‘Normal’ family hid sick perverted secret
IN SOME ways the Colts were like any other family.
They lived on farms where the children loved playing together in the dirt and riding on quad bikes.
They went on adventure tours around parts of Australia.
The kids loved their mums, a set of four sisters who were very close and cared for the children when the men went out looking for work.
Christmases at the Colts were for the kids, with piles of presents under the tree and one of the uncles dressed as Santa.
But as shocked police and welfare workers would eventually uncover, the uncle was sleeping with his sister and may have fathered some of her inbred children.
DNA tests would prove that least eleven of the children had been fathered by a relative of their mother, and the interrelated children themselves were allegedly involved in rampant sexual activity.
The farm was a squalid camp and the children were malformed and devoid of hygiene.
It's the most bizarre and depraved of family histories, the tragic tale of the Colt incest family whose members are now in prison facing charges.
For at least five generations their secret life of inbred sexual relations between brothers and sisters, uncles and nieces and fathers and daughters went unchecked.
Adept at fleeing across borders overnight to avoid detection, they moved from state to state, living in isolation on remote properties and farms.
They were, according to some members, happy and proud of their "family values", even performing as a musical troupe.
But that all came to a halt when police and welfare authorities found 38 Colt family members living on a squalid NSW farm where sex among the interrelated children was rampant.
Some children spoke in unintelligible speech, walked in a shuffling fashion, didn't know how to bathe or clean their rotting teeth and used the bush as their only toilet.
Many of them had avoided school, had developmental delays, cognitive impairments and physical deformities associated with inbreeding such as low slung ears and misaligned facial features.
DNA tests on 14 Colt children would reveal that their parents were related, but their removal to foster care would not lead to happy normal lives.
The parents - mostly third generation incest family members - would flee interstate, only to be rounded up six years later and returned to NSW in handcuffs.
Eight of the Colts are charged with alleged offences ranging from perjury to sex with a child, indecent assault and incest.
Seven of them are being held in various Sydney prisons, some having withdrawn bail applications after their siblings applied for release and were refused.
The straightened circumstances of the once freewheeling Colts - a court appointed pseudonym for the family to protect young members - would have shocked the older generations.
The seven Colts remanded in custody are the grandchildren of a brother and sister who were the parents of the siblings' mother June Colt.
This fact emerged, according to a NSW Children's Court judgment, from a letter by Betty Colt, one of the more prominent of the very close Colt sisters.
When DNA testing of Betty and her siblings' children revealed they were inbred, Betty wrote that in about 1997 they had allegedly learned the truth about June Colt's parents.
The bombshell revelation that their maternal grandparents were brother and sister followed tissue typing testing on June to see if she could donate a kidney to a granddaughter.
The court report says that June was born in New Zealand, "probably" in 1948, and that the siblings father Timothy Colt was born there in 1943.
The couple married in 1966 in NZ where their first daughter Rhonda was born in the same year, and Betty in 1967.
After Rhonda and Betty, the Colts had Cherry, Frank and Charlie who was born in 1973, Paula and in 1979, Martha.
It is unclear when Tim and June Colt moved to Australia and how many of their children were born here.
They moved to South Australia where the family lived at some period in the Riverland region in a community along the Murray River, and then to Victoria.
Betty gave birth to daughter Raylene in about 1973 or 1974 when she was about 16 years old, and another daughter Tammy about a year later.
As one of Betty's 13 children, son Dwayne later revealed when he was taken into care, her father Tim Colt had started having sex with her when she was 12 years old.
Dwayne, whose DNA test revealed that along with four other of Betty's children he was the product of inbreeding, told carers his father was Betty's father.
Dwayne said he and his siblings were told never to tell anyone because Betty would go to jail.
Betty would tell investigators that the father of all her children was Phil, a man who worked in the wheat industry who died in 2007.
She met Phil Walton in about 1982 and lived with him in a de facto relationship.
In an apparent attempt to explain away her children's disclosures that their father's name was Tim, she stated that Phil was known in the Colt family as "Tim".
The older siblings' father Tim Colt was musical and three of them, including Charlie and Martha, performed in public with him.
Despite the fact that she was the eldest of the siblings, firstborn Rhonda did not start having children until the early 1980s.
Betty already had her two daughters and would give birth to three more, as well as eight sons.
Four of the sons - Bobby, Billy, Brian and Dwayne and a daughter Carmen were the product of incestuous relationships.
The family moved to Victoria where Tim and June bought a country property for the growing extended Colt family.
In 2001, June, died in a small town in the state's goldfields region aged in her early 50s.
The Colts returned to South Australia for five years, and then in 2006 to Western Australia, to a remote part of the wheatbelt region northeast of Perth.
Concerns by what the Colts called "towns people" about the relations between the close-knit family, go back at least to the 1990s and may have prompted the Colts moving states.
Betty gave birth to her last child Carmen in about 2004.
Betty's youngest sister Martha, to whom she was very close, had started having children in the late 1990s.
Martha would have six children, one of whom, daughter Donna, died aged two weeks.
She claimed that the fathers of her surviving children - Albert, the oldest born in 1998, Jed in 1999. Karl in 2001, Ruth in 2003 and Nadia in 2006 - were unrelated to the Colts.
Martha gave the names of her son' fathers as, respectively Martin, Sam and Barry.
