Morcombe treated as runaway: Police defend investigation

Daniel Morcombe's killer Brett Peter Cowan could have been caught sooner, an inquest has heard.
Daniel Morcombe's killer Brett Peter Cowan could have been caught sooner, an inquest has heard.

UPDATE: NOTHING police could have done would have saved Daniel Morcombe and it's unrealistic to expect his killer should have been arrested a day sooner.

That's what Queensland Coroner Terry Ryan has been asked to find as the final legal chapter in the 13-year investigation into the disappearance of the slain Sunshine Coast teenager comes to an end.

This is despite the account of two former officers who told the inquest they suspected Brett Peter Cowan as the killer as early as two weeks after Daniel disappeared and believed the convicted paedophile should have been placed under surveillance.

One of the officers, former Senior Constable Dennis Martyn claimed he went to Queensland Assistant Commissioner of police Mike Condon and said Cowan was "your man" but was told to "f*** off".

Ass Com Condon later rebuked the statement as "outrageous" and said it amounted to perjury.

In closing the inquest on Wednesday, Counsel Assisting the Coroner Peter Johns said that while it was open to find that the initial police response to Daniel's missing person's report was inadequate - he was presumed a teenage runaway until the following day - the investigation that followed was professional and conducted in good faith.

He said that while there could have been covert strategies implemented earlier and a more "active" response to certain DNA samples, things were "different in hindsight" and overall the investigation was conducted in "good faith" and with the best information police had at the time.

He also praised the efforts of the undercover police officers who were ultimately able to draw a confession from Cowan, describing the sting as "possibly the most elaborate, clever, well-executed police operation ever carried out in Australia. 

Bruce and Denise Morcombe and Counsel Assisting the police commissioner will make written submissions to the Coroner.

Findings will be released on a date to be set next year.

EARLIER: QUEENSLAND'S assistant police commissioner says there was not enough evidence to arrest Daniel Morcombe's killer until years after he was first interviewed by police. 

Taking the stand at an inquest into the teenager's abduction and death on Wednesday, Queensland Assistant Commissioner Mike Condon hit back at claims the now convicted Brett Cowan was the obvious suspect in the disappearance as early as two weeks into the investigation.

It came after two former police officers told the inquest they believed Cowan should have been under surveillance from the moment he was identified as a person of interest on December 21, 2003.

Ass Com Condon went further to say that up until 2011, when Cowan was arrested and charged with Daniel's murder, he "would never have approved his arrest regardless of the opinion of others".

Even then Ass Com said, he still had reservations about whether some of the evidence against Cowan would withstand the scrutiny of the Supreme Court and any subsequent appeal.

Ass Com said that looking back the case "not from the arm chair after it has been solved" but based on the evidence presented to police at the time, he was comfortable with the decisions he had made.  

He said that while Cowan's criminal history and his loose alibi were "interesting" to police, the "gut feeling" of the officers who had interviewed the known paedophile was not enough to justify an arrest.

He also rejected the suggestion the white car seen by two witnesses should have been factored into the investigation, stressing that more than 80 witnesses who described seeing two men and a blue sedan had led him down another path.

"There was no direct evidence implicating Cowan in that offence," Ass Com Condon said

"My job is to apply finite resources to where I think the information is taking us.

"I make no apologies for those decisions I made…they were made in good faith and I stand by them."

EARLIER: AN INVESTIGATOR in the Daniel Morcombe case knew he had found the teenager's killer just weeks after he disappeared but was allegedly told to f*** off by one of the state's most senior police officers.

Giving evidence on Wednesday at an inquest into Daniel's abduction and death, former Detective Sergeant Dennis Martyn said out of the 20 plus paedophiles he was tasked to interview in December, 2003, Brett Peter Cowan was the only one with the right motive and gaps in his alibi. 

He said he approached Queensland's now Assistant Commissioner of Police Mike Condon in the hallway of the Maroochydore police station where a Major Incident Room had been established and said "he's your man" to which his superior allegedly replied "f*** off, you wouldn't know anything".

Both Mr Martyn and his former colleague Kenneth King have expressed their frustration at the lack of follow up by investigating officers after Cowan was flagged as a potential suspect in the earliest stages of the investigation.

Mr Martyn, who had just transferred out of a covert police unit when he was briefly assigned to the investigation, said his instincts told him Cowan was the likely culprit and he should have been placed under surveillance.

For him, another telling factor was Cowan's change in sexual behaviour and his appearance around the time of the crime.

He said Cowan's wife had admitted that his preference for anal sex increased in the weeks beforehand and had ceased around the time Daniel disappeared. Cowan had also had a haircut and shaved his goatee by the time police first knocked on his door. Mr Martyn said that in his experience, paedophiles "run themselves down and have nothing else to think about" until they commit an act and that they then mad changes in the "honeymoon period" that followed.

He said he and his former colleague Kenneth King were so concerned about Cowan they compiled a report of up to seven pages detailing his history of sexually assaulting boys and his movements on the day - 45minutes to an hour of which he was unable to account for.

The inquest, which adjourned six years ago when Cowan was identified as the key suspect, resumed on Wednesday at the request of Daniel's parents Bruce and Denise Morcombe.

Outside court, they told reporters while it was difficult to hear evidence which suggested Cowan could have been arrested seven years earlier, the inquest was not about criticising police but ensuring no other families had to follow in their footsteps.

"It's very un-nerving - there's no question about that," Mr Morcombe said

"At the end of the day that information was (eventually) successful in getting a guilty verdict.

