Disappearance of William Tyrrell

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William Tyrrell
William Tyrrell in a Spider-Man costume.jpg
Photo of Tyrrell in a Spider-Man costume taken a few minutes before he disappeared[1]
Born (2011-06-26)26 June 2011
Disappeared 12 September 2014 (aged 3)
Kendall, New South Wales, Australia
Status Missing for 3 years, 2 months and 10 days
Nationality Australian

William Tyrrell (born 26 June 2011) is an Australian boy who disappeared at the age of 3 from Kendall, New South Wales, on 12 September 2014. He had been playing at his foster grandmother's house with his sister, and was wearing a Spider-Man suit at the time of his disappearance.[2] Tyrrell is believed to have been abducted.[3][4][5][6]

Despite extensive investigations, as of 12 September 2016, two years after his disappearance, Tyrrell has not been found, or his abductor/s identified. On that day a reward of A$1 million dollars was offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the offenders, and Tyrrell's recovery.[7]

Disappearance

On 11 September 2014, William Tyrrell, his foster parents and his five-year-old sister travelled four hours from Sydney to visit his foster grandmother in Kendall. His grandmother's house on Benaroon Drive is directly across the bushland road from the Kendall State Forest, about 35 kilometres (22 mi) south of Port Macquarie.[8] Between 10 and 10:25 am on 12 September, Tyrrell and his sister were playing hide-and-seek in the front and back yard, while his mother and grandmother were sitting outside watching them. His mother went inside to make a cup of tea; she became worried after she had not heard him for five minutes and began searching the yard and house. Shortly after, Tyrrell's father returned after going to Lakewood on business and began searching the street and door-knocking neighbours. At 10:56, his mother phoned 000 emergency services to report him missing and the police arrived at 11:06.[9] His mother's last memory was that Tyrrell was imitating a tiger's roar "raaaarrrr" while running towards the side of the home, and then there was silence and he had disappeared.[10]

Investigation

Initial search efforts

Hundreds of police, members of State Emergency Services, Rural Fire Service and members of the community searched day and night for Tyrrell. Specialist police, including the sex crimes squad form Strike Force were immediately formed. Motorcycles and helicopters were brought in to search. Two hundred volunteers searched overnight, hundreds of people combed rugged terrain around the home and police divers searched waterways and dams. The police searched every house in the estate that surrounds Benaroon Drive several times. The police detection dogs were brought in and they managed to detect Tyrrell's scent, but only within the boundaries of the backyard.[11] "Strike Force Rosann" was established with specially trained investigators from the State Crime Command who are experienced in the unexplained disappearance of young children. They supported the police, other emergency services workers and members of the public involved in the search. After five days, police said they were unable to come up with any leads.[12]

Sighted vehicles

An artist's impression of two cars seen near the Tyrrell home on the morning Tyrrell disappeared

The police later began investigations into finding the drivers of two cars that were seen parked on the dead end road on the morning Tyrrell disappeared. The cars, described as a white station wagon and an older-style grey sedan, were parked between two driveways of the acre lot of land. They were seen with their driver's side windows down and were unknown in the neighborhood where locals are friends.[1][13] These cars were noticed by Tyrrell's mother and they have not been seen again since the time he disappeared. The police regard these particular vehicles with suspicion, as there seemed to be no logical reason why they would be parked on the street before William's disappearance.[14] Reportedly, at 9 am, a green or grey sedan car drove past the Tyrrell home while William and his sister were riding bikes in the driveway. The car drove into the no through road, did a U turn in the neighbour's driveway and drove out of the street. Secondly, another 4WD was sighted driving out of Benaroon Drive at about 10:30 am, about the time he disappeared. The same vehicle was later seen speeding down another Kendall street. The police said that they have known about these cars since the investigation started. However, as part of investigative strategy, the information about these vehicles was not released to the public until 12 months after Tyrrell disappeared.[10]

