Smiling 'drug baron' seen picking up Daniel Morcombe: witness
LATEST: A SHOE specialist was asked to examine whether a pair of shoes found during a search at Glasshouse Mountains belonged to Daniel Morcombe.
Podiatrist Dr Paul Bennett said he was first asked whether the shoes were in good enough condition to identify.
He said he then requested reference samples to determine whether Daniel had worn them.
In his report, he said a 12-14 year old would have worn the 278mm long shoes.
Mr Bennett said there was heavy wear at the tip and on the heel.
He said a person's kinetic make-up would affect how the shoe's sole wore, noting tight muscles, hip rotation and gait angles in particular.
Mr Bennett said the design of the shoe could also have an effect.
"A shoe like this (a sneaker used as a guide in court) is designed to give more support than a thong," he said.
"The wear would be dictated by the design of the footwear."
3PM UPDATE: A WITNESS has described seeing a smiling man who looked like a "drug baron" with a blue station wagon picking up a boy she believed was Daniel Morcombe on the Nambour Connection Road.
Marie Cummins, speaking via video link from New Caledonia, told Brisbane Magistrates Court she had seen one man outside the vehicle and the silhouette of another person inside the vehicle.
She gave police a statement about what she had seen and helped create a comfit of the person the saw.
"It was just from my memory," she told the court.
"I saw this car on the other side of the road.
"It was stopped to pick up somebody.
"It's not the way people stop, it was awkward.
"Because it was someone picking up a child, I took time to look at it.
"He realised I was watching. He was looking in my direction.
"There was nothing obstructing my sight of him."
Lawyer Tim Meehan, acting for accused man Brett Peter Cowan, asked whether her description of the man could have been wrong.
Ms Cummins disagreed, saying she knew about recent child abductions and paid attention.
"I took time to watch the person inviting the child in the car," he said.
"He was smiling and inviting.
"All the details I gave concerning this person was quite accurate."
Ms Cummins told police the man looked like he was convincing the boy to go with him.
She said the man looked 180cm, in his 30s and in neat clothing.
"He actually looked like a drug baron, not someone who takes drugs but who deals them."
Ms Cummins thought he could have been a relative or an uncle.
Ripcurl shorts, belt found in Coochin Creek, Daniel case told
1PM UPDATE: DIVERS found Rip Curl shorts and a belt 25-30m into sand in Coochin Creek, the Daniel Morcombe murder hearing has just heard.
Searchers also found remains of underpants near the creek too.
North Coast Inspector Arthur Van Panhuis said the underpants were found early in the searching but the other clothing items after other search areas had been exhausted.
The court heard the last item found in the main search for Daniel Morcombe's remains was uncovered on September 9, 2011.
But the tedious search of the crime scene at the Glasshouse Mountains continued for another 34 days.
The committal hearing heard the final item was uncovered amongs a "cluster" of others.
Mr Van Panhuis confirmed investigators dug below 2003 levels at the cluster site where bones had been found.
Speaking outside the court, Bruce Morcombe said photos showing Daniel Morcombe's possessions found at the crime scene were disturbing for his family to see.
The committal hearing has adjourned for lunch and Mr Morcombe spoke briefly to the media.
Mr Morcombe said his family were pleased they were able to stay in the court and "listen to the evidence first hand".
"I thank the judge for his decision," he said.
The court was shown photos of items found at the search site for Daniel's remains and the crime scene in the Glasshouse Mountains.
"Clearly some of those photos capture images that are disturbing to family members and make it difficult for us to cope with," Mr Morcombe said.
"The terrain shots… we have been out there a couple of time to pay our respects to Daniel so there is sort of nothing new there.
"I think everyone can appreciate the rugged terrain. It's certainly not a sports field.
"It's very rugged with embankments and heavy undergrowth."
The search spanned 62 days but the days after September 9, 2011 were "unsuccessful" defence barrister Michael Bosscher said.
Mr Bosscher said police conducted a walk through of part of the search area, which had been used for sand mining in the past.
The court heard 10,000 cubic meters of sand had been deposited in the area.
But the conclusion was drawn the sand deposit must have happened after the end of the sand mining operation or possibly after 2003, the court heard.
12:20PM: BONE fragments were so "fragile" it was better to continue searching on hands and knees than to use mechanical devices, a court has heard.
