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Who Killed Betty Shanks?

An enduring local mystery

By Colleen Millsteed Published 3 years ago Updated 3 years ago 8 min read
Who Killed Betty Shanks?
Photo by Wilhelm Gunkel on Unsplash

On a lazy particular Sunday afternoon I was surfing the internet

When I come across Brisbane’s longest running murder cold case,

It was 1952 when local girl, Betty Shanks, was found murdered at Wilston-Grange

An inner city suburb of Brisbane, not one you would expect a murder to take place.

By Marc R. R. Dorda @doddynudo on Unsplash

Police and detectives started the excruciatingly thorough murder investigation

They grilled thousands of people and put together a long list of suspects,

Not a clue too minor to check out, every fibre, fingerprint or hair strand processed

While every story, alibi, accusation and statement was scrutinised next.

By Immo Wegmann on Unsplash

Unfortunately the clues and evidence available did not allow the case to be solved

Not through any lack of trying, thousands of man hours re-interviewing every person involved,

News reporters and the local television stations covered the story as it evolved

As every suspect’s life was scrutinised in minute detail but nothing was resolved.

By Austin Distel on Unsplash

After more than a year the entire investigation appears to have finally run cold

In which the case was turned over to Queensland’s finest cold case detectives,

They worked tirelessly day after day, checking and rechecking every tiny clue

But refused to answer any questions or comment on progress at the State Crime Commands directive.

By Markus Winkler on Unsplash

Betty Shanks murder is now Brisbane’s longest running cold case

Regardless of the general public’s interest in the city’s longest active unsolved murder,

The police have made numerous statements saying that someone knows what happened

They begged and pleaded on every news channel asking for information on who hurt her.

By NeONBRAND on Unsplash

Almost 70 years has passed since “one of the most horrendous attacks on a woman that Brisbane has ever seen”

And yet officially the police have no suspect as those on the list were alibied,

That left Ken Blanch, a former Telegraph Reporter, who was second on the scene

To do all that he could to keep the flame of the hunt for the killer alive.

By Adolfo Félix on Unsplash

In a crime, so horrific and appalling, that is said to have stolen Brisbane’s innocence

The savage bashing and strangling of the 22 year old public servant and student,

There was no real news from the detectives despite numerous flashbacks and summaries

And as the years slowly pass, a tip or other relevant information from the public is becoming more prudent.

By Lacie Slezak on Unsplash

Remember in 1952 there were no Hollywood or television crime shows

Educating the viewers how to use data imaging technology or DNA samples,

Shows that today would flash answers onto large TV screens within the hour

Every clue uncovered, suspects found, and confessions received, for example.

By Photoholgic on Unsplash

Ken Blanch has a theory on who killed Ms Shanks and in 2022 that man will be 94

Is it possible he’s enjoying old age or has the vicious and cold hearted killer already died,

Of all the people interviewed back in 1952, there is one man that stands out above all

A former army driver in an army vehicle questioned about trying to lure a teenage girl inside.

By Specna Arms on Unsplash

Betty Shanks body was found in a yard in Thomas Street Winston

Just minutes from Montpelier Street where her and her family reside,

She had been accosted, strangled, kicked and bashed

As she was walking from the tram stop when her and her killer collide.

By Jr Korpa on Unsplash

She was wearing a gold wrist watch and this was not stolen after the crime,

Her watch had stopped at 9:53pm, 21 minutes after she disembarked the Day Street tram,

Mr Blanch, the former reporter, is imploring someone to dob in his suspect

To enable the police to re-interrogate him as well as complete their DNA exam.

By Shoaib SR on Unsplash

The case consists of some “mystery DNA” found on Ms Shanks bloodied clothing

There was also a bloody handprint on a nearby timber fence, presumably from the maniac,

The former army guy allegedly committed an offence against a Gold Coast woman

Just 3 months prior to Betty’s viscous cold hearted fatal attack.

By Tengyart on Unsplash

Between the years 1950 to 1953, during the Korean War, Australia’s National Service intake took place

Meaning that Brisbane had no shortage of soldiers and this is where a potential link was found,

Detectives investigating the murder of a taxi driver on the Gold Coast discovered

A girl complaining that a soldier inveigled her into his car promising she was homeward bound.

By Sean Lee on Unsplash

This soldier gained her trust by stating that he knew her best friend

But once inside his army vehicle he proceeded to drive in the opposite direction,

Luckily she managed to keep her wits about her and pretended not to notice

The first available opportunity she escaped from the car and asked the police for protection.

