Missing since May 6, 1997 from Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Classification: Endangered Missing
Circumstances of Disappearance
Whelan was last seen in the car park of the Parkroyal Hotel at Parramatta, in Sydney's west, at about 9.38am in Sydney, Australia on May 6, 1997.
Bruce Allan Burrell was convicted in June 2006 of kidnapping and murdering Kerry Whelan after the first trial ended with a hung jury.
In earlier years, Burrell had met the Whelan's while working as an accounts executive for an advertising company. In late 1989 or early 1990, Mr Whelan offered Burrell a job as advertising manager. But in December 1990, when business had slowed down, Whelan told Burrell that along with 30 other employees he would have to be retrenched. Burrell took that badly. He worked for a time for another company, but after two years the job folded. From then he worked sporadically doing freelance work.
Burrell knew Mr Whelan had money. He planned to abduct Mrs Whelan for a ransom. Burrell rang Mr Whelan on April 7, 1997, as Whelan noted, it was "out of the blue", following several years of no contact. Whelan told Burrell he usually went to Adelaide on Wednesdays on business. The next Wednesday, Burrell turned up in his Jaguar at the gate of Willow Park, found a coded keypad lock, and drove into North Richmond to telephone the house to get the code.
Burrell was allowed in the gate and turned up at the property. Mrs Whelan, the nanny, and the Whelan's' son, were there. Burrell spent 90 minutes there, had coffee, spoke civilly to Mrs Whelan, gave her a peck on the cheek, then left.
On Tuesday, May 6, 1997, Mrs Whelan drove to Parramatta for a 9.30 appointment. The meeting was with Burrell and he turned up outside the Parkroyal hotel in Parramatta just after 9am, parking his Pajero. Slightly late, Mrs Whelan drove into the hotel car park just before 9.36am and hurried out. Her exit was caught in cameras. The last shot of her was at 9.38.02am as she walked into Phillip Street. She was not seen getting into a Pajero, but some 44 seconds after she was last seen, a Pajero pulled out and drove away. A vague image was caught on film of a passenger.
On the intended trip from Parramatta to Crown Equipment at Smithfield, Burrell overpowered Mrs Whelan. Then he killed her or drove away to kill her. By the time the ransom note arrived at the Whelan home the next day, stressing among other things that police not be contacted, the alarm had sounded. Because Burrell had been at the Whelan property three weeks before, he was the immediate suspect Police released news of the kidnapping on May 21 and - with a search warrant - raided Burrell's property. Burrell's Pajero was there and seemed to match the image of the Pajero on the security footage. Police searched the property but found no trace of Mrs Whelan. There were a number of supposed "sightings" of Mrs Whelan after her disappearance, but none were particularly compelling. There was no evidence she had fabricated her disappearance. Her bank account, containing more than $300,000, was untouched and had been for some time before she disappeared. She had family, friends, a place in the community, and concerns for her daughter who was facing an operation. Kerry Whelan had told her husband she had an appointment about a skin condition on May 6, the day she disappeared. Police checked Parramatta beauticians and skin specialists and found she did not. Mr Whelan said that it was out of character for his wife to lie and something must have been seriously wrong. He said his wife was usually open and pleasant but said she never revealed that Bruce Burrell had visited, and had not been quite herself a couple of times before she disappeared.
Burrell is also a suspect in the death of Dorothy Davis who disappeared two years earlier from her home at Lurline Bay in the eastern suburbs of Sydney.
Investigators NSW Criminal Court
If you have any information concerning this case, please contact:
Prosecutor Mark Tedeschi
NSW Criminal Court
The Sydney Morning Herald
ABC News Online
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