Detectives have indicated they will attempt to find the remains of Cheryl Grimmer, more than 47 years after the abducted toddler was allegedly murdered at Balgownie.
Detectives from Wollongong Local Area Command began ‘re-investigating’ the case late last year. In March they made an astounding breakthrough, arresting a 63-year-old man and extraditing him from Melbourne to Wollongong.
Court documents allege the man murdered three-year-old Cheryl sometime between 2.30pm and 4.30pm at Balgownie on January 12, 1970 – the same day she disappeared.
Detective Sergeant Damian Loone would not comment on whether the girl’s remains were believed to have been disposed of in that same suburb.
“I can’t disclose the area at this stage,” he told the Mercury.
“I don’t want to create false hope, or put it out there that people may have bones in their backyard. I don’t want to scaremonger.”
He added that urban development made it unlikely Cheryl’s remains could be recovered, and said detectives’ initial focus would be on the most pressing elements of the court case.
But he confirmed a “coordinated search” would take place within the year.
“It’s unlikely that we will [find Cheryl], given the area has grown in size and there’s a lot more houses than in 1970,” he said. “But it [searching] is certainly something that we’ll be doing. We’re leaving no stone unturned.”
Stephen Grimmer, one of Cheryl’s three brothers, has welcomed the news. “It would be massive if they found her remains," he said.
“It would be something to bury. It would be a bit of closure.”
Meantime, an international appeal to find key witnesses in the case has succeeded.
On Thursday, NSW Police announced they were searching for a family, the Goodyears, whose patriarch Peter Goodyear provided an important statement to police in 1970.
Mr Goodyear alleged he saw a man run from the area with a motionless, fair-haired girl under his arm around the time Cheryl vanished.
Police have since obtained contact details for the family, crediting cooperation from Interpol and media outlets in Nottinghamshire, England.
Sgt Loone said the police case would not hinge on Mr Goodyear’s account. “We have other aspects of the police case that firm up the evidence we will be presenting,” Sgt Loone said.
He said detectives had not taken any confession during their dealings with the alleged killer, who was a person of interest in the original, 1970 police investigation.
The case against Cheryl’s alleged killer, who cannot be named for legal reasons, returns to court May 24.