On the evening of January 4, 1995, Daniel Sheppard’s mother said that he was missing. He was 19 years old. Daniel hadn’t gone home after spending New Year’s Eve with his twin brother and some friends. People who knew him saw him get off a train for the last time at 4:35 a.m. on January 1, 1995.
Since then, there have been many theories about Daniel’s whereabouts and how he went missing. These include that he was tied up and dumped in the Port River, that he was killed by people with ties to the occult, that he was killed for large drug debts, that he was the victim of a well-known pedophile ring in South Australia called “The Family” in the years before he went missing, that he was attacked by a group of Indigenous Australian
Daniel and his twin brother Michael were born in Victoria, Australia, on July 4, 1975. Their parents then moved to South Australia, and Daniel lived with his brother and mother at the time of his disappearance (his father had passed away in 1990). On the day he went missing, he was about 165cm (5’5″) tall and wore blue jeans, a maroon denim shirt, and black shoes.
Day of Disappearance
On the afternoon of New Year’s Eve 1994, Daniel, his brother, and some of their friends spent time at the home of their friend Benjamin Silvani. Also there were their friends Gavin Edwards, Simon Depauw, Anthony Silvani, Jason Leurs, and Desiree Leyton.
They took a train to Adelaide and then a tram to Glenelg, where they went to a bar called Lennies. Around 1 a.m. on January 1, 1995, Daniel, Benjamin Silvani, and Desiree Leyton left the nightclub.
Later, Daniel and his friends took the tram back to the city, where they went to a nightclub called Rave and then another one called Empire. Benjamin Silvani and Desiree Leyton left the club around 3 a.m., but Daniel stayed with a woman he met that night named Pamela Tanner. Tanner said that he last saw Daniel at a nightclub at 4 a.m.
We know that Daniel left around this time and went to the Adelaide Railway Station, where he caught the 4:13am train to Port Adelaide. At the Adelaide Railway Station, he saw Eliza Noack, Ami McNeill, Nicole Slabskyj, and Nicholas Wright, among others. Daniel said to his friends, “I’ve had enough fun. I’m going home to sleep it off.” Wright would later tell investigators that Daniel’s drinking had only a small effect on him, but that he was hallucinating because he had taken LSD the night he went missing. This makes it possible that Daniel got lost or confused on his way home and drowned in the river or was in a hit-and-run accident, or that it made him more likely to be attacked. Daniel got off the train by himself at 4:35 a.m. and started walking home (which should he only taken approximately 10 minutes). This is the last time Daniel has been seen for sure.
David Garwood and Anthony Rafanelli
Officers who were looking into the case talked to a man named David Garwood.
Garwood said he was friends with a man named Anthony Rafanelli, whose house he went to in 1999. Garwood said that he and Rafanelli had used drugs like cannabis, cocaine, and amphetamines, which Rafanelli had also given them. When this happened at the house, he and Rafanelli went outside to shoot up some cocaine in the sun. During the conversation that followed, Rafanelli pointed out an area of about two or three square metres of concrete in his backyard that looked newer than the rest of the concrete. Then Rafanelli said, “That guy who didn’t show up at the train station on New Year’s Eve.” Rafanelli is then said to have said that the person who “went missing” owed him $70, which he had not been paid, and that he had brought the person to his house and said, “We went a little too far.” When Garwood asked him what he meant, Rafanelli pointed to the new cement area. Due to the way the conversation went, Detective Stapleton said in evidence that this story was not strong enough to warrant further investigation (given the amount of drugs taken by Garwood and Rafanelli at the time). During an investigation, a State Coroner agreed with the Detective.
It almost doesn’t make sense. They think the conversation did happen and believe Garwood when he says he and Rafanelli took a lot of drugs together. However, they don’t believe Rafanelli when he says he killed Daniel, so they don’t follow up on the lead. I wonder how hard it would be for investigators to: a) talk to Rafanelli; b) get a search warrant for the house Rafanelli owns or owned where this conversation happened; and c) dig up the concrete to see if there is anything there.
A lot of articles make reference to theories investigated and pursued by police and investigators, but I’ve struggled to find much detail on these theories (aside from the Rafanelli lead).
