Daniel Morcombe’s murder trial has heard about DNA testing on his bones and an extensive search to find his remains eight years after he went missing.

Human bones found in isolated bushland on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast almost certainly belonged to murdered schoolboy Daniel Morcombe, a court has heard.

However, the exact cause of the 13-year-old’s death couldn’t be determined, the trial of his accused killer Brett Peter Cowan was told on Wednesday.

Jurors heard of the massive bushland search in the Sunshine Coast hinterland that uncovered more than a dozen partial bones and a pair of boy’s shoes in August and September 2011.

Forensic crime scene manager Inspector Arthur Van Panhuis said police divers, State Emergency Service (SES) volunteers, scientific experts and cadaver dogs were involved in the search of an old sand mine, a macadamia farm and bushland near a creek at the Glass House Mountains.

Insp Van Panhuis said metal detectors, sieves and an excavator were also employed in the meticulous hunt, in which 500 cubic metres of sand was shifted.

“It was an extremely intensive search,” he told the Supreme Court in Brisbane.

A boy’s shoe was found within four days and within a month police had recovered a second shoe and 17 partial bones belonging to a human aged in their early teens.

DNA from an upper arm and thigh was compared with DNA from Daniel’s mother and brothers.

“It was an exact match,” microbiologist Dr Dadna Hartman told the court.

Forensic pathologist Dr Peter Ellis who conducted the autopsy agreed with crown prosecutor Glen Cash that it was impossible to determine the cause of death.

The prosecution is arguing Daniel died when Cowan allegedly grabbed him around the neck in a choke hold and applied pressure after the boy resisted his attempts to molest him.

Under cross examination by Cowan’s barrister Angus Edwards, Dr Ellis said irreversible brain damage occurs about four minutes after airway compression.

If oxygen supply continues to be interrupted death occurs within “a small number of minutes” after that, Dr Ellis said.

The witness said the bones in a boy’s neck were soft and wouldn’t break easily from a choke hold and, if they did, he would be surprised if the break made a noise.

Jurors were also shown a photo of the demountable house in which Daniel was allegedly killed.

The farmer who owned the property said it was used to house tobacco farmers but had been abandoned by 2003 and all that remained inside was carpet and a kitchen.

The house has since been removed, farmer Drewe Gowen said.

Daniel was 13 when he vanished while waiting for a bus at Woombye on the Sunshine Coast in December 2003.

Cowan, 44, has been charged with murder, indecent treatment of a child and interference with a corpse.

The trial continues.