The disappearance of Kings Cross newspaper publisher Juanita Nielsen has been one of Australia’s most intriguing mysteries.
On Friday morning, 4 July 1975, Juanita Nielsen, then aged 38, went to an appointment at a Kings Cross nightclub — and afterwards disappeared. Although two men have since been gaoled for conspiracy to abduct her nobody, has yet determined what actually happened to her.
At Glebe Coroner’s Court, Sydney, a belated inquest, before a jury presided over by Mr B. J. Wilson SM, made an exhaustive probe into all circumstances surrounding her disappearance.
In a Royal Commission-type atmosphere, the inquest was given a rare insight into the interplay of relationships and inner workings of Kings Cross — nightclub and bohemian capital of Australia.
Heiress of the Mark Foy merchant family, Juanita Nielsen had been married for ten years to a Danish seaman, Joergen Nielsen. The marriage broke up in 1973 and she left Denmark to return to Australia.
In 1975, she lived at 202 Victoria Street, Kings Cross, from where she published a small fortnightly newspaper called Now, in which she crusaded against redevelopment of Victoria Street.
A Builders Laborers Federation green ban on the redevelopment plans had been lifted in April 1975 — two and a half months before Mrs Nielsen disappeared. But her boyfriend, John Glebe, who was General Secretary of the Water and Sewerage Employees’ Union, then organised a ban on the extension of services to any new development.
In evidence, Glebe said Mrs Nielsen had told him of telephone threats. In the months before her disappearance, she had carried cassette tapes in her handbag which she had said could ‘blow the top off an issue she was working on. He assumed it related to Victoria Street.
When attending an ACTU Congress in Melbourne after her disappearance, he had received a phone call at his Melbourne hotel. A male voice had said: ‘Juanita has been killed . . . it was an accident. Back off, or accidents can happen to other people’.
Two and a half years after the disappearance, three men were arrested and charged with conspiring, with persons unknown, to abduct her.
Edward Trigg, then night manager of the Carousel Cabaret Nightclub in Roslyn Street, Kings Cross (now known as Les Girls and famous for its all-male trans-vestite revues), Shayne Martin-Simmonds, then a cutter in a jeans factory and later a nightclub barman, have since been convicted of the charge. Trigg pleaded guilty and received a three-year sentence. Martin-Simmonds was convicted in 1981 and sentenced to two years. A third man, Lloyd Marshall, then public relations man for the Carousel, was acquitted.
The Carousel was owned by Abe Saffron, and managed by James Anderson.
In a police record of interview, Marshall told of a plan in the weeks leading up to her actual disappearance to lure her to the Travelodge Motel at Camperdown, using a false story about wanting to discuss advertising in her newspaper for a landscape business. She had not turned up.
Marshall had telephoned her from Trigg’s flat at Elizabeth Bay. According to Marshall, Trigg wanted to see her because she had a document which could be used against people with whom Trigg, Martin-Simmonds and he were involved with. ‘I gained the impression’, said Marshall, ‘that the document connected Abe Saffron with Victoria Street’.
Martin-Simmonds, in a record of interview, said he had been asked by Marshall to help ‘because some people wanted to talk to her because she was making waves’.
In a record of interview in which he was asked about the Travelodge plan, Trigg had said: ‘All right, we did, but she didn’t turn up. Lloyd Marshall asked me if I would do it, and he said he would get Shayne to help me.
‘I suppose it all started when Jim Anderson told Lloyd Marshall to invite her to a press night for the start of the new show a few weeks before. When she did not turn up, Jim really blew his top with Lloyd. He goes like that when anything goes wrong’.
The last known appointment of Mrs Nielsen before her disappearance was with Trigg at the Carousel on the morning of the fateful Friday, 4 July.
David Farrell, her partner in the newspaper venture, has given evidence that Trigg had called Mrs Nielsen’s home on Monday 30 June, saying he wanted to talk to her about advertising. David Farrell had answered the door and she had not seen Trigg.
Following threats and warnings that her safety was at risk, she had specifically arranged to keep him advised of her day-to-day movements. Her ‘consuming interest’ at the time was high-rise proposals for Victoria Street, the biggest project she was opposing being that of Victoria Point Pty Ltd owned by Frank Theeman.
She and Farrell had arranged to go to dinner on 4 July to celebrate the seventh anniversary of Now. The text of telephone calls made by Farrell were recorded on an answering machine at Mrs Nielsen’s home. He rang on the Friday night, Saturday morning and three times later that day. That night he contacted Darlinghurst police and reported her missing.
Knowing of her appointment with Trigg, he had telephoned the Carousel and, advised that Trigg was not there, was given a telephone number at which he might be contacted. He rang the number, 32 1215, only to find it was Sydney Radio Cabs. Nobody knew of a Mr Trigg. Detective-Sergeant Norm Maroney told the inquest that the number was similar, with one digit out, to 32 2215, the number for Lodge 44, owned by Abe Saffron.
