Dead for decades: Family told child was adopted out

 

A LITTLE autistic boy who hasn't been seen in more than 50 years has become the subject of one of Australia's oldest homicide probes, with detectives yesterday alleging his elderly mother murdered him and buried him under the house.

A frail and diminutive Maureen Anne Enright, 76, had to be helped into the dock of the Richlands Magistrates Court yesterday after being charged with murder.

Peter John Enright, described as a "high needs" autistic child, has not been seen since 1968 or 1969 - when he was aged about three or four.

Today he would be 55, but police will allege he has been dead for decades and yesterday used ground penetrating radar equipment to search the space under the family's Inala home for his body.

Maureen Enright. Picture: Supplied
Maureen Enright. Picture: Supplied

It is understood his mother has spent decades claiming Peter - the fourth of 11 children - was sent to live with another family, was given up for adoption or was put into a home.

But police said yesterday Peter's siblings were aware he was dead.

Neighbours told The Courier-Mail they have heard family members arguing loudly at the Polaris St home in recent months and it is understood one relative approached police in August with information about the missing boy.

Several neighbours also said they had seen one of Maureen's sons searching the yard.

Homicide Detective Inspector Damien Hansen said police had found no proof Peter was alive past 1968 or 1969. He was never reported missing.

Police will continue to search under an Inala property for evidence relating to the alleged death of Peter Enright. Picture: Annette Dew
Police will continue to search under an Inala property for evidence relating to the alleged death of Peter Enright. Picture: Annette Dew

Det Insp Hansen said Peter was born on June 17, 1965 to Michael and Maureen Enright and the family had lived at 35 Polaris St since 1966. Michael died in 2018.

"Yesterday evening Maureen Enright, Peter's mother, was taken into custody and she was charged with Peter's murder," he said, adding she had given police "a number of versions" of events.

He said Peter's siblings were aware of his existence and had "heard stories" about him.

A crime scene has been established at an Inala property following allegations of a murder that occurred 50 years ago. Picture: Annette Dew
A crime scene has been established at an Inala property following allegations of a murder that occurred 50 years ago. Picture: Annette Dew

"All members of the family have been questioned in relation to this, yes," Det Insp Hansen said.

"They were aware that Peter existed and they've given us versions for that.

"It's just a shocking thing that these things can happen but processes back in the 60s were obviously very different to what they are today.

"This is the first time I've come across something like this."

Det Insp Hansen said police had obtained records of Peter's birth and had trawled adoption records but found no evidence of him being adopted.

"They (the family) are quite well known, some of the neighbours have been here for a long time too and we've managed to track down some people who did live in the street and knew the Enrights, had gone to school with Enright siblings and have made contact with us," he said.

"If there are people out there ... who have information please contact us."

Det Insp Hansen said police were "optimistic" about finding Peter's remains, with forensic crews yesterday spending hours searching under the home.

Police on scene at the Inala property. Picture: Annette Dew
Police on scene at the Inala property. Picture: Annette Dew

The tiny, grey-haired woman appeared briefly before the Richlands Magistrates Court yesterday and was helped up the single step into the dock by a corrections officer.

When asked if she understood what was happening, Maureen quietly replied "yes".

Outside court, her defence lawyer Jyoti Pant said her client would apply for bail in the Supreme Court in the coming weeks.

"My client is an elderly member of our community," she said.

"She is frail, she is vulnerable and so understandably they're (her family is) very concerned, she's concerned, we're concerned.

"Our primary concern at the moment is to get her out on bail and back home with her family."

Maureen Enright ,72. Picture: Supplied
Maureen Enright ,72. Picture: Supplied

Court documents show police will allege Maureen murdered her son on a date between September 9, 1968 and February 28, 1969.

Maureen, who was born in September 1944, turned 76 last month and is listed as being retired.

One long-time resident of the street remembered being told by the Enright children, decades before, that their brother had died.

Kerry Rodrigues, who had lived nearby since the mid 1960s, said yesterday's revelation was "unbelievable" and had sent shockwaves through the community.

"We all established our lives and our families, and went to the same schools.

"It's just very, very close to home."

Originally published as Dead for decades: Family told child was adopted out


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