Harold Holt: 50 years since Australia’s ‘first 20th century PM’ disappeared into the sea

Updated

December 17, 2017 06:11:43

It’s been 50 years since sitting prime minister Harold Holt went for a swim near Portsea, in Victoria, and never returned.

Friends and family members of the late Mr Holt are gathering for a private commemoration service to mark his disappearance and will remember his achievements while in Parliament.

Australia’s 17th prime minister served three decades in Parliament before becoming prime minister, only to disappear two years into his first term.

Federal Member for Flinders Greg Hunt said Mr Holt had a strong social and economic legacy including the introduction of a national child endowment scheme as part of the Menzies government.

Decades of conspiracy theories

But for most Australians he will always be known for his abrupt disappearance on December 17, 1967.

Under the law at the time of Mr Holt’s disappearance, an inquest could not be held because there was no body found, but the ruling changed and in 2005 the Victorian coroner found Mr Holt had drowned and his death was accidental.

But the most powerful man in the country does not go missing in the middle of the Cold War without a mountain of conspiracy theories, ranging from suicide to abduction by a Chinese submarine.

Ten years ago, the National Archives released some of the best letters written to authorities in the aftermath of Mr Holt’s disappearance.

There was a letter from an American lawyer, apparently…

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