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Karlie Pearce-Stevenson could have been dumped at notorious Belanglo Forest to throw police off track.

By Malcolm Sutton

Murdered woman Karlie Pearce-Stevenson may have been dumped in Belanglo State Forest as a deliberate distraction to throw investigators “off track,” police say.

Her remains were found in the New South Wales forest in 2010 while the remains of her young daughter, Khandalyce Kiara Pearce, were found dumped more than 1,100 kilometres away alongside a SA highway earlier this year.

SA Police Detective Superintendent Des Bray was asked on 891 ABC Adelaide about suggestions Ms Pearce-Stevenson may have been killed elsewhere and dumped at Belanglo as a ruse.

The forest is notorious as the former stomping ground of serial killer Ivan Milat, who was convicted in 1996 over the murders of seven young people in the area.

His nephew, Matthew Milat, was also sentenced in 2012 for killing his 17-year-old friend with an axe in the forest.

“The forest is infamous and it’s a reasonable theory to suggest the person [murder suspect] could have disposed of the body in the forest to throw us off track,” Superintendent Bray said.

“But it hasn’t, and we’re convinced that Karlie’s death has nothing to do with the previous crimes associated with the forest.”

He said police were not willing to speak about the circumstances of the mother and daughter’s death and where they might have died.

“We’re not 100 per cent certain and if we were to speculate it might not be a good thing,” Superintendent Bray said.

“It’s really important that we put out information that’s correct.

“It’s going to take us a little while to unravel the mystery but I’m very confident, the way the investigation’s heading, we will get a result on this.”

Superintendent Bray said Karlie left Alice Springs in 2008 with her daughter to travel and find work.

They were last seen in November of that year, driving on the Stuart Highway near Coober Pedy.

He said their movements after that were a mystery.

“Karlie and Khandalyce travelled extensively from Darwin through central Australia, Adelaide, probably through Victoria, Canberra and the Riverland,” Superintendent Bray said.

“So what we need is friends and associates to come forward.”

He asked owners of motels, hotels and caravan parks to check their records to see if the mother and daughter stayed at their business anytime since 2006.

A friend of the family said he used to live near the family in Alice Springs when Karlie was still “only a little kid”.

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“They were really good people, salt of the earth people … she [Karlie] was a normal everyday sort of kid,” he said.

“It’s just been a sad state of affairs for the whole family.”

Karlie was named “Angel” by police after her unidentified remains were first found in 2010 after being found with a T-shirt bearing an “angelic” motif across the front.

Homicide squads across the country ‘connected’

Superintendent Bray said SA Police had been working with the NSW homicide squad since the start of their investigation into Khandalyce’s bones, which were found near a suitcase alongside the Karoonda Highway near Wynarka in the state’s Murray Mallee.

“All the homicide squads across the country are very connected with one another. We know each other well and work well together.”

He said police connected the dots to Karlie after establishing the identity of her child.

“That [Belanglo Forest ‘Angel’] is a pretty famous case,” Superintendent Bray said.

“We knew the description of that roughly matched [Khandalyce’s mother], so we talked.”

The breakthrough in discovering the victims’ identities came after police received a Crime Stoppers call that gave Khandalyce’s name as possibly being the girl found near the suitcase.

Police immediately started checking with state and commonwealth agencies to find records of Khandalyce.

Breakthrough from Crime Stoppers

“We were able to identify that Khandalyce had been immunised but had no other medical treatment and hadn’t enrolled in school.

“Anybody who has kids knows the kids are going to doctors and getting scripts … so we thought we were on to something.”

Police then received a second phone call from a witness who had taken photos of Khandalyce at Marion Shopping Centre in Adelaide, wearing the same pink dress found in the suitcase near her remains.

Superintendent Bray spoke of the sense of relief investigators felt after identifying the victims, which was “tinged with knowledge” it would bring “terrible sadness” to the family.

“There was no backslapping. It was a sigh of relief and determination to arrest the people responsible,” he said.

“You see young mums, young kids. You just wonder how anybody could do that to them.”

© 2015 Australian Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved. Read the ABC Disclaimer here.

This post originally appeared on ABC News.

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