What was initially meant to be a three-week search for evidence in the William Tyrrell case could now stretch on for months, police have revealed.
Investigators likely still have months of meticulous searching ahead of them, with the renewed search efforts surrounding missing boy William Tyrrell now entering their second week.
Last week, hundreds of officers descended on the small down on Kendall where the three-year-old was last seen more than seven years ago.
William vanished from his foster grandmother’s home on Benaroon Dr in Kendall on September 14, 2014, with the boy last seen playing with his sister while wearing a Spider-Man outfit.
The renewed search efforts were initially expected to last up to three weeks, but a NSW Police spokesperson revealed to news.com.au it could now stretch out for months.
On Saturday, they estimated police had yet to scour 10 per cent of the 1.5 square kilometre area, though it is understood some areas will be more difficult to search than others.
Rain drenched the area over the weekend, with more wet weather forecast for the rest of the week.
While police have said they will continue their search “rain, hail or shine”, a leading criminologist has warned wild weather could still hamper search efforts.
Speaking to Sunrise on Monday morning, Dr Xanthe Mallett said the rain could “hold things up temporarily” but that wouldn’t stop police from continuing the search until they have combed over the area “in depth”.
On Friday officers drained a creek along the Batar Creek Rd search area, but with the heavy rain, it will likely need to be drained a second time.
“They will obviously have to wait until the rain stops and have to take the water out and then continue the search, something will hold things up for a few days,” Dr Mallett said.
Police have moved from William’s now-deceased foster grandmother’s former home and are now focusing their efforts on an area of bushland just under a kilometre away.
Police, with the help of RFS and a group of experts, have been clearing trees and sifting through dirt along Batar Creek Rd in the hopes of finding any evidence that could shed light on what happened to William all those years ago.
Multiple pieces of potential evidence have been bagged and taken away for testing by investigators.
The latest, a small piece of fabric of unknown colour, was found over the weekend along the Batar Creek Rd search area.
Other pieces of fabric have been discovered in the area, with all of the samples 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.
Last week, investigators were seen comparing a piece of material to a sample of a red and blue Spider-Man suit – the same outfit William was wearing when he disappeared.
Authorities have been meticulously sifting through the soil, using both an electronic sifter and their hands to search through the dirt for any clues.
Forensic experts, archaeologists and forensic anthropologists have advised officers to dig to a depth of about 15cm, with a police spokesperson saying anything beyond that is likely “too old”.
Rain could be a blessing in disguise
While many have feared heavy rain and storms could hamper search efforts, survivalist expert and bush tracker Jake Cassar said there is a chance the wet weather could prove to be helpful.
The 45-year-old was part of the original search for William in 2014 and was also involved in the rescue of three-year-old Anthony “AJ” Elfalak in September this year.
Mr Cassar told news.com.au that while the “rain can move the soils and shift things”, it could also help uncover potential evidence buried in the bushland, where police are searching.
“If it’s really heavy rain it could shift the soils which can be advantageous in the way of uncovering certain things,” he said.
In a worst-case scenario, however, Mr Cassar feared it could set the search back to “square one”.
“When you’ve got this kind of rain coming down, it could fill in some of the areas that they’ve been working on,” he said.
“It could also cover things up and put a thick layer of soil or mud over the top of areas.”
Despite this, he said authorities would be experienced in dealing with rain during mass excavations, like the one NSW Police are currently undertaking.
“That wouldn’t be the first time they’ve encountered rain when it comes to a dig,” said Mr Cassar.
“They’re out and about doing this kind of thing all the time.”
Police probe new theory as car seized
On Tuesday, officers were seen searching the area below the balcony of the Benaroon Dr home where William was last seen, 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, police were investigating the theory that William may have fatally fallen from the balcony of the home.
Police confirmed last 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”.
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 car seizure comes as William’s foster mother has emerged as a person of interest in the investigation. No charges have been laid.
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.