EXCLUSIVE: Almost 50 years after the heinous and still unsolved murder of Elaine Beverley King inside a hotel room in the centre of Sydney, newly unearthed information suggests notorious serial killer, Ivan Milat, may have been responsible. While “systemic failures” within NSW Police have helped to only hamper her family’s long search for justice. Tayla Foster and Serkan Ozturk investigate.
On 11 July, 1974, a brutal murder now largely forgotten took place inside a nondescript hotel room in the middle of Sydney’s CBD. Inside room 96 of the Burlington Hotel lay the body of 45-year-old mother, grandmother and dear friend, Elaine Beverley King. She had been raped, beaten and strangled to death. The killer’s identity has remained a mystery, even 48 years on.
However, new information recently provided to True Crime News Weekly by Elaine’s surviving family suggests that one of Australia’s most notorious serial killers may have possibly been involved in the sinister and depraved act of murder.
Elaineʼs only known surviving next of kin is her granddaughter, Kerry Jacques, who now lives in the United States.
The knowledge of her grandmother’s murder continues to linger long and large for Ms Jacques across the expanse of time as well as the ocean divide between the two countries.
Although she was born after her grandmother’s murder took place in 1974, Ms Jacques has always felt the crime was not taken seriously by police or media at the time, or even in the intervening decades since, because Elaine happened to be involved in street-side sex work.
In talking with True Crime News Weekly, Ms Jacques candidly shared the cruel realities of the murder as well as intimate details of her experiences with law enforcement and homicide detectives as they seemingly failed to conduct an investigation of any substance and benefit to the victim or her family.
“There were only a few small newspaper articles about her murder in 1974 and about the inquest a few years later,” she recalled.
“I remember my mother, Andrea, talking about how she found out about her mother’s murder. It was on the top of the back page of the Mirror newspaper in the section called Late Press. It was printed in red ink. What an awful way to find out your mother has been murdered.”
Ms Jacques further elaborated: “No one in the family was contacted after her murder. My mother – who was Elaine’s only child – wasn’t even listed as the next of kin on her file. My mother died in 2003 and the murder case only became active again because back in 2005 I wrote to the NSW Police Cold Case Unit asking if her case was still open. The detectives wrote back stating that they had no idea that there were still family members alive and that started the ball rolling.”
In 2011, a $100,000 reward was announced by NSW Police for any information that leads to the conviction of the person or people responsible for Elaine’s death.
In a clear sign of how haphazard though the initial investigation into Elaine’s murder was, important evidence that could in the present day provide DNA and other clues have seemingly been lost by NSW Police.
Murder victim: Elaine Beverley King pictured with her only daughter, Andrea (Image: NSW Police / Supplied)
“The main important exhibits including the bloody stockings that she was strangled with and any semen samples have apparently been misplaced,” Ms Jacques sadly revealed.
“I have been told by the detectives working in the Cold Case Unit that the evidence collected from the scene has been ‘misplaced’. They were probably misplaced early on because … cases like hers were not a priority. The police treated her in the same way the murderer did, disposable.”
Authorities Block Access to Family for Documents
Even to the present day, authorities refuse to assist Elaine’s family members in the most rudimentary of requests.
For over six months now, Ms Jacques (alongside True Crime News Weekly) has attempted to gain access to old coronial files related to Elaine’s murder that are held in NSW and Queensland.
Every attempt has so far been rebuffed.
An inquest into Elaine’s murder was held at Glebe Coroners Court in 1976, two years after her murder. No suspects were identified and no new information was seemingly unearthed. Due to a lack of suspects and police interest, the case went cold. And has remained frozen in time.
The NSW Coroner’s Court has informed True Crime News Weekly it may take up to one year to retrieve the files.
“Applications relating to historical matters before the Coroners Court can take up to 12 months to process,” a spokesperson for the NSW Coroner’s Court stated in an email in February 2022, six months after our initial request was made.
“They must comply with legislative requirements which ensure that very sensitive and highly personal information on coronial files is only released to persons with an appropriate interest.
“There is a waiting list for these types of applications and files need to be retrieved from the state government archive.”
