On the 50-year anniversary of the abduction of 11-year-old Joanne Ratcliffe and four-year-old Kirstie Jane Gordon, South Australian Police have reaffirmed their commitment to finding answers.
Ratcliffe, 11, and Gordon, 4, went missing while attending a match at the Adelaide Oval in 1973, in a case that was referred to by the media as the Adelaide Oval abductions.
The two girls met during the game and left their respective families to go to use the bathroom at around 3:45 pm. The Ratcliffes began searching for the young missing girls at around 4:00 pm. After being unable to locate them, Kathleen Ratcliffe was able to get an announcement made on the oval’s PA system shortly after the game ended around 5:00 pm. The girls were reported missing to the police at 5:12 pm.
Witnesses claimed they saw Ratcliffe and Gordon several times in the 90 minutes after leaving their families. Once when trying to attract a stray cat, once with other children, and later, allegedly distressed and with an unknown man who was carrying Gordon. Their last reported sighting was on a bridge near the Adelaide Zoo.
Despite extensive searches and widespread media attention alongside multiple cash reward offers for information, the pair have tragically never been found and the disappearance became a cold case.
As another year passes with no answers as to the fate of the two young girls, Major Crime’s Detective Inspector Mark McEachern announced that the investigation into the abductions and suspected murders of the girls is ongoing.
“In the 50 years that has passed, police have conducted thousands of lines of enquiry into the disappearance of the girls. Unfortunately, the investigation remains unsolved,” McEachern said.
McEachern’s statement comes shortly after a crucial witness in the disappearance opened up about what happened for the first time to the media.
In an interview with 9News, Tony Kilmartin revealed that he was selling snacks during an Australian rules game at the stadium when he saw Ratcliffe and Gordon being taken away.
“When the siren had gone, people were buying and grabbing stuff and at that moment is when the screams started,” he told the news outlet.
“(I saw) one go under the arm … and the other one just pulling on him, screaming the words ‘no’ and ‘let her go’.”
Kilmartin, who was 13 at the time, chose not to get involved as he thought the individual was the girl’s father.
“I just watched them go towards the gate … and that was the last I’d seen,” Kilmartin said.
A $ 1 million reward is still on offer for information that leads to the conviction of the person or people responsible for the disappearance.