There are so many words to describe Bruce Morcombe and his wife Denise. Brave, strong and inspirational are just a few.
What the Morcombes have endured in the last 10 years, most of us will never comprehend. Yet through the trauma of losing their young son Daniel at the hands of a pedophile, Bruce and Denise have dedicated their lives to educating and protecting children all over the country.
Bruce and Denise have released a book, Where is Daniel?, a 610 page account of what their family has gone through since the day Daniel was taken in 2003.
I caught up with Bruce to find out more about this compelling read and to find out how the family has coped throughout the last decade.
Bruce, I see the title Where is Daniel? and I just think that must take you back to that time. You must think, how did we get through this?
It was very challenging to go through the editing process and relive all those moments, of course. And I’m sure 20 readers would get 20 different outcomes of what it meant to them. Some might find it a crying novel and for others it’ll be about life’s journey and dealing with the dark side of things. There’s a bit in it for everybody.
Tell me about the title. How did you come up with it?
Sometimes simplest is best. One of the very first things we did when Daniel went missing was a little bit from left field, we got an old entrance door and placed that at the underpass (where Daniel went missing) and on the entrance door we put some red ribbons, red symbolizing the red T-Shirt Daniel was wearing. We put a key on the door, suggesting we need a key to open the door to solve this puzzle, but most importantly on the door we wrote some simple messages. In big letters right at the top we wrote Where is Daniel? So we just carried that right through.
How did you and Denise sit down and put the book together?
We put all our ideas and concepts and everything in a nice timeline so people can pick it up whether they know a little bit or a lot about Daniel’s disappearance, the police investigation, the court case or just how the foundation was established and how we coped as a family. Putting all of that down was a lengthy process; [it took] most weekends over a two year period. That’s how it all came together. We had years of media cuttings that we’d kept in a cupboard so we referred to all of those.
I know every mum and dad in Australia admires the work that you’ve done, but are there times when it’s too exhausting to keep going?
It’s not so much ‘exhausting’, it’s actually one of the most uplifting things we do. As I’m talking to you we’re in Rockhampton about to do a school, then we’ll pack up and drive five hours to Emerald to do another school this afternoon. And later on in the week we’ll zip out to Moranbah to speak out there.
Meeting the kids is really important, because no longer do they sit there and think, ‘Oh no, another boring safety message’. As soon as we start talking they think, ‘Hey, Daniel was an ordinary kid from an ordinary family, and he found himself in a situation he couldn’t control’. They think they better listen in case they find themselves in a similar situation.
Bruce, is the book going to be confronting to read? Because you’ve really delved into things people sometimes don’t want to know about…
I don’t think there’s too much that will be difficult for somebody to read. There have been a lot of people who’ve read it and given usfeed back and there’s been some tears here and there. Many of them found details about the investigation that were new to them.
Chapter 28 is about bringing Daniel home and people will say, ‘Wow, I didn’t know all that happened behind the scenes’. It is a tough subject but when the remains of a loved one are found they will be returned once forensic testing is complete. But that was not the case for us, and truly, we could be sitting here still waiting for Daniel’s funeral. And that’s what we tried to identify. It was not easy, we had to make many appeals and say, ‘This is unfair’. We wanted to clear the path for someone else who may walk in our footsteps.
How do you keep putting one foot in front of the other?
It’s about not thinking about yourself too much. You have to think about people that might walk in your footsteps down the track; you can make it easier for them.
Where do the proceeds go from the book?
A percentage of the book does go to the Daniel Morcombe Foundation to keep us functioning. We have some exciting projects coming up, like the Keeping Kids Safe DVD for younger students right up to teenagers. That’ll teach kids about being safe so they appreciate the potential dangers, whether that’s in the street or in the park, and for the older ones it’s about being safe online or with their mobile phones.
You’ve taught me something today — that if there’s a great loss in your life, you should think outwards of yourself!
It is about caring for others, and sometimes it’s not the first thing you’d think of, because it might be easier to sit in the chair and say, ‘Today it’s not worth it, I won’t do anything’, or, ‘Why has this happened to me?’ But it’s very much about not focusing on your own negative thoughts and making sure you can help someone else.
And there is some happy news — you have a wedding coming up?
Yes, in a week! Bradley, Daniel’s twin, is getting married and that’ll be a magnificent and happy family occasion.