The Trail Went Cold – Episode 10 – Eloise Worledge

January 13, 1976. Beaumaris, Australia. The family of eight-year old Eloise Worledge wake up to discover she has mysteriously vanished from their suburban home and that an opening has been cut in the flyscreen window inside Eloise’s bedroom. Eyewitnesses report a lot of strange activity in the neighbourhood throughout the night, which seems to suggest that Eloise was abducted by an intruder. However, other evidence seems to suggest the abduction scene might have been staged. Since Eloise’s parents were going through a separation and her father was planning to move out of the house that very same morning, investigators start eyeing the family as possible suspects. Who was actually responsible for Eloise Worledge’s disappearance? Join us for the first international episode of “The Trail Went Cold”, as I analyze one of the most controversial unsolved cases in the history of Australia.

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The Trail Went Cold is produced and edited by Magill Foote.

All music is composed by Vince Nitro.

31 thoughts on “The Trail Went Cold – Episode 10 – Eloise Worledge

  • How about doing the Madeline McCann case? There is plenty of information out there and it keeps coming up in the British press even now. You could probably do a longer or 2 part episode due to the amount of information.

    Keep up the good work mate!

    • Hi Scott, thanks for listening to the podcast. However, I’m not sure I’ll ever do an episode about Madeline McCann because it’s one of those cases that’s been covered on so many other true crime podcasts, so I’m not sure what else I could add. I prefer to focus on more lesser known cases which haven’t been featured elsewhere, such as the case featured today :-).

      • To be honest mate, I only listen to your podcast which is why I’m interested in your opinion plus I’d like to hear the opinion of someone who is outside the UK.

        Can you recommend any other true crime podcasts?

        • Thank you. Some of the other true crime podcasts I listen to include Thinking Sideways and Generation Why, who have both done extensive episodes about the McCann case. They’re both American, so you’ll get to hear some interesting perspectives from people outside the UK. Other podcasts I like include True Crime Garage, Unresolved and Thin Air.

          Personally, I could go either way on the case. I find a lot of stuff about the parents to be highly suspicious, but I’m not sure they would have been able to cover the whole thing up and dispose of Madeline’s body in such a narrow time frame.

  • This was really an interesting story! But oh man that poor child.

    I don’t think the dad did it. He would have needed a place to keep her while he waited for his marriage to get back together. And it’s extremely hard to see how he would have benefited from kidnapping her at all. I’m not married but I don’t think having your child kidnapped would be quite the thing to renew your commitment.

    And I don’t believe for a second that he murdered her. That would make even less sense.

    On the other hand, if I were the police I would put his immediate family members and close friends under surveillance for a while to make sure they didn’t have the child.

    But yeah, on the whole it looks like she was a victim of random crime, and it’s just a weird coincidence that it happened the day it did. Sometimes those things just happen.

    I think, as you said, the criminal changed his plan halfway through, which accounts for the conflicting evidence. I think he probably clamped his hand over her mouth or something like that, so that she couldn’t make noise in the house, but she managed to make a sound while he was putting her in the car.

    • Thanks for listening. I agree that the perpetrator was likely someone who was familiar with the Worledge family. I wished I had more background on some of the other people in their life and who might have the motive to do this. I wonder if this person knew that Lindsay was going to move out the following day and figured the coincidental timing would divert all the suspicious towards Lindsay.

  • I really like the podcast but you really need to cut down the intros a bit. This one was past 8 minutes before you really got into the details of the case. I usually listen in the car and every time I have a passenger they complain that it’s taking forever to get to the point.

    • Appreciate the feedback. I am working on cutting down the intros. Since we’re still early in the podcast’s development, there are often a lot of new announcements I need to make and information I need to share at the outset, but as time goes on, we’ll hopefully have enough of an established audience that I won’t have to repeat all this info at the beginning of every episode.

  • Thank you so much for doing an Australian case! As an Aussie myself i love it when cases get more attention, i do remember hearing about Eloise but not in as much detail as you gave so thanks heaps Robin!

  • Oh, man. I’ve been working through the back catalogue of episodes, and this is the first time I’ve disagreed with you! To me the fact that there was a prowler on this particular night– unusual enough for the area that multiple people took notice– a prowler seen jumping into the family’s yard no less, is too coincidental for him to be unrelated.

    I think it’s most plausible this prowler, described by witnesses as young, was a budding child predator going around casing houses, looking to act on his urges for the first time. A couple reasons: (1.) He wasn’t great at creeping around if two people saw him. (2.) Since the evidence you compiled online doesn’t mention any similar cases around the same time/area, he probably wasn’t– or wasn’t yet– a serial offender. (Possibly he was the same young man canvassing door to door a few days prior, trying to find out which homes had children.)

