Safe as Houses: 32 Carberry St, Grange
A suburban garden plays host to one of Australia’s most famous unsolved murders.
Sometimes when a property takes its place in the nefarious history of criminal deeds, it’s just plain bad luck. Its walls haven’t played host to terrible acts of violence. It hasn’t harboured dark and brooding murderers. It was, in a manner of speaking, just in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Such is the history of 32 Carberry Street in the Brisbane suburb of Grange. It will be forever linked to one of Australia’s most famous unsolved murders, through no fault of anyone who resided there.
At 10PM on 19 September 1952, residents in the quiet neighbourhood around Thomas and Carberry Streets heard a woman’s screams. With a local school close by, many wrote the noises off as rowdy teens making a ruckus. The screams failed to rouse any of the residents to action, though they did rouse off-duty policeman Alex Stewart from his bed. He scanned the scene from his window, and seeing nothing amiss, went back to sleep.
The next morning, Stewart rose early to retrieve his newspaper. It was then that he discovered, in the front garden of his neighbour’s house at 32 Carberry Street, the badly beaten body of Betty Shanks.
Betty Shanks was a 23-year-old public servant with a promising future with the Commonwealth Department of Interior. She had recently graduated from the University of Queensland, but was still living at home with her parents in Wilston.
On the evening of 19 September, a post on the Queensland State Library site reports Betty was travelling home after having attended a night lecture at the State Commercial High School. Witnesses saw her depart a tram at Days Road Tram Terminus at 9:32pm. It would be the last time Betty was seen alive.
Sometime between that time and 10pm when neighbours heard her screams, as she walked down a street she’d walked down hundreds of times before, Betty was brutally attacked, and her broken body was left in the garden at 32 Carberry Street.
32 Carberry Street today. Source: Google Maps
Shortly after Stewart’s discovery, police descended on the scene. Betty had been kicked, beaten and strangled with a savage ferocity. Her jewellery and handbag had not been taken, though the contents of her handbag had been spread across the lawn. Police were not able to establish any motive for the attack, and the public was held in the grip of fear that the killer could strike again.
This was not to be, however, and as the months and years passed with no arrests, it became increasingly unlikely that Betty’s killer would ever be brought to justice. Theories abound, of course. Former Daily Telegraph journalist Ken Blanch believed Betty Shanks was the unfortunate victim of a case of mistaken identity. Author Ted Duhs claimed local locksmith Eric Steery, who was infatuated with Shanks, killed her in a jealous rage.
More than 60 years on, the case remains open. Queensland Police still offers a $50,000 reward for any information leading to Betty’s killer.
Meanwhile, scant information is available on the house at 32 Carberry Street, which still stands looking over the garden where Betty’s body was found. The house last changed hands in 2000, for a mere $180,275. Its current value is estimated at anywhere between $870,000 and $1.1 million, though it’s difficult to say how buyers would react to the terrible coincidence that saw the house join the ranks of Australia’s infamous properties.