Under NSW law, the next of kin with a credible interest in a coronial matter must eventually be provided with documents held by the Coroner’s Court.
SUBSCRIBE TODAY TO HELP US PRODUCE MORE INVESTIGATIONS LIKE THIS
In this day and age – the era of digitalism and technology – it also makes no sense for the NSW Coroner’s Court to take 12 months to acquiesce on a simple matter.
While True Crime News Weekly has been investigating this case, this publication has also been looking at similar cold case murders that occurred in Melbourne in the 1970s.
Unlike their NSW counterparts, the Public Record Office Victoria – which is the archive of the state and local government in Victoria – has happily assisted True Crime News Weekly with our investigations and even had staff digitise all relevant files in their possession within a fortnight during a Covid lockdown in Melbourne last year.
RELATED: “THE GREAT CRIMINAL”: Mr Cruel prime suspect wrote “sex-death” essay “to do evil” while committing rape attacks
The files in Queensland’s State Archives meanwhile remain under the control and purview of the state’s police force. Queensland Police too have decided not to assist Ms Jacques in any meaningful way so far.
“My decision is not to allow access prior to the lapse of the current restricted access period,” Ross McSwain, the director of records management for Queensland Police, wrote back to Ms Jacques in October 2021. “This decision is based on the privacy of the individuals identified in the file.”
Mr McSwain however then revealed: “I can advise the contents of the file are only administrative copies of statements regarding requests from the NSW Police Service to interview persons who may or may not have information regarding the murder, then sent back to NSW.”
The bureaucrat then further helpfully advised Ms Jacques: “Your email indicates that you have information ‘that was not known to the police in 1974’.
“As the murder occurred in Sydney, this information you have, should be provided to the NSW Police for them to investigate.”
It is the hope of True Crime News Weekly that with the publication of this article we can assist in some small way in uncovering the true face of the sexually sadistic killer and bring peace to Elaine’s family after decades of heartache and uncertainty.
Rivers of Blood
It was on Friday 12 July, 1974 that Elaine Beverley King’s body was discovered by a hotel maid at 8:15am. Elaine had checked into Haymarket’s Burlington Hotel on the corner of Sussex and Hay streets the previous evening with a truck driver under the name of Mr and Mrs Rivers. The mysterious Mr Rivers was said to be a good bit younger than Elaine, with witnesses putting his age in the region of mid-20s to mid-30s.
When her body was discovered, Elaine was found lying on her back, her bra lifted just below her neck, with $11 stuﬀed down her throat. It is believed the notes were shoved into Elaine’s mouth after she died. It was clear to oﬀicers upon arrival that Elaine had been strangled to death with her own pair of pantyhose. Shoe prints were later found on the bed sheets and photographed by police.
The cruelty of this murder cannot be understated.
Elaine was found covered in bruises and had been vaginally and anally raped prior to her death, suspected to have been around 10:30pm and midnight on 11 July, 1974. Whether the crime was an outburst of rage, a sadistically motivated sexual crime, or both, it is clear that whoever killed Elaine was an experienced killer who got oﬀ on the intricacies of her murder as she was being attacked, as well as after her heart stopped beating.
Elaine was a known sex worker who had been arrested and locked up for prostitution on multiple occasions. She was also an alcoholic, and a regular visitor to the Burlington Hotel in Haymarket.
The Burlington Hotel in the Sydney CBD suburb of Haymarket in 1970, just a few years before Elaine Beverley King was murdered inside one its rooms (Image: TimeGents / Supplied)
Despite the tough times she found herself in the years before her murder, Elaine’s granddaughter today warmly remembers the letters her mother would receive from Elaine while behind bars.
The letters spoke nothing of the nature of her work, nor her present circumstances or her hardships. Rather, they were beautiful letters written from a mother who missed her child.
“My mother used to have letters Elaine wrote to her from jail but unfortunately my mother burned them many years ago,” Ms Jacques said. “I wish I had those letters.”
Prior to checking into the Burlington Hotel around 9pm on 11 July, 1974, Ms King was seen with a man inside the Capital Hotel on Campbell Street in Haymarket. The man was seen sporting ugg boots and is the person depicted in the Identikit image provided by NSW Police.
