Daniel Morcombe inquest uncovers 'inadequate response' in police investigation

Daniel Morcombe's parents meet Madeleine McCanns parents | Daily Mail OnlineThe six-year-long inquest into the abduction and murder of Queensland schoolboy Daniel Morcombe wrapped up Thursday with a litany of issues flagged throughout the near decade. The Brisbane Coroners Court this week heard Daniel was originally treated as a "teenage runaway" when he was reported missing.

That was one of a litany of concerns and criticisms found throughout the investigation, including a snail's pace following up on leads and evidence, statements not taken and a failure to put the "prime suspect" under surveillance, the Courier-Mail reports.

Brett Peter Cowan is serving a life sentence after being found guilty in 2014 of murdering the 13-year-old schoolboy, whom he abducted from the Sunshine Coast in December 2003.

The inquest into Daniel Morcombe's abduction and murder concluded this week, six years after it began.  The coronial inquest into Daniel's disappearance began in 2010 but was postponed while Cowan faced criminal proceedings and exhausted his appeals.

Cowan had luck on his side from the moment he snatched Daniel from a Sunshine Coast roadside, the inquest heard.

Police initially assumed Daniel would just "turn up", which the coroner found to be an "inadequate" response, the newspaper reports.

Tragically Daniel was dead before anyone realised he had disappeared.

Counsel assisting Peter Johns said officers at Maroochydore police station did not appreciate Daniel's disappearance was out of character, however their actions were consistent with police policy at the time.

“There was an inappropriate assumption made that this was a case of a teenage runaway, or that Daniel was someone who should be treated as being presumed to turn up,” he said.

The inquest also heard Cowan had been incredibly lucky in managing to coax Daniel away without leaving any forensic evidence or being identified in a more definitive manner.

Mr Johns praised the elaborate sting operation that resulted in Cowan's confession as well as the tireless efforts of Daniel's parents Bruce and Denise, who he said had campaigned so much for child safety reform that there was little the coroner could recommend.

Despite numerous police shortcomings, the Morcombes conceded they may have never found their son's body if Cowan had been arrested any earlier.

Cowan's 2014 trial in the Brisbane Supreme Court heard the schoolboy was almost certainly killed within an hour of being taken, asphyxiated by his abductor as he resisted his sexual advances.

The convicted pedophile was one of the 33 persons of interest initially identified in Daniel's case but the inquest heard he was not put under surveillance despite the strong belief of detectives Dennis Martyn and Kenneth King that he was the key suspect.

Queensland Assistant Police Commissioner Mike Condon told the inquest on Wednesday there was not enough evidence to direct resources towards investigating Cowan and there was really only a "gut feeling" about his involvement.

Two former police officers tasked with checking Cowan's alibi levelled incendiary testimony during the inquiry, saying their recommendations of surveillance were ignored.

Daniel was initially treated as a 'teenage runaway', despite that being out of character. Source: Supplied
The inquest also heard police spent a lot of time chasing an "enormous red herring" - a blue car that was witnessed by more than 80 people at the abduction site.

Cowan's car was white.

Police did examine Cowan's vehicle on Christmas Eve but hair taken from the seats and boot was not tested properly for DNA until 2011 because the state did not previously have the technology, the court heard.

Cowan has exhausted all avenues of appeal. Source: 7 News
Mr Johns said there was no evidence of a conspiracy in the investigation into Cowan.

"Cowan was incredibly lucky in managing to coax Daniel away without leaving any forensic evidence or being identified in a more definitive matter," Mr Johns said.

"He had no prospect of ever being caught for this offence unless he admitted himself to having done it and shown police exactly where he had placed Daniel's body."

Mr Johns said the elaborate sting operation that resulted in Cowan's confession was noteworthy, as was the tireless efforts of Daniel's parents who have successfully campaigned for so much child safety reform there was little that the coroner could recommend.

Outside court, Bruce and Denise Morcombe said their first priority had always been to find their son's remains.

"Who was guilty and who was responsible for that crime for us was always second priority," Mr Morcombe said.

"It is a very sad answer, but it is an answer.

"If indeed there was an earlier arrest of Cowan we may never have (found) Daniel."

The coroner is expected to deliver his findings next year.

Cowan is serving a life sentence after being found guilty and has exhausted his appeal options.

Source : https://au.news.yahoo.com/qld/a/33583425/red-herrings-and-wrong-assumptions-daniel-morcombe-inquest-concludes/#page1

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