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1940: The Disappearance of Lucy Brown Craig

Discussion in 'Historical Cold Cases - Pre 1950' started by Lily, Jul 26, 2015.

  1. Lily

    Lily Bronze Member


    Amid what was clearly a war against police ineptitude, waged daily and emphatically by journalists at the Truth newspaper, pretty and popular Sydney "society girl" Lucy Brown Craig vanished, never to be seen again.

    It was one of the biggest and most-publicised missing persons cases of its day, and was ample fuel for the newspapermen bent on shaming the NSW police into stepping up their game, where it came to solving the "overstuffed pigeon-hole" back-log of unsolved crimes in that state.

    Despite a massive appeal campaign for information, including her picture displayed in cinemas at movie screenings, police received no reliable leads, and Lucy's case would eventually fade from the headlines and into modern obscurity.


    13 April, 1940

    SYDNEY, Saturday.

    Well known in society circles, Lucy Brown Craig, of Macquarie-street, has not been heard of since 5 pm. yesterday, at which time she left the B.M.A. Building in Macquarie-street, where she was employed as a secretary.

    'My wife and I are very concerned,' said Dr. Brown Craig. 'Lucy was reliable and always let us know when she would not be coming home. 'She was in good health, and had never shown any signs of being depressed.'


    15 April, 1940
    Police Search For Doctor's Daughter

    SYDNEY, Saturdav.

    STILL missing at an early hour to-day, Miss Lucy Brown Craig, 19, beautiful daughter of a Macquarie Street doctor, who vanished on Friday night, has set the police a major task in tracing her.

    Forced to the conclusion that the girl is being detained against her will or has met with an accident and lost her memory, her father, Dr. F. Brown Craig, said last night that he felt certain that if his daughter could reach a telephone she would call him immediately.

    The missing girl has not been seen by friends or relatives since she left the BM.A. building, where she was employed as a secretary, at 5 p.m. on Friday. Her movements since she left Macquarie Street are a complete mystery.

    'If she Is not being detained some where,' said her father last night, 'I feel that she must have slipped in the street, bumped her head, and suffered some form of concussion which in duced amnesia. This is not an unusual occurrence. Frequently a person with concussion and loss of memory may wander for days. Identity and friends are forgotten until memory returns.'


    20 April, 1940
    Woman on Phone Seeks £100 Ransom

    Fear That Sydney Girl May be Kidnapped
    SYDNEY. Saturday.

    Believing that Miss Lucy Brown Craig, 19, well known Sydney girl, has been kidnapped and is being held for ransom, squads of detectives tonight swooped on a house in a seaside suburb, but found no trace of the girl.

    This dramatic development followed a telephone call received by Miss Craig's father, Dr. Craig. A woman's voice came over the line saying to the doctor: 'We can take you to your daughter. She needs you badly. We will do it for £100— if you don't give it to us some harm might befall her.'

    Criminal Investigation Branch officers tapped the conversation, and while Dr. Craig kept the caller on the line as long as possible, they tried to trace the call. Simultaneous visits were made to several blocks of flats. At 10 p.m. it was stated that the police would remain on duty all night to search for Miss Brown Craig, be cause it was thought that if she were in actual danger they might be able to find her. The police were so perturbed over the occurrence that additional detectives were ordered to augment the present staff under Det.-Sgt. Richards. Det-Sgts. Walker, Gordon, and Turner were placed on different aspects of the inquiry.

    Anxiously awaiting developments, Dr. Craig sat for several hours at a telephone in the reception office at the C.LB. During the evening he was interviewed by Policewomen Mitchell and Rae. When Det.-Sgt. Richards returned at 9.30, and reported that there was no trace of his daughter. Dr. Craig dictated a long statement. Subsequently a woman who had been interviewed in the superintendent's office by Inspector McCarthy, also made a statement.

    Earlier today detectives were told two stories which suggested that the missing girl may be held captive. One story was that Miss Brown Craig had been seen being half-led, half dragged by the right wrist along a street in King's Cross about 6 p.m. on the day of her disappearance She appeared to be under the influence of a drug. The other was that the same eyening she was seen in a lane at King's Cross, obviously distressed, with a man. Detectives are now engaged in systematically checking these stories, for they believe they might prove a solution to the mystery, although they have aot yet accepted the information as authentic. They will interview several witnesses. Previously they had been told that she had left a tram at King's Cross with a man.

