The Mysterious Disappearance Of Cheryl Grimmer Explained

In Australia, January is the heart of summer, and people go to the beach. On January 12, 1970, the Grimmer family did just that — but soon found themselves the subject of one of Australia's most heartbreaking missing person cases. It was made all the sadder by the fact that the missing person in question was Cheryl Grimmer, the family's 3-year-old daughter.

As Cheryl's brother told the Daily Mail, the outing to Fairy Meadow Beach, New South Wales over 50 years ago started as a normal family trip. After a few hours of fun, the wind picked up and the Grimmers decided to go home. Cheryl's brother Ricki, aged 7, accompanied her to the women's changing rooms but when it was time to leave, she refused to come out. Ricki remembers her giggling at the changing room door. He turned away to find his mother, hoping she could extract the toddler, but when he came back, Cheryl was gone. No one was in the changing room. As people saw Mrs. Grimmer in distress, they pored over the beach, calling Cheryl's name and looking in every conceivable hiding spot. It was a mother's nightmare come true: the 3-year-old girl had vanished.

An uncertain confession

According to a BBC investigation, a man confessed to the murder of Cheryl Grimmer a year after the girl's disappearance. The man, known only by the police codename Mercury Mercury for legal reasons, told investigators that he'd murdered the child, disposed of her body, and burned her clothes (via the Daily Mail). He was 16 years old at the time of the incident.

However, when investigators returned to Mercury Mercury's file in 2017, he changed his statement, claiming he'd invented the original story. In the meantime, a coroner had pronounced Cheryl officially dead, and the government of New South Wales had offered several thousand Australian dollars for any information related to the case. In 2017, this sum was raised to $1 million (AUD). The Grimmer family, particularly brother Ricki, have lived with the guilt and distress of their sister's presumed kidnapping and murder for half a century.

"I will never forgive myself" for leaving Cheryl out of his sight, Ricki told the BBC. He has admitted to problems with alcohol over the decades related to his guilt. But whether Ricki and his family will find closure, or whether, like the family of Madeleine McCann, they will have to content themselves with theories, remains an open question.