Opinion by ANDREW WOODHOUSE
Juanita Nielsen’s name is synonymous with injustice, allegations of police corruption/negligence, developers’ tactics and the stygian abyss of the 1970s Kings Cross underworld.
Mrs Nielsen wrote, published and hand-delivered her newspaper, NOW, from her home at 202 Victoria Street, Potts Point, now heritage-listed.
The newspaper initially focussed on favourable reviews for restaurants and women’s haute couture for which she was an example. She received free meals. Shakespearean quotes were not uncommon as she drew on her education at Ravenswood School for Girls in Gordon, Sydney. She worked at Mark Foy’s from 1953 and travelled abroad in 1959. In 1962, she married a Danish merchant seaman, Jorgen Fritz Nielsen, at Kobe, Japan, although the marriage only lasted for about three years. Mrs Nielsen, as she called herself, returned to Sydney in 1965 and work at Mark Foy’s for about five years. NOW became more rabid after Sydney Council started implementing schemes without adequate community consultation. These included upgrading Oxford Street, upgrading Darlinghurst Road, Kings Cross, with an above-awning monorail, demolishing most of Woolloomoolloo for $40 million high-rise office towers. She vehemently opposed also these schemes but the last straw was permitting a private developer to develop her own Victoria Street, Potts Point, for massive apartment towers. Her own home and her father’s terrace house nearby were under direct threat. She called in the Builder Labourer’s Federation to implement Green Bans, but when these were bypassed using contract labour, she imposed grey bans, cutting off water and sewage to the site and then corralled her fellow banking shareholders to angrily demand at an AGM it scissor the developer’s funding.
She was not popular.
The developer was bleeding big money as the project ground to a halt.
Police enforced the developer’s evictions in Victoria Street which then resembled a war zone. Residents were kidnapped and physically threatened. In September 1973, the campaign took a tragic turn. Esther Marion Blaszkows, a young Aboriginal woman, died from asphyxiation resulting from a fire in the Victoria Street house where she had been living as a squatter. Questions remained about the fire’s connection to the developer’s evictions.
However, mainstream media reported on Blaszkows’s death, describing her as “a derelict”. Juanita was disgusted.
“I don’t care whose toes I step on … residents have a right to live in their chosen environment,“ she announced.
On 30th June 1975, four days before her appointment at Les Girls Carousel cabaret nightclub, now the Empire Hotel, Eddie Trigg (now deceased), the club’s bouncer, and its barman, Shayne Martin-Simmonds, phoned Nielsen’s house on the pretext of inquiring about advertising in NOW. It was later claimed they intended to seize Nielsen when she opened the door. Their plan was foiled when her boyfriend, David Farrell, answered the door instead. The two men played out their cover story, but Nielsen was listening in an adjoining room.
However, a meeting did occur on that infamous drizzly winter morning of Friday 4th July 1975, when she arrived at Les Girls Carousel for discussions.
She never left alive. Her body has never been recovered. Murder was suspected.
Within twenty-four hours of Juanita’s disappearance, her home and office were ransacked. Many of Juanita’s research papers vanished, as did the copy for the planned edition of NOW bearing her exposé of the events in the area.
Many of those with information have been too afraid to speak out. Alan Saffron, now deceased, the son of Abe Saffron and called “Gentle Satan” by his wife, and a business acquaintance of the Victoria Street developer said in 2008 that many feared for their own lives as the original suspects were still alive.
Police did very little in their original investigations.
In March 2013 The Australian newspaper reported that allegedly prior to his death in February 2013, Eddie Trigg had written a “deathbed” manuscript revealing the facts of his involvement.
It “named names” of those involved in the Nielsen conspiracy, and revealed the resting place of Nielsen’s remains. A NSW Police spokesperson confirmed they searched Trigg’s residence after his death but refused to comment on the outcome.
An unnamed friend of Trigg’s, a retired Kings Cross bouncer, told the reporter Ean Higgins that the police visited Trigg’s hotel room twice after his death: “The cops came here … after he died … and spent half a day … taking the place apart, looking for the book. But Eddie was too smart, he didn’t leave anything, and it’s all with his lawyer. His son and his nephew have been told.”
The article also stated that two individuals claimed to have seen Trigg’s manuscript and that it was to be published after his death in the hope of providing an inheritance for his descendants.
A tokenistic measly $10,000 reward was offered by NSW Police, but only to find her body, not the murderer. Others suspected police were somehow involved, either directly or indirectly.
Red herrings have littered the landscape with conspiracy theories. Was Nielsen’s body dumped in the Blue Mountains because her handbag was located near the A44 Great Western Highway, or near Canberra in the Nepean River where her cheque book was found, or buried under new airport runway one or under a pylon of the eastern suburbs railway tunnel, then under construction?
This week, the NSW Government has finally decided, almost half a century after her death, to increase the original reward of $10,000 to a million dollars into the 1975 disappearance and suspected murder of Juanita Nielsen. They claim that despite so-called “extensive investigations over the years, no one has been charged in relation to Ms Nielsen’s disappearance and suspected murder … her body has never been found.”
Police still claim that “the cause of death was undetermined” despite a thirteen-week 1983 coronial jury inquiry finding that Nielsen had been killed, presumedly murdered. She was declared legally deceased with insufficient evidence to determine those responsible or how she had been murdered. The inquiry noted that police corruption had probably limited the investigation.
And police still maintain that “investigations continue” despite correspondence from Parliamentary Secretary for Police and Justice Mark Taylor, dated 2nd June 2020, stating unequivocally that “… the case of Juanita Nielsen … was reviewed by the Unsolved Homicide Team under Strike Force Euclid. The investigation ended in 2014 without progressing … the case is not currently active.”
The latest reward is welcome news but a full independent judicial enquiry should now be held instead of another police enquiry into police.