Juanita Nielsen Walking Tour

“I never knew about the dossiers”, I told friends as we sat and enjoyed a beer at the iconic “Bourbon and Beefsteak” in Sydney’s Kings Cross last night.

We were chatting, relaxing and reflecting, having just been on a historical walking tour related to the 1975 death of 38-year old journalist, Juanita Nielsen. 

Juanita Nielsen (nee Smith) was an Australian heiress to the Mark Foy’s retail fortune. In the 1970s Nielsen was the publisher of NOW, an alternative newspaper in the Sydney suburb of Kings Cross, New South Wales, where she lived. She conducted a vigorous editorial campaign in support of the ‘green ban’ movement against the redevelopment of Victoria Street by F. W. Theeman’s real-estate company, Victoria Point Pty Ltd. She played a prominent role in mobilizing local residents against the demolition of Victoria Street’s historic terraces and the eviction of their tenants. She may have been in possession of incriminating documents and photos belonging to Abe Saffron aka Mr Sin.

Juanita Nielsen disappeared on 4 July 1975 and it is generally believed that she was murdered because of her anti-development and anti-corruption stance. A coronial inquest determined that Nielsen had been murdered, and although the case has never been officially solved it is widely believed that Nielsen was killed by agents of the developers. In 1994 the Commonwealth Parliamentary Joint Committee on the National Crime Authority further castigated investigative ineptitude in the case and emphasized links between her presumed murder, property developers and the criminal milieu at Kings Cross. Despite public outcry, the mystery of Juanita Nielsen’s death remains a major case in the annals of unsolved Australian crimes.

Juanita Nielsen with her father

Mostly, it’s said her death was related to her anti-development stance, but the tour’s host also said the “dossiers” and her knowledge of the crime activity in Kings Cross were possible reasons.

During the 1950s-1970s, Sydney crime “boss” Abe Saffron employed someone to take photographs of prominent people for the purpose of blackmail. It’s said police and politicians also had access to these “dossiers”. It’s said Juanita had also seen the dossiers, and this was one possible reason why someone would want her killed.

As we walked around, we visited a range of buildings that had previously been under the ownership or “watchful eye” of a range of people involved in criminal activity, going back to the days when homosexuality was a criminal offence and pubs closed at 6.00 pm.

A nightclub and an adjoining brothel, are now under re-development.

We also visited buildings on Victoria Street that were the subject of “green bans” which prevented their re-development. Though you can see a lot of development occurred, it was wonderful to walk around to enjoy seeing the original buildings, and the tree-lined streets which, otherwise might have just been soulless streets dominated by high-rise.

Tour guide, Jo, outside 115 Victoria Street which was intended to form part of a massive development involved in the green bans opposition.

The tour guide, Jo, was a woman in her early 60s who obviously loves history, and told us she was fascinated by “true crime”. She was terrific with her knowledge and enthusiasm. Our tour group of about 10 was dominated by older people (mostly aged 50-60s), though there was also one younger guy (20s-30s).

We were also joined, rather spontaneously by a bloke who said he was related to Juanita. We were standing outside her house on Victoria Street, asked what we were doing, and then stopped to tell us a little of the family story. It was a lovely addition to the tour. “This often happens”, tour guide Jo told us.

The house where Juanita Nielsen lived (the terrace on the right), is now privately rented.

Everyone on the tour seemed to really enjoy it very much, judging by the level of engagement, and the round of applause at the end. I’d highly recommend it.

As we continued our beer, reflecting on the tour, we concluded the degree of corruption probably still happens now. A few names were thrown around, likely involved in current activity. In the end, we concluded Sydney has likely been as “corrupt as fuck” since 1788.

3 Replies to “Juanita Nielsen Walking Tour”

  1. That would have been a very interesting walk. Did anyone mention a corrupt Bob?

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