Elaine was then again later seen in the company of a man at the Capital Hotel before she checked into the Burlington Hotel for the night.
When NSW Police announced the $100,000 reward just over a decade ago, Detective Inspector John Lehmann from the Unsolved Homicide Team remarked that investigators were still unsure whether all three sightings of the man related to the one person.
“To this day police still don’t know if there were three separate men or it was the same person seen with Ms King,” Detective Inspector Lehmann said in February 2011.
It is highly suspected that on the night of her murder, Elaine simply thought she was meeting with a client for work. Unbeknownst to her, she was likely dealing with an unhinged serial killer who sought her demise.
Seeking justice for her grandmother: Kerry Jacques with her son, Elaine’s great-grandson (Image: Supplied)
The Possible Suspects
There were very few pieces of evidence that could assist police in pinpointing the killer, however, it is known that the killer likely sported a distinct pair of ugg boots and drank Reschʼs beer, with that same brand of beer also found at the murder scene.
For a few years now, Ms Jacques has suspected that her grandmother was targeted by a sadistic serial killer.
“I do believe she was murdered by a serial killer. If not a serial killer, a sexual sadist,” Ms Jacques told True Crime News Weekly.
“The way she was viciously raped vaginally and anally, then killed and staged was particularly cruel. The murderer stuffed $11 down her throat after she was killed. No one is going to take the time to do that in a heat of the moment crime.”
Ugg boots similar to those that a suspect was seen wearing (Image: NSW Police / Supplied)
On top of her list as the person possibly responsible for Elaine’s murder is the late notorious rapist and serial killer, Ivan Milat.
“I have done some investigation regarding Ivan Milat and the time period of July 1974. I was not able to find anything concrete tying him to Sydney in July of 1974 but what I found does seem to indicate he was living in Sydney and was working as a truck driver in the mid 70s,” Ms Jacques explained.
“He was charged with a few sexually motivated crimes during that time period and briefly fled the area to try to avoid punishment.”
SUBSCRIBE TODAY TO HELP US PRODUCE MORE INVESTIGATIONS LIKE THIS
It is believed Milat began his reign of terror and sexual violence against women and others as early as the 1970s, and that he is responsible for dozens of unsolved crimes, including rape and murder. Despite the best efforts of homicide detectives, Milat never revealed or confessed to any more crimes before his death from oesophageal cancer in October 2019.
Milat had been convicted in 1996 over the murders of seven young backpackers, aged between 19 and 22, whose bodies he had dumped in makeshift graves in 1991 and 1992 in the Belanglo State Forest, south of Sydney.
Continuing with her theory, Ms Jacques then revealed to True Crime News Weekly that she was further taken aback by the similarities between the Identikit image police released of the suspect in her grandmother’s murder to that of a younger version of the infamous Backpacker Murderer.
“To me the composite sketch (especially the eyes) is uncanny. I stumbled across a young photo of Milat online a few years ago and it struck me like a brick wall,” she said. “So similar.”
“So similar”: The Identikit image of the suspect compared to a photo of Ivan Milat in his younger years (Images: NSW Police / Supplied)
Ms Jacques told True Crime News Weekly when she shared the information with NSW Police she was again fobbed off.
“I did suggest the Milat theory to Detective Lehmann a few years ago and he basically said, ‘Yeah thanks, we’ll look at that’ and I never heard another thing about it or from him actually.
“I don’t believe it was investigated.”
Milat would have been aged about 29-years-old around the time of Elaine’s murder.
Police have previously put it on public record they believe Milat was violently raping and killing women in and around Sydney almost two decades before the Backpacker Murders in the early 1990s.
Milat was one of six prime suspects in the cases of three women – Leanne Goodall, Robyn Hickie and Amanda Robinson – who all went missing near Newcastle, north of Sydney, in 1978 and 1979 within four months of each other. Milat was often in the area at the time because of his employment as a road worker.
In 2002, Milat was even called from his prison cell to give evidence at a coronial inquest into the missing women but no charges were laid.
However, the inquest saw Coroner John Abernethy severely criticise NSW Police actions, saying there was “a major failure in the initial police investigations”.
