Bruce and Denise Morcombe leave the Magistrates Court in Brisbane, Thursday, Dec. 15, 2016. They have attended an inquest into the police response to the disappearance and subsequent murder of their son Daniel in 2003 on the Sunshine Coast.
Bruce and Denise Morcombe leave the Magistrates Court in Brisbane, Thursday, Dec. 15, 2016. They have attended an inquest into the police response to the disappearance and subsequent murder of their son Daniel in 2003 on the Sunshine Coast. DAN PELED

'No-one but Cowan to blame for Daniel's death'

NOTHING police could have done would have saved Daniel Morcombe.

And it's unrealistic to criticise officers for not arresting his killer sooner.

That's the view Queensland Coroner Terry Ryan has been asked to accept as the final legal chapter in the 13-year investigation into the disappearance of the slain Sunshine Coast teenager nears its end.

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

One of the officers, former Senior Constable Dennis Martyn even claimed he went to Queensland Assistant Commissioner of Police Mike Condon in December, 2003 and said Cowan "is your man" but was told to "f**k off".

Asst Comm Condon later rebuked the statement as "outrageous" and said it amounted to perjury.

The officer in charge of the homicide investigation had been banned from the court room while the two men, who have since left the police force, gave evidence.

He told the court he stood by the decisions made at the time, in particular the choice to pursue a blue sedan as the key vehicle of interest rather that the white car that was also seen by witnesses on the day and eventually linked to Cowan.

In the final hours of the inquest it was revealed DNA samples including hairs taken from Cowan's white Pajero in the weeks following Daniel's disappearance were not examined until eight years later, when he was the key person of interest.

Queensland police forensic officer, Inspector Darren Pobar, said the technology of the day meant testing the samples was a laborious process which often yielded little result.

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 the missing person's report was inadequate - he was presumed a teenage runaway until the following day - it would not have made a difference as Daniel had already been killed by the time his parents realised he was missing.

Mr Johns said the blue sedan evidence, corroborated by more than 80 witnesses, was a "massive red herring" which unfortunately led officers down the wrong path but that the investigation was carried out in "good faith". He conceded an "active" response to certain DNA samples may have been useful but did not believe there was any evidence that a covert operation targeting Cowan any earlier would have led to "any admission being made".

Instead, he praised the efforts of the undercover police officers who were ultimately able to draw a confession from Cowan, describing the sting in which they posed as gang members, as "possibly the most elaborate, clever, well-executed police operation ever carried out in this country".

Bruce and Denise Morcombe and counsel assisting the police commissioner will make written submissions to the Coroner.

Outside court, the Morcombes, who face what would have been Daniel's 27th birthday on Monday, said they were looking forward to Christmas with their first grandchild and continuing their efforts to help keep children safe.

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

- ARM Newsdesk



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