The Family was the name given to a close-knit group of men believed to be involved in the kidnapping, drugging, sexual abuse and, at times, torture of young men and teenaged boys in Adelaide, the capital city of the state of South Australia, and surrounding areas throughout the 1970s and into the mid-1980s.
The existence of the group came to the attention of the public following the murder of five teenagers between 1979 and 1983. The high-profile occupations of some of the suspects led to claims of an alleged high-society conspiracy. The name of the group stems from an interview a police detective gave on 60 Minutes, claiming the police were taking action "to break up the happy family".
Four of the five murders remain unsolved. Only one suspect has been charged and convicted for crimes: Bevan Spencer von Einem was sentenced in 1984 to a minimum of 24 years (later extended to a minimum 36-year term) for the murder of 15-year-old Richard Kelvin.
Police believe that up to 12 people, several of them high-profile Australians, were involved in the kidnappings. The suspects and their associates were linked mainly by their shared habits of "actively [having] sought out young males for sex," sometimes drugging and raping their victims.
Bevan Spencer von Einem was convicted in 1984 of the murder of Richard Kelvin and sentenced to life imprisonment. In 1989, von Einem was charged with the murders of Alan Barnes and Mark Langley, but the prosecution entered a nolle prosequi (voluntarily discontinue criminal charges) during the trial when crucial similar fact evidence was deemed inadmissible by the presiding judge. Von Einem was also one of the last people seen with Neil Muir following his abduction.
Apart from von Einem, three other core members are thought to be directly involved in the murders, although while DNA testing re-commenced in 2008 no further charges have been laid. Suspect 1, an eastern suburbs businessman, is believed to have been with von Einem when Kelvin was abducted. Suspect 2, a prominent Adelaide doctor, Dr Peter Leslie Millhouse was initially charged with Muir's murder but found not guilty at trial in 1980. Dr Millhouse died in a nursing home at Cessnock in NSW on 30 June 2015, aged 80. Suspect 3 was a former male prostitute and a close friend of von Einem and Suspect 1. The remaining known associates were involved to a lesser degree; they were either indirectly involved or had knowledge of the murders but continued to interact with the group. Another Adelaide doctor, Dr Stephen George Woodards was also alleged to have links to the 'family' and recently (2011) stood for child sexual abuse charges. The statutory suppression order on his identity lapsed during the course of his trial and an application for a new order was denied. Other suspects include several members of the legal community, the brother of an Olympian and members of the business community. Two men who were living with suspects 1 and 2 respectively at the time of the murders were also "persons of interest". Although many had previously been named, with the exception of Suspect 2, their identities have since been suppressed by the courts.
A cold case was opened in March 2008 with a $1,000,000 reward available for anyone who provides information leading to a conviction. The reward carried an offer of immunity to accomplices dependent on their level of involvement. Due to changes in the Forensic Procedures Act which now allow DNA samples to be taken from suspects in major indictable offences, all the suspects voluntarily submitted to DNA testing. The ongoing investigation featured in an episode of Crime Stoppers which went to air on 2 March 2009. The cold case review was completed in November 2010 with no charges being laid against any of the three key suspects.
Some authorities do not recognise the term "The Family", stating that, "They should not be given any title that infers legitimacy. These people have no such bond, only an association that with time probably no longer exists". Some who have examined the cases, however, argue that there were many more victims: criminologist Alan Perry of the University of Adelaide has argued that the murders were part of widespread series of kidnappings and sexual assaults of boys that might number several hundred victims in South Australia from about 1973 to 1983.