After seven and a half hours of deliberation and twenty days worth of proceedings in the Brisbane Supreme Court, a jury has found Brett Peter Cowan guilty of the murder of Sunshine Coast teenager Daniel Morcombe, the indecent treatment of a child and interfering with a corpse over a decade since Morcombe’s tragic death on December 7th, 2003.
Wearing red, the colour synonymous with Daniel’s disappearance, a visibly distraught Morcombe family including parents Denise and Bruce, his older brother Dean and twin brother Bradley were present in a densely-packed court to hear the verdict handed down by Justice Roslyn Atkinson; the entire back half of the courtroom reserved entirely for Queensland police who were involved in the investigation.
The methods used by Queensland police to extract a confession from Cowan, also known as Shaddo N-unyah Hunter, were mind-blowing in the intricacy and in the scope of their operation – the particulars of which can be found here – involving the biggest sting operation in Queensland’s history eventually leading Cowan to believe he had infiltrated and gained the trust of a criminal syndicate that was staffed entirely by undercover police.
To prove his fealty to the gang, Cowan eventually confessed to abducting, attempting to molest, and killing Morcombe. Cowan then lead police posing as gang members directly to the site where, over the next fortnight, Daniel’s remains were found in an exceptionally intensive search involving metal detectors, cadaver dogs and divers.
Cowan’s defence circulated on the possibility that he had given a false confession in exchange for the promise of millions of dollars, rendering his confession unreliable under the inducement of money and gang membership.
It was also revealed that Cowan, a father of three, had two previous convictions and had been gaoled for child sex offences unbeknownst to the jury – one of which was very similar to the Morcombe case. He has also confessed to assaulting up to thirty other children by the time he turned eighteen.
On receiving the verdict, Cowan broke down in tears and, when asked if he had anything to say, answered “No”.
He will reportedly face a mandatory life sentence in line with Queensland law expected to be handed down post-adjournment at 2:30pm.
More to come.
UPDATE: Daniel’s parents Bruce and Denise and both his brothers have now either read or had their victim impact statements read by Crown Prosecutor Michael Byrne. All four are absolutely heartbreaking and have been received with applause from the courtroom.
Bruce Morcombe has told a stoic Cowan that “10 years ago you made a choice that ripped our family apart… You have robbed him of 70 years of life… You picked on the wrong family… I often wonder about the other victims you have left in your wake.”
Denise Morcombe echoed similar sentiments, adding “I made a vow to Daniel I would find out where he is and that justice is done…. This day doesn’t bring closure, but the streets are safer… He was, and still is, part of me.”
His brothers, first Dean and then Bradley, said Cowan “robbed us of ever being a normal family again,” with Bradley saying he will never share milestones he would’ve otherwise experienced with his twin: “I am not the person I could’ve been. Daniel cannot join me for a beer or be my best man at my wedding” later this year.”
Photo: Handout via Getty