She couldn't remember the name of Ruth's father, but Nadia's was Neville, an American she met fruit picking.
DNA tests proved that four of Martha's children resulted from a relationship with her father or brother, and only Karl's father could have been his mother's half brother, uncle, nephew or grandfather.
Tim Colt died in Western Australia in 2009 and in September that year the Colt siblings bought a large bush block for a little over $100,000 in the hills behind Boorowa, 120km north of Canberra.
The Colt place has been described as a farm, but it was a stretch of partially cleared scrub accessible by a series of roads which disintegrated into just dirt tracks, with no amenities.
All seven Colt siblings and their children, 38 people, would keep to family tradition and stay mostly out of town and out of sight.
But the move to NSW would prove their undoing.
One of the fourth generation, by now an adult, would later claim she had been sexually active with older and younger members of the clan since the age of twelve.
She described the sexual activity as abuse and said one perpetrator was her grandfather, Tim.
When one of the girls became pregnant, they were allegedly told not to see a doctor in case someone found out what was happening.
A number of miscarriages took place on the Boorowa farm.
Sexual activity between the younger, underage Colts was allegedly rife and either encouraged or not frowned upon.
According to two of the youngest, fifth generation, Betty's younger siblings Martha and Charlie slept together in a bed each night at Boorowa.
One of Martha's daughters told case workers later that two of Betty's children, son Derek and daughter Tammy were girlfriend and boyfriend.
The pair had moved to the NSW Victorian border, and Tammy had given birth to three daughters.
One of them, Sally, died at the age of two months from Zellweger syndrome.
A rare and fatal genetic disorder it is discernible by a thick short neck and lowset ears, which Sally presented with.
Sally and her surviving sisters Anna and Fiona were all found to have resulted from a relationship with a brother or father.
Tammy later disclosed to a caseworker her younger brother Derek was her children's father.
Tammy's mother Betty had told her she didn't know who Derek's father was, but that he was her half brother.
At Boorowa, most of the children lived in an isolated and secluded environment, cut off from wider society.
Rhonda's youngest daughter Cindy was never enrolled at preschool.
The other children attended school intermittently, and it was this failure to attend which in part drew the attention of authorities.
For more than two years, between February 2010 and July 2012, seven welfare reports on the Colt children were filed indicating risk of significant harm.
The reports cited general neglect, and failure to seek necessary medical attention and to maintain a hygienic and appropriate living environment.
A local doctor would diagnose "congenital" problems among the children including chronic kidney failure, acute glaucoma and a heart condition.
Finally, a report from a teacher of one of the younger Colt children reached welfare caseworkers.
The report stated that "one of the Colt children was overheard saying at school to the other children 'my sister is pregnant and we don't know which of my brothers is the father'."
That sister was Tammy Colt, mother of the fatally deformed Sally.
The game was almost up.
On June 6, 2012, caseworkers and police made a home visit to the farm.
The Colts' dirt block at Boorowa had four living areas: two caravans, a garden shed and another, larger shed with two tents inside.
The officers found no visible toilets, showers or baths.
Caravan number one had mud, dirt, rubbish and cigarette butts on the floor, dirty cooking facilities, dirty children's beds and an unsafe gas barbecue used for heating.
The second caravan had dirt on all surfaces, including the stove and food prep areas, plus two broken windows deemed hazardous to children.
Exposed electricity wires and bags of rubbish lay near one caravan's entrance.
Inside the garden shed chainsaws without protective covers lay about.
The larger shed had a dirty stove and a fridge with rotten vegetables and not much else.
One of the tents housed Martha and daughters Nadia and Ruth; the other tent slept her sons Albert, Jed and Karl.
Caseworkers observed the children were dirty, wore dirty clothes and were unable to make eye contact.
They couldn't understand much of what the children said and noticed poor dental hygiene.
The children used the bush for a toilet and a tub of water to hand wash.
The next day, the caseworkers returned with two camping toilets, a camping shower and a safety plan.
The eldest, Rhonda Colt, was to dragoon family members into fixing the broken windows, covering exposed wiring, and cleaning up.
The caseworkers banned use of the dangerous stoves and gas heater and reported by June 8 conditions and cleanliness had improved.
But return visits in July confirmed the children would continue to be at risk if they remained at the farm.
On July 18, 2012, a Thursday, a convoy of police and welfare vehicles passed by Boorowa and on up dirt roads to the farm.
With several of the adult Colts including Charlie watching on, the authorities removed 12 Colt children whose DNA tests would prove they were the offspring of related adults.
The children would be placed in four groups with different foster families or carers.
Their removal to ordinary society revealed the Colt kids' delayed educational development, some indeed never having been to school.
Some had developmental delays or cognitive impairment.
Albert, Bobby, Jed, Kimberly, Karl, Ruth, Carmen and Nadia were unable to speak intelligibly.
Most required serious dental work, many couldn't use a toothbrush, toilet paper, wash their hair or bathe.
The removal of the children and by virtue the destruction of the greater Colt family would be felt keenly, particularly by Betty Colt.
Betty would later post messages on Facebook about how "love makes a family", perhaps unaware of the terrible ambiguity of the statement about the Colts' five generations of incest.
Next week: Part 2 of the Colt incest family: Who's who in the Colts?