Ricki Grimmer was only seven years old when his little sister, Cheryl, three, disappeared outside a changing room on Fairy Meadow Beach in Woollongong in 1970.
The siblings, along with their brothers Paul and Stephen, had been swimming with their mother Carole when the weather turned cold. They were sent to the change rooms to shower and change. Only Cheryl disappeared when the boys’ backs were turned.
This week, detectives say they gave a new lead in the little girl’s tragic disappearance and suspected murder. They believe she was abducted by a teenager – aged only 16 or 17 – with brown hair and blue eyes. It’s thought whoever took the little girl is still alive today and would be in his 60s.
Ricki thinks of his sister every day, and torments himself with thoughts of what he could have done to protect her. “Heartache… decisions I made on the day were wrong. I shouldn't have left,' Ricki said told a press conference at Fairy Meadow Beach on Monday, where Cheryl was last seen.
"Everyone says this wasn't your fault. Come and stand where I'm standing. See what it feels like,” he added.
"Just let us know where she is. Give us something that we can go and mourn."
Cheryl’s disappearance ripped the local community apart and led to an exhaustive but fruitless search.
Witnesses at the time reported seeing a man pick up a child, wrap her in a towel and flee. Others said they saw a man in the car park holding a blonde child and driving away in a white sedan.
The three brothers promised their mother on her deathbed last year that they wouldn’t stop til they found out what happened to her only daughter.
"Mum was hanging on and when I told her we would continue to find out the truth about what happened to Cheryl she relaxed," said Stephen, who was only five when his sister was taken. He told The Daily Telegraph. "A few minuted later she passed away".
Detectives believe it’s likely that Cheryl’s abductor is still alive today, and have begged him to come forward to absolve their guilt and allow the family to grieve for their lost little girl.
"We would dearly love to provide answers to [Cheryl’s] family, solve this matter for the people of the Illawarra, and ultimately provide Cheryl with some dignity in death," Detective Inspector Ainsworth said.