    If this was a first time offender (and maybe we can attribute his being seen on both sides of the street to nerves, him hesitantly crossing and recrossing) we can explain the time gap by assuming he took great care and moved slowly. I theorize he climbed the tree outside Eloise’s window to get a look inside the bedroom, found a child there, and waited, planning and working up the nerve for the abduction. Since there was a light left on inside, he also would’ve had to observe a while to make sure no adults were up and around. Depending on the care he took, considering he was about to take such a life-altering step as abducting a child, I don’t think it’s implausible he could’ve waited outside the home for two hours.

    After a while he made his way to the front door. Perhaps he planned on breaking in, same as he broke into the shed? He found the door unlocked, crept to Eloise’s bedroom (whose location he knew from observing through the window), scooped her up, and walked out. I don’t think she would’ve had to know and trust him but rather, half-asleep, she naturally assumed it was one of her parents picking her up and not a strange intruder. After that he would’ve taken her to the car, around 2 AM.

    As for the hole in the flyscreen, I believe either: (1.) It was already there, unrelated. No one noticed before because there was no reason to subject the room to that much scrutiny before a crime had been committed. Or, less plausibly, (2.) one of the parents made the hole as a half-hearted attempt to hide their culpability in having left the front door unlocked. They weren’t involved with the abduction, but didn’t want it to be known their negligence allowed it to happen, so they made the flyscreen look like the point of entry. But I see zero reason to suspect the parents had anything to do with their daughter’s disappearance.

    • Ah, when you said you disagreed with me, I thought you were going to say you thought the parents were responsible. But I’m perfectly willing to believe that the young man seen in the neighbourhood was the perpetrator. Your point is valid: in spite of the time differences, it’s perfectly plausible that he could have waited around the house for a couple of hours, working up the will to go through with the abduction.

      The only wild card is the break-in at the neighbour’s tool shed at around 10:00. I’m still not sure if the same person who abducted Eloise would have done this, which is why I was willing to entertain the possibility there were multiple prowlers in the neighbourhood that night. I guess it’s possible that the tool shed break-in was a warm-up act for breaking into the Worledge home later that night, especially since items were taken from the shed and then left behind on the grass.

  • I just looked up the Current Affair clip where Triangulum performs the song dedicated to Eloise. When the host introduces the group, he states that the members didn’t want to be identified individually on camera and that they were only really interested in making an appeal in song form for information about Eloise. The host also said that the group was Melbourne-based, so they may have only been a local band who never hit it big and therefore no information on them can be found.

    • Yes, an Australian poster on Reddit thought something similar: that this might have been a group of musicians who ordinarily didn’t play together, but decided to form a band for the one-time only occasion of making a song for Eloise. It’s interesting how the lighting in the clip is dark enough that you can’t clearly see the band members’ faces, so it’s possible they may have even been recognizable, semi-famous musicians at the time who didn’t want to detract attention away from the case.

  • I’m personally familiar with the area where Eloise was taken. There’s been endless conjecture over the years which basically amounts to it being more likely that someone with some knowledge of the family was implicated, including people who’d simply seen Eloise from a distance, and caught wind that her father was moving out, and perhaps what they tended to do with their front door and lights.

    It seems more likely that someone would attempt to snatch a child from a house where the father’s away. I’d heard that it may have been one or more people from a theater group in the area, not that it matters much anymore, or that there may have been anything to it. I have wondered if some of the things reported to police were hysterical.

    It’s plausible that the “prowler” was a stranger with some inside knowledge, or not. If not, it’s an incredibly audacious move on the part of the criminal(s), like much of the peculiar behaviour in the area at the time.

    I lean to there having been 2+ people involved, actively looking to carry out an abduction, in large part because they never found that “children’s education survey” canvasser, the seemingly criminal behaviour around the house, and to a lesser extent due to the “take it or leave it” nature of the tool shed crime, where the tools simply end up on the grass. All the strange behaviours along the street at the time suggest being comfortable in rifling through things for something particular. It seems to me to be both more brazen and at ease to break into a tool shed and lay the tools out and decide you don’t want any of them, than it is to break in and take whatever you can.

    It was reported in ~2014 that a confession had been made by someone partly responsible (this is after the inquest), but nothing has come of it.

    There are inconsistencies in the reporting of the crime, probably due to carelessness on the part of the newspapers. Particularly, just how “open” was the front door? I have heard that it was “wide open,” that it was simply “unlocked” (but shut), that Patsy tended not to lock it, and some suggestion that the solid door was open, but the fly-screen door was shut (but unlocked). January 4 was the hottest day in Melbourne in 1976 (abduction was on the 6th), so it could make sense that something was left wide open, but that’s not the same as simply unlocked. Having the lights on may have made it all the more obvious that a door was open.

