Two key moments have emerged in the renewed search for William Tyrrell, as the first week of the meticulous investigation comes to an end.
It has been almost a week since investigators announced they were renewing the search for William Tyrrell, with search efforts on NSW’s mid north coast expected to stretch on for at least another fortnight.
The week was marked by two key moments, as officers continued to meticulously make their way through dense bushland looking for any clues as to the fate of the missing boy.
On Monday, November 15, NSW Police announced hundreds of officers would descend on the small town of Kendall where a three-year-old William vanished more than seven years ago.
William was last seen playing with his sister at his foster grandmother’s home on Benaroon Dr in Kendall on September 14, 2014.
His foster grandmother said she went inside briefly to make a cup of tea and when she returned the three-year-old was nowhere to be found.
His disappearance sparked a major police search, resulting in hundreds of suspects being examined and cleared and the emergence of multiple theories, with a potential abduction being one of the main focuses over the years.
But now, police have pivoted the focus of the investigation once more, with the search zeroing in on the former home of his now deceased foster grandmother and the surrounding area.
Detective Chief Superintendent Darren Bennett said the decision behind the major search revival was “in response to evidence we have obtained over the course of the investigation” and it was “not speculative in any way”.
Police and RFS personnel have spent the last six days clearing dense bushland about 1km from the home and meticulously searching through the soil.
There was a moment of anticipation on Wednesday afternoon when two pieces of what appeared to be heavily degraded material were found at the search site on Batar Creek Rd.
Investigators were seen comparing the threads to a sample of a red and blue Spider-Man suit – the same outfit William was wearing when he disappeared.
The potential items of interest were carefully placed into evidence bags and taken away for testing.
Another discovery was made on Friday morning, with investigators seen picking up a small piece of cloth and placing it in an evidence bag.
The potential piece of evidence was discovered at around 11.40am close to a nearby creek, which was drained on Friday as part of the ongoing search efforts.
A police spokesperson at the scene said the material was light blue in colour and measured about 8x8cm. It was bagged as evidence and taken to Lidcombe for testing.
It could be days before the test results are returned, with a police spokesperson telling news.com.au investigators won’t rule anything out until the results are received.
Police probe new balcony theory
On Tuesday, officers were seen searching the area below the balcony of the Benaroon Dr home, with investigators removing plants and sifting through soil from the garden bed.
A cadaver dog was also taken through the garden area and officers sprayed luminol, a substance used to detect trace amounts of blood.
According to multiple reports that emerged earlier in the week, police were investigating the theory that William may have fatally fallen from the balcony of the home.
Police confirmed earlier in the week that there was “no doubt” officers were looking for William’s remains.
On Thursday, the focus was moved to the garage of the home, with AFP officers using a hi-tech radar to scan the concrete floor.
The AFP’s Forensics Imagery and Geomatics team used the ground penetrative radar to search for any disturbances or anomalies in the soil beneath the concrete slab.
It was later revealed the results had returned “clean data”, with a police spokesperson saying there was “nothing that would indicate any abnormalities of interest to the investigation”.
It is understood the concrete flooring in the garage was installed some time after William’s disappearance.
The search was initially expected to last for at least two to three weeks, with RFS personnel working to clear areas of thick bushland up and down Batar Creek Rd to allow the search to extend further.
A creek located just metres from the search site was drained on Friday, which is understood to be standard practice in search situations such as this one.
There were fears storms, which are expected to hit the area this weekend, could delay the search but a police spokesperson said investigators are determined to continue “rain, hail or shine”.
Foster grandmother’s car seized by police
Examinations are also underway of a car that belonged to William’s now deceased foster grandmother at the time of his disappearance.
Police revealed on Wednesday that the vehicle, a silver Mazda hatchback, was seized from a home in Gymea, in the Sutherland Shire, under a coronial order on November 9.
It is being held in a secure facility where forensic examinations and analysis are underway – a process detectives say will take “several weeks”.
News.com.au understands police are investigating whether the vehicle was used to move William’s body after his death.
The person who had ownership of the car at the time it was seized is not believed to be related to the disappearance of the three-year-old in 2014.
The care seizure comes as William’s foster mother has emerged as a person of interest in the investigation. She has strongly denied any involvement in or any knowledge of William’s disappearance and there has been no evidence found to contradict those denials.
The woman previously stated she had “nothing to hide”, had been thoroughly investigated by police and had even been the target of covert surveillance.
“We have nothing to hide. We gave them everything. They took our laptops,’’ the foster mother said.
Former detective defends early William investigation
The renewed search for William has put the early stages of the investigation back in 2014 under intense scrutiny.
On Tuesday, Police Commissioner Mick Fuller claimed his team had inherited “a bit of a mess” of an investigation that had initially “wasted” time pursuing individuals who were “clearly” not linked to the crime.
“The investigation was looking at some persons of interest that were clearly not, and I think some time was wasted on that, and bushland is overgrown,” Mr Fuller told 2GB radio.
This prompted Gary Jubelin, the former homicide detective who initially led the search for William, to publicly hit back at Mr Fuller’s criticism.
Speaking on the same program the following day, Mr Jubelin said his investigation had “most definitely” given enough weight to the possibility that William’s foster mother could have had some involvement in his disappearance.
“I sit here very confidently and that’s why I take issue when I hear comments that the investigation was in a shambles when it was taken over,” he said.
“We investigated every theory: (did he die) of an accident, whether William was run over on the driveway or fell over and hit his head on the rock or fell off the balcony.”
Mr Jubelin said his impression of William’s foster mother was that she “is a very decent human being”.
“All I can say, because I’ve been off the investigation for two years and 10 months, at the time I left the investigation, there was no evidence that concerned me (that) the foster mother or foster father were involved in the disappearance,” he said.
“If the evidence has changed, I’m not aware of it.”
The search for William is expected to continue over the weekend, with investigators and a team of dedicated experts working tirelessly to figure out what happened to the three-year-old all those years ago.