Murdered by “skinheads”
Detective Stapleton has shown proof that the “skinhead” theory has been thrown out by the police. I haven’t been able to find any more information about this theory. I’d like to know why this theory was even looked into and who came up with it in the first place.
Attacked by Indigenous Australians at the train station
Aboriginal people might have attacked someone, so police talked to a man named Desmond Turner (not to be confused with the US mass murderer). The information Turner gave was not conclusive, but it was looked into, but nothing came of it.
Murdered over a drug debt
Again, information is limited, but coworkers and friends of Daniel have corroborated that he did use drugs (cannabis regularly and LSD occasionally). If Daniel had any obligations, they were not reported to any of his friends or relatives, and it appears quite serendipitous that anyone looking for him happened to come across him in the early hours of New Year’s Day as he walked home alone from the station.
From the 1970s to the mid-1980s, The Family was the term given to a gang of men suspected of kidnapping, sexual abuse, and torture of young men and teenage boys in and around Adelaide, South Australia. The latest homicide linked to The Family occurred in 1983, more than 9 years before Daniel’s abduction.
Bevan Spencer von Einem, the only suspect charged and convicted of crimes, was known to pick up young male hitchhikers, give them alcoholic drinks laced with hypnotic drugs, and then take them to his home in the Adelaide suburb of Campbelltown, where the young men would be abused overnight before being released the next day.
The fact that Daniel’s body has never been found (should he be deceased) does not fit von Einem’s style. The Family had five known victims, and their mutilated bodies had been discovered in various, sometimes rural, regions of Adelaide.
A woman named Yvonne Bugg said that she was driving home along Bower Road at the intersection of Old Port Road approximately 5 a.m. on January 1, 1995. (near the station which Daniel alighted from). She noticed a person lying on the corner beside a fence while waiting at the lights and heard the individual moan. She ignored the incident because it was the morning after New Year’s Eve and figured the person was inebriated. This person had vanished when she returned along the same route around 30 minutes later.
On June 28, 1997, at the Norwood Hotel, a man called Andrew Keita approached a man he thought was Daniel. Keita addressed Daniel as “Cheesey” (Daniel’s nickname) and inquired as to what he had been up to. The individual did not respond. Kieta walked to a phone in the hotel foyer and called the police.
A uniform patrol arrived, so the hotel doors were closed, the lights were switched on, and at the request of the police, Keita stood on a tiny platform and looked at the people in the hotel’s dance club, but he couldn’t see the person he thought was Daniel. Keita’s girlfriend was present for this occasion, but she stated to police that Keita was untrustworthy and accused him of lying “about everything,” calling the reality of this sighting into question.
On January 8, 1995, the STAR Division of South Australia Police conducted searches in the Port Adelaide region. They combed the region between the Port Adelaide Railway Station and Daniel’s house.
Between 1992 and 1997, police divers conducted intensive searches in the Port River area, as were searches done by sonar systems on police boats. These searches turned up nothing.
Property searches were also carried out using cadaver-detecting dogs, with significant places of interest targeted included unoccupied land surrounding the train station, an abandoned house, and a toilet block.
There was also a televised reenactment of his departure from the train (performed by his brother).
Daniel did, however, have a criminal past, having been registered twice in the South Australian Police database (first in 1991 and again in 1994), however I can’t find out what these two cases were about. His fingerprints have been confirmed to have been placed into the national fingerprint database.
Police and detectives do not appear to have exhausted all avenues of inquiry and persons of interest in my opinion. For example, given that the information he provided was judged “inconclusive,” it appears particularly unusual that authorities have not followed up with Desmond Turner. Even stranger, I can’t imagine cops dismissed Garwood’s story as unworthy of further investigation. According to my research, Rafanelli was not even questioned by police, nor was his residence investigated. After being a cold case for over 15 years, they would surely pursue any avenue of inquiry, no matter how implausible.
Does anyone have any additional information regarding the other theories? Or do you have your own theories? It’s always been an intriguing case to me. You have to feel sorry for his mother and twin brother, who have lost both their son/brother and their husband/father in the last four years. A $200,000 reward is currently being offered for information leading to his location.