The first child victim of Daniel Morcombe's killer is now an adult. His story will break your heart.

Tim Nicolls was seven years old when he was attacked by Brett Cowan.

Warning: This article contains details of sexual assault and could be triggering for some readers.

Tim Nicholls has the face of a broken man.

He could be older than 33 years and yet in many ways he still resembles the little boy who was robbed of his innocence more than 27 years ago.

Nicholls was just seven years old when he was violently assaulted in a child care centre toilet cubicle on December 5, 1987.

The perpetrator of that terrible crime was Brett Cowan – the same man who was last week sentenced to life in prison for the murder of 13-year-old Daniel Morcombe in 2003.

In light of Cowan’s sentencing, we have now learned that Daniel Morcombe was not Brett Cowan’s first victim. Before Cowan abducted and killed 13-year-old Daniel, he had sexually assaulted at least two young boys, aged seven and six years old, respectively.

Last night, in an incredible episode of 60 Minutes, Cowan’s first victim Tim Nicholls spoke to reporter Tara Brown about events that occurred 27 years ago. Those events, Nicholls said, ruined his life forever.

”I was a bright student and after that, my schooling, my, my attitude, my happiness was, didn’t have it no more … He took everything. He took my life.”

Tim Nicholls today.

Cowan – who was 18 years old at the time – was working in the grounds of the child care centre as part of court-order community service for crimes, including breaking and entering and theft.

Speaking to Brown, Nicholls recalled the events of that day with incredible clarity.

“He just yelled out ‘who wants a golf ball?’ And we all put our hands up and I don’t know why but he just pointed to me,” Mr Nicholls said.

“He said you have to come into the toilets. And I said no. And then he grabbed me and picked me up and took me into the toilets.”

“I couldn’t say anything, he had his hand over my mouth.”

According to the report, Cowan locked himself in the cubicle with the little boy and then repeatedly raped him.

Brett Peter Cowan

“I told him I was going to tell my mum and he started to strangle me. He threatened he was going to kill me, he grabbed me by the throat and if I didn’t do it I thought I was going to die.”

“I thought I was dying that day. I didn’t know what he was going to do to me.”


The rape eventually stopped when a worker from the child care centre called out for the missing boy. “If she didn’t come and say ‘Tim are you in there?’ I believe I wouldn’t be here,” Nicholls said.

Cowan was sentenced to just two years in jail for the 1987 attack.

And then in 1993, he attacked again. This time his victim was a six-year-old boy who was living in the same Northern Territory caravan park as Cowan.

Cowan took the young boy into bushland where he violently assaulted him. He then left the young boy in the boot of a burnt out old car and then, when he was back at the park, Cowan sympathised with those looking for the boy.

According to Channel 7’s Sunday Night, when the boy eventually – and miraculously – made his way out of the car and back to the park, he had a collapsed and punctured lung, a black eye, a severe cut on the back of his head and to his genitals.

Brett Cowan’s second known victim.

Last night that little boy, who is now a 27-year-old man whose identity was disguised, spoke to Channel 7’s Ross Coulthart.

“He walked away and left me there, in the back of the caravan park on a burnt out car. The ropes weren’t tied up tightly enough so I could actually wriggle my way out. I think he thought that I might have died there but I think I had the willpower just to survive,” he said.

Cowan was sentenced to seven years in prison but was released after less than four years after he attended a sex offenders program.

Years later, Cowan struck again. This time it was 13-year-old Daniel Morcombe, the little boy whose face is now recognised instantaneously around the country.

Daniel Morcombe, who was attacked and killed by Brett Cowan in 2003.

When asked how he feels knowing that the man who attacked him was the same man who went on to attack and kill Daniel Morcombe, the 27-year-old man said he felt “angry”.

“Because he shouldn’t have got out when he done it to me.”

Last night on 60 Minutes, Daniel’s parents Bruce and Denise said their son would still be alive if Brett Cowan was kept in jail.

“Daniel would still be alive – this would never have happened,” said Denise.

“I think once they have offended the first time and been charged and found guilty for that offence, they should be on the register from day one.”