When Farrell again went to police on the Sunday, Detective-Sergeant Donald Stolle spoke to Trigg at the Carousel. Stolle said that Trigg had said she had come to the Carousel about 10.40 am but he had told her the directors had decided against advertising in Now because of poor business. She had stayed only a few minutes.
Yet when interviewed a few days later Trigg told Detective-Sergeant Karl Arkins that he had telephoned Mrs Nielsen on the Thursday and made an appointment for her to see him the next morning. He had booked advertising with her, and produced a receipt for $130 in her handwriting for a half-page advertisement in Now.
In a later interview, Detective-Sergeant Arkins told the inquest, Trigg had said: ‘I haven’t done anything to her. She left the Carousel like I told you, so you’ve got nothing on me’.
A real estate agent, Glen Williams, told police he saw Mrs Nielsen getting into the back of a yellow Ford car in Darlinghurst Road near the Carousel about 11 am on Friday, 4 July.
There has been no trace of her since, except that a black handbag and personal effects were found beside the F4 freeway on the western outskirts of Sydney.
Amanda Marilyn King, former Carousel cocktail waitress who told the inquest she had changed her name from Arthur Montgomery King, and was living with Trigg as ‘man and wife’, said Trigg had been under ‘a dreadful lot of strain’ in the weeks before Mrs Nielsen disappeared, following lengthy conversations with Jim Anderson. She had asked Trigg about Mrs Nielsen, but he had refused to discuss it.
Loretta Crawford, formerly known as Lawrence Rollo and Ronnie Mathews, receptionist at the Carousel the day Mrs Nielsen disappeared, said in evidence that Lloyd Marshall had told her during dinner at La Chantilly Restaurant that Mrs Nielsen had been shot after an argument with Trigg. Later that same night, she had seen Trigg and he had stressed to her that, if asked, she was to say that Mrs Nielsen left the Carousel on her own, not with him.
She said that they had, in fact, left together. And Shayne Martin-Simmonds had left a short while beforehand.
She gave evidence that Marshall told her that Abe Saffron and Jim Anderson had ‘really wanted to talk to Mrs Nielsen about Victoria Street development, or something to do with Saffron’. Marshall had told her that Saffron and Anderson had an interest in Frank Theeman’s development.
Miss Crawford said that she had seen Saffron, Anderson and Theeman together at the Carousel on a number of occasions before Mrs Nielsen disappeared.
The inquest had earlier been told in police evidence that Miss Crawford used to refer to Anderson as her ‘father’ and had treated herself as an adopted child.
Detective-Sergeant Arkins told the inquest that he and other police had never been able to discover the identity of the people whom Trigg and Simmonds were to have taken Mrs Nielsen to meet after they abducted her.
Detective-Sergeant Norm Maroney said that there were a number of developers involved in Victoria Street, including Parkes Development. Questioned by Mr John Dailly, counsel for Theeman, Maroney agreed that Parkes Development had proposed a development that would have required Parkes acquiring Mrs Nielsen’s home.
In an interview with police produced at the inquest by Arkins, Theeman had been asked if Saffron owned any property in Victoria Street, and had said, ‘I’ve heard that he does but I don’t know’.
Detective-Sergeant Maroney said that when he had interviewed Anderson at the Carousel he had said he was in Surfers Paradise the day Mrs Nielsen disappeared. Anderson had said he had known that Trigg had placed a $130 advertisement with her on that day. He himself did not know her but had seen her about the Cross. He did not know if Saffron had had any dealings with her.
Saffron had been interviewed, and Maroney said he denied suggestions that he was being blackmailed by Mrs Nielsen and said he was not connected with Victoria Street. Although friends with Theeman, he had no business dealings with him.
Robert John Slee, investigator with the NSW Corporate Affairs Commission, told the inquest that a Saffron company, Apsley Investments Pty Ltd, trading as the Carousel Cabaret, had lent Trigg nearly $5000 in 1975 for legal costs. Saffron had said it had not been repaid.
Detective-Sergeant Arkins told of information provided by journalists Tony Reeves and Barry Ward that a Commonwealth policeman had told them that Lennie McPherson, an underworld figure, had said that he believed Mrs Nielsen had been killed by an ex-detective, Fred Krahe. Sergeant Arkins said that, when interviewed, McPherson agreed that he had suggested it, but there was no proof.
Asked why he had never interviewed Krahe, now dead, Arkins said that, in view of Krahe’s experience as a detective, it would have been foolhardy to approach him without possession of the full facts.
McPherson gave evidence under his new name, Leonard Murray, (his surname having been changed by deed poll). On oath, he denied giving any information about the Nielsen case to Commonwealth Police.
When he gave evidence, Frank Theeman said that, although he had employed Krahe to help deal with squatters in Victoria Street, Krahe’s employment had ceased in 1974, a year before Mrs Nielsen disappeared.
Theeman said he had also employed Joe Meissner, a karate expert, after Theeman himself had received threats and had been subjected to harassment at his home. Meissner said in evidence that the Theeman home at Point Piper had been painted with swastikas and other slogans and a gunshot fired in front of the house.
