The Piccadilly Murder

On the 29th of January 1966, a butcher on his way to work made a horrifying discovery. The mutilated body of cleaner, Wilhelmina Kruger, lying in a pool of blood at the foot of the stairs in Wollongong’s Piccadilly centre.

Considering this was one of the more brutal murders Wollongong has ever seen, there is surprisingly little information out there. What I have discovered is this:

Kruger’s corpse was found at the foot of the stairs in the Piccadilly centre. The details are unclear, some say she was attacked upstairs, before being dragged down the moving escalator (causing horrendous shredding to her body) before being bled out at the foot of the stairs. It does seem that Kruger took her final breath here, due to the sheer amount of blood, and splatter patterns.

The stairs where Wilhelmina Kruger's body was found. Photo by Emma Korhonen.

The stairs where Wilhelmina Kruger’s body was found. Photo by Emma Korhonen.

Another rumour states that Kruger was disemboweled – her organs removed in alphabetical order with  a surgeons precision. It seems unlikely that these details will ever be known for certain.

An interesting take on this murder is that it may be connected to the infamous Wanda Beach murder, in which two 15 year old girls were found mutilated and partially buried in the sand dunes at Wanda beach.  While both of these cases remain unsolved, detective Cec Johnson was convinced he knew the culprit.

Alan Basset was arrested in June 1966 for the murder of 19 year old Carolyn Orphin. During his time in jail, he presented an abstract landscape painting to Johnson, which immediately caught the detectives attention. Johnson claims that the painting contained images of the positions of the bodies in the Wanda Beach murder, as well as details of the murder never released to the public. The painting also contained clues to the Piccadilly murder. Johnson wrote a book discussing his theory, but was killed in a tragic accident before the book was finished. It was never published.

While many on the police force disagree with Johnson’s theory, crime reporter Bill Jenkings supports the theory. Having seen the painting first hand, his book “As Crime Goes By” Jenkings agrees that Basset was responsible for both murders.

However, this is all speculation, and Kruger’s murder remains a cold case. One thing is known for certain – the Piccadilly centre is still an eerie and sad place to visit. Nerve wracking in the day time, by dusk it leaves a chill in your bones. I know of many people who flatly refuse to visit the centre, especially as dusk approaches. Whether or not poor Wilhelmina haunts the stairs where she was horribly murdered, that level of violence leaves a shadow, or an echo. And one can sense it to this very day.

Please note tha the story has been edited. Wilhelmina was not an immigrant, but was in fact born in Broken Hill, NSW. Big apologies and thanks to Cindy, Wilhelmina’s descendent, for information she has provided on this terrible case.

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~ by forgottenillawarra on June 1, 2013.

58 Responses to “The Piccadilly Murder”

  1. Yes I remember this case very well cause they never found out who did it

    • That’s right, Karen. Frightening to think they could still be out there. Although they could have ended up in jail for a lesser crime. Keep an eye on this story – I will be updating it hopefully in the next week. I have found some more amazing resources.

  2. there was also the case of the 2 homeless men who were set on fire and burned to death in the old car park beneath Piccadilly, Story goes it was done by young louts but I dont think they ever caught them

  3. I worked at Wollongong Hospital at the time and yes, everyone was horrified when the murder was made public. It happened just down the road from us! From memory, the PM was not done at the hospital mortuary ( I worked in Pathology) so none of the above was “hospital gossip”.

  4. I remember this very well for a few different reasons, first, because of the viciousness of the murder, and also because I only lived not to far from Piccadilly centre at that time, in a detached sleep out at the back of my parents house. Two days after this event, I was woken around 2am one morning by a male prying through my window and trying to break in. I was only a young teenager at the time and froze in fright. I can still remember the outline of his head peering through window prior to him trying to break in. Cannot confirm any more than that…

  5. As a young teenager in 1965 I had an encounter with a man driving a cream ute he was bad news . I will never forget his face! I believe this car was mentioned as being at the rear of Piccadilly on the night of the murder?

    • Hi Christine,
      Wow, I have never heard this. How frightening! I shall have to look at my sources and see if I can find any info about the car. Cheers for the heads up.

  6. does anyone know where Wilhelmina was taken from?

    • If you can recall how Piccadilly centre was built,there were 3 levels in the carpark and a central stairwell that linked them, 6 flights of stairs, she was most likely attacked and taken from the upper stair level which entered the retail area, whilst she was doing her cleaning that morning. Most likely dragged down to the lower level. Keep in mind that the car park did not have any boom or security gates in those days and you could come and go as you pleased. From what I can recall, indications suggest that she must have been dragged down the stairs from the trail of blood found.

