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In 1971, a man confessed to the murder of Cheryl Grimmer. Today, the case remains unsolved.

It was a scorching afternoon on a NSW South Coast beach, on January 12 1970, when Carole Grimmer began searching for her three-year-old daughter Cheryl Grimmer.

Moments before, Carole had asked her sons Ricki, Stephen and Paul to go to the toilet blocks with their little sister after a southerly storm had blew in.

But Cheryl refused to leave the ladies’ change rooms. Her older brothers left her for less than two minutes while they summoned their mother to help bring their three-year-old sister out of the showers.

When Carole went to retrieve her toddler, Cheryl wasn’t where the boys said she was. In fact, she was nowhere to be seen.

At 4pm, two hours after Cheryl was last seen, Carole called the police. It was the beginning of a sizeable search as police and volunteers combed Fairy Meadow Beach and surrounding suburbs for the toddler.

The Grimmer family had moved to Australia from Bristol the year prior, and were only just settling into their beach-side cottage in Wollongong, New South Wales, when Cheryl was abducted.

Despite extensive searches, the toddler’s body was never located.

Cheryl Grimmer
Cheryl Grimmer disappeared in 1970. Image: Channel 9.

The case went cold, and her mother and father eventually passed away never learning what had happened to their daughter.

Then in 2016, Wollongong detective Frank Sanvitale was reinvestigating the abduction case when he made the discovery that a man had, in fact, confessed to Cheryl's murder.

In April 1971, over a year after Cheryl went missing, a 17-year-old man – who remains unnamed as he was a minor at the time of the crime – told police he abducted, raped and murdered Cheryl.

But police did not believe him, and the case stayed unsolved.

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In 2017, a 64-year-old man in Victoria who had confessed to the crime nearly 50 years ago was arrested and charged with the murder and abduction of three-year-old Cheryl. The Grimmer family finally seemed to be gaining answers.

According to ABCthe court heard the man allegedly told police he took the toddler to a nearby location before using a shoelace to tie her hands and attempting to sexually assault her before killing her.

However earlier this year in February, the case was dismissed by the Supreme Court as the police interview containing the alleged murderer's confession was ruled inadmissible.

Watch: A sneak preview of Cheryl Grimmer's brothers on 60 Minutes. Post continues after video. 

The accused did not have a parent, adult or lawyer accompanying the then 17-year-old, as it was not compulsory at the time. On top of this, the judge heard from two psychiatrists who affirmed the man had a low average intelligence, a difficult upbringing and was more vulnerable than the average 17-year-old at the time of the interview. The judge hence stated the interview should be excluded from the trial.

Without the interview however, there was insufficient evidence for the court case to continue.

The unnamed man walked free from court in February 2019 and today, the case remains one of Australia's longest-running crime mysteries.

Now, on 60 Minutes, Cheryl's three older brothers – Ricki, Stephen and Paul – speak to journalist Tara Brown about their everlasting suffering and grief over their sister's unsolved case.

"My mother asked me to take Stephen and Paul and Cheryl to the shower blocks," Ricki recalls to Tara Brown in a preview for the episode. "[Cheryl] just wouldn't come out, I walked down to the beach to get my mum."

"I don't deserve happiness," he says. "I shouldn't have left her standing there on her own."

Detective Frank Sanvitale tells Brown: "This family has been let down by the NSW police force."

60 Minutes airs Sunday night on Channel 9.

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