The disappearance of Cheryl Grimmer

Tiny Cheryl Grimmer

Tiny Cheryl Grimmer

The Grimmer family migrated from England to Australia in 1969, and settled into the Fairy Meadow hostel. The family was made up of 24year old John, his 26 year old wife, Carol, 3 sons Ricki (7), Stephen (5) and Paul (4), and 3 year old daughter Cheryl.
Corporal John Grimmer worked with the army in Penrith and was home only on weekends, leaving Carol to bring up the children. As the hostel was only a 15 minute walk from Fairy Meadow beach, Carol and the children spent most of their spare time at the beach, avoiding the hot weather. Fairy Meadow beach was quite isolated, cut off from North Wollongong beach by sandhills and a swamp.
On Monday Jan 12 1970 it was a hot, humid day. It was the middle of school holidays, so large crowds from the hostel went to the beach, including the four Grimmer children. After a beautiful morning, the weather changed in early afternoon, creating cruel winds. At 1:30pm, Carol Grimmer went down to beach and told her children it was time to go home. The wind was bitterly cold, so the children quickly agreed.
Carol began to collect their things, and sent the children to shower and change in the changing pavillion. After about 10 minutes later, her sons returned to tell her that Cheryl was still in the men’s shower. Carol sent Ricki to collect her, but he came straight back saying “mum, she won’t come.”
Carol spent a few minutes gathering up their belongings before heading to the pavillion to collect her 3 year old daughter, but when she got to the pavillion there was no sign of Cheryl. After searching around the pavillion, Carol decided that perhaps Cheryl had returned home. So she collected her son’s and headed back to the hostel. Upon arriving home, it took only a few minutes to ascertain that Cheryl was not there. Staring to feel concerned, Carol ran back to the beach to search again, and ran into a lifeguard. The lifeguard encouraged her to call the police, and at 4pm that’s what she did. It had been 2 hours since Ricki told Carol that Cheryl wouldn’t leave the shower.
When the police arrived, Carol was confused but not upset. She was adamant that there were so many people at the beach that someone would have heard Cheryl scream if there was any trouble – and she had only been out of sight for a few minutes. But while Carol wasn’t concerned, the police definitely were – there had been an increase in sexual assault over the last few years, and Cheryl had last been seen in the men’s shower wearing only a bathing suit.
While speaking to people on the beach, police encountered two boys, aged 9 and 11, who recalled seeing Cheryl. After the three Grimmer boys went to fetch their mother, the boys claimed that Cheryl walked out of the pavillion, naked, wanting a drink. She was too short to reach the bubbler so the boys helped her have a drink, before watching the naked girl walk into the sand dunes, carrying her swimsuit and towel. The boys watched her go, concerned that she was unaccompanied, and they are unanimous about what happened next..
As Cheryl walked down the beach, a man ran over to her, wrapped her in a towel and ran with her under his arm into the area between the showers and the surf club building. They followed the man to the clubhouse, but lost sight of him. After losing sight of him, they agreed that he was probably Cheryl’s father, and returned to playing.
Peter Goodyear, a hostel resident, was passing the changing room when he saw a man running fast with a fair haired girl wrapped in a white towel under his arm, and recognised the man as one he had spoken to outside the changeroom earlier. He watched the man run across carpark, climb into old Holden and drive away. Thinking nothing of it, Mr. Goodyear returned home.
It is uncertain whether Cheryl was alive when Mr. Goodyear saw her, as there was a lag between this and the boys seeing her grabbed.

The remaining Grimmer family.

The remaining Grimmer family.

The police released details about the suspect based on Mr. Goodyear’s description:
The police have never found a trace of Cheryl.. All believe she is dead, except for Carol. Cheryl’s bedroom still looks the way it did the day she disappeared. Family have moved from Fairy Meadow. Police released a description of man based on boys and Goodyear’s description: 30-40 years old, slim build, thin face and dark olive complexion. Spoke good English, but believed to be southern European. Wearing orange swimming trunks and black and vbrown beach coat and black felt hat. Driving Holden sedan 1956-1958, off-white colour with rusty mudguards. Car in poor condtion.
Four days after her disappearance (January 20) a note was delivered to a random house, whose inhabitants had no knowledge of the Grimmer family. The handwritten note was passed onto police and had the following message on it:
“your daughter Cheryl is OK but I’m not so sure about another kid who will be knocked off if you don’t do as I say. I want $10,000 and a complete pardon in exchange for Cheryl. On Saturday morning my two friends are going to pick up the first young kid they see. When that is done I will take Cheryl to the front of .. (address of stranger who received note)… will give me the $10,000. I’ll be quite safe. Because if you grab me, the young kid will die. If you let me go, the young kid will be let free a couple of days later unharmed I hope. See you around 11am on Saturday”
Sadly, no one arrived at the house that day, and police believed the note to be a cruel hoax.
The Grimmers also received phone calls from a man describing how he had murdered and raped Vicki Barton almost exactly a year earlier. A friend pointed out that Cheryl’s disappearance was 5 years to the day since the Wanda beach murders. Police have always wondered – was there a serial killer in our midst?
Cheryl Grimmer was never found.

Below are some related articles about this story.

2009 – article by Cheryl’s brother, Stephen Grimmer –

The Wanda Beach Murder –

Vicki Barton Murder –


~ by forgottenillawarra on January 28, 2014.

5 Responses to “The disappearance of Cheryl Grimmer”

  1. Thanks for the blast from the past.

    As little kids we spent many a time playing on the very beach. No I am not the Killer. But My mum though I was a little terror back then. I was about 4 years old. The youngest of 4 kids we were lived in the Hostel in Fairy Medow until we had moved out the year before it happened.

    Whenever we got told of stranger danger we always go reminded about the disappearance of Cheryl Grimmer. I think the illawarra lost its innocence after that event and stranger danger became a real worry for parents. If there is any good from that tragic loss is that a whole generation of Kids got taught about Stranger danger.

    And strange enough her story has be passed on through my family as well as others to another generation of kids who have grown up and are having children of their own.


  2. This is a very tragic case of abduction and murder. The man who did this was desperate. I live in Wollongong and researched this case. I have found my own info and reached my own conclusion on where Cheryl is.

  3. […] Grimmer (original story found here disappeared from Fairy Meadow Beach on January 12, 1970, when she went to the surf club change […]

  4. I live in England UK, I came across this story when it was compared to the Madeline McCann case. The name Grimmer caught my attention because it was my grandmothers maiden name, so when I mentioned it to my mother, I found out that this poor girl and family are indeed related to us! This makes it more personal and tragic to me, as we share a family tree. I am now following the outcome of the recent arrest and hope the scumbag gets whats coming to him. Sadly years too late for Cheryl’s parents to witness but justice to be seen for her brothers. I was ten years old when this happened and 56 years old when I found out! Cheryl and her brothers would be my Grandmothers great niece and nephews and although Ive never met them (and they wouldnt know me from Adam!) I feel strangely connected and upset on a personal level finding all this out! RIP Cheryl and Hugs to my distant relatives going through the recent ongoing turmoil x

  5. Yo creo que Cheryl vive y ha vivido muy lejos de la tierra que la vio nacer. Sin embargo, en esta búsqueda de respuestas he arriesgado demasiado. La medium que le dijo a la madre que ella vivía creo que no se equivocó. Espero pronto obtener las pruebas que me han pedido y confío en Dios que así sea.

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