Jack Munday, former leader of the Builders Laborers Federation, key figure in having a union green ban placed on Victoria Street development, told of going to see Theeman to discuss concern over eviction tactics used by Meissner in Victoria Street, He had told Theeman that the BLF intended to maintain its ban, and told Theeman that it was unfortunate that he (Theeman) had taken advice from some of his close friends like Sir Paul Strasser in getting into Victoria Street development.
However, the ban had been lifted after Norm Gallagher had taken over the BLF. Theeman said he had gone to see Gallagher to put his case, and Gallagher had visited the site and declared that the development could go ahead.
Theeman said that, once that had happened, he believed the delay problem had been solved, no matter what Mrs Nielsen wrote in her paper. However, five weeks after the BLF ban had been lifted, he had written to the Sydney City Council refuting further arguments being put by Mrs Nielsen and others.
Questioned by Mr Neil Newton, counsel for the Nielsen Estate, Theeman said he had written the letter ‘merely as a matter of courtesy’.
Newton: ‘The letter didn’t express in any shape or form any worry you might have had at that time?’
Referring to an article in the 17 June 1975 issue of Now, Newton asked: ‘At that date, Mr Theeman, it was quite evident that Mrs Nielson was continuing a highly vocal campaign against the Victoria Point development?’
Theeman: ‘I suppose, yes’.
Theeman said he could not recall having written to the Reverend Ted Noffs, of the Wayside Chapel in Kings Cross in June 1975, complaining that delays were costing $3000 a day.
Theeman produced figures to the inquest showing that weekly interest payments for the Victoria Point amounted to $16800 a week by June that year. In all, indebtedness to CAGA Finance totalled $8134383 — $4725354 in borrowed capital and $2 733 000 in accrued interest. No interest was being paid at that time because there had been no capital return.
Colin Leslie James, architect, earlier gave evidence that he recalled Theeman telling him that he ‘didn’t mind losing an arm and a leg but he didn’t want to bleed to death’,
Theeman said he met Mrs Nielsen at a resident action group meeting, and he and his public relations man, Bill Donnelly, had later taken her to lunch at the American Club to explain the benefits of the proposed development. She had adopted the view that any change would be destructive to the street.
On the weekend of her disappearance, he had been at Surfers Paradise, staying in a unit his wife owned. He did not see or speak to Jim Anderson (the inquest having been told that Anderson also was at Surfers Paradise at that time).
Theeman said he had known Anderson for some years. They jointly owned a boat and Anderson had attended the wedding of one of his sons.
In August 1975, he had given Anderson $25 000 to set up The Here Restaurant at Bondi. The arrangement had been that his son Timothy Theeman, was to work there, and share in returns, but was not to be told that his father had put up the money.
Timothy had been employed for a period in 1974 as an Assistant Manager at the Carousel Cabaret.
Theeman told the inquest that he did not consider Mrs Nielsen as a threat to his Victoria Street project. ‘She had no power . . . she was no problem to me’, he said. Nor did he regard her as a nuisance. ‘No, I thought she was a very nice person’, he said.
Evidence was given by an American police officer, Detective John Payne, of the San Francisco police, that Edward Trigg had said that Mrs Nielsen was ‘no loss to society’ when Trigg was arrested in a bar in San Francisco after absconding from bail in Australia.
Payne said that, confronted with a suggestion that he was wanted for murder, Trigg had said: ‘Murder, how can they say it was murder when they never found her body. I think she’s still alive and until they find her body, it’s not murder’.
Trigg had then said: ‘It’s all bloody politics, anyway . . . It’s all about crooked cops, dirty politics, and one big cover up. The guy who is benefiting from this is an alderman who made megabucks out of this.
‘They’re making all this noise over a woman who was nothing but an out-and-out communist, no loss to society at all.
‘I am being used as a pawn in this. If I go back, I am going to have to name names . . . I have got people back there in power who will take care of me’.
Another San Francisco policeman, Edward Dennis, said that when he asked Trigg how he got involved, Trigg had said he had been asked by some friends to invite Mrs Nielsen for a drink and to have a chat with her. Trigg had said that after they had had their conversation, and a drink, she had disappeared.
When asked who the friends were, Trigg had said that, if authorities attempted to charge him with murder, he would start naming names and one of them was an alderman in Sydney. Trigg had said he would not be the fall guy for them.
In his evidence, Detective-Sergeant Arkins said that, when shown copies of these statements, Trigg said: ‘You got them to do this . . . it’s all fucking rubbish’. Getting angry and raising his voice, Trigg had then said: ‘I’ll see you about this. I’ve subpoenaed Abe Saffron and that fucking Anderson . . . We’ll see how they go, and that fucking Theeman too’.
The inquest ended with an open finding. A jury of six found that, although she had died, it was not possible to say how, when or where she had died. But the jury added a rider to its verdict: ‘There is evidence to show that the police inquiries were inhibited by an atmosphere of corruption, real or imagined, that existed at the time’.
from Connections 1 by Bob Bottom