On 7 December 2003, Sunshine Coast schoolboy Daniel Morcombe disappeared while waiting for a bus in Woombye, just south of Nambour.
Eight years later, Bunbury-born Brett Peter Cowan, a convicted paedophile with a string of convictions in two states, confessed to undercover police officers in Perth that he was responsible for Daniel's death. In March this year, he was found guilty of murder by the Brisbane Supreme Court, putting an end to the Morcombe family's decade-long ordeal that almost destroyed them. However, in the words of Daniel's father Bruce, Cowan had "picked on the wrong family. We will never give up". Indeed, they did not. Everything Bruce, his wife Denise and their surviving sons Dean and Bradley have been through since the fateful day Daniel disappeared forever has been chronicled in the book Where is Daniel?, a collaboration between the Morcombes and veteran investigative reporter Lindsay Simpson.
Daniel's disappearance turned his family upside down, forcing them to sell their family home and give up their successful business, while setting up the not-for-profit Daniel Morcombe Foundation, aimed at educating school-going children about the dangers posed by strangers and helping fellow victims of crime. The ensuing police investigation that followed identified more than thirty persons of interest, including Cowan, who was then living in the vicinity of Beerwah. However, he was not put under tight surveillance and subsequently relocated back to Western Australia. It was not until August 2011 following the inquest into Daniel's disappearance that he was arrested for Daniel's murder as a result of a covert police sting.
At times, Where is Daniel? reads like a Tony Cavanaugh thriller as it provides a lot of detail to police procedures, not to mention much of the action takes place on Queensland's Sunshine Coast. What makes it highly disturbing is that the events are real, and actual transcripts of Cowan's confession are touched upon. Daniel's abduction and murder could happen to anybody, and that is a sobering message to all readers. Cowan's depravity would possibly rival that of Dante Arthurs, who in 2006 brutally raped and murdered a young girl in a toilet cubicle at a Perth shopping centre.
For the fans of true crime, Where is Daniel? certainly would make an interesting read given its intricacies. Above all, it is about one family's struggle for justice and their never-say-die attitude that ultimately paid off, not to mention their inner strength that turned them into community heroes. It is hard not to be filled with respect for the Morcombes after reading this book.