Day 4 of Daniel Morcombe Murder trial


Artist drawing of accused murderer Brett Peter Cowan.

Artist drawing of accused murderer Brett Peter Cowan.

3.45pm: The 33rd witness is Senior-Constable Ashley Huth, who is based at the Brisbane police scientific unit.

He said a Mitsubishi Pajero with registration 552-GLT was examined at a facility in West End on August 15, 2011.

Sen-Constable Huth said he took swabs from the car to analyse them for a possible DNA profile but none were found.

He said “tape lifts’’ were also done over various surfaces within the car, in the hope of catching pieces of hair and fibres.

Sen-Constable Huth said tetra-methyl benzidine, luminol and infra-red testing was done to look for blood, but there were no positive indications.

He said he collected a mechanical mulcher that was in the possession of police for testing in August, 2011 but nothing of interest was found.

The jury was shown photos of the orange mulcher in the back of the older-model Pajero.

He said the mulcher was 380mm from the rear door with the rear seats down and more than 903mm from the rear-door when the rear seats of the car were folded up.

Mr Cash asked whether it would be likely for traces of DNA to be found if a body had been placed in the back of the car some eight years before the testing was done.

Sting snared Daniel murder ‘confession’ 2:02

“Eight years’ time, you have to consider the condition of the vehicle and when I examined it, it was very weathered and in poor condition,’’ Sen-Constable Huth said.

He said a profile would only have been found if the person transferred their skin cells to the vehicle, the cells survived in the “harsh’’ environment and if he was able to collect it during the subsequent examination.

“I’m not surprised that I got no DNA profiles,’’ Sen-Constable Huth said.

In cross-examination by barrister Angus Edwards, for Cowan, Sen-Constable Huth said his examination of the car was not the first time it had been tested by police.

He agreed the same Pajero had been scientifically examined once before in December, 2003.

The trial has concluded for the week and is to resume on Monday.

3.30pm: Witness number 32, Associate Professor Walter Wood, a retired medical practitioner, anatomist and forensic osteologist, told the jury he was asked to consult with Queensland police following the discovery of bones in August, 2011.

He said Detective Sgt Graeme Farlow brought three items to his home for examination on August 21, 2011.

He said in the first packet there was a single human left fibula, or outer leg bone, that would have belonged to a juvenile.

In the second packet there was a human left tibia, or shin bone.

He said in the third packet there was a left humerus, or upper-arm bone.

Prof Wood said it was very difficult to determine the age of the person when they died but roughly indicated a juvenile aged 10 to 15.

“The bones were in a deteriorated condition, the fibula had been partly chewed by possibly a dog or some other carnivore,’’ he said.

He said it wasn’t possible to determine the gender.

3.05pm: The 31st witness is Griffith University Professor Jonathon Olley, who specialises in water science and fluvial, or river, sediment transport.

He said he was asked to visit the Kings Rd crime scenes four times to study the likely redistribution of human remains as a result of flooding and to determine whether materials thrown into Coochin Creek could have been transported downstream and how far.

He said he looked at the area where a “cluster’’ of bones found at the old sand-mining property to determine how deep searchers should excavate.

“What we were able to ascertain was the layer in which the bone material was found was actually buried more deeply in the site,’’ he said.

He said the trees near the embankment had 30cm to 60cm of soil built up beneath them.

“On that first attendance, the thing that we noticed was the root layers of the trees, right across the back of the site the root layer was buried, so you couldn’t see that bulge at the bottom of the tree,’’ he said.

He said it was likely material had washed through a break in the embankment and deposited across the old sand-mining property.

He said the area where the bones were found would have gone underwater twice, on 21st May 2009 and 21st January, 2011.

1.10pm: The 20th witness is SES volunteer Ronald Birch who helped with the search in August, 2011.

He said he was searching off Kings Rd when he found what he thought was a bone on September 3, 2011.

The 21st witness is SES volunteer Kevin Brummel, who found a human bone on September 1, 2011, later identified as a left hip bone.