Suspected paedophile ring

The police cleared Tyrrell's family of any involvement in the disappearance and earlier believed the boy was abducted by an opportunistic stranger who may have a connection with a paedophile ring. The police also believed that the boy could be alive in the hands of a group of people suspected of paedophile activity, but it is no longer believed the kidnapper is a member of a pedophile ring.[15][16] The police have interviewed dozens of people including a number of paedophiles. A Current Affair reported that about 20 registered sex offenders were living in the surrounding area of Kendall where Tyrrell went missing.[17]

Two persons of interest in the case, both convicted paedophiles, may have met up on the day Tyrrell vanished. The family of one paedophile, who had 90 convictions against his name including aggravated indecent assault of a minor, said he was going to visit another child sex offender on that day and returned home drunk that afternoon. But he told police he spent that day in the bush collecting scrap metal. It was reported that both men lived in the Kendall area and had been driving vehicles that matched the description of the grey sedan and white station wagon that had been seen near the Tyrrell house around the time he disappeared. They also had been members of an organisation called GAPA (Grandparents As Parents Again) and were friends.[18] The pair have both been questioned by the police and they categorically denied being friends, or having any involvement in the disappearance.[19][20]

Another man who repaired a washing machine at Tyrrell's home in between the day Tyrrell disappeared is facing unrelated historical child sex charges in Victoria and was due to appear in court on 4 July 2016. The police had charged the man with multiple child sexual offences, including various counts of indecent assault and sexual intercourse with children between 1983 and 1985 in Victoria. The man had previously posted an online video denying any involvement in the Tyrrell disappearance.[21][22][23]

Reported sightings

About 1,078 suspected sightings were reported to the investigation team in the two years after Tyrrell disappeared.[24] It includes a photo taken of a man, and a young boy from Queensland, who looked strikingly similar to Tyrrell. However, 24 hours later, the police received another call to confirm that the boy was not him. In early 2015, two passengers and a member of the New Zealand-bound flight crew thought they saw Tyrrell on their airplane. The police met the aircraft at the airport and soon discovered it was not him.[25] Another photo came across to the police showing a young boy and a woman in a McDonald's restaurant in Central Queensland. The boy looked similar to Tyrrell, and the woman who was with the boy looked like his grandmother. The police later confirmed that the mother and boy were not them.[26]

Later developments

Strike Force Rosann

On 16 September 2014, Strike Force Rosann was established to investigate Tyrrell's disappearance.[27] It consists of 14 detectives and analysts working full-time to solve the case. The team will also sift through hundreds of pieces of information pouring in from the public. The ramped-up investigation comes after a personal plea from Tyrell's parents to members of State Parliament, Deputy Premier and Minister for Justice, at a private event in late 2015. The family spokesperson said that "They just want to reinforce that police believe he could still be alive and they're just asking members of the public not to give up on him."[28] The investigation is now the state's largest, involving dozens of analysts, investigators and two strike forces, Rosann, run by the Homicide Squad, and Rosann Two, which provides assistance from the Armed Holdup, Sex Crimes and Fraud Squads.[29]

One million dollar reward

On 12 September 2016, the second anniversary of Tyrrell's disappearance, the NSW government announced a $1 million reward for information on his whereabouts. The police say that the reward will usually be paid out as conditional on the arrest and conviction of the offender, but the recovery of Tyrrell had been added as a condition on this reward. It is the largest ever reward offered to find a missing person in NSW's history and double the amount of the state's previously highest standing reward of $500,000, attached to the 1999 case of murdered teenager Michelle Bright.[7]

Case data

The case has led to a record number of over 2,800 calls to Crime Stoppers alone since Tyrrell disappeared.[30] The police have interviewed more than one thousand people in connection with the case. There have been 11000 documents created by the police.[1][31][32] The search has gone global as far as Europe and the US. Crime Stoppers websites in up to 26 countries have been asked by the Australian Federal Police to post an appeal for information about the case.[33] The police have identified 690 persons of interest to their inquiry and have called in other specialist squads within the State Crime Command to investigate many such persons as low-priority targets so that the rest are being questioned by "Strike Force Rosann". The Australian reported that it is possible detectives have already interviewed the person or persons involved.[34]