    The theory of foul play, scorned at first, is gaining ground. Twenty detectives are assisting Det.-Sgt. Richards, and 500 photographs of Miss Brown Craig were distributed among metropolitan police today.


    SYDNEY, Fridav.

    Police who are investigating the disappearance of Lucy Brown Craig, aged 19 years, a Sydney society girl, who has been missing for eight days, have been inundated with false clues as to her whereabouts.

    To-day they received a report that the girl was in St. Vincent's Hospital suffering from loss of memory following a street accident. Police rushed to the bedside but it was not the missing girl.

    ''She has completely vanished,' said a police officer to-day.


    Sydney. April 23.

    So great is public interest in the search for Miss Lucy Brown Craig (19) that the police are receiving hundreds of messages offering suggestions about how she may be found. Detective Sergeant Richards, who is in charge of the inquiries, said to-night that every clue had so far been fruitless. Miss Brown Craig, who is a daughter of Dr. F. Brown Craig, of Edgecliff road, Woolahra, has been missing since April 12.

    The police believe the report that Miss Brown Craig left a tram at King's Cross on the night she disappeared and that she walked down Darlinghurst road with a young man of athletic build, who had a toothbrush moustache and wore a grey suit. This report was made by a man who knew the girl well.



    SYDNEY. Wednesday.

    Detectives are convinced that Lucy Brown Craig, 20. who vanished on the evening of April 12, was not kidnapped or murdered. They believe that if she had been killed her body would have been found by now. They suggest that she may have run away or eloped. Inquiries are being continued to day at King's Cross, Double Bay and Rose Bay.

    MissyMoo likes this.
  2. Lily

    Lily Bronze Member

    In the weeks following Lucy's disappearance, police were utterly swamped with hundreds of calls and clues that ate up time and resources, but which ultimately prove unhelpful. Along with those who meant well were other who took sadistic delight in reporting Lucy 'dead and buried', and the like.

    In the mix were the inevitable clairvoyants, frauds and attention-seekers, along with people who genuinely thought they had something valuable to offer. Even members of the criminal "underworld" offered help:

    29 April, 1940

    On their own initiative, several members of the underworld have been trying to find Miss Lucy Brown Craig because they have told the police they believe such a strange disappearance is very distressing to relatives and friends. Their only interest in seeking the 20-year-old society girl, they said, was to return her to her father, Dr. F. Brown Craig.

    Early in his investigation Detective Sergeant Richards interviewed several of them to learn if Miss Brown Craig had met with foul play. Since then criminals have called on Richards to tell him that their own inquiries had proved that the girl was not held in the underworld. The police are still without a definite clue to her whereabouts. They still believe that Miss Brown Craig's love of the ballet recently in Sydney might provide a clue to her disappearance.

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  3. Lily

    Lily Bronze Member

    Meanwhile, The Truth (always, apparently, a dedicated tabloid paper - I certainly recall it being so, 30+ years later..) used the case as a platform to keep lambasting the police, of whom they clearly had an exceeding poor opinion. As did the NSW public at large, or so the paper claimed, in dozens of lurid and not-very-flattering headlines.

    Futility Continues In Crime Prevention


    Months on, it seems even Lucy's optimistic and dedicated father was feeling despondent about the chances of finding Lucy alive and well.

    21 July 1940

    Lucy Craig Case Joins List Of Mysteries: Foul Play Theory

    THE police believe that Lucy Brown Craig is dead. That is now the only feasible theory; that she has met with foul play. Hope has also been abandoned by the girl's father, Dr. Brown Craig, though he has renewed his reward of £200 for a solution of the mystery. The strange case of this vanished girl is a grave indictment of the effective operations of the Criminal Investigation not even find a missing girl, cannot trace her, cannot provide any theory other than the one that she is probably dead. In an interview with 'Truth', the girl's father -- for whom everyone must feel the deepest sympathy — said that 'as time went on the affair seemed less hopeful.'

    HE was asked whether he had renewed his reward of £200 because of any information or any shred of expectation. He said that he had heard nothing. 'Then it is just an automatic renewal of the reward?' he was asked. 'Yes,' he said. He was then asked, 'What are the facts of the report that two women called on your daughter on the day of her disappearance?' 'Well,' he said, 'we have heard that about 1 o'clock on the day of my daughter's disappearance two young women called on her at the BM.A. Building. As far as we can find out they were not in her circle of friends and, as far as we know, they were not patients, nor had they called for a medical appointment.