The 22nd witness is SES volunteer David Brushe, who after raking through the top soil, found what he thought was a long human bone on August 21, 2011.

The bone was labelled BS14 and later identified as a tibia.

Witness Lee Cochrane, also an SES volunteer, told the jury he found a long human bone, west of the lake and just 4m from the embankment on the old sand mining site.

It was labelled and identified as BS36, the right humerus.

Witness Deborah Cuthbert said she found a piece of bone at the search site, later identified as a piece of vertebrae.

Douglas Hamilton, an SES volunteer from Strathpine, told the jury he was searching through the crime scene on his hands and knees when the search team he was in found a number of bones on September 3, 2011.

Witness Robyn Henare said she was searching at the sand mining site when she found a piece of bone at 12.25pm on September 1, 2011.

The bone was later identified as BS19, the left femur.

The nervousness of SES volunteers giving evidence prompted Supreme Court Justice Roslyn Atkinson to remind the jury of the way “the stress of the court room’’ affects people.

“Obviously members of the jury, they are not used to giving evidence, they are all very nervous, there’s no need to be of course,’’ she said.

“But you can see how the stress of the court room affects people.

“Of course the work they do is admirable but it’s interesting to see how people who aren’t used to a court room react to this very formal and obviously quite intimidating setting, even though they have nothing to fear and we have plenty to be grateful to them for.’’

12.45pm: The 19th witness is Senior-Constable Mark Muddiman, who works with the Sunshine Coast Water Police.

He said he was involved in searching off Kings Rd at an area called “the mudpit’’ near a small pond on the old sand mining property.

Sen-Constable Muddiman said he helped sandbag the waterway and then used a pump to remove the water, so that just the mud was left.

He said the mud was then collected in buckets and sifted to search for evidence but nothing was found.

12.35pm: The 18th witness is Acting Sen-Sgt Gordon Paul Thiry, a police officer with the education and training command at the State Marine Training Section but formerly of the Brisbane Water Police.

He said he was involved in a wading search at Coochin Creek near to Kings Rd on September 26, 2011.

“As we progressed through the waterway, we got to a point that was probably 15 to 20m downstream from the bridge and at that point there was debris ahead or a pile, an obstruction in the creek bed,’’ he said.

“At that time we removed a large branch … then in the soft and hard sand in the area I could locate a piece of material in the water.

Brisbane Supreme Court evidence photo of underpants material found in the Sunshine Coast hinterland.

Brisbane Supreme Court evidence photo of underpants material found in the Sunshine Coast hinterland.

Photo tendered as evidence of Coochin Creek where police found what they believe were remains of Daniel’s underwear.

Photo tendered as evidence of Coochin Creek where police found what they believe were remains of Daniel’s underwear.

“Eventually we recovered a pair of shorts.’’

Sen-Sgt Thiry said he found a belt nearby at 10.35am.

“The depth of the water was no more than probably half a metre and you could see part of the belt was protruding,’’ he said.

“It was on the surface and part of it was under the surface.’’

He said both items were placed into a tub.

12.25pm: The 17th witness is Senior-Constable Chae Rowland, from the police diving unit in Brisbane.

He said he searched for items of clothing – a shirt, shorts, shoes, a fob watch and a wallet – in Coochin Creek near to the Kings Rd crime scene.

Sen-Constable Rowland said he moved downstream in thigh-deep water about 15m from the bridge when he found a “small black thread’’.

He said he followed the thread to a bundle of twigs and unearthed a piece of fabric.

“I looked at it in my hands and I came to the conclusion, I could see a label on it and … very faintly was the word ‘Bonds’,’’ he said.

The jury was shown a photograph of the wooden, single-lane bridge over Coochin Creek and a pipe leading into it.

A second photo showed shallow water fringed with tree branches and roots with a figure wearing a red jacket standing in the distance.

“This is a photograph taken from the bridge, looking downstream to the east, that’s me down the creek pointing to a snag, where I located the item,’’ Sen-Constable Rowland said.

