Australian police yesterday said testing had confirmed that bones found in a northern forest were that of teenager Daniel Morcombe, one of the country’s most high-profile missing person’s cases.
Morcombe, 13, was last seen waiting for a bus in northern Queensland in 2003 and his disappearance sparked a nationwide hunt, followed by years of false leads and dead ends avidly followed by public and press alike.
A recent inquest prompted a breakthrough in the case, which saw west-coast truck driver Brett Peter Cowan, 41, charged with Morcombe’s abduction, murder and interfering with his corpse.
Police also began searching the Beerburrum State Forest for the teenager’s remains and confirmed yesterday that three bones found at the site last weekend were his.
“The DNA analysis of those human remains has been conducted and it has identified them to be Daniel Morcombe,” Queensland police Commissioner Bob Atkinson said.
Morcombe’s parents, Bruce and Denise, and their two sons issued a brief statement describing the development as “the expected shock we have all been waiting for” for eight long years.
“Today’s news is extremely sad for us all,” the Morcombes said.
“Although we knew in our hearts that the search area was Daniel’s final resting place, the scientific confirmation is still enormously difficult to comprehend,” they said.
Two shoes from the forest, which the coroner had confirmed to be the same make as those Morcombe was last seen wearing, were undergoing thorough forensic analysis, Atkinson said.
A car matching descriptions of the vehicle seen idling near Morcombe around the time of his disappearance had also been seized by investigators on an island off Brisbane, he added.
The search has been suspended for much of the past week as a result of poor weather, but police Deputy Commissioner Ross Barnett said it would “resume as soon as possible,” with police hoping to find further remains and clues.
“As long as it takes, we’re not going to walk away from that search until we’ve exhausted absolutely every area of search that we can do,” Barnett said.
The news prompted outpourings of grief on social media and news sites, with Queensland Member of Parliament, the former Australian prime minister, Kevin Rudd urging Australians to come together in their sadness.