“This severely hampered police ability to identify and properly investigate the information relevant to each identifiable person of interest,” Coroner Abernethy said in his findings in 2002.
“Such further investigations may have served the purpose of eliminating or otherwise confirming the status of any individual as a person of interest.”
Following his criticisms of NSW Police, Coroner Abernethy at the time then recommended “that a new body be set up to deal solely with reviewing unsolved homicides”.
Rapist and serial killer: Ivan Milat seen with his trademark handlebar moustache (Image: Wiki Commons)
Milat was first charged with rape in 1971, at the age of 26. A recurring motif throughout his horrid life, Milat’s chosen victims were two female hitchhikers.
But a sloppy case run by the prosecution only served to get Milat acquitted. Having escaped punishment over the dual rapes, Milat likely then felt an intense sense of power that he could continue to get away with even more brutal crimes.
In 1977, three years after Elaine’s murder inside the Burlington Hotel, Milat attempted the rape and murder of two more women, for which he was never charged.
There are others too apart from Milat however who may have had a motive to kill Ms Jacques’s grandmother.
RELATED: ART, SEX ABUSE, FRAUD, MURDER, SUICIDE! Wicked life & death of Herbert Hepburn Calvert glimpsed for first time after 100 year cover-up
Other possible suspects who could be implicated in Elaine’s murder include a boyfriend she was seeing around the time of her death.
“All I know is that they lived together in the Rocks – I have the exact address written down somewhere – and he was a Merchant Marine,” Ms Jacques told True Crime News Weekly. “As far as I know the police never looked at that angle.”
While police have seemingly not taken Ms Jacques’s concerns seriously, in 2015, Detective Inspector Lehmann suggested that whoever killed Elaine was a ‘sexual deviant’.
Speaking to the author, Justine Ford, for her book Unsolved Australia, Detective Inspector Lehmann remarked:
“Systemic Failures” & Lives Lost
The lack of a proper police investigation into Elaine’s murder needs to also be placed in the context it deserves.
In the months preceding Elaine’s murder almost 50 years ago, a number of high-profile psycho-sexually motivated violent murders took place against women in and around Sydney, almost all of which remain unsolved to the present day.
In an article published in the Sydney Morning Herald in May 1974, just two months before Elaine’s murder, NSW Police admitted they were already struggling to investigate and solve “the murders of five women and a girl in the past 11 months”.
Amongst the list of murdered women were:
- 27-year-old Lynette White, who was stabbed to death in her Coogee flat on June 8, 1973
- 14-year-old Cronulla schoolgirl, Janette Hannington, who was found strangled and raped in Grays Point on September 28, 1973
- An unidentified woman whose body was found “battered and probably strangled to death and raped” in the Royal National Park on December 8, 1973
- 79-year widowed pensioner, Sarah McKenzie, who was found on February 8, 1974, after having been sexually assaulted and killed with a mattock and knife inside her own North Sydney home
- 27-year-old mother-of-three, Mary Annie Bertram, who was found naked and sexually assaulted in bush about 20 kilometres from Queanbeyan on April 4, 1974
- 20-year-old newlywed student-teacher, Maria Ellen Smith, who was sexually assaulted and strangled inside her own home in Randwick on April 22, 1974
“Police plea”: A Sydney Morning Herald article from May 1974 details the struggles of NSW Police to solve numerous murders of women in the months before Elaine Beverley King’s death (Image: Newspapers.com / Supplied)
All of the murders listed above – bar that of Sarah McKenzie – remain unsolved. McKenzie’s murder was only solved by NSW Police more than two decades after it happened when the notorious serial killer, Rodney Francis Cameron, known as the ‘Lonely Hearts Killer’, confessed to the crime in 1997. Cameron had been on a killing spree at the time of Ms McKenzie’s murder, having also murdered a former workmate at her Blue Mountains home just a month prior in January 1974.
In the past five years meanwhile, rewards of $1 million have been announced for information about the murders of Lynette White and Maria Ellen Smith in Sydney’s eastern suburbs, while true crime docos and podcasts have also been aired about the deaths of both women, who happened to be photogenic and attractive.
