Death of Daniel Morcombe
|Date||7 December 2003|
Nambour Connection Road, Woombye, Queensland
Remains discovered near
Glass House Mountains, Queensland
|Suspect(s)||Brett Peter Cowan|
Deprivation of liberty
Indecent treatment of a child under 16
Interfering with a corpse
|Publication bans||Lifted after parents' request|
Daniel James Morcombe (19 December 1989 – 7 December 2003) was a 13-year-old Australian boy who was abducted from the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, on 7 December 2003. In August 2011, Brett Peter Cowan, a former Sunshine Coast resident, was charged with Morcombe's murder. In the same month, DNA tests confirmed bones found in an area being searched by the SES under the guidance of the police were Morcombe's.
Abduction and murder
Morcombe was abducted from an unofficial bus stop under the Kiel Mountain Road overpass in the Woombye district of the Sunshine Coast approximately 2 km north of The Big Pineapple on Sunday, 7 December 2003. Morcombe planned to catch the 1:35 pm bus to the Sunshine Plaza Shopping Centre for a haircut and to buy Christmas presents for his family, but he failed to return.
Witnesses reported seeing Morcombe at approximately 2:10 pm on the Nambour Connection Road under the Kiel Mountain Road overpass. The bus he was supposed to catch had broken down a few kilometres before his stop, and was behind schedule. When a replacement bus eventually arrived, Morcombe hailed the bus, but it carried on without stopping, due to its delay and the fact that his stop was only an unofficial request stop. The driver of the bus radioed the depot for another bus to go and pick up Morcombe. The bus driver and other witnesses later reported seeing a man standing a distance behind Morcombe and another man slightly further away at the time. When the second bus came a couple of minutes later, Morcombe and the man had both gone.
In 2011, Perth man Brett Peter Cowan was arrested and charged with Morcombe's abduction and murder. He confessed to having approached Morcombe to offer him a lift to the shopping centre. When Morcombe accepted, he drove him to a demountable house in the Beerwah area. Upon entering the house, Cowan attempted to pull down Morcombe's pants. When Morcombe resisted, Cowan killed him. Cowan then drove Morcombe's body to an embankment, undressing and abandoning it. Cowan disposed of Morcombe's clothing in a nearby river.
A blue 1980s model sedan, possibly a Toyota Corolla, with yellow New South Wales license plates, is believed to be the car used by the abductor(s). Morcombe owned a distinctive fob style pocket watch with "Dan" engraved on it, which has not been found.
The death of Daniel Morcombe is one of the most extensively investigated crimes in Queensland's history.
As of 12 December 2008, a total reward of $1,000,000 ($250,000 from the Government and another $750,000 donated privately) had been offered. The privately donated portion of the reward expired at midnight on 31 May 2009. On this day, the Seven Network reported that a known paedophile (identified by the media as Douglas Jackway), who had been released from prison in 2003 - one month before Morcombe's disappearance - could be of interest to the police.
By early 2009, the investigation had seemingly run out of leads, but in May a full-size clay model of the man believed to be involved in Morcombe's abduction was placed at the spot where Morcombe disappeared. Within a few days there were more than 300 tip-offs.
In June 2009, the Queensland Government came under criticism from Parliament over the release of Jackway from prison. One MP claimed the Supreme Court had presented clear evidence of his risk of reoffending. This publicity also prompted civil liberties groups to call for laws banning media outlets from naming people linked to criminal cases.
In July 2009, the parents of Morcombe called for a coronial inquest in the hope of finding answers to their son's abduction and murder. The Morcombes said that after 5½ years, it was time for an inquest. Of particular interest to the family are several criminals who have told police they know who killed Morcombe and where his body was buried.
On 13 August 2011, a Perth man was taken into custody and charged with Morcombe's murder and other offences, including child stealing, deprivation of liberty, indecent treatment of a child under 16, and interfering with a corpse. In 2006, the man had admitted to police that he travelled the road from which Morcombe disappeared on the same day of his disappearance, on his way to purchase marijuana from a drug dealer. The accused was subsequently named as 41-year-old Brett Peter Cowan (AKA Brett Peter Cohen).
Around this time, a white Mitsubishi Pajero was seized from a property on Russell Island. The vehicle was believed to have been involved in Morcombe's abduction after a witness at the coronial inquest in April 2011 reported seeing a vehicle of similar description parked 100 metres north of the site where Morcombe was last seen.
On 21 August 2011, two shoes and three human bones were found at a search site at Glass House Mountains. Forensic testing confirmed that the bones were Morcombe's. The shoes were similar to the ones that Morcombe was wearing when he disappeared. Underpants and a belt were also found. By the end of the investigation, seventeen bones had been found, including a rib, hip, leg, arm and vertebrae. They were all confirmed as belonging to Daniel using DNA from Daniel's toothbrush to make the match.
The Morcombe family started the "Daniel Morcombe Foundation", and has put its resources into keeping Morcombe's disappearance in the public eye and trying to find out what happened to their son. The foundation is committed to educating children about personal safety and to raising awareness throughout Australia of the dangers of predatory criminals. These efforts are supported by the Australian media, especially on each anniversary of Morcombe's disappearance when a "Day for Daniel" is held to promote awareness of the vulnerability of children. An accompanying event is the "Ride for Daniel", which covers 50 km of the Sunshine Coast, held each year since 2005.
- "Suspected killer of teen named in court at parents' request". The Sydney Morning Herald. 17 August 2011. Retrieved 8 October 2013.
- "Daniel Morcombe Foundation - The Investigation". Retrieved 23 January 2009.
- Kyriacou, Kate (6 February 2013). "Accused killer Brett Cowan claims to have only taken seconds to lure Daniel Morcombe away". News Corp Australia. Retrieved 7 December 2013.
- Shorten, Kristin (7 December 2013). "Daniel Morcombe was abducted 10 years ago today". News Corp Australia. Retrieved 7 December 2013.
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- Doneman, Paula (5 July 2009). "Parents want coronial inquest into Daniel Morcombe loss". News.com.au. Retrieved 8 October 2013.
- "Man charged with murder in Morcombe case". Sky News Australia. Retrieved 13 August 2011.
- Viellaris, Renee; Hall, Peter (14 August 2011). "Man, 41, charged with murder of Daniel Morcombe". news.com.au. Retrieved 1 August 2011 3.
- Flatley, Christine (16 August 2011). "Daniel Morcombe murder accused named as Brett Peter Cowan, 41, of Perth". news.com.au. Retrieved 28 August 2011.
- Dibben, Kay; Donaghy, Kathleen (28 August 2011). "Police investigating Daniel Morcombe disappearance seize four-wheel-drive on Russell Island". News.com.au. Retrieved 8 October 2013.
- Shorten, Kristin (21 August 2011). "Bones found at Daniel Morcombe search site". news.com.au. Retrieved 21 August 2011.
- Calligeros, Marissa (28 August 2011). "Police confirm remains were Daniel Morcombe's". Brisbane Times. Retrieved 28 August 2011.
- Walker, Jamie (28 August 2011). "Qld police say remains are Daniel Morcombe's". The Australian. Retrieved 28 August 2011.
- Atkinson, Bruce (7 December 2012). "Community farewells Daniel Morcombe". ABC News. Retrieved 8 October 2013.
- "Queenslanders to Ride for Daniel". ABC News. 21 June 2009. Retrieved 8 October 2013.
- "Tears for Daniel". foxtel.com.au. Retrieved 7 December 2012.