Cowan guilty of Morcombe murder

Brett Peter Cowan
Brett Peter Cowan

Brett Peter Cowan has been found guilty of the murder of 13-year-old schoolboy Daniel Morcombe.

The six men and six women of the jury have found the 44-year-old father of three guilty of all three charges against him: murder, indecently dealing with a child under the age of 16 and improperly dealing with a corpse.

The judge's associate asked the jury: "Do you find the defendant Brett Peter Cowan, also known as Shaddo N-unyah Hunter, guilty or not guilty of murder?"

The jury's speaker replied, "Guilty."

Daniel Morcombe's death was quick, but callous.

Within an hour of being lured from a bus stop on Nambour Connection Road under the Kiel Mountain Road overpass on the afternoon of Sunday, December 7, 2003, he was dead and his body dumped in an overgrown, old sand mining site less than 40 kilometres away.

His disappearance triggered the largest police investigation in Queensland's history, which culminated in an elaborate covert operation that would successfully extract a detailed confession from the schoolboy's killer.

Cowan emerged as a suspect in the case just two weeks after Daniel disappeared. His white Mitsubishi Pajero was dusted for fingerprints and tested for traces of blood, but no incriminating evidence was found and the lead ran cold.

Yet, police never discounted their suspect.

Eight years later, Cowan would become the target of an elaborate and sophisticated undercover police operation in which covert operatives assumed the identities of criminal gang members.

After four months, Cowan led police to Daniel's remains. That would be the decisive factor in the Crown case against him.

Cowan took the undercover operatives to a macadamia farm and a defunct sand mining site off Kings Road in the Glass House Mountains.

"That's where it happened," Cowan told them.

He then led them to a bridge over Coochin Creek where he said he had thrown Daniel's clothes.

Seventeen bones, as well as his two sandshoes, were eventually found at the sand mining site.

His Ripcurl shorts and the elastic band of his Bonds underwear were found in the creek, metres from the bridge.

"So how, you might wonder, did the defendant get the right sand mining site? There are quite a few of them around the Sunshine Coast," Crown prosecutor Michael Byrne, QC, told the jury.

"And yet, he not only got the right sand mining site, he got the right bridge ...

"He travels from the other side of the country, nearly eight years after Daniel Morcombe went missing ... and takes police to an isolated area, a secluded spot ...

"He says where he dumped the body and it turns out to be ... something between 50 and 70 metres away from where the majority of the bones were found. You might think, no one is that unlucky.

"He could have only have known that from his personal involvement in the events, because he killed Daniel, he dumped his body, he threw away his clothing."

Others had previously confessed to Daniel's murder, but none led police to the schoolboy's remains.

Cowan was arrested and charged on August 13, 2011.

Nine years after his disappearance, Daniel was laid to rest on December 7, 2012, at a memorial service attended by hundreds on the Sunshine Coast.

His parents Bruce and Denise Morcombe, ever stoic in their grief, sat in the front row of the public gallery each and every day of the trial, listening to the harrowing details of their son's final moments.

Daniel's fraternal twin Bradley and his eldest brother Dean, now aged in their mid-20s, were also present in the public gallery, a reminder of the young life lost too soon.

For the Morcombes, justice for Daniel was a long time coming.