The jury was shown a photograph of the tattered fabric remnants laying across the outside of a brown, evidence bag.

Faintly visible was the O and N letters, thought to be from the brand label Bonds.

“Yeah, that’s what I took to be the brand label Bonds,’’ Sen-Constable Rowley said.

12.05pm: The 16th witness is Sgt Kyle Bates, the head of the Sunshine Coast Water Police.

He said he was search and rescue mission co-ordinator when he was briefed about searches planned for the crime scenes off Kings Rd on August 13, 2011.

He said remnants of underwear were found in Coochin Creek by searchers on August 18, 2011.

Under cross-examination by barrister Angus Edwards, for Cowan, Sgt Bates said he was involved in a search for skeletal remains near Beerburrum in February, 2005.

But he couldn’t remember whether a burnt-out blue car was found nearby.

“I can’t be 100 per cent positive on the car,’’ Sgt Bates said.

“To the best of my recollection we did a search for (a) Mr Rogers and that body was located.’’

Mr Edwards asked whether he knew if information was received from a man called Ray Davey that the remains of Daniel Morcombe might be found in that area.

“Not to my knowledge, no,’’ Sgt Bates said.

11.25am: Sgt Donna MacGregor, attached to the Brisbane police scientific unit, said it was difficult to say exactly where the body may have been left.

“This disarticulation may give us an approximate area of where the body was placed in but it is difficult to say with any certainty,’’ she said.

She said the soil PH was 5.5 which caused bones to break down more quickly.

“The soil that we saw was different mixtures between sand and clay to sand and gravel,’’ she said.

Sgt MacGregor said the clay soil was particularly moist.

She said bones likely to degrade in moist soil included vertebrate, and the tops and bottoms of bones.

Sgt MacGregor said spongier parts of human bones, called calcaneaous bones, would break down faster than harder bones covering, for example, a human limb, which are called cortical bones.

11.15am: Sgt Donna MacGregor, attached to the Brisbane police scientific unit, said some of the bone pieces were very fragile, especially a rib fragment that she found at the search site off Kings Rd.

“It was very fragile and as I removed it from the soil it did break in my hands,’’ she said.

She told the jury she mapped out the 17 bones on a graphic, called a skeletal survey, and marked the areas in black to indicate the remains that were recovered in the search.

“The remains located were consistent with one individual and I can say that because there is no duplication of any of the skeletal elements,’’ Sgt MacGregor said.

“The size and shape of these bones are all consistent with coming from the same person.’’

She said the age range for the bones of between 9.5 years to 14 years.

Sgt MacGregor used the length of the humerus bone to determine an approximate height range of 127.3 to 135.6cm.

She said bones from males and females tended to be very similar before puberty and she was not able to determine a gender of the person “with any certainty’’.

“I formed the opinion they had been there for at least five years but it could be in excess of that period to and that’s just based on previous experience,’’ she said.

She said the bones were found in the north-east area of the sand-mining site and mostly within the top 10cm of soil.

Sgt MacGregor said she had seen many examples of the disarticulation, or pulling apart of the skeleton, in her years as a scientific officer.

She said the scattering of the bones was consistent with the body being left on the surface of the ground.

“We established that all the bones located would have been in a surface deposition, that the body had been placed on the surface,’’ she said.

11am: The 15th witness is Sgt Donna MacGregor, attached to the Brisbane police scientific unit, who is also a lecturer in human anatomy at QUT.

She said her role in the search off Kings Rd was to give advice to searchers so they wouldn’t accidentally damage items of interest.

Sgt MacGregor said she was at the site on August 20, 2011 when a fibula was found.

“I believed it to be human but I needed to confirm that by obtaining a reference skeleton from my university, (the reference skeleton) was brought to the site,’’ she said.

She said the bone was only partial and missing the top and bottom parts.

“When I was on site we established a safe examination area up in the forward command post,’’ she said.

“My examination was done initially on the line to confirm if (the bones) were human or not.’’