But the time delay raises some questions and that is the purpose of today and tomorrow … to see if it could be done in more of a timely manner and get the same result."

The inquest continues.

EARLIER: DANIEL Morcombe's killer could have been caught sooner if police had put surveillance on then suspect Brett Peter Cowan in the weeks following the teenager's disappearance.

That's what former Queensland police officer Kenneth King has told an inquest which will look at the methods used in the investigation into Daniel's abduction and death.

Mr King is giving evidence about the moment he met Cowan on Dec 21, 2003 - two weeks after Daniel disappeared from a Sunshine Coast bus stop. He and another officer, Dennis Martyn, were tasked to interview known paedophiles in the area. 

Coroner Terry Ryan has ruled that former Rockhampton top cop and now Assistant Commissioner Mike Condon should wait outside the courtroom while Mr King and Mr Martyn give evidence. 

Mr King told the inquest he quickly became suspicious of Cowan who was "a little bit too co-operative", telling officers he had driven past the crime scene on the day in question and providing other helpful information.

He said he got "the impression of guilt" from Cowan who he believed was "keeping his lies close to the truth because he didn't have an alibi".

By the time the two officers returned to Cowan's house the following day, they were aware he had a history of sexually abusing young boys.

Mr King said that while they were at Cowan's home he and Mr Martyn went to great lengths to give him the impression they were carrying out routine inquiries due to his background. 

When they returned to their crime command however, the officers wrote a report detailing Cowan's history, lack of Alibi, his admissions to being near the bus stop on the day and his likeness to one of the comfits.

They then briefed a room of 30-40 officers describing Cowan as a "strong suspect".

The inquest is expected to hear that one of the reasons the report wasn't immediately followed up was there was nothing that connected Cowan, who drove a white Pajero, to the blue car which was considered the vehicle of interest at the time.

Mr King said on Wednesday that he did not understand why such significance was placed on the blue car when there was no forensic evidence linking it to the crime and at least two witnesses had told police they saw a white car parked across the road from the bus stop.

He accepted there were "countless" Sunshine Coast sex offenders being interviewed and the name of one in particular - child rapist Douglas Jackway - was being "thrown around" at the time, but believed the information he had on Cowan should have elevated him to "key suspect".

He also said that while it was impossible to conduct the investigation through hindsight he did not accept "that given the large number of experienced detectives that a first rate plan couldn't have been executed very quickly".

"I would have put a surveillance team on him immediately…I would have taken out search warrants …I would have gone to the absolute limits of the law," he said

The inquest continues.


Morcombe inquest: Bruce and Denise ready for answers

BRUCE and Denise Morcombe have arrived at the all too familiar Brisbane courts precinct as the inquest into the abduction and murder of their son Daniel resumes.

Wearing the Daniel Morcombe Foundation's signature colour, red, the parents who never gave up are putting their emotions on the line once again in the hope the inquest process will help prevent others from experiencing their pain.

With their son's killer Brett Peter Cowan behind bars, the Morcombes have turned their attention to methodology used in the biggest police investigation in Queensland's history.

As requested by the Morcombe family, Queensland Coroner Terry Ryan will resume the inquest which was adjourned six years ago when Cowan was identified as the key person of interest and later charged with Daniel's murder.

In a statement released ahead of the inquest, the Morcombes said the inquest was a "unique opportunity" to examine what worked and what could have been better in the days, weeks and years that followed Daniel's disappearance. 

The inquest will resume at 9.30am Wednesday and is expected to run for two days.


WATCH: Mike Condon speaks in 2014 about the Daniel Morcombe coronial inquest 




Daniel Morcombe inquest resumes at request of family

The Coroner's Inquest into the abduction and death of Daniel Morcombe will resume in Brisbane today at the request of the Morcombe family.

Daniel's remains were uncovered following a sophisticated sting that ensnared his killer, Brett Peter Cowan, who was convicted of the 13-year-old's murder in 2013.

Bruce and Denise Morcombe, who spent more than a decade searching for Daniel, have issued the following statement welcoming the move:

"Our son Daniel was abducted and murdered more than 13 years ago.

"This triggered what is believed to be the largest police investigations in Queensland and one of the largest in Australia.

"Globally, it is believed to be second only to Madeleine McCann's disappearance in terms of public interest, primarily driven by traditional media and social media.

"Our family acknowledges and thank: Police, SES volunteers, forensic experts, Department of Justice, media, businesses and individuals who collectively contributed in finding Daniel's remains and having a guilty man rightfully convicted and now serving a life sentence.

"Our request to Queensland State Coroner Terry Ryan for a resumption of the coronial inquest has been granted and we thank him for that decision. The purpose of the resumption is to complete a process that was started, then adjourned, six years ago.

"This is a unique opportunity and a valuable one. To let it pass helps nobody, because rarely, if ever before, has an inquest commenced with 33 persons of interest and a missing child; and this process elevates one person, dismisses 32 and a family are provided the opportunity to lay that loved one to rest.

"Now we have the answers, the resumption will focus on investigative methodology. What systems worked and what could have been done better.

"As tragic as Daniel's case is, there will be another, and another; they will walk in our shoes.

"If we help one family's tragic case reach a conclusion and not have it destined to become a cold case then the resumption has a purpose and is worth it."

The inquest will resume at 9am Wednesday in the Brisbane Magistrates Court.

Topics:  bruce and denise morcombe daniel morcombe editors picks

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