least fought back, this evil coward continues to hide behind a law that should not apply to protect child murderers.”