explainer

It's been 7 years since William Tyrrell disappeared. Here's everything we know about the case.

Seven years ago, three-year-old William Tyrrell went missing from his foster grandmother’s house in Kendall on the NSW Mid-North Coast.

He hasn’t been seen since. 

The family picture of a smiling William in his Spider-Man costume now the poster image of the seven-year investigation into the missing child, one that has stumped police and the state’s top detectives. 

Throughout the investigation, there have been numerous leads and theories, a $1 million reward for information, and at one stage 600 persons of interest. 

Read more: An AVO and a new theory: Everything we know about the latest search for William Tyrrell.

On Monday, NSW Police announced they were conducting a new "high intensity" search for William near his foster grandmother's Kendall property, confirming they were now looking for the remains of the boy. NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller said today they are closing in on “one person, in particular.”

Watch: the William Tyrrell case on Sunday Night. Post continues below.


William Tyrrell’s disappearance.

On September 12, 2014, William Tyrrell was playing with his older sister in the garden of his foster grandmother’s home, while his foster mother watched on.  

His foster mother then went inside to make a cup of tea and, after a while, she became concerned when she realised she hadn’t heard a word from William for five minutes.

It was approximately 10.30am. 

His foster mum began searching the house, the front and backyard. Just before 11am, she made the decision to call triple-0 to report William as missing. 

“We heard him roaring around the garden. Then I thought, ‘oh, I haven't heard him, I better go check on him.' And I couldn’t find him," she said in a recording that was made public by NSW Police in 2015. 

“It is completely out of character.

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“He’d be about 2½ feet. He’s wearing a Spider-Man outfit. He’s got dark, sandy coloured hair, it’s short, and he’s got really big, browny-green coloured eyes. He has got a freckle on the top of his head. When you part the hair on the left-hand side, you will see a freckle on the top of his head.”

Image: AAP.

The investigation into William Tyrrell’s disappearance.

In the early days of William’s disappearance, it was believed that he had wandered into the thick bushland near his foster grandmother's home.

At the time, hundreds of SES volunteers, members of the local community and police searched nearby bushland. Police divers were then brought in to check nearby waterways and dams. 

Ten days after William went missing, Superintendent Paul Fehon said at the time that authorities had now turned their focus to the possibility of “human intervention”.

Investigations began into two cars seen by locals to be parked near the house the morning William disappeared. As part of the search, police began interviewing those close to the case as well as interviewing registered sex offenders living in the Kendall area.

“We are confident it was human intervention from a person unknown to the family,” Detective Inspector Gary Jubelin said in February 2015. “It’s not by chance that we have sex crimes involved in this case.”

Listen to No Filter: what happened to William Tyrrell? Post continues after audio.


The involvement of a paedophile ring was an early line of inquiry for detectives, who considered the possibility that an opportunistic stranger kidnapped William. 

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In February 2016, A Current Affair reported that there were 20 registered sex offenders in close proximity to William when he went missing.

Lead investigator Detective Chief Inspector Gary Jubelin said in September 2017 that it was "highly likely" police had already encountered the person who abducted William.

"I would be sweating," Jubelin said, addressing the public.

The police, at this point, believed that it was one person acting alone, and offered an unprecedented $1 million reward for any information leading to William's whereabouts.

In 2018, during a fresh investigation of the case, police intensely searched more than 40 hectares of bush immediately surrounding the foster grandmother's home.

Toys, backpacks, shovels, animal bones and a speargun were among the items uncovered - but none were deemed to be related to the three-year-old's mysterious disappearance.

In June last year, police conducted a four-day search of bushland at Herons Creek, a 10-minute drive from the house at Kendall. Investigators appeared to be focused on an area near an old sawmill where a convicted paedophile was living in a caravan at the time of the boy’s disappearance.

Former detective Gary Jubelin’s involvement in the William Tyrrell case.

Former NSW detective Gary Jubelin was found guilty in 2020 of unlawful conduct while he led the long-time investigation into William Tyrrell’s disappearance.

The former detective chief inspector contested allegations he unlawfully recorded four conversations with the Tyrrell family’s elderly neighbour.

However, a Sydney magistrate found Jubelin’s conduct was unlawful.

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While the elderly neighbour was the subject of surveillance warrants at the time, the devices used by Jubelin to record the conversations were not authorised.

Jubelin – who quit the force in 2019 – defended the recordings, saying they were made to protect himself in the event the elderly neighbour made a complaint or self-harmed and his colleagues did not defend him.

The coronial inquest into the case of William Tyrrell.

In March 2019, a coronial inquest began into William’s disappearance.

Deputy State Coroner Harriet Grahame heard evidence from William Tyrrell’s birth parents and foster family as well as information gathered by police with the aim of determining what happened to him.

William Tyrrell’s foster mother told a NSW coroner of the moment she recalled seeing two cars parked on a nearby road the morning he disappeared.

“My heart just sank because I just thought those two cars were there for both of them,” she said referring to the three-year-old boy and his sister.

She also recalled the exact moment when William went missing while playing “daddy tiger” and running out of sight.

“I hear a roar and then I hear nothing,” she told the court.

“William, it’s Mummy. You need to tell me where you are. You need to say something. He was gone.”

The inquest was interrupted by the pandemic and eventually concluded on October 8.

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Police did confirm they had uncovered new leads from the inquest, which would be investigated. 

"Nothing in relation to this matter I consider to be a cold case," Grahame said in court. "It's an ongoing investigation, it's continuing, I'm happy to indicate that."

The coroner is expected to deliver her findings next year. 

The latest search for William Tyrrell. 

On Monday, NSW Police announced they were conducting a new “high intensity” search for William’s remains near the property. Police are being helped in the search by 30 SES volunteers.

NSW Police today sifted through dirt in the garden of the home William was last seen at in 2014.

Police are investigating whether the boy died after falling from a balcony at the Kendall home, The Sydney Morning Herald reports.

Image: AAP/NSW Police.  The publication reported that a police cadaver dog was at the scene and investigators will consult a forensic anthropologist, an archaeologist and a hydrologist in a bid to unearth new evidence in the case.

Police Commissioner Mick Fuller said there had been a significant breakthrough in the case and he was confident police would solve the mystery of what happened to William Tyrrell. 

“There is certainly one person in particular that we are looking closely at,” he told Sydney radio 2GB.

He also confirmed on Tuesday morning that NSW police have sought an apprehended violence order (AVO) against the foster parents of William Tyrrell.

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“The team is working diligently searching today, and we are hopeful we will find some forensic evidence to assist with this case.”

He wouldn’t elaborate further on the AVO, only confirming The Australian report that on Monday revealed one person was being issued. 

He did confirm that there’s “one person, in particular, we are looking closely at.”

“I’m confident that the team who has the investigation at the moment can solve it.”

A NSW coroner has also subpoenaed all notes, audio recordings and materials of a Channel 10 journalist who produced a podcast about William's disappearance.

Reporter Lia Harris, who interviewed the foster parents for her 2019 podcast Where's William Tyrrell?, said she had recently received a subpoena from the coroner's court for “a very broad range of material.” 

“Everything that I had uncovered in my research for the podcast, audio files, documents, everything, including those raw tapes of my extensive interviews with the foster parents," she told 2GB on Tuesday

“To me, it signalled that they had either taken a new direction or they had a new theory they were working on.” 

Police also confirmed that rather than looking for clues, the search was now looking for Tyrrell’s “remains.”

“It’s highly likely that if we found something, it would be a body,” Detective Chief Superintendent Darren Bennett said.

Feature Image: AAP.