Daniel Morcombe, 13, was almost certainly dead within an hour of going missing in 2003 after he was abducted, taken to an abandoned house and choked.
Queensland schoolboy Daniel Morcombe’s accused killer was tricked into confessing to his murder eight years on in an elaborate undercover police operation, a court has heard.
Daniel Morcombe, 13, was almost certainly dead within an hour of going missing in 2003 after he was abducted, taken to an abandoned house and choked, prosecutors say.
Details of the sophisticated police ruse that led to Brett Peter Cowan confessing to the murder in August 2011 emerged on Tuesday during the second day of Cowan’s trial.
During his opening address, Crown Prosecutor Michael Byrne QC said undercover police officers posing as members of a powerful criminal gang befriended Cowan, 44, in April 2011, when he was living in or near Perth.
Mr Byrne said the group involved Cowan in dozens of fake criminal activities during a period of months and convinced him that to become a full member of the gang, he had to demonstrate his trustworthiness.
In August 2011, Cowan allegedly told a covert officer during a secretly recorded conversation that he’d abducted Daniel from the side of the road and taken him to a secluded, abandoned house near Beerwah in the Sunshine Coast hinterland to molest him.
“I never got to molest him and he panicked and I panicked and I grabbed him by the throat and before I could, he was dead,” Cowan was quoted as saying.
“I didn’t, um, like, I had no intention of knocking him at all. I just wanted to have some fun with him,” he allegedly told another covert officer.
“(I) grabbed him back in the house and choked him out.”
Mr Byrne said Cowan killed Daniel by putting his arm around his neck and applying pressure while wanting to stop the boy’s resistance to his advances.
Jurors were told Daniel’s body was then dragged down an embankment, and the boy’s clothes were thrown into a creek.
But Cowan’s defence lawyer Angus Edwards told the jury his client had made a false confession because he wanted to remain a part of what he believed was a national crime syndicate.
“I’m sure you might be surprised to hear that people have been known to falsely confess to high-profile murders and this case is no different,” he said.
Daniel’s parents, Bruce and Denise, were called as the first witnesses, and separately told the court how they searched fruitlessly for Daniel when he didn’t return home from a trip to a shopping centre to buy the family Christmas presents.
The couple never heard from him again, Mr Morcombe said.
Under cross examination by Cowan’s defence barrister , Mr Morcombe agreed Daniel had been told many times not to talk to strangers.
“He was a very shy boy,” he said.
Mr Morcombe agreed Daniel wasn’t the type to get into cars with strangers and also agreed that if someone tried to talk to him he would politely have nothing to do with them.
“He would never initiate conversation,” Mr Morcombe said.
Mr Edwards told the court a convicted pedophile named Douglas Jackway had been released from prison a month before Daniel’s disappearance.
Jackway was in the area at the time and would likely have driven past the stretch of road from which Daniel disappeared on the same day, Mr Edwards said.
The trial in Brisbane’s Supreme Court continues.