In 1989, Matthew Kelly and Jaymie Egner, both 15 years old, told their parents they were heading down to a local swimming hole near Pheasants Nest, NSW. By nightfall, they hadn’t returned. After an extensive police search their bodies were found at the bottom of one of the Pheasants Nest bridge pylons, and so began a police investigation – did the boys fall in a tragic accident, or did something more sinister occur?
The bridge is known well to NSW drivers – it’s part of the major highway through to Canberra, driven by thousands daily. It also has a dark history of strange deaths, from a naked woman hit by a driver – an accident that could never be 100% confirmed by police – to body parts discovered in the bushland underneath the structure.
Kelly and Egner’s tragic deaths have long been discussed by Southern Highlands residents. Theories abound as to whether the two boys fell accidentally into one of the 33 metre tall hollow pylons while playing inside the bridge structure – the entry to the inside of the bridge was vandalised, and according to their childhood friend Phillip Hendricks, teenagers in the area would often enter the structure and other bridges in the area for fun. Or, were they pushed.
During the investigation into their deaths, a marijuana plantation was discovered nearby. One theory is that whoever was responsible for the plantation was drying the plant inside the bridge, and the teens had come across illegal activities during their exploration. Given two other teens – Erin Murphy, 17, and Glenn Vantaggiato, 19 – died two years prior in suspicious circumstances (they were lying on the Old Hume Highway when a truck ran over them, but were they already dead and placed there to cover up a murder) there was weight to this theory.
However, leads ran dry and a coroners report eventually ruled the boys deaths as misadventure, with injuries consistent with a fall.
Forensic Investigator Esther McKay worked on the case and wrote extensively about her findings in her book Crime Scene. She believes the boys died in a tragic accident.
“I always stay with findings based on the physical evidence and as the Detectives did not come up with any solid leads to indicate foul play I am comfortable to stick with what I found which was in line with the coroners findings of misadventure.”
But the case frequently is covered on Reddit and online, with this Imgur link by user Unkie re-igniting the discussion around Kelly and Egner’s deaths last year.
We covered the case on our true crime and mystery podcast, All Aussie Mystery Hour, this week. You can find out more about the theories and what happened on that fateful day via iTunes, Spotify, or below.Image: Sydney Morning Herald