North Coast Inspector Arthur Van Panhuis said they did use mechanical excavation tools on an area where massive sand deposits meant they had to dig 50cm to a metre.
But he said they kept the 5-15cm searches to people on their knees to protect the integrity of what they found.
He also said they constantly reviewed search practices each time they found clusters of bone fragments but found this method was best.
"The remains we were finding were exceptionally fragile," he said.
Mr VP said if they had introduced a search methodology using mechanical devices to find the remains, "it would have resulted in damage".
11.35AM: THREE bones and two shoes believed to belong to Daniel Morcombe were found 40 to 50 metres from the original search site.
North Coast Inspector Arthur Van Panhuis told Brisbane Magistrates Court searchers did not find any items of interest in the initial search area.
Police had believed they would find the teen in the original search scene based on information they had.
It has not been disclosed how they got that information.
Lawyer Michael Bosscher asked Mr Van Panhuis whether water flows could have moved the remains.
"For that bone to be found there, it couldn't be moved, given the geography, by water?" he asked.
Mr Van Panhuis said: "I wouldn't say couldn't but it was highly unlikely".
Mr Bosscher said: "It would be going against the flow?"
Mr Van Panhuis agreed.
The court heard a "vast array" of experts - including animal predator experts, SES volunteers and soil experts - were called in to help comb an area off Kings Road in the Glasshouse Mountains.
Mr Van Panhuis said Michael Erpf, a hydrologist from the Sunshine Coast Regional Council, told him the area had flooded repeatedly since 2003, but water flow was minimal.
The two-week hearing, which will resume in February, has heard there are 233 exhibits.
10.50AM UPDATE: A FORENSIC investigator has described volunteer searchers on their hands and knees, shoulder to shoulder, sifting through leaves and other debris as they searched for Daniel Morcombe at Glasshouse Mountains.
North Coast Inspector Arthur Van Panhuis told Brisbane Magistrates Court they were digging and searching 5-15cm below the surface because that was where hydrology experts had determined the ground was in 2003 when the 13-year-old went missing.
Mr Van Panhuis said they had selected the search area because police had gained information the teen's remains would likely be "deposited" there.
He said searchers followed the "natural direction" of water flow when the area flooded as they searched for the teen's remains.
Mr Van Panhuis said hydrologists found water in the area did not flow fast during flood events.
"The water raised and lowered but there was not that much lateral flow," he said.
"It didn't happen with speed."
The court has been shown photos of the crime scene - including a shoe believed to belong to Daniel which can be seen through pine needles and other foliage.
The word Globe, the brand of the shoe, could just be made out.
Mr Van Panhuis told the court this morning the search for Daniel's remains was focused around a small dam area.
He said sandbags and excavators were brought to the search site to cordon off the dam to prevent water from running into the crime scene.
Insp Van Panhuis said he brought in more forensic experts to help with the search on August 14, 2011, including a human remains archeologist and police photographers.
University experts were also called in.
Brett Peter Cowan has been charged with enticing Daniel Morcombe from Woombye on December 7, 2003, with an intent to deprive Bruce Morcombe of his son.
He is also charged with murdering and depriving Daniel of his personal liberty, unlawfully dealing with the then 13 year old and improperly interfering with human remains.
There will be continual coverage of the Daniel Morcombe case throughout today
STEPPING through the Daniel Morcombe story:
December 7, 2003: Daniel disappears while waiting for a bus under the Kiel Mountain Overpass on Nambour Connection Rd, Woombye. He was on his way to buy Christmas presents for his family.
December 2003: Police place a mannequin at the spot where Daniel was last seen, sparking a massive reaction from potential witnesses. Police reveal details of a vehicle that might be linked to the disappearance. SES join search of bushland. Police reveal their grave fears for Daniel.
March 18, 2004: Daniel's parents meet with then-premier Peter Beattie, who declares a second Red Ribbon Day for a state-wide campaign aimed at protecting children.
April 2004: Bruce and Denise Morcombe launch an advertising campaign appealing for information.
May 25, 2004: Police put an extra 20 detectives on the case after receiving new leads.
June, 2004: A man faces Brisbane court for sending a hoax email to extort money from the Morcombes.
