The temptation can be to revel in the complexity of a murders and miss the heartbreaking tragedy. In many ways that happens with cases like this one. The investigation into the killing of three children and their mother in 1970 is like an Aussie version of the Lord Lucan Mystery.
The victims were 35 year old Therese Crawford and her three children, 13 year old Kathryn, 8 year old James and 6 year old Karen. Therese, James and Karen were electrocuted using an improvised device connected to the mains supply. Blunt force had also been used. In some accounts Kathryn had been spared the electrocution and had been beaten to death.
The victims were then loaded into the family car and driven from their home in Cardinal Rd, Melbourne to Port Campbell to the south west. The Victoria Police state on their website that their bodies were found on 2nd July 1970. Their car had been left to roll or pushed off a high cliff. It looks like the intention was for it to fall into the sea. A hose had been placed in the vehicle so if found it might look like Theresa had killed all in the car. The vehicle landed on a ledge.
That date is also the last time the husband of Theresa and father of those children was seen. He was alive and well and sighted back at the house. After a glance at him by a witness he vanished.
Since then, like the hunt for Lucan and his French counter part Xavier Dupont, Elmer Crawford is said to have lived long after his crimes.
In 1971 a coronial hearing named him as a likely killer and over the years there have been reported sightings of him by those that knew him.
Murder squad Detective Sergeant Peter Harrington is quoted on the police website as saying:
‘There have been a number of sightings of Elmer over the years, which leads us to believe that he is still alive and living interstate to avoid detection. It is likely that he has changed his appearance in order to disguise his identity. He previously worked as an unqualified electrician and even though would now be of retirement age, it is possible he still does a bit of this type of work on the side’
A notable sighting of the fugitive was in 1994 in Perth. A man who knew Crawford was on holiday and chatted to him. ‘Crawford’ apparently did not recognise the man and claimed he was from New Zealand. In a Daily Mail article another man mentioned talking to who he believed was Crawford in the outback region of Pilbara in Western Australia.
Loose Thoughts And Loose Ends
Time has probably run out on this one as Elmer Crawford would be about 92 years old now. Not impossible, but we are now talking about a slim hope. Like the other two, Lucan and DuPont, he left devastation in his wake.
Crawford had made his living as an unqualified electrician so he likely did the same sort of work throughout the rest of his life. His wife and youngsters suffered particularly awful injuries and an horrendous betrayal. Lucan attempted to kill his wife, in all probability, but managed instead to kill the family nanny. DuPont was like Crawford, he killed his own.
All innocent until proven guilty I know. One thing is certain, they share an enduring aspect in the history of crime…they vanished, were ‘seen’, yet never brought to book for the crimes..
I’m not disparaging the witnesses in this case. If they are right Western Australia seems to have been the terrain that folded around Crawford for all those years. However, at one point a recently dead old man in the USA was checked incase he was the missing Crawford.
This messy, often cruel, world would be a bit easier to bear if you could at least rely on your mother and father to protect you. Sadly, that is too much to ask of us humans.