  7. I was 12 when this happened, and had connections to a reporter involved in the case. I recall hearing about both breasts being cut off. This is an image difficult to remove from one’s brain when so young. Later I used to access Crown Street via Piccadilly Centre while attending the Tech College in Gladstone Avenue. The carpark steps were always steeped in a silent, morbid chill making one run up them as quickly as possible. Later still I would park in the carpark to go to the nightclub on the roof, avoiding the steps altogether.

  8. If you want to know more about this terrible crime, in the book “Wanted” by Timothy Hall is a chapter included with some pictures. This very interesting book about many unsolved Australian crimes is out of print but can be ordered second-hand.

    • Thank you Chris! I’ll definitely look into getting that book.

    • I was 8 years old at the time and from Melbourne.

      I also have the “Wanted” book which I purchased in 1976.
      The book is based on the WANTED” TV series from 1969 on channel 9 which is where my interest in these cases began.

      One of the main suspects has now died.

      He was believed to be in the area during summer holidays spent in western Sydney and also was a suspect in the Wanda Beach murders.

      However I’m sure there was another suspect who has also died since and that one also committed similar crimes in the USA.

      Sadly we may never know.

  9. I first learned about the murder of Wilhemina Kruger in this book many years ago. It contains a photo of her before her murder and some pictures of the crime scene.
    You can even see her mutilated body in one photo from some distance.
    Unfortunately it will not be easy to order this rare book. Right now I found one copy available from abebooks.com and another from ebay.

    • Hi Chris,

      I thought it sounded familiar – this is actually the book I got a lot of my information out of (including the story of Cheryl Grimmer). Luckily for me, my library has a reference copy. The pictures are definitely horrifying – I’m working on obtaining copies to put on the blog. Thanks!

  10. I worked in Piccadilly for quite a few years. I also remember when the murder happened as I was a small child at the time and my mother scared the hell out of me by saying “don’t go off down the stairs, a lady got killed there” (not a good thing to tell a 4 year old – but certainly worked in having me stay close by her side). Anyhow years later I learned from my uncle, who was a police officer on the case at the time, that “they got the guy for another crime, but just couldn’t prove he had done this one”.

  11. Did the killer step into the blood with the left foot wearing a patterned soled boot? Did a train go through Wollongong station early that morning before she was killed. Was a phone call made from the exchange phone booth Crown Street possibly second or third phone there and is it a leafy pattern on her pinni.

  12. I worked at Picadilly Budget Account Office for about 2 years and my job was to write arrears letters and hand out pay Packets,the day before Mrs Kruger got murder she said to me and to my fellow worker including my Boss being present ,that she had the feeling ,that someone was watching her,while she was cleaning around the place..The day after The murder I realize that I handed her,her last pay packet.I was very Sad and Frightening.Police asked me a lot of questions , I used to see her everyday going about her job at Picadilly,, She was a nice Lady and very friendly and I knew her being from Yugoslavia, not from Germany and certainly we never knew of those Nazi connections..She was a large woman with dark Hair and she had the features of a person from Europe..There was never time to actually talk to her,we were too busy on our job..and she used to pop over to just come and ask about details of her Pay check..or just come and collect it..
    I was about 20 years old and since then every time I need to go to see few Doctors at Picadilly Center these days..I tell My husband who takes me there,That I can almost see and feel the presence of Mrs Kruger going about her cleaning and then I get the chilling thought of how all end up so tragically and brutal for her . Picadilly has changed the face few times but for me Time has pause on those corridors and stairs ,they just can not bright enough for me .,and I get very sad…

  13. I used to walk up from Wollongong railway station every morning to catch the bus in front of Picadilly to my school at West Wollongong. I recall that morning Mrs Kruger was found dead on the stairs we used every day. The rumours going around at the time was that she had been grossly mutilated and dismembered. I also recall that there was very few leads and that seems to be verified by the killer never being caught.

    • did mrs kruger work in the exchange where the phones were on crown street BEFORE going to picadilly?

