'We Never Forget': Daniel Morcombe Inquest Brings 15-Year Ordeal To A Close
More than 15 years after the disappearance of Queensland teenager Daniel Morcombe a Coronial inquest has handed down its final recommendations over the investigation into his murder.
It was a moment of long-awaited relief for Daniel's parents, Denise and Bruce Morcombe, who have campaigned tirelessly for better protection of young people since their son's murder.
"I hope in the future families won't have to wait so long to get some answers, Morcombe said outside Brisbane Coroners Court on Friday.
"We'll never get Daniel back."
The pair, who started the Daniel Morcombe Foundation in their son's legacy, said they welcomed the coroner's "powerful" recommendations".
"Today, collectively as a family we move on but individually we never forget," the Morcombes said in a statement.
Daniel disappeared in 2003 from a bus stop, when he was on his way to buy Christmas presents. He was abducted by convicted paedophile Brett Peter Cowan, who attempted to sexually assault the 13-year-old before strangling him to death.
In his findings, State Coroner Terry Ryan said Queensland police did not focus hard enough on Cowan as a suspect in the early days of the investigation into Daniel's disappearance.
Ryan said this was particularly with regard to Cowan's "admissions that placed him at the scene of Daniel’s disappearance, the gaps in his alibi, and the specific nature of his offending history".
However, Ryan stopped short of admonishing police over their investigations, recognised it was the "largest criminal investigation in the history of Queensland".
Ryan said that while a greater focus on Cowan may have produced useful intelligence, it could not be certain that it would have provided enough evidence to secure an earlier arrest.
Taking DNA from Cowan's car, in which Daniel was killed, should have been done "much earlier", the Coroner also found.
Efforts by undercover officers in extracting a confession from Cowan were praised.
Without the confession -- which led to Cowan's 2011 arrest and consequent life sentence for murder -- Daniel's killer would likely had walked free.
"Mr Cowan was an accomplished liar and his alibi, although not strong, could not be rebutted," Ryan said.
He found the immediate police response that treated Daniel's disappearance as a possible teenage runaway should not have happened but was "not inappropriate" in terms of policy at the time.
Given Daniel was killed within an hour of his abduction, his death could not have been prevented by police, Ryan said.
The Coroner's recommendations included a call for independent reviews of unsolved missing person cases after 12 months, and a time limit on the testing of human remains.
Ryan praised the Morcombs for their "incredible resilience" in their haunting 15-year ordeal.
"It's all finished now, and we'll never have to stand in front of all this media again," Daniel's mother said outside court.
"The repulsive paedophile's callus description of what took place that day and what he did to our much-loved Daniel is chilling to say the least," they later said in a statement.
"His words have scarred us and will haunt us all forever. However, from such a dark place we have managed to generate a momentum of hope."
The Morcombes said Daniel's brothers, Dean and Bradley, will be trekking in Kokoda later this month to raise vital funds to directly improve the lives of abused children.
"Our family are determined to ensure all children are safe."
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