The ACT’s oldest, unsolved murder was that of a six-year-old Curtin boy whose body was discovered 55 years ago this month. “Yesterdays” columnist NICHOLE OVERALL remembers…
A “BEAUTIFUL painting of a clown” in a 1960s classroom was the poignant reminder of a tragedy that has, 55 years on, attained the dubious distinction of the ACT’s oldest unsolved murder.
“Mrs Dunn, the headmistress of Curtin South Infants School, hung the painting so we could all remember Allen,” wrote one long-term resident in the book “Curtin turns 50, 1964-2014”, produced to mark the suburb’s golden anniversary.
The reference is to six-year-old Allen Redston – a name many Canberrans have, at the least, heard talked of in hushed tones over the intervening decades.
September 27, 1966, was an ordinary early-spring Tuesday. At day’s end, Allen left the family home in barely established Curtin with his little brother, off to buy an ice cream at the shops.
Not long after, the younger Redston returned home in time for tea. Allen never would.
As Wednesday dawned, when “The Canberra Times” hit the streets bearing front-page details of his disappearance, so came the discovery no parent should have to suffer.
Almost within viewing distance of the Redston’s backyard, a neighbour’s dog had drawn attention to a spot in the swampy bed of Yarralumla Creek, not even a kilometre away.
A dirty piece of carpet was unfurled to reveal a nightmarish sight. Still wearing his green pullover, check-patterned pants and sandals, Allen was wrapped in an old dressing gown. His small hands, feet and neck were bound in a manner so expertly brutal as to be beyond comprehension, where his every move would have slowly strangled the life from him.
The community who’d helped search throughout the long, cold night for the quintessential Aussie boy – all blond hair and cheeky grin – was aghast.
Their new haven was a place of artful, studied planning; children that had scampered carefree throughout the neighbourhood; where the best security came from knowing everyone – and their business.
Could it possibly have been a disastrous prank? Or, was there something far more disturbing afoot to mar the vision of model suburbia they’d been promised?
Canberra in 1966 had experienced its first true population explosion since its 1913 creation.
Primarily concentrated around the inner-city and to the north, out south former sheep paddocks were only just being repurposed as suburbs of four planned “satellite cities”.
The first, Woden, in the mid-’60s was forlorn enough that a newspaper columnist dubbed it “a pastoral frontierville”; a fledgling outpost of a fledgling capital and an unexpected setting for criminal barbarity.
While well outside Canberra’s previous experience, Allen Redston’s case was among a widespread series of 1960s crimes against children that have continued to agitate public consciousness.
One occurred only eight months before Allen’s death.
On January 26 – Australia Day – 1966, Jane, 9; Arnna, 7, and four-year-old Grant Beaumont vanished from Glenelg Beach, Adelaide. Their fate similarly remains unresolved.
A prospective link between the Beaumont and Redston crimes has revolved around a disturbing child predator, dead since 2013, Derek Percy.
A debated identikit of a lean-faced man with swept back, fair hair seen with the Beaumonts bore similarities to Percy when charged in 1969 with the murder of a 12-year-old girl. He’d admit to being on the beach that day.
Of the few concrete clues in Allen’s situation was a young male involved in previously tying up other local boys.
The publicised description: “between 13 and 17 years of age, about 5ft 6in tall, blond or fair hair, fair complexion and a thin face”. The identikit shows his fringe styled back from his forehead.
Never identified, calls for the party to come forward remain unheeded to this day.
In regard to Percy as a person-of-interest, questions linger.
With little else of real merit in unpicking this confounding mystery, it continues to lurk in the darkest corners of everyday urbanity.
For those who not only lived through the tragedy but literally around the corner from it, their friend was gone as was the glow of their childhoods.
Another former resident also shared his recollections in “Curtin turns 50”.
“The news that Allen Redston was murdered so close to home was quite a shock,” he recalls.
“There was no going outside on our own on weekends and we had to promise that we would come straight home from school and not go out once we got home. There were hardly any kids around for months after that. We lost our freedom for several years.”
Innocence lost in every respect.
More at capitalcrimefiles.com.au. Anyone with information should contact Crime Stoppers.
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