      On Nov 11, 2014 10:06 PM, “Forgotten Illawarra” wrote: > > Geoff commented: “I used to walk up from Wollongong railway station every morning to catch the bus in front of Picadilly to my school at West Wollongong. I recall that morning Mrs Kruger was found dead on the stairs we used every day. The rumours going around at the time w” >

  14. Maybe you should get some of the facts right when talking about people’s family’s disgraced by this read regard
    great granddaughter of Wilhelmina’s
    Cindy kruger

    • Hi Cindy
      I’m so sorry to reply on here, i tried to email you and the address kept bouncing back. First off, let me say i am incredibly sorry for any offence i have caused in publishing this story. It is a horrendous thing that happened.
      Secondly, all information in my story came from a book which was published by a professor that is accessible from Wollongong City Council reference library. I have not embellished a thing as i believe that would be completely disrespectful. However, obviously your family would know best. Please advise what you find offensive/unnecessary and i will remove it from the story immediately.

    • I too have tried to email you Cindy with no such luck! Fingers crossed your WordPress is still active, I would love to talk to you if you have the time.

  15. For starters Wilhelmina Caroline Emmelene Elze was not german immigrant she was born on Jameson st broken hill N.S.W in 1909 she came from a background of bradshaws and robertsons and she married Albert Herman Kruger who came from a long line of Masons very well known austrailian backgrounds, if u look back further she father was from Poland her mother from Australia my father was 7years of age when his grandmother was murdered and grew up very austrailian based background he only knew his family as hard working and never had any associatuon to any nazi sympathy being that her father was Polish his family had been attacked by them so please know I am now a 5th generation Australian

    • Sorry Cindy, I have only just seen this. Something is wrong with my notifications.
      I have removed the first part of the atory and added an amendment at the end. Please advise if you see anything else that needs fixing, and thankyou very much for bringing this to my attention.

    • Hi Cindy, Just curious but what is your grandfathers name.

  16. Cindy, thank you for posting a piece of your family’s history here – it is really good that people know the true story of Wilehlmina. I don’t know whether you are aware of this, there are details about Wilhelmina in online ancestory sites. Here is a link http://records.ancestry.com/wilhelmine_caroline_elze_records.ashx?pid=131208820. It would seem very sadly that Albert passed away on 16 September 1966. It looks like the site I have provided the link to, might just have some historical photographs as well. My condolences for your loss. RIP Wilhelmina.

  17. Cindy there are also records available for Albert on the Australian Archives site at http://recordsearch.naa.gov.au/SearchNRetrieve/Interface/ListingReports/ItemsListing.aspx.

    I see Albert’s date of birth is 8 April 1904.

    Wilhelmina’s name is mentioned in one of the three records as next of kin.

    We live in the best country in the world!

    • No need for a background there are still her children who went through that ordeal alive to tell us ….

  18. Could Forgotten Illawarra say what is the name of the publication by the professor where he got his original info please – re Wilhelmine Kruger

    • Certainly Patrick. The book is ‘Wanted: a casebok of unsolved crimes of violence in Australia’ by Timothy Hall. Available from the Wollongong Reference library.

  19. I remember this case very well my father was one of the Detectives on this case & before he died he told me he was convinced that Allan Raymond Basset did all the murders listed above … The big but was not enough proof for him to be convicted of these horrible crimes… He did end up in Morriset institution though… Not sure if he’s been realised & still alive…

  20. iam 23 anf a new cleaner there aswell and never new this ! at times ive felt something but wow!

  21. As a child our family property in Gwynneville shared a fence with Mrs. Kruger, as we knew her. She lived alone in a garage at the back of an otherwise vacant block. She had two large guard dogs as she was very frightened. We had been led to believe that she was afraid of her ex husband.

    • Anychance details Are know as i have been working there for a while now and have noticed some od events and am not superstital And would like to do some cummin research on her as she has intregead and some how freakishly became of my knowleag! Not tryin to sound insaine or absessed either just captivatingly curiouse!

  22. To the author of this report…I was the first Police Officer on the scene in the Kruger murder, I can clarify much of what you have written in this blog if you wish to contact me.

  23. […] In 1975, Bassett was treated as a suspect for the infamous Wanda Beach murders (1965) after depicting the scene in a painting, including blood trails and a knife, but was ultimately never convicted. As well as this murder, Detective Cec Johnson was convinced that Bassett was responsible for the murder of Wilhelmina Kruger in Wollongong, 1966, but was unable to prove the connection. (For more information, please see ‘The Piccadilly Murder’ https://forgottenillawarra.wordpress.com/2013/06/01/the-piccadilly-murder/). […]

  24. What sort of vehicle(s) were seen near the crime scene at the time of the offence? What other details are available? Did the killer disconnect the electricity to the arcade? Did he leave any evidence behind?