By Nicolás Cattadore on Unsplash

The two detectives, Bill Howley and Frank Gorman, decided to track down the army driver

And he was found with the rest of his platoon in South Brisbane, Peel Street to be exact,

They questioned him about the report received of luring a 17 year old girl into his car at Southport

But as there was confusion about the times and dates they were unable to establish the facts.

By Clovis Wood Photography on Unsplash

The detectives did suggest a copy of their investigation be filed with CIB

In the ‘MO Section’ (Modus Operandi section) as they believed the army driver would,

Commit a sexual offence using the army vehicle at some stage in the future

They would love to have been able to arrest him for some charge if only they could.

By 𝓴𝓘𝓡𝓚 𝕝𝔸𝕀 on Unsplash

Ken Blanch advised, the man was a private at the time of Betty Shanks murder

He had been sent to drive an army officer to the Gold Coast and later collect him,

He was then a free man, given free range to use the army vehicle whilst the officer was tied up

Leaving the driver plenty of time to lure a young girl into the vehicle on a whim.

By averie woodard on Unsplash

As Ms Shanks was not sexually assaulted, the army driver was never questioned

The viscous, cold hearted murder was never connected to the young girl’s report,

It was the former reporter who told the murder investigators about the Gold Coast incident

After finding the police file note whilst researching the taxi driver’s murder in Southport.

By Michelle Ding on Unsplash

The initial detectives report on the interview of the army driver over the Gold Coast incident

Was included in the wrong file, the file of the murdered taxi driver,

Rather than Betty Shanks murder file as it should have been

Mr Blanch didn’t think the young 17 year old realised, she was lucky to be a survivor.

By Henry & Co. on Unsplash

It was discovered by the former reporter that the army driver, who lived close to Brisbane city,

Could very well have been in Brisbane on the night of Ms Shanks demise,

There was a dress rehearsal for the army tattoo held at the Exhibition Grounds

So the fact there were a lot of army guys moving around that night was no surprise.


Ken Blanch believes that the former army driver was residing in a nursing home

In one of Brisbane’s Northside suburbs as late as 2007 but then he disappeared,

The reporter has not been able to find any family or friends of the driver

And he has exhausted every search he can think of but the driver has not reappeared.

By Andrey Vavilkin on Unsplash

There was a particular mark left on Ms Shanks forehead after her death

Suggesting the killer wore shoes that left this particular pattern on her head,

Kicking her during the vicious attack hard enough to leave this particular mark

Someone wearing heavy footwear and using such force to leave the pattern of its tread.

By REVOLT on Unsplash

So the obvious question to ask next is “who wears heavy footwear?”

It would be fair to say that soldiers do as part of their uniform,

The initial police report further mentions that fresh boot polish was found on her body

Boot polish that could possibly be matched to the polish the soldiers use to conform.

By Markus Spiske on Unsplash

One cold case detective, Abe Duncan, once telephoned Mr Blanch to discuss

Another man who was on the suspect list and lived near Ms Shanks family residence,

Unfortunately this line of enquiry has been difficult as the man has since died

The mark left on the forehead could be from the weave of a cricket boot as evidence.

By Katrin Hauf on Unsplash

The crime against Betty Shanks fascinated the public and was followed very closely

It was a huge culture shock for the people of Brisbane, especially the ladies,

It changed the culture of the streets where women could walk at night without being escorted

Brisbane was considered a safe city but now relevant fears raise their heads and nothing can allay these.

By Brisbane Local Marketing on Unsplash

Lastly the police have always believed that a “blunt instrument” was also involved

In the demise of Ms Betty Shanks but if such instrument did in fact exist,

After much searching at the place of the attack and many suspects homes

Nothing has been found nor the type of instrument used so the idea has been dismissed.

By Jason Jarrach on Unsplash

After almost 70 years and known to all as the longest running cold case

In all of Brisbane and even the entire state of Queensland’s history,

Detectives refuse to give up and continue to investigate all information

Received and discovered by police as they attempt to solve this mystery.

By Artem Maltsev on Unsplash

So do you know who did kill Betty Shanks?

If so, please heed this desperate call out to all and sundry

For any relevant information no matter how small,

Ring Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or

Brisbane Homicide Branch on 3364 4150

Please, we implore you, do not hesitate to call.


If you liked my writing, please click on the small heart underneath, near my name. Or send me a tip and let me know you enjoyed it.


Please click the link below my name to read more of my work. I would also like to thank you for taking the time to read this today and for all your support.

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About the Creator

Colleen Millsteed

My first love is poetry — it’s like a desperate need to write, to free up space in my mind, to escape the constant noise in my head. Most of the time the poems write themselves — I’m just the conduit holding the metaphorical pen.

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Comments (1)

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  • Dharrsheena Raja Segarran2 years ago

    This was so sad. 70 years without justice is crazy

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