Disappearance of William Tyrrell
Photo of Tyrrell in a Spider-Man costume taken a few minutes before he disappeared
|Born||26 June 2011|
|Disappeared||12 September 2014 (aged 3)|
Kendall, New South Wales, Australia
|Status||Missing for 5 years|
William Tyrrell (born 26 June 2011) is an Australian boy who disappeared at the age of 3 from Kendall, New South Wales, on 12 September 2014. He had been playing at his foster grandmother's house with his sister, and was wearing a Spider-Man suit at the time of his disappearance. Tyrrell is believed to have been abducted.
Despite extensive investigations, as of 21 June 2019[update], five years after his disappearance, Tyrrell has not been found, or his abductor(s) identified. On 12 September 2016, two years after his disappearance, a reward of A$1 million was offered for the recovery of William and does not require the arrest, charging or conviction of any person or persons.
- 1 Disappearance
- 2 Investigation
- 3 Parents, legal matters and criticism
- 4 Current status
- 5 See also
- 6 References
- 7 External links
On 11 September 2014, William Tyrrell, his foster parents and his five-year-old sister travelled four hours from Sydney to visit his foster grandmother in Kendall. His grandmother's house on Benaroon Drive is directly across the bushland road from the Kendall State Forest, about 35 kilometres (22 mi) south of Port Macquarie. Between 10 and 10:25 am on 12 September, Tyrrell and his sister were playing hide-and-seek in the front and back yard, while his mother and grandmother were sitting outside watching them. His mother went inside to make a cup of tea; she became worried after she had not heard him for five minutes and began searching the yard and house. Shortly after, Tyrrell's father returned after going to Lakewood on business and began searching the street and door-knocking neighbours. At 10:56, his mother phoned 000 emergency services to report him missing and the police arrived at 11:06. His mother's last memory was that Tyrrell was imitating a tiger's roar "raaaarrrr" while running towards the side of the home, and then there was silence and he had disappeared.
Initial search efforts
Hundreds of police, members of State Emergency Services, Rural Fire Service and members of the community searched day and night for Tyrrell. Specialist police, including the sex crimes squad form Strike Force were immediately formed. Motorcycles and helicopters were brought in to search. Two hundred volunteers searched overnight, hundreds of people combed rugged terrain around the home and police divers searched waterways and dams. The police searched every house in the estate that surrounds Benaroon Drive several times. The police detection dogs were brought in and they managed to detect Tyrrell's scent, but only within the boundaries of the backyard. "Strike Force Rosann" was established with specially trained investigators from the State Crime Command who are experienced in the unexplained disappearance of young children. They supported the police, other emergency services workers and members of the public involved in the search. After five days, police said they were unable to come up with any leads.
The police later began investigations into finding the drivers of two cars that were seen parked on the dead end road on the morning Tyrrell disappeared. The cars, described as a white station wagon and an older-style grey sedan, were parked between two driveways of the acre lot of land. They were seen with their driver's side windows down and were unknown in the neighborhood where locals are friends. These cars were noticed by Tyrrell's mother and they have not been seen again since the time he disappeared. The police regard these particular vehicles with suspicion, as there seemed to be no logical reason why they would be parked on the street before William's disappearance. Reportedly, at 9 am, a green or grey sedan car drove past the Tyrrell home while William and his sister were riding bikes in the driveway. The car drove into the no through road, did a U turn in the neighbour's driveway and drove out of the street. Secondly, another 4WD was sighted driving out of Benaroon Drive at about 10:30 am, about the time he disappeared. The same vehicle was later seen speeding down another Kendall street. The police said that they have known about these cars since the investigation started. However, as part of investigative strategy, the information about these vehicles was not released to the public until 12 months after Tyrrell disappeared.
Suspected paedophile ring
The police cleared Tyrrell's family of any involvement in the disappearance and earlier believed the boy was abducted by an opportunistic stranger who may have a connection with a paedophile ring. The police also believed that the boy could be alive in the hands of a group of people suspected of paedophile activity, but it is no longer believed the kidnapper is a member of a paedophile ring. The police have interviewed dozens of people including a number of paedophiles. A Current Affair reported that about 20 registered sex offenders were living in the surrounding area of Kendall where Tyrrell went missing.
Two persons of interest in the case, both convicted paedophiles, may have met up on the day Tyrrell vanished. The family of one paedophile, who had 90 convictions against his name including aggravated indecent assault of a minor, said he was going to visit another child sex offender on that day and returned home drunk that afternoon. But he told police he spent that day in the bush collecting scrap metal. It was reported that both men lived in the Kendall area and had been driving vehicles that matched the description of the grey sedan and white station wagon that had been seen near the Tyrrell house around the time he disappeared. They also had been members of an organisation called GAPA (Grandparents As Parents Again) and were friends. The pair have both been questioned by the police and they categorically denied being friends, or having any involvement in the disappearance.
