Justice For Cheryl, 50 Years On: ‘We Will Never Give Up Our Fight’
Decades ago, the brothers of Cheryl Grimmer made a pledge they would never give up their fight for justice. Now, they have one more reason to keep going.
On the 50th anniversary of Grimmer's disappearance, NSW Police announced the reward for information into her abduction and suspected murder has increased to $1 million.
The three-year-old was taken from Fairy Meadow Beach on January 12, 1970. Her brothers Ricki, Paul and Stephen have not seen her since.
“It’s a very hard time, every time you think you’ve got it together you lose it,” Paul said through tears to a group of family and friends on the eve of a memorial walk in Illawarra on Sunday.
“Tomorrow we are going to be walking and we are all going to be united as one for Cheryl.”
10 News First was invited to the intimate gathering of those closest to the Grimmer family and heard of their heartache for five decades.
“Cheryl hasn’t been taken from us once, she’s been taken from us twice,” Cheryl’s eldest brother Ricki said.
“The second time was when my hopes were finally taken away from me forever… when I was told there was someone of interest for my sister’s murder. That was the first time I’d heard that word, murder."
In 2016, a 63-year-old Victorian man was extradited to NSW accused of killing Grimmer. It remains the oldest cold case in Australian history where an arrest was made.
But in February last year, the charges were dropped after the accused’s confession was deemed inadmissible in court. The accused was underage at the time the interview was recorded and he did not have an appropriate spokesperson present.
The Crown accepted it would not succeed without it and the case was dismissed.
“Our family has had to deal with a legal system that, unfortunately, let us down through negligence and incompetence,” Ricki said.
“A self-confessed killer now walks our streets hiding behind a law that should not apply in cases like this, a law that we would not be talking about if people had done their jobs properly decades ago.”
Retired Senior Constable Frank Sanvitale is one of the last police officers to investigate the case. It's one he said “broke” him and prompted him to hand in his badge.
“When you sit at a poker table with a royal flush in your hand but you’re not allowed to play that hand, you know it’s time to walk away from that game,” he said.
“The royal flush in this game was the accused’s confession.”
Sanvitale is haunted by the case, having known the story as a boy, and said he now still sees the little girl in his dreams.
Speaking at the dinner, he told the brothers their parents, John and Carole, would be proud of them. They died before ever knowing what happened to their little girl.
“You kept your promise to your mother and father that you would never give up on finding out what happened to Cheryl,” he said.
On Sunday, Sanvitale will join the family and what's expected to be hundreds more as they walk the five-kilometre stretch from Balgownie Primary School to Fairy Meadow Beach in her honour.
The walk will start about 10am and will end with a memorial plaque being unveiled at the beach where Grimmer was last seen.