Sgt MacGovern said she also visited the mortuary to identify bones.

She said the last human bone found at the site was a right femur on September 9, 2011.

“It was located deeper in the soil substrate than the other bones and in fact was found beneath some of the bones that had been found only days earlier,’’ she said.

Sgt MacGregor said she identified a total of 17 bones from the search site.

10.45am: The 14th witness is SES volunteer Jasmine McGregor, who lives in Longreach now but in August, 2011 lived on the Sunshine Coast.

She said she helped search the old sand mining site off Kings Rd when she found what was later identified as a humerus bone at 11.42am on August 21, 2011.

“At first I thought it to be a tree root but I saw the end of it and it looked like a socket,’’ she said.

“At that point I raised my hand for the team leader.’’

10.40am: The thirteenth witness at the trial is Detective Sergeant Graeme Farlow, a police officer at the Maroochydore CIB on the Sunshine Coast.

He worked at the Main Incident Room at Maroochydore Station when he was called to attend the crime scene off Kings Rd just after 9am on August 13, 2011.

He said he passed the macadamia farm and went 150m up the road to an area where there was some old machinery, to hide with other police about 11am.

“I secreted myself behind a pile of timber with Detective Sen-Sgt Edwards,’’ he said.

“I observed a Toyota Hilux to drive into this location, it contained the accused and two other gentleman and as a result, I saw Blachfield and Hutton approach that vehicle.’’

He said the interaction led to Cowan’s arrest.

Sgt Farlow said he travelled to Brisbane for briefings after the arrest when it was decided a large-scale search would begin at the farms off Kings Rd.

He said he was given the role of crime scene manager and had to maintain a register of items of interest that were found.

Sgt Farlow said he transported all items of interest but for the first shoe that was found at the site to various locations for analysis, including at the home of a professor who examined human bones.

Sgt Farlow said he travelled to Adelaide to hand Dr Jeremy Austin a sample of bone the same night it was found at the site on August 23, 2011.

“There was a large log pile of cut timber and as a result of using machinery we moved that log pile to ascertain if there was any other items in that location, nothing was located,’’ he said.

He also took a humerus and a femur to Auckland for examination by Dr Catherine McGovern on November 9, 2011.

10.30am: The jury heard from witness Catherine McGovern, a forensic scientist from the Institute of Environmental Science and Research, Auckland, New Zealand.

Ms McGovern said she was experienced in a technique called Low Copy Number or LCN when extracting sequences of nuclear DNA from within cells.

“The type of DNA we are looking at is inherited from a person’s biological parents, half from their mother and half from their father,’’ she said.

Ms McGovern said each person had a new and unique version of genetic code in their DNA.

She said standard DNA analysis and LCN DNA analysis were the same type of DNA test, but one was more sensitive than the other.

“So they are looking at similar parts of the DNA, it’s just that Low Copy Number can obtain a result from just a few dozen cells whereas you need many cells to get a sample from standard testing,’’ she said.

Ms McGovern said she was given two bone samples from a humerus and a femur to extract DNA from on November 10, 2011.

She said no DNA was detected from the femur, or thigh bone, and no DNA profiling results were able to be obtained.

She said the humerus, or upper-arm bone, was able to give a partial DNA profile.

“In this specific instance the profile comprised of six out of a possible 26 results,’’ she said.

Ms McGovern said she received a toothbrush on March 6, 2012 that was tested for DNA profiles and compared to the humerus sample.

She said it matched at the six sites where a profile was found on the humerus.

“There is strong scientific evidence the DNA recovered from the section of the humerus originated from the source of the DNA on the toothbrush described as Daniel Morcombe,’’ she said.

The lawyers defending Brett Peter Cowan, Tim Meehan and Angus Edwards.

The lawyers defending Brett Peter Cowan, Tim Meehan and Angus Edwards.

Detective Sgt. Graeme Farlow leaving the court.

Detective Sgt. Graeme Farlow leaving the court.


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