Morcombes' search for horrible truth
TWO days before the breakthrough in the Daniel Morcombe case, his father Bruce was sitting at a former prisoner's Brisbane home with a tape recorder.
“There I was that Thursday morning having a chat with a person recently out of jail that was happy to supply me with information he'd received,” he said.
“I was sitting there with a tape recorder in this guy's home doing my best to get the facts about what he knew.
“I had no idea what was about to transpire on the Saturday, that someone would be arrested (for Daniel's alleged murder).
“It had been four months since the coronial was adjourned and I had no idea what happened in that time (in the police investigation).
“It didn't feel like anything was happening and then the last two weeks have been huge on a time scale of eight years.”
The Morcombes have fought long and hard to find their son and learn what happened to him after he disappeared while waiting for a bus on December 7, 2003.
It was their drive and tenacity which resulted in an inquest into their son's suspected abduction and murder.
While police had never given up on finding Daniel's alleged killer, they were swamped with more than 18,000 job logs of information related to the case and 33 persons of interest.
The inquest provided an opportunity for fresh ears and eyes to assess the evidence and for trained legal minds to get down to nitty gritty that might have been overlooked in the past.
The Morcombes have repeatedly stated they just needed “that one piece of evidence” to link the puzzling mystery together.
It seems the puzzle is finally nearing completion after an arrest and the discovery of three human bones near two skate shoes matching the brand Daniel was wearing when he disappeared.
But the Morcombes remain in the dark about what the missing link was or how police came to search a 12m by 6m patch of bushland off Kings Road at Glasshouse Mountains.
They appreciate they could be witnesses in a prosecution case against Brett Peter Cowan, the 41-year-old man charged with their son's murder.
They realise knowing the finer details could compromise the case if they inadvertently told media or the public crucial information.
They also value police caution in linking the shoes and bones found at the search site to Daniel until forensic testing is completed.
But being in an inconceivable position between unconfirmed DNA and getting the green light to grieve is heartbreaking for them.
“Of course, we still have to wait for testing but common sense would suggest it would be more likely to be Daniel than not,” Mr Morcombe said.
“I sort of turn the clock back to about 15 years ago, before DNA was a usual tool, before its existence.
“Back then if we had three human bones and two shoes that appear to be pretty much like Daniel's, you would have said, ‘this is it'.
“But because of the new technologies and the use of DNA to be conclusive, we all are very cautious in saying it's definitive until we've got those tests.
“We're choked with emotion about the possibility it is Daniel.
“We're really hopeful that it could bring to a conclusion an extremely sad chapter in our family's life.”
Mr Morcombe said he was just waiting for a fifth shocking phone call of another find or a DNA confirmation.
“Over the (past fortnight) we've had four monumental phone calls – the arrest, the first shoe, the second shoe and then the human bones that were found,” he said.
“Each of those sets you back in a wave.
“If you sort of rate each of those phone calls, in some strange way the potential of those bones being Daniel is a relief.
“It's certainly not good news or a celebration of any sort, but it is sheer relief that maybe this is the final chapter we've been hanging on for a long, long time.
“I've always thought that when we get a bit of luck on our side ... it was always going to come to a quick conclusion.”
The information Mr Morcombe got that Thursday morning was unrelated to Cowan's arrest over Daniel's disappearance.
But it is indicative of the dogged determination he has exhibited to find out what happened to his son.
He has met with hardened criminals and people involved in a criminal underworld with a bravery and resolve few could muster in the best of circumstances.
He has spoken to hundreds of psychics who believed they knew where his son was.
On the first day of the inquest, Mr Morcombe described how he and wife Denise searched on hands and knees at a spot marked X on a map they were given.
They found a faded red material, a similar colour to the T-shirt their son was last seen wearing.
There were just a couple of pieces, perished by sunlight, entwined with soil and leaves.
Cadaver dogs searched that site and the material was tested but no human DNA was found.
The Morcombes also chased up tips about weapons and burnt-out cars with an alleged connection.
Mr Morcombe even went, nervously, to the house of a police person of interest only to find the people had not long moved out.
They have come a long way from their own inquiries in a few short weeks, with more than 50 SES workers and police officers now leading the search.
This time the Morcombes – who visited on Tuesday in head-to-toe blue suits, booties and face masks – are keeping their distance so they do not contaminate the site with their DNA.
“We're unsure how police came to identify that area but it seems to have given us the five potentially significant pieces of evidence,” he said.
“We know it still has to be confirmed but for the first time the information may no longer be just a story.
“It's looking like it's going to be conclusive that this story is fact.
“The mind wanders about just how gruesome or grisly was Daniel's end.
“Spiritually (standing at what could be Daniel's final resting spot), you sort of feel sorry, a bit angry and you wonder at the hours, perhaps longer as we're not in a position to know, he spent here and what actually eventuated between the abduction location and his likely burial at that site.
“I don't have a timeline of whether it was a hasty progression of events or was it a numerous hours, days or horrendous times until he ended up here?
“They're thoughts none of us want to go down but we can't help but wonder. And if you don't have facts in front of you, the mind runs all over the place.
“We've beaten ourselves up with so many stories and rumours over the journey that we're best to deal with facts.”
Cowan is next due in court in late September, unless a bail application in the Queensland Supreme Court is brought on sooner.
But the ongoing search and countless forensic tests could delay the case for months.
The case against Cowan could take years to reach a conclusion, especially if he contests the charges, which he has indicated he will.
But the Morcombes would rather police, SES and forensic testers take their time and do the job right, than hasten the process and have everything fall over.
They have waited this long.