    Happy at Work

    'We have, of course, tried to contact anyone who talked with her on that day and we thought that it might be slenderly possible that these two strangers might have been able lo help us.' Do you think that your daughter might have gone to another State and obtained a position, say, as a nurse? Did she ever display any desire to em bark on another career?' 'No,' he said. 'It was her desire that she should be trained for a secretarial position. She was happy, interested and contented in her work. It was not that she had to go to work or that she was constrained to do work that she did not personally like. She wanted to work and she liked the work as a trained and accomplished secretary. If she had, as you say, become a nurse, don't you think that the other nurses would have become suspicious of her reticence or would have recognised her from the widespread publication of her photograph?'

    Family in Dark

    'Yes,' he was answered. 'Women are very observant. We only suggested a nursing position because, being the daughter of a doctor, she might have a personal bent towards medicine and caring for the sick.' The doctor added, 'Her life and upbringing: and her nature and outlook were sucb that she would be unlikely to find any attraction in some capricious adventure. Even if she did go away from us I feel sure that she would be so homesick that she would have been irresistibly impelled to communicate with us and ease the suffering of our pain. She would not be able to bear the knowledge of her mother's suffering.'

    That reveals how much in the dark the girl's family are in their distressing misfortune. The police are in the dark, too. And their groping, ineffectual, resultless efforts are an awful example of utter futility.

    (Lily: let me spare you a couple of columns of vitriol here...)

    We arc calmly asked to accept the fact that Lucy Brown Craig will never be seen again. If the theory of foul play is the only one which can now reasonably be entertained, a motive must be presupposed. But who, or why, would any one desire to harm the 20-years-old girl? It is positive that she never had an enemy in the world, nor had she ever been involved with anyone in a way which might lead to discredit, in jury or foul play . . . much less death.

    All her background, all her life, was such that she would be the last person for whom anyone could entertain fears. She was well educated, she was d ing work that occupied her pleasantly, she was happy at home, she was immersed in the round of 'doings' of her younger set circle. It was on Friday, April 20, that she vanished— just three months ago. When she had tidied up her desk for the day she left her office. From that moment no trace of her has been discovered. She was expected to go straight home, for that night she and her sister and some friends had arranged a theatre party. She did not cancel the appointment or show signs, or make arrangements, which might presuppose that she had some other plan.

    There was one story that she had been seen to leave a tram at the King's Cross stopping place at Darlinghurst with a young, tall man and that they went together down Darlinghurst Road. This story has been so thoroughly tested that it would now appear to be a case of mistaken identity. There was no young man and there was no 'walk down Darlinghurst Road'. The theory that she may have been decoyed away was quickly discarded because it could not reason ably be supported. It was without motive such as the possession of a large sum of money or the possibility of ransom. Of course, one woman did use the disappearance in a stupid effort to extort money from the Brown Craig family but was arrested, and sentenced to nine months' imprisonment.

    Few police cases in recent years have had such widespread publicity. Nor have the police been so early on the scent. No sooner had she failed to come home than her father enlisted the aid of police, radio and press. Newspapers throughout Australia published her photographs and gave her description and details of her clothes. But not a wisp of information came in response, and the police, by deduction or inquiry, were absolutely unable to get anywhere with the case.

    SO . . . little more can be said than that the disappearance of Lucy Brown Craig must join the police list of failure.

    Strangled Girl

    Though the two cases have no thing at all in common, the dis appearance of this girl recalls the strange death of Betty van Tonder, because both affairs occupied public attention about the same time, though the latter case occurred three months before the other. Betty van Tonder was found strangled with her own stocking on a 'lovers' reserve' near Clifton Gardens. She was employed as a maid, and she left home 'on her day off' in a seemingly happy frame of mind. After seeing her doctor, after visiting her hairdresser, after attending the pictures, she was not seen alive again. The police theory, which was as unacceptable to the Coroner as it was to this newspaper, was that Betty van Tonder had embarked on a round of enjoyment and beauty treatment during the day and evening and that she had then gone into the scrub and —after tearing off her own stocking so violently that she tore away the suspender elastics — strangled her self. That was too fantastic. More feasible is the deduction that the girl was taken to the reserve and murdered.

    In any case the sad affair of Lucy Brown Craig and of Betty van Tonder are alike in this: They both join the great list of the great unsolved!

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