November 2004: Police release three sketches of a man seen standing near Daniel on Nambour Connection Rd, generated from multiple witness accounts. Police seize a van in Brisbane.
February 2005: Bruce and Denise announce the launch of the Daniel Morcombe Foundation.
December 2008: A $1 million reward offered for information that leads to an arrest.
May 2009: A clay model, created by combining elements of suspect sketches, is commissioned to help campaign for information from the public.
October 2010: A coronial inquest begins into Daniel's suspected abduction and murder.
December 19, 2010: Daniel's 21st birthday marks a poignant time in the middle of the coronial inquest.
August 13, 2011: Police arrest and charge a man with Daniel's murder.
Bruce and Denise Morcombe allowed to remain in court
The parents of murdered school boy Daniel Morcombe have been allowed to stay in the committal hearing of their son's accused murderer.
Daniel went missing while waiting for a bus on the Nambour Connection Road at Woombye on December 7, 2003.
Brett Peter Cowan has been charged with Daniel's murder.
Wearing a navy suit jacket, crumpled pants and a light green cross-hatched tie, the accused entered the dock about 9am.
Bruce and Denise Morcombe have been permitted to stay in the Brisbane Magistrates Court this morning where Cowan's committal hearing has begun.
Chief magistrate Brendan Butler asked lawyers if there was any application to have the Morcombes leave the courtroom as they maybe required to give evidence in Cowan's trial.
Prosecutor Glen Cash said he would not apply for the Morcombes to leave.
Defence barrister Michael Bosscher said he took no issue with the couple being present during the hearing either.
Mr Cash said there would be 52 witnesses available for cross-examination throughout the two-week hearing.
The Crown has also tendered 478 witness statements.
Lawyers will this week test whether DNA evidence of remains found at Glasshouse Mountains last year belong to Daniel
Mr Butler told Cowan he was facing five charge after Daniel, 13, was allegedly abducted from an unofficial bus stop on December 7.
Cowan was charged with enticing away Daniel on December 7, 2003, depriving him of his liberty, unlawfully and indecently dealing with the teenager, murder and interfering with a corpse.
Family facing harrowing time during committal hearing
Bruce Morcombe told APN on Friday that looking after his family - including sons Dean and Bradley - was his number one priority.
He said they were all planning to attend the hearing but the magistrate had a discretion on whether they let the family stay.
"We are wanting to stay and observe justice being done but these are frustrating days so we will accept the decision and live with it.
"I'll just be making sure that we're in control of our emotions.
"I'll make sure the boys and Denise are strong enough to sit through that if we are allowed.
"It's no shame if any of us are unable to sit through it."
Mr Morcombe said he and Denise had kept themselves as busy as possible in the lead-up to the committal to keep their minds off it.
He said the committal hearing would be vastly different to the coronial inquest in 2010-11.
"This is high stakes with a man charged with among other things, child stealing and murder," he said.
"I imagine we will all be exposed to some terrible images."
The family's number one priority is the release of Daniel's remains.
It has been 15 months since police found the 13-year-old's remains while searching bushland near the Glasshouse Mountains but they have never been returned to his family.
Instead, forensic scientists have tested the remains four times - in three Australian states and once internationally - ahead of the committal hearing in Brisbane Magistrates Court.
Much of this week's evidence is expected to focus on the DNA evidence, which is expected to be heavily challenged by Cowan's lawyer.
The two-week hearing will examine scientific evidence relating to his remains and other items found at the search site.
It will alo re-test witnesses from the inquest who saw reported seeing Daniel or his alleged abductor on the Nambour Connection Road the day he went missing in December, 2003.
"There are times when you want to not think about it because you feel almost physically ill about what's probably going to be presented to us on a daily basis for the next two weeks," Mr Morcombe said.
"We cannot prepare for this in any way other than to keep your mind in a healthy place.''
"For one thing your sleep is broken with long periods of reflective thoughts."
Mr Morcombe said he said he would then try to get his son's remains back so the family could say a proper goodbye and lay their son to rest.
"The focus of the first week is the DNA evidence, if that's sound and whether it will stand up to rigorous testing in a court of law," he said.
"The defence have been waiting to see what is in the reports and then question these scientific people.
"Based on those answers, they will determine whether they need additional tests.''