This year marks 62 years since Betty Thomson Shanks – a kind, thoughtful young woman, was brutally murdered in the Brisbane suburb of Wilston, only a few hundred meters away from her home. It is still Queensland’s longest running cold case. This was the crime said to have stolen Brisbane’s innocence. The Brisbane of the 1950s was a place of unlocked doors, open windows and the belief that women would be safe walking home in the evening – all of that changed within 24 hours of the murder, there were fears the maniac would strike again.
There have been plenty of theories and speculation about this cold case including possible suspects and false confessions. There have been four major theories about who killed Betty; one of them was an accusation that came to light in 1999.

The allegation caused a sensation at the time and was reported on the front page of the Courier Mail. A woman (Desche) accused her father of murdering Betty Shanks. She told authorities her violent and short tempered father Eric had been having an affair with Betty Shanks and was furious she had returned late from a lecture that fateful night.

According to Desche, the night of the murder her father left her with her brother in the family car, just around the corner from the crime scene. Her father disappeared leaving them alone while he flew into a frenzied attack, beating, kicking and strangling Betty to death. Returning home, he stripped off his bloodied clothes and burnt them. The next morning he ordered Desche to clean the car and his shoes.

Desche remembered cleaning off slimy brown material from the car, a substance she now believes was blood.

“I started picking stuff off his shoes with my fingers to get all the bits out of the groove where the leather meets the sole.” she said. “I thought I was picking off mud because it was kind of slimy, brown and other colours. Now I realise it was skin, tissue, hair.”

Detectives investigated Desche’s allegations, but were unable to link her father to the killing. This was a claim many thought would finally solve the infamous murder mystery, but there has been no evidence to suggest his guilt.


Former journalist and author of Who Killed Betty Shanks – Ken Blanch believes the killer may still be alive. Tonight listen to this fascinating story on Australia’s longest running true crime show “True Crimes” – presented by Jack Sim on 4BC Nights with Walter Williams. Thursday evenings 9.35pm on Radio 4BC.

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