The seven-episode series Unravel: Juanita tackles one of Australia's most chilling and unsolved true crime stories. In the early '70s, Sydney's Kings Cross was a hotbed of controversy around corruption and high-rise development, and the heart of Australia's criminal underground. Juanita Nielsen moved to Kings Cross where she published a local newspaper and became a vocal opponent in the fight to preserve heritage terraces and affordable housing in the area she loved. Did her activism cost her her life? Did she know too much? Who might have wanted her out of the way? And, after more than four decades, why doesn't her family have answers?
UNRAVEL TRUE CRIME is an anthology podcast where, each season, some of Australia's best journalists investigate unsolved crimes.
S5 06 | The Informant
Keiran's investigation moves towards one of the big unanswered questions: why wasn't Juanita's case solved at the time? What went wrong with the police investigation? Revelations about entrenched police corruption start to tumble out during the 1983 inquest into Juanita Nielsen's disappearance. Young crime reporter Neil Mercer finds himself in the centre of the furore when it's revealed he has recordings of multiple interviews with Carousel Club manager Jim Anderson he's then forced to hand over.
Mercer tells Keiran he got to know "Jimmy" as he calls him over a period of more than two decades. Anderson admits both he and his boss Abe Saffron used blackmail as a way of controlling and/or calling in favours from powerful people. Mercer believes senior police may have been compromised in this way and, as a result, deliberately undermined Juanita's case. Mercer's evidence also exposes details of the serious rift between the two partners in crime. The final bombshell ... we learn Anderson is a police informer who had a role in eventually bringing down Saffron on tax evasion charges.
S5 05 | The Abduction Plot
In the weeks leading up to her disappearance, Juanita Nielsen received strange phone calls with requests for her to meet to talk about advertising in her newspaper. She told her business partner something wasn’t right about them.
After some serious digging, Keiran tracks down a man who owns up to being the voice behind those calls. He has never spoken publicly about what he knows.
Lloyd Marshall was one of three men charged over a plan to abduct Juanita, but later acquitted. He worked at the Carousel Club and divulges disturbing details of how the underworld operated in Kings Cross around that time. Lloyd thinks Juanita was conned into turning up to the venue that final day. He shares with Keiran his suspicions that his boss Jim Anderson was involved in Juanita’s disappearance.
S5 04 | Secret Dossiers
If Juanita was killed because she knew too much, what was she working on that put her in such danger? Keiran dives down the rabbit hole of years of whispered suggestions that crime boss Abe Saffron had kept dossiers for blackmailing prominent people. The lead was first uncovered by a journalist duo who received death threats and were so scared they left the country.
The story's wild twists include talk of photos of illegal sex acts, a bank robbery, a famous media mogul, a crooked judge and walkie talkie conversations with a prisoner in jail. Was Juanita the person on the other end of the handset, in a car outside the jail? Did she gain information about secret dossiers and was she threatening to release them?
S5 03 | The Carousel Club
Keiran looks deeper into the details of what happened on Juanita’s last day and the business meeting she had at The Carousel Club on July 4, 1975. Who are the people behind the club and what connection might there be with what is happening in Victoria Street?
In her own unconventional way, Aunty Pip follows a lead on the receptionist at the club, regarded as the last person to see her cousin Juanita alive. Pip takes off in a shonky campervan to a country town for an interview with Loretta Crawford.
Loretta hasn’t spoken for twenty years and has new information to share about exactly who she believes might be behind Juanita’s suspected murder.
S5 02 | The Fight For Victoria Street
When Juanita moved to Kings Cross in 1970 to run a local newspaper, she didn't realise the suburb was about to explode… and that her street would be at the centre of it.
Keiran traces the response to multi-million dollar development plans and how protesters and residents groups clashed with hired thugs in a three-day street battle.
She meets with a protest leader who tells the terrifying story of being thrown in the boot of a car and kept hostage for several days.
Things ramp up further when the powerful union boss Jack Mundey steps in and imposes a series of green bans. An Aboriginal woman squatter loses her life in a suspicious fire.
S5 01 | My Aunt Juanita
At primary school, Keiran McGee did a talk about her activist aunt Juanita Nielsen telling the class she was murdered by the Kings Cross underground. Her classmates didn’t clap.
Decades later, Keiran is embarking on her own investigation to find answers for her family about Juanita’s unsolved disappearance and get to know the aunt she never knew. Her first interview is Juanita’s ex-boyfriend, who was one of the last people to see her alive.
Keiran, along with Aunty Pip, discovers a trove of documents that other family members have put aside, more than twenty boxes revealing numerous leads and fresh evidence from witnesses who’ve never been made public.
Series 4 well worth a listen
The biggest thing I took from this was what fantastic parents Ollie Ward has, to bring up such a close & loving family, and retain a sense of humour over the whole sorry episode. Lesley really is secondary in all this. Maybe if she’d had such a secure family unit she wouldn’t have been a fantasist, a thief, a liar and ultimately a repeated failure in her life. An engaging listen, very well produced and balanced throughout.
Juanita - Absolutely Superb.
The Juanita story has blown me away, I knew very little about this case and I am gripped. The story telling grabs you from the first minute and Keiran (Narrator) takes us through the intricate details with ease. Her voice is calm, clear and her Aunty Pip is excellent as her off-sider.
The ease in which they unravel the story blows me away, with so much information after so much time, it must have been extremely difficult to make sense of, but they have nailed it.
It is one of, if not the best, crime podcast I have listened to.
Fascinating & such a supportive family
I can’t believe how wonderful the Wards family are. No anger, just perseverance & love for the family.