Helen Karipidis was the third child of six born to Theo and Voula Karipidis on December 10, 1978 in Australia.
The Karipidis’ lived in a townhouse at 454 Illawarra Road in Marrickville, Australia, a suburb of Sydney. In 1987, Theo and Voula separated, and Voula was awarded custody of the children.
On December 22, 1988, Helen, 10, and three of her siblings were at a playground just meters from their home. Helen was playing with two of her friends in a sand pit. She was with them until about 4:30pm or 5pm. Voula hollered for the children to come home for dinner. Her siblings made it back, but Helen wasn’t behind them. When she hadn’t returned by 7pm, her family started searching for her, knocking on every door and calling out for her. (Some reports say 8:30 pm).
Helen was nowhere to be found.
Search and Investigation
Police initially focused on Theo Karipidis as a suspect. At the time of his daughter’s disappearance, he struggled with alcohol addiction. The local media reported that Theo abused his children because of his addiction and that Helen ran away because of it.
Her family never believed Helen ran away. She was only 10 years old and took no belongings with her.
Police eventually concluded Helen was likely abducted. At first, they thought she was abducted at the playground, but later said she may have been taken from surrounding Glen, View, and Hill Streets.
Authorities spent months searching for Helen, and the New South Wales government offered a $50,000 reward for information leading to an arrest. No one came forward.
The biggest problem in the investigation was a lack of evidence and few leads to go on.
The Murder Theory
Years after Helen Karipidis vanished, her older brother, Ilias Karipidis was searching the internet when he came across a video of a woman who claimed her kids knew what happened to Helen because they had witnessed it. She also claimed they told a psychiatrist named Dr. Anne Schlebaum about the claims.
Ilias started searching for the mystery woman. He eventually found her, and the two briefly spoke on the phone. Ilias asked if he could speak to her children to hear firsthand what they knew about his sister, but he never heard back.
The children claimed they witnessed Helen’s ritualistic murder in a church.
News9.com.au contacted the woman for comment, but it is unclear if she reached out. However, someone was able to get in touch with Dr. Schlebaum via email. She remembered Helen and the children, but said she no longer had their files.
“The children were quite detailed and consistent in their information, but hardly anybody believed them – as was the general attitude to ritual abuse although there were many proven cases overseas,” said Dr. Schlebaum in an email to News 9.
“The police, Royal commission and YACS FACS Child Welfare under different names found it all too hard and took the easy way out by disbelief. I’m sure it happened, and there was credible evidence.”
2012 Coroner Inquest
In 2012, a coroner inquest was held in Helen Karipidis’ disappearance. A teacher of Maria’s, Anne Martin, told the inquest that Maria and her siblings had been severely abused by her father, Theo.
“One time (she said) he had one of them on the floor and he had his foot on their neck,” Anne said.
Anne established a close bond with Maria, so the girl trusted her.
“She felt responsible (for the disappearance) because she said she should have gone with her that night,” Anne said.
“She said that she told Helen not to go alone, not to ever go anywhere alone without her.
“She said that Helen was very unhappy and wanted to run away.”
But Maria also told Anne about another disturbing incident.
Maria also claimed a “nice man” regularly took both girls to Kings Cross where they took their clothes off and were photographed (Bodkin, 2012).
“She kept saying that no-one could help her,” Anne said.
Theo and Voula were both present at the inquest and stated that Maria had bipolar disorder and would make things up. However, Anne said she always found Maria to be honest and truthful.
The coroner ruled Helen Karipidis had likely been abducted and killed. No one has ever been charged with Helen’s death.
Life After Helen
Helen Karipidis’ family was never the same again. Her father continued drinking and her mother cried every single day.
Her disappearance was extremely hard on her older sister, Maria, who was 13 at the time. She never got over the loss and suffered from mental illness. At the age of 18, Maria Karipidis committed suicide.
Ilias Karipidis continues searching for his sister. It is unclear what happened to the rest of the family.
True Crime Diva’s Thoughts
I do not believe Helen ran away. She was only 10 and did not have the means to pull it off without help from an adult. She took no belongings with her and from what I can tell, she was in good spirits prior to her abduction.
I believe she was abducted by someone who lived in the area surrounding the townhouse complex. Maybe the “nice man”. I couldn’t find anything on who this person was. The author, Fiona Rae Holowczak supports the murder theory involving the child witnesses and says Helen was killed in a ritual murder. I’m wondering if the nice man was Frank Houston or an acquaintance of his. Houston was a pastor of Hillsong Church in Sydney and has since died. His son, Brian Houston is the current pastor. Fiona wrote that the elder Houston “sought and trafficked children to the Sydney VIP pedophile ring based in Kings Cross boy brothels.” The “nice man” took Helen and Maria to Kings Cross several times, according to Maria.
In 2018, Ilias said that his father was still an alcoholic but denied Theo’s involvement in Helen’s disappearance. He also said Theo believes social workers took Helen because “they had a lot to do with my mum around that time, too.”
If social workers took her, we would not be discussing her disappearance today, right? Her family would know where she was unless she got lost in the Australian foster care system. However, also in the article linked above, author Fiona Rae Holowczak writes:
“10-year-old Helen Karapidis (sic) was abducted 22 December 1988 from her Marrickville apartment complex grounds by members of the Wood Royal Commission pedophile network.
“This child trafficking network including government social workers, Aunties and Uncles program staff, Hillsong architect Ian Longstaff who redesigned their Young St, Waterloo church building, David Young who, with Ian, collected kids for ‘Youngies’ church youth club, and convicted pedophile and Hillsong staff member John Baxter.”
Honestly, it would not surprise me at all if Helen was kidnapped and forced into a trafficking network. However, I’m not 100% convinced she was killed in a ritualistic murder in a CHURCH. But hey, I’ve heard of weirder things.
I’m curious as to why police think Helen may have been taken from the surrounding streets versus the park where she was last seen. I couldn’t find anything on this. Maybe someone spotted her on one of the streets.
- Bodkin, Peter. “Abuse Allegations at Cold Case Inquest”. The Daily Telegraph. July 16, 2012.
- Chamberlin, Paul. “A Place at the Table Waits for a Vanished Girl.” The Sydney Morning Herald. December 28, 1988.
- “December of Dread for Helen’s Mother.” The Sydney Morning Herald. December 10, 1991.
- Holowczak, Fiona Rae. “Australia’s Own Pizzagate.” Pedophiles Down Under (blog). December 23, 2016. https://pedophilesdownunder.com/2016/12/23/australias-own-pizzagate/
- Kachor, Kate. “The Sydney Schoolgirl Who Vanished Without a Trace Just Metres From Her Home.” 9News.com.au. December 20, 2018. https://www.9news.com.au/national/missing-schoolgirl-vanished-without-a-trace-just-metres-from-her-sydney-home/0f25374f-25ad-4724-aaff-164a78165fe5