Parents, legal matters and criticism

Tyrrell has a "complicated family history", which prevented his parents from being named for legal reasons.[35] The legal reasons bound by the legislation prevented them being identified publicly and/or holding any press conferences for the purpose of appealing publicly about their missing son.[11] On 24 August 2017, the New South Wales Supreme Court of Appeal ruled that Tyrrell's status as a foster child and the fact he disappeared while in state care with foster parents was "one of legitimate public interest".[36][37] His parents were previously allowed to speak during a 60 Minutes interview on the condition that they did not show their faces.[38] The father of murdered teenager Daniel Morcombe had criticised the NSW government's refusal to allow Tyrrell's parents to speak publicly about their son's disappearance as it was vital in helping to generate information that was then followed up by the police. They also feared the decision may have hindered the police investigation during the crucial weeks following Tyrrell's disappearance. But the NSW government released a statement saying its "key priority is to always act in the interests of the safety and wellbeing of children and not in any way to jeopardise ongoing police investigations".[39]

Current status

Despite various search efforts by the police and the forensic testing which failed to turn up any trace of Tyrrell or clues about his disappearance, police have yet to conclude what actually happened to him.[40] Chief Inspector Gary Jubelin commented that the investigation into the disappearance of Tyrrell remains a priority for the NSW Police Force and said that the investigators would treat the case as though he was alive, until they had evidence proving otherwise.[41][13] On 20 February 2016, a police spokesperson said that the ongoing investigation was one of the biggest investigations being run by homicide and that they have not given up hope of finding Tyrrell alive.[42]

