What Happened To Trudie Adams?

And how did justice fail her for 40 years?

In 1978, an 18-year-old teenager called Trudie Adams left a party in Sydney’s northern beaches and never made it home.

She had been at a dance at the Newport Surf Club. The smart, confident, independent girl who was the glue that kept her friendship group together had asked her mum to wait up for her. She was last seen hitchhiking home to Avalon, a beachside suburb just a few kilometres away from Newport, connected by the winding and relatively isolated Barrenjoey Road.

What happened to Trudie Adams next has mystified authorities for four decades. Despite four police investigations, and a coroner finding in 2011 that she probably died of "homicide" or "misadventure followed by a cover-up", her body has never been found, and no one has been charged.

Trudie Adams is remembered by friends as the problem solver, the glue that held their friendship group together. Photo: Supplied.

But Trudie's case wasn't an isolated incident. A new investigation by the ABC's true crime podcast Unravel explores why justice has eluded her for 40 years,  and dives into high-level corruption, major drug deals, and multiple homicides.

"It was this world that was connected to Trudie through all these twists and turns, but in some ways was completely different," investigative journalist Ruby Jones told ten daily.

"She didn't know anything about police corruption herself. She just ended up in the middle of this bigger story, one that's progressed on without her."

Jones and investigative journalist Neil Mercer, who lead the series, spend time exposing the underbelly of the 1970s northern beaches, the "insular peninsular" where an idyllic beachside lifestyle masks a current of drugs, violence against women, and potentially, police corruption.

Ruby Jones and Neil Mercer at Barrenjoey Road in Sydney's northern beaches. Photo: Supplied.

Horrifyingly, there were 14 other rapes that took place in the same area around the same time, in what Jones and Mercer describe as an issue of "escalating violence and sexual violence" around an area of bushland that began to be known as the "devil's playground".

"A lot of these women didn't come forward to police because they were too scared," said Jones.

"I got this real sense that women on the northern beaches at this time were seen as easy prey. In some ways, it reminded me of a hunting ground. They were picked out, and there was this knowledge amongst the men who were responsible for doing these sorts of things that they probably wouldn't get caught, and nothing would probably happen. There was a sense of immunity, I think, and that is part of the culture."

Jones and Mercer believe they know who killed Trudie Adams. So do two senior detectives assigned to the cold case.

In a statement tendered to the coroner's court, former NSW police detective Gavin McKean wrote that "I strongly believe [she] was kidnapped off the street by [Neville] Tween and [Raymond] Johnson for the purpose of sexual assault."

He added: "I believe that something went wrong as the two men went about the business of sexually assaulting Adams and she has been killed."

A suspect in the 1978 disappearance of Trudie Adams, John Anderson, leaves Glebe Coroners Court in the rear of a police car in 2011. Also known as Neville Tween, the 70-year-old prisoner gave evidence denying any involvement in the suspected homicide. Photo: AAP.

Tween, who is now known as John David Anderson and is currently serving an 18-year sentence for a 2006 conspiracy to import $7 million worth of cocaine, has always denied the allegations. Johnson died in 2010.

But why, then, has justice eluded Trudie for so long?

"What I found was that there were all of these questions about why her case hadn't been investigated properly," said Jones, "and that goes to whether there was a cover up or not, and whether there was corruption involved or not."

As Australia has seen recently with the case of Lyn Dawson following The Teacher's Pet podcast, Jones is hoping this podcast will move the case forward -- and potentially, recover a body.

"I think the reason Trudie's case has never been solved is because her remains have never been found," she said.

"Last June was the 40th anniversary of Trudie's disappearance. A lot of her friends felt like it might be one of the last chances to put the case to rest and find out what happened to her."

The first podcast episode of Unravel: Barrenjoey Road drops October 9, with the first television episode airing October 30th at 8.30pm.

Contact the author: abrucesmith@networkten.com.au

Photo: Supplied.