The unbelieveable truth of how police caught Daniel Morcombe's 'killer'

There is no comfort that can be taken from the death of Daniel Morcombe, but the extraordinary lengths a group of tenacious detectives went to to bring closure to his devastated family is remarkable. This is their story.

The kidnapping of Daniel Morcombe haunts all parents. Now that the trial is underway against his alleged killer, details are emerging of the lengths police went to in order to trap him into a confession. They never gave up and it’s because of them that the accused is finally on trial. He’s how they did it.

The kidnapping and murder of Sunshine Coast boy Daniel Morcombe shocked the nation. How could a 13-year-old boy disappear from the face of the earth without a trace? The search for Daniel never stopped. It took almost a decade from the day that bus failed to stop for him on December 7, 2003 until the inquest into his death that his parent had to fight to take place. A suspect finally emerged.

Brett Peter Cowan appeared at the coronial inquest into Daniel’s death that took place in Brisbane in 2011. His story just didn’t add up but there was nothing solid to go on.

What police did next is nothing short of extraordinary.

After the inquest an undercover police officer boarded Cowan’s flight from Brisbane back to his home in Perth and befriended him. He told Cowan his name was Joe. The two started talking and Joe told Cowan he was part of a national crime syndicate with friends in high places. He told Cowan they could ‘fix’ anything.

Cowan must have already been feeling nervous about the attention being directed his way at the inquest. Joe offered him a way out.

It took months for the fake crime gang to gain Cowan’s trust. The Brisbane Times reporting from the trial explained how the court was told just how they managed to recruit Cowan. They explained to him that their gang lived by three mantras – loyalty, respect and honesty. These three mantras had be demonstrated before Cowan would be allowed to properly participate in the gang’s activities.


They set up fake activities by the gang for Cowan to witness, eventually allowing him to play a small part in them. Eventually Cowan was given more to do. The court was told he participated in 24 set-ups.

August 9, 2011 is the day the undercover police officer’s hard work finally paid off.

That day Cowan was taken to a Perth hotel to meet the gang’s boss who they called Arnold. Arnold, an undercover police officer, told Cowan he could make his problems go away. It was then that Cowan allegedly confessed to the kidnapping and murder of Daniel Morcombe.

Police allege Cowan confessed to offering Daniel a ride to the local shops, instead taking him to a secluded property in Maroochydore before attempting to molest him and then killing him. The confession was secretly taped. Cowan is heard saying,  “I never got to molest him or anything like that. He panicked and I panicked and grabbed him around the throat and before I knew it he was dead.”

Arnold told Cowan he’d need to see the murder site and remains in order to achieve the cover up on his behalf. Cowan flew to Brisbane and was met by undercover police officers posing as more members of the gang who drove with him to Daniel’s remains.

That’s when Cowan was arrested.

The trial continues. We wish Bruce, Denise and their family strength during this terrible time. Both parents will give evidence at the trial, with Bruce already taking the stand to describe his son. He said he was shy, gentle and unlikely to get in a car with a stranger.

Bruce and Denise Morcombe now run the Daniel Morcombe Foundation, focusing on child safety. Visit their website here.

Leave your messages of support for the Morcombes here.