Another man who repaired a washing machine at Tyrrell's home is facing[needs update] unrelated historical child sex charges in Victoria and was due to appear in court on 4 July 2016. The police had charged the man with multiple child sexual offences, including various counts of indecent assault and sexual intercourse with children between 1983 and 1985 in Victoria. The man posted an online video in September 2015 denying any involvement in the Tyrrell disappearance and that he had been to the Tyrrell home on 9 and 18 September but not to that street on 12 September, the day Tyrrell disappeared.
About 1,078 suspected sightings were reported to the investigation team in the two years after Tyrrell disappeared. It includes a photo taken of a man, and a young boy from Queensland, who looked strikingly similar to Tyrrell. However, 24 hours later, the police received another call to confirm that the boy was not him. In early 2015, two passengers and a member of the New Zealand-bound flight crew thought they saw Tyrrell on their aeroplane. The police met the aircraft at the airport and soon discovered it was not him. Another photo came across to the police showing a young boy and a woman in a McDonald's restaurant in Central Queensland. The boy looked similar to Tyrrell, and the woman who was with the boy looked like his grandmother. The police later confirmed that the mother and boy were not them.
Strike Force Rosann
On 16 September 2014, Strike Force Rosann was established to investigate Tyrrell's disappearance. It consists of 14 detectives and analysts working full-time to solve the case. The team will also sift through hundreds of pieces of information pouring in from the public. The ramped-up investigation comes after a personal plea from Tyrell's parents to members of State Parliament, Deputy Premier and Minister for Justice, at a private event in late 2015. The family spokesperson said that "They just want to reinforce that police believe he could still be alive and they're just asking members of the public not to give up on him." The investigation is now the state's largest, involving dozens of analysts, investigators and two strike forces, Rosann, run by the Homicide Squad, and Rosann Two, which provides assistance from the Armed Holdup, Sex Crimes and Fraud Squads.
One million dollar reward
On 12 September 2016, the second anniversary of Tyrrell's disappearance, the NSW government announced a $1 million reward for information on his whereabouts. The police say that the reward will usually be paid out as conditional on the arrest and conviction of the offender, but the recovery of Tyrrell had been added as a condition on this reward. It is the largest ever reward offered to find a missing person in NSW's history and double the amount of the state's previously highest standing reward of $500,000, attached to the 1999 case of murdered teenager Michelle Bright.
The case has led to a record number of over 2,800 calls to NSW Crime Stoppers alone since Tyrrell disappeared. The police have interviewed more than one thousand people in connection with the case. There have been 11000 documents created by the police. The search has gone global as far as Europe and the US. Crime Stoppers websites in up to 26 countries have been asked by the Australian Federal Police to post an appeal for information about the case. The police have identified 690 persons of interest to their inquiry and have called in other specialist squads within the State Crime Command to investigate many such persons as low-priority targets so that the rest are being questioned by "Strike Force Rosann". The Australian reported that it is possible detectives have already interviewed the person or persons involved.
On 12 June 2018, police announced that they will undertake a "large-scale forensic search" in bushland around Kendall, which will last for three to four weeks and be run by search experts from the Public Order and Riot Squad.
Parents, legal matters and criticism
Tyrrell was in foster care at the time of his disappearance which prevented his parents from being named for legal reasons. The legal reasons bound by the legislation prevented them being identified publicly or holding any press conferences for the purpose of appealing publicly about their missing son. On 24 August 2017, the New South Wales Supreme Court of Appeal ruled that Tyrrell's status as a foster child and the fact he disappeared while in state care with foster parents was "one of legitimate public interest". His parents were previously allowed to speak during a 60 Minutes interview on the condition that they did not show their faces. The father of murdered teenager Daniel Morcombe had criticised the NSW government's refusal to allow Tyrrell's parents to speak publicly about their son's disappearance as it was vital in helping to generate information that was then followed up by the police. They also feared the decision may have hindered the police investigation during the crucial weeks following Tyrrell's disappearance. But the NSW government released a statement saying its "key priority is to always act in the interests of the safety and wellbeing of children and not in any way to jeopardise ongoing police investigations".
Despite various search efforts by the police and the forensic testing which failed to turn up any trace of Tyrrell or clues about his disappearance, police have yet to conclude what actually happened to him. Chief Inspector Gary Jubelin commented that the investigation into the disappearance of Tyrrell remains a priority for the NSW Police Force and said that the investigators would treat the case as though he was alive, until they had evidence proving otherwise. On 20 February 2016, a police spokesperson said that the ongoing investigation was one of the biggest investigations being run by homicide and that they have not given up hope of finding Tyrrell alive.
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