    The fiasco with the fly screen is like a stammer in the investigation. Either it was an attempt to obfuscate something, a failed first/second attempt at entry/exit, there were two people and one went in the front door and handed Eloise out the window, or some bizarre behaviour, like the stolen tools on the grass. Police didn’t think anyone could get through it, but then a thin detective managed to do just that. I don’t think it was ever 100% clear which way the screen had been cut, which is maddening.

    It helps to look at the actual crime scene to get an appreciation of the screen and what may have happened. I’ve linked to the image here, somewhere there is a much larger image showing a broader view:

    https://www.dropbox.com/s/op5y8tjqnr8g8sh/BCS.jpg?dl=0

    • Thanks for providing the photo of the bedroom. Now that I see how close the window was to the bed, it seems less likely to me that someone could have cut an opening in the screen and crawled through without waking Eloise up, so I’m leaning towards someone abducting her by coming in and taking Eloise out the front door. You’re right about the inconsistencies, as I kept running into frustratingly contradictory details about stuff like the locked door and the fly screen while I was researching this. Thanks again for your first-hand insight.

  • This is a sad scenario, looking at the crime scene photos I highly doubt that anyone could get in that window, they’s have to unscrew the lock bar that allows the window to only open so far and so it doesn’t slam shut. I think that yes, the boy in the neighborhood luding, new her and spoke to her through the window and asked her to come out which she did because the door was unlocked she just easily left the house, or he went in to get her. He probably was a neighbor of sorts since he was young and seemed bored, going from house to house and all. I feel her remains are within 3-5 miles of the home, in the woods or a wooded area that was overlooked. I also feel she could have just left the home and sucumbed within that radius to the elements. Either way a very sad even. Bless her soul.

    • A few weeks into the investigation, a thin and I suppose nimble enough police officer demonstrated that you could get in the window, something which at the very beginning was thought entirely impossible (thus the staged theory). We don’t really know what happened with the front door. It probably wasn’t securely locked. *Theoretically* everything could have happened through the window.

      There are so many permutations as to what could have happened with the window/front door/fly screen/bark on the floor (even ignoring the inconsistent reporting)… I would have liked to have known if the bark from the garden appeared staged, like the window is alleged to be.

      This statement from one of the detectives sums up the mystery for me:

      “Evidence suggested someone had staged the scene to look as if the flywire screen was cut from the inside to avert suspicion from people connected to the Worledges. The motivation to cut the screen from the inside by an intruder with no connection to the household seemed inconceivable, he said. But entry, exit or both was most probably made through the front door, which Ms Worledge said she had left wide open.”

      … in combination with the facts that 1) the police variously report not being sure which way the screen was cut and 2) that Mr. and Ms. Worledge have given a spectrum of changing accounts as to who did/didn’t close what/when/if at all.

      I’ve added a link to this episode at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disappearance_of_Eloise_Worledge

  • A man was found guilty of essentially the same crime a few days ago, the MO seems the same (a screen audaciously removed from a bedroom in which there was a sibling, the parents in the next room), but the child possibly leaving through the front door with a perpetrator already known at arm’s length to the parents:

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-11-11/pfennig-found-guilty-of-murdering-10yo-louise-bell/8016286

    6 years and a major city apart, both locations close to water.

    • Wow, I briefly read about this news a few days ago, but did not realize that there were so many similarities to the Eloise Worledge case. I wonder if this guy was ever seriously looked at as a suspect.

      • I would really hope so. In this instance, the perpetrator was also known to be pacing both sides of the street, and if it is the same criminal, both would lay in wait until all the lights were out. Lastly, and quite chillingly, in this case, tent wire was found neatly bundled up on the grass, kind of like the tools that were found arranged on the grass in Eloise’s case :/ If it is the same, or similar, criminal, it seems as if the pathetic technique may have been to approach the child through a very closely located cut window, perhaps tapping them on the shoulder, and luring them into leaving, or letting them in. I can imagine a sleepy child doing that, if they had some familiarity with voice through the window. And that’s about all I want to imagine about that!

  • I was wondering if this case might be like that of Asha Degree, where someone lured her out of the house on some pretext? Maybe she was tired of her parents arguing all the time and wanted to get away for a few days, or possibly someone suggested that if she disappeared for a while it might cause her parents to reconcile. Also, is it conceivable that Eloise cut the screen herself? She was small, so she wouldn’t need a large hole, and if someone was outside helping her through, this may explain why the dust and cobwebs were not disturbed. In any event the person turned out to be a psycho.

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