On the night of the 19th of September 1952, Betty Shanks, a 23-year-old student at the University of Queensland, Australia, got off a tram in Days Road Terminus, Grange. Grange was a suburb of Brisbane, Queensland, and Betty began to walk home.
However, Betty never returned home that night.
Instead, she was found violently beaten to death at 5:35am the next morning by a policeman who lived nearby. This case has been known as the case that “ruined Brisbane’s innocence.”
Betty was last seen alive at 9:32pm, exiting the tram and beginning to walk towards Thomas Street. Police theorise that Betty was killed between 9:38pm and 9:53pm.
Several people in the neighbourhood recall hearing screams at approximately 9:40pm that night, but no one was able to see anything.
Betty’s body had been beaten so badly that some of her teeth were meters from her body. Her face and legs had traces of black boot polish from where she had been kicked, and there was a dotted imprint on her forehead.
Her underwear and bra had been removed, but there was no evidence of sexual assault, leading police to believe that the perpetrator got interrupted before he could do what he planned to. The watch she wore on her wrist had stopped at 9:53pm.
Two bloody handprints were found on a fence nearby, which police believe belong to the killer.
As Betty was well-respected and liked in the local community, authorities really struggled to come up with any motives or reason that someone would want to hurt her. Due to the violent nature of the crime, it is suspected that whoever killed Betty has a violent criminal past.
There were a few suspects in the case, but none of them ever proved to be fruitful leads.
In the days following Betty’s murder, a doctor who worked in the same area committed suicide. Because he committed suicide as Betty’s case was growing in media attention, people have theorised that he had something to do with her death. This has, however, never been proven and no links between Betty and the doctor have ever been found.
Another possible theory is that a soldier killed Betty. On the night Betty was murdered, several army officers were at the nearby Exhibition Grounds for an Army Tattoo Dress Rehearsal. To add to this, there had been a report of an army officer luring a young girl into his car close by. Many people believe that a soldier killed Betty as the markings on her face matched the shoes that army men wore at that time.
A few months before the murder, Betty had hired a handyman to help with renovations at her parents home. The handyman apparently tried it on with Betty a few times, but she was not interested, and many believe that he killed her because she rejected him. Years after the murder, the handyman’s daughter said that the same night Betty was murdered, her dad pulled up at Wilston State School. He left the car for a long time, and when he returned, he was covered in blood.
There is also a theory that a police officer killed Betty that night. It is suggested that a police officer hit Betty with his motorcycle, left the scene, and then returned later to strangle her to ensure she was dead. The injuries she sustained are consistent with being hit by a motorcycle, and the marking on her forehead is said to match the protective clothing worn by motorcyclists.
Betty’s case still remains open today, and police are hoping that either through evidence and DNA or by someone coming forward with information, Betty will one day get the justice she deserves. There is a reward of $50,000 for any information that leads to an arrest.
Unsolved, Murder, Australia, True Crime