SUBSCRIBE TODAY TO HELP US PRODUCE MORE INVESTIGATIONS LIKE THIS
Young Canberra mother, Mary Annie Bertram, meanwhile was likely yet another victim of NSW Police’s failure in the 1970s to properly investigate issues that may have involved domestic abuse or coercive control. It was commonplace at the time for husbands to claim their wives had decided to leave them and their children on a whim, with police choosing to not pry much further. The now infamous ‘Teacher’s Pet’ case involving Lynette Dawson and her husband, Chris Dawson, who is presently awaiting trial for murder 40 years on from the disappearance of his wife, is perhaps a clear example of this tendency.
Although her body was found on April 4, 1974, Ms Bertram’s husband, Walter Kenneth Bertram – who she still lived with despite leading separate lives and sleeping in separate beds for several years – had quickly advertised for a housekeeper soon after her disappearance and then told a woman who answered the ad that he was unsure if his wife had run away or was murdered. The woman further claimed Mr Bertram “had not appeared to be upset” about his wife’s disappearance.
Another witness said that Mr Bertram had called her at 6.50am on the morning of April 1, three days before Ms Bertram’s body was discovered, to say that his wife had left him. Ms Bertram’s cousin told police that while Ms Bertram had informed her “on more than one occasion” that she was considering leaving her husband, she would have only done so by taking her three children and car with her.
Of interest, a forensic pathologist told the coronial inquest into Ms Bertram’s murder that she was likely killed 48 to 72 hours before he examined her body on April 4. Police investigating the crime though were steadfast in their belief that “there seemed to be another man in her life” but despite their “extensive inquiries” could never locate this supposed mystery paramour of Ms Bertram’s.
The lives of 14-year-old schoolgirl, Janette Hannington, and the still unidentified woman found in the Royal National Park on Sydney’s southern outskirts have also long faded out of view.
The unidentified woman found in December 1973 may have possibly been another early victim of Milat, considering the manner of her murder and the dumping of her body in a national park south of Sydney. It is believed her body had been lying there for 10 days before it was discovered.
Janette Hannington’s body was discovered adjacent to the Royal National Park, at Grays Point, just a little over two months before, in September 1973. She had last been seen near Cronulla train station about 10.50pm on the night she died.
Forgotten murder victim: 14-year-old Cronulla schoolgirl Janette Hannington was found raped and strangled nine months before the murder of Elaine Beverley King in July 1974 (Image: Supplied)
When True Crime News Weekly contacted NSW Police for comment for this investigation, our request was sent right up the chain of command to the State Crime Command offices.
We had asked NSW Police whether Ivan Milat was, or, is considered a suspect in Elaine’s murder.
We also questioned police on whether systemic failures had prevented homicide detectives from solving the case as well as the numerous other unsolved psycho-sexual murders of women in the same era.
Our attempts to gain some insight into police thinking were rebuffed though.
“Thanks for your inquiry, however we won’t be commenting at this time,” a police spokesperson curtly responded.
For her part, Ms Jacques remains hopeful that improvements in technology as well as attitudes amongst police and the wider community will eventually lead to the killer responsible for her grandmother’s death.
“A few years ago I was contacted by one detective who stated that they had found some exhibits from the murder scene – I believe it was a beer can or a glass – and they were trying to extract DNA from it, but ultimately they were unsuccessful and that lead was abandoned,” she said.
“I am hoping as DNA technology improves maybe they could access some DNA on the evidence they do have.”
Ms Jacques has also made it clear she would eventually like to have access to the coronial files, and remains adamant that all victims of sexual violence, no matter what their station in life may be, should have their lives and experiences treated with the respect they deserve by the authorities.
“I have not heard anything back from our requests to see the inquest files. It makes you wonder if there’s something there they don’t want anyone to see,” she said.
“I would very much like to see the records from the inquest. I would love to have access to Elaine’s whole file actually but I doubt that will ever happen while her case stays open. I would be very interested in reading any information that maybe they overlooked, that I may have additional information about.
“I am very detailed orientated so I have always believed I may be able to help crack this in some way.”
If you have any information that could assist Elaine Beverley King’s family in bringing her killer to justice and providing closure, please contact email@example.com or Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.
Be the first to comment