  25. I used to see Mrs Kruger empty her cleaning bucket of a morning….i used to catch a bus to school in front of Piccadilly…..i remember a drawing of the car…must have been in the paper..it was a ute with a hard cover to the ute tray…which made it look like the size of a panel van…..whenever I saw a ute with a hard cover with small windows/panels….i remember Mrs Kruger..and how frightened we were….Piccadilly never regained its success…. it needs to be demolished….RIP Mrs Kruger

  26. In a he early 80’s I use to cut the hair of a security man that was a cop when this lady was murdered. He said that he and other police on the scene that morning saw blonde hair in one of her hands. He said he wished they had bagged her hands immediately because it was not there afterwards.
    He said they were not use to a crime of this magnitude in Wollongong in the 60’s and evidence was lost in the early hours before more seasoned Sydney detectives arrived.

    • And yes you are right and my mother always wore weeks she work at the tech College in the hairdressing section she had a facelift done she named me Brad and not Bradley as my grandmother’s maiden name with Brad Shaw

      • And yes you are right and my mother always wore wigs she work at the tech College in the hairdressing section she had a facelift done she named me Brad and not Bradley as my grandmother’s maiden name is Brad Shaw.. and yes I do remember things back when I was two and a half and that will be brought out in a lie detector

  27. That was my grandmother after I got murdered her maiden name was Bradshaw my name is Brad Matthew Kruger there is a lot more to the story then what people think I’ve had my DNA test I have very high point numbers probably the highest in Australia it looks like my mother had affair with my grandfather and she murdered my grandmother as she worked at the tech College next to the butcher tech section in the same street and as Graeme Kruger space to be my father but my brother had his car left the Piccadilly for 5 days after murder I have a lot more to say but that will be for the police

    • Thank you so much for such an amazing, open response. I hope your family get the answers they must so desperately seek.

    • That is interesting Brad Mathew Kruger and may I express my condolence for your loss. But, are you saying that a woman overpowered, strangled and brutalised Mrs Kruger? A ute climbed the ramp to the Gladstone avenue exit excellorated at the uturn and sped away. Did a train rattle through Wollongong Station. earlier than the killing? Was a man selling newspapers and candy on jJubilee bridge outside the redbrick toilet block that morning? Did the victim clean at the exchange down the road where all the phones were? Or, was it another lady who got asked the time by two men with a little blonde girl with them? If as her relative you get more answers to these questions, than me, please let me know.. Annette

      • My mother had a boyfriend in the same house with Graham Kruger at the same time my grandmother got murdered his name was John I will not say his last name as my mum had a locket hair ripped out of her right side of the head blonde hair always wore wigs . Until she had a facelift in the seventies

      • My mother had a boyfriend in the same house with Graham Kruger at the same time my grandmother got murdered his name was John I will not say his last name as my mum had a locket hair ripped out of her right side of the head blonde hair always wore wigs . Until she had a facelift in the seventies

  28. At the time of the murder my mother had a boyfriend named John I will not say his last name in this house with Graham Kruger at the same time with my brother Mark and myself. She always wore wigs and had a facelift in 1970. When I told Graham Kruger what I remembered when I was two and a half he said to me that it was when your grandmother got murdered it is very strange for a mother to be kissing another man in the same house why your husband is sitting at the table crying

  29. And yes my mother had blonde hair have photographs my mom’ name is Elizabeth Young Kruger at that time

  30. And one year before Graeme Albert Kruger passed away he told me that I am a Kruger but I’m not his son so you can put two and two together I have a lot more to say and that’s all for the police

  31. […] The stairs where Wilhelmina’s body was found. Photo credit: Emma Korhonen; forgotten illawarra […]

  32. How many children did Wilhelmina have ?

    • Dear Editor, This is a very serious crime which is still unsolved after 52 years. It appears to me that there are people posting fake information ? Who is Cindy and Brad ? I know for a fact that Mrs Kruger had a son called Mike. Correct me if I am wrong.

      • Hi Rob. All I know of the crime came from several books. I’m certainly not going to start accusing people of being related or not. I apologise if you feel that some of these responses are incorrect, but really it is akin to chatting about the case down at the pub – you have to take everything with a grain of salt.

    • 3 children Graham Baden joy.. my name is Brad Kruger I am the grandson

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