See also

References

  1. ^ a b c "William Tyrrell's family speak about their unbearable grief at losing their little boy". news.com.au. Retrieved 7 September 2015. 
  2. ^ "William Tyrrell's fourth birthday sees police renew appeal for information". ABC News. 26 June 2015. Retrieved 26 June 2015. 
  3. ^ Damjanovic, Dijana (13 September 2015). "William Tyrrell: Forensic profiler reveals details about three-year-old's suspected kidnapper". ABC News. Retrieved 9 January 2016. 
  4. ^ "William Tyrrell disappearance: NSW Police investigate possible involvement of paedophile ring". ABC News. 17 April 2015. Retrieved 9 January 2016. 
  5. ^ Partridge, Emma (23 April 2015). "William Tyrrell 'person of interest' charged with Campbelltown child sexual assaults". Campbelltown-Macarthur Advertiser. Retrieved 9 January 2016. 
  6. ^ Benny-Morrison, Ava (6 September 2015). "William Tyrrell investigation: highs, lows and false hope 12 months on". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 9 January 2016. 
  7. ^ a b "William Tyrrell: $1 million reward offered in case of missing NSW boy". ABC News. 12 September 2016. Retrieved 12 September 2016. 
  8. ^ Ralston, Nick; Partridge, Emma (17 April 2015). "Missing toddler William Tyrrell: 'We hope he is still alive'". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 9 January 2016. 
  9. ^ Bearup, Greg; Box, Dan (18 April 2015). "How could toddler William Tyrrell simply vanish into thin air?". The Australian. Retrieved 9 January 2016. 
  10. ^ a b "William Tyrrell detectives hunt for drivers 12 months after disappearance". The Sydney Morning Herald. 7 September 2015. Retrieved 7 September 2015. 
  11. ^ a b Sheather, Michael (7 September 2015). "The boy no one can find". The Australian Women's Weekly. Retrieved 22 April 2015. 
  12. ^ "William Tyrrell: Timeline of boy's disappearance in September 2014". ABC News. 19 September 2015. Retrieved 19 September 2015. 
  13. ^ a b Martha Azzi; Daniel Peters; Rachel Eddie (26 September 2015). "William Tyrrell breakthrough: Police investigating the toddler's disappearance a year ago seize a car belonging to a convicted child abuser that was 'parked in the street where he was last seen'". Daily Mail Australia. 
  14. ^ "Police confirm car seized in William Tyrrell investigation". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 26 September 2015. 
  15. ^ "William Tyrrell investigator says it's 'highly likely' police have encountered kidnapper". A Current Affair. 12 September 2017. Retrieved 12 September 2017. 
  16. ^ "William Tyrrell search steps up as police pursue links to suspected paedophile ring". News.com.au. Retrieved 18 April 2015. 
  17. ^ "Police no closer to finding William Tyrrell 500 days since disappearance". Nine Network. Retrieved 10 February 2016. 
  18. ^ "William Tyrrell case: Network of senior groups linked to disappearance of toddler". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 5 September 2015. 
  19. ^ "Two paedophiles who are 'persons of interest' in the case of missing William Tyrrell 'met up on the day he went missing'". Daily Mail. Retrieved 27 February 2016. 
  20. ^ "Spotlight falls on two 'persons of interest' in William Tyrrell case". News.com.au. Retrieved 25 February 2016. 
  21. ^ "Man linked to missing toddler William Tyrrell faces historical child sex charges". The Age. Retrieved 28 July 2016. 
  22. ^ "Man questioned over William Tyrrell's disappearance faces child sex charges". The Guardian. Retrieved 28 July 2016. 
  23. ^ "William Tyrrell investigation: Bill Spedding releases video denying any involvement". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 10 September 2015. 
  24. ^ "'Largest reward in NSW history': Police offer $1m reward in hunt for missing toddler William Tyrrell". Yahoo7. 12 September 2016. Retrieved 4 October 2016. 
  25. ^ Benny-Morrison, Ava (7 September 2015). "William Tyrrell detectives hunt for drivers 12 months after disappearance". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 7 September 2015. 
  26. ^ Benny-Morrison, Ava (11 September 2016). "William Tyrrell: Police work on 600 persons of interest in suspected abduction investigation". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 11 September 2016. 
  27. ^ Cooper, Ben (17 September 2014). "Sex crime investigators included on Strike Force". Port Macquarie News. Retrieved 11 September 2016. 
  28. ^ "Hunt for missing toddler William Tyrrell intensifies as more cops working to find him". Herald Sun. Retrieved 21 February 2016. 
  29. ^ Buckingham-Jones, Sam. "William Tyrrell disappearance: $1 million reward announced". The Weekend Australian. Retrieved 12 September 2016. 
  30. ^ "Hunt for missing toddler William Tyrrell intensifies as more cops working to find him". The Daily Telegraph. 21 February 2016. Retrieved 21 February 2016. 
  31. ^ "60 Minutes reveals new evidence in William Tyrell case". Mamamia. Retrieved 6 September 2015. 
  32. ^ "'The claims are false': Bill Spedding releases video statement about William Tyrrell". Yahoo!7. Retrieved 10 September 2015. 
  33. ^ Harris, Lia. "Hunt for missing toddler William Tyrell goes across the world". The Sunday Telegraph. Retrieved 28 February 2015. 
  34. ^ Box, Dan; Dalton, Trent (3 September 2016). "Hundreds of persons of interest in William Tyrrell probe". The Weekend Australian. Retrieved 25 September 2016. 
  35. ^ Proudman, Dan (20 January 2015). "William Tyrell vanished from the the [sic] town of Kendall". Newcastle Herald. Retrieved 26 September 2016. 
  36. ^ "Court reveals William Tyrrell was in foster care when he went missing". The West Australian. 24 August 2017. Retrieved 11 September 2017. 
  37. ^ Harris, Christopher (25 August 2017). "William Tyrrell court bombshell: Little boy lost was in foster care". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 11 September 2017. 
  38. ^ Bagshaw, Eryk (7 September 2015). "Parents of William Tyrrell appear on 60 Minutes as new evidence revealed". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 7 September 2015. 
  39. ^ Bearup, Greg; Box, Dan (18 April 2015). "Daniel Morcombe's dad critical of gag on William's parents". The Australian. Retrieved 22 April 2015. 
  40. ^ "Fourth man is quizzed in hunt for William Tyrrell". ABC News. 14 September 2014. Retrieved 2 January 2016. 
  41. ^ "William Tyrrell investigation: highs, lows and false hope 12 months on". The Sydney Morning Herald. 26 June 2015. Retrieved 26 June 2015. 
  42. ^ "More resources for William Tyrell search". Sky News. 21 February 2016. Retrieved 21 February 2016. 

External links

  • Where's William? website
  • Disappearance of William Tyrrell on Facebook
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