Could we finally solve the worst unsolved murder in Australia?
While many foreigners may view Australia as a proverbial paradise, like many nations, it has a darker side to its history that is not widely known to outsiders.
From its former days as a penal colony to the subjugation of the Aboriginal peoples, Australia has sinister secrets that may cause history buffs and true crime aficionados to go down a rabbit hole of unsolved murders. One of the most troubling & publicized homicides in the country’s history occurred in the sun and surf of the coastline south of Sydney.
While the Australian board of tourism may want vacationers to think of a blissful day laying on the beach, they probably don’t want them to find out about the infamous Wanda Beach Murders.
Perhaps the most well-known unsolved murder case in Australian history, the killings at Wanda Beach, occurred less than two weeks after the new year of 1965.
On January 12th, the remains of Marianne Schmidt and Christine Sharrock were found in the dunes of Cronulla. Schmidt was discovered lying on her right side, her throat slashed and with multiple stab wounds. The body of Sharrock was laid face down at the feet of Schmidt, having been stabbed a number of times and with the back of her head bludgeoned.
Authorities also found a drag mark in the sand and revealed Sharrock might have attempted to flee, yet didn’t get very far. It was discovered through the girl’s diary entries that they had frequented the beach in the days leading up to their disappearance, and the area was a popular spot for the Schmidt family. The diaries also revealed they possibly had been affectionate with boys on the beach that New Year’s Day.
The National Network News immediately picked up the story after a man and his nephews came across the bodies. Sydney and the nation at large were shocked & horrified by the news, perhaps more so by the fact that both of the victims were only fifteen years old.
Terrified citizens left the beach desolate, where police combed the sand in hopes to find clues leading towards the killer. Authorities pleaded to the public to provide them with information regarding the crimes and began searching for possible witnesses.
Soon after, Police became interested in a blonde teenage surfer who they considered a possible suspect, who was identified to be at the beach with the girls that fateful day by the brother of Marianne Schmidt.
Within a year and a half of the investigation, Sydney police interviewed a total of 7,000 individuals and followed countless suspects. Regardless of the efforts of investigators and the public, to this day, no one has been charged with the murders of Marianne Schmidt and Christine Sharrock, making it the longest unsolved murder in the history of New South Wales.
Despite the case being nearly six decades old, new information about a possible suspect has surfaced within recent years. Christopher Bernard Wilder, who moved to the United States in 1969, was linked to the case in 2018. Wilder had been charged with a gang rape on a beach in Sydney in 1963, which is why the police considered him a suspect in the first place.
While he was living in the United States, Wilder became a serial killer starting in the early 80s. Wilder was charged with more sex crimes in Australia on a family visit in 1982, yet he quickly returned to the States where he continued his killing spree.
Although Wilder seems to be a prime suspect for the Wanda Beach murders, it would be impossible to charge him, as he died from an accidental suicide in a fight against New Hampshire police in 1984.
Even with the numerous dead-ends for investigators, in this case, there are two other murders linked to the Wanda Beach homicides that may provide answers. Over a year after the murders of Schmidt & Sharrock, a fifty-six-year-old maid by the name of Wilhelmina Kruger was found dead in the early morning hours on Crown Street in Wollongong.
Police would not give details as to why they believed the murder could be attributed to the same individual who committed the crimes at Wanda Beach, yet similarly, Kruger’s case remains unsolved.
Another unsolved murder is that of Anna Toskayoa Dowlingkoa, a twenty-seven-year-old clerk & prostitute from Bondi, whose stabbed and strangled body was found on the side of the road by a trucker in February 1966. The state of her body caused police to link her case to that of Kruger, leading them to see similarities to the Wanda Beach Murders.
Will the case ever be solved?
Being one of the oldest and most well-known unsolved murders in Australian lore, the homicides at Wanda Beach still puzzle authorities and online sleuths alike. However, the wealth of knowledge and evidence found on the internet by true crime researchers may eventually lead to an answer.
Forensic science technology is only getting better and has helped resolve decades-old cases and provide closure for grieving families. Yet time may be running out, as many of the suspects have died in recent years, and this cold case seems to be getting colder.