The biological family of William Tyrell huddled together as they passed an array of media cameras outside the NSW Coroner’s Court before the first hearings into one of the most infamous missing persons cases in Australian history.
The first court tasked with determining what happened to the boy in the Spiderman suit warned it did not have the evidence to provide any kind of easy answer.
Instead, it seems destined to conclude William was likely abducted from the tiny mid-north coast town of Kendall in September 2014.
But first Deputy State Coroner Harriet Grahame had to see sufficient evidence the three-year-old did not succumb to the rugged bushland around his grandmother’s home on Benaroon Drive.
In order to do that, counsel assisting the coroner, Gerard Craddock SC, first asked William’s foster carers to spend two days recounting haunting memories of the initial disappearance and search.
“My immediate thought was someone has taken him,” his foster mother tearfully told the court.
“I stood there and just thought why can’t I hear him, why can’t I see him? It hasn’t been that long. Somebody has taken him and he’s gone.”
The case has taken a macabre hold on the nation partly because of the heinous nature of the suspected crime and partly because no one has ever been caught.
“That person, with whatever his or her proclivities and interests, remains in our community,” Mr Craddock said in his opening address on Monday.
Another part of the public’s fascination, however, is rooted in a sense of mystery around William’s complex family situation.
It’s been well-publicised that William’s biological parents are battlers – known to child protection and legal authorities – while his foster parents are professionals from an affluent Sydney suburb.
His biological family’s unrelated legal and social problems saw them splashed over newspapers through the years while his foster parents remained out of sight.
The foster family have always asked for privacy but they never needed to – they are still caring for William’s sister and are legally unable to be identified.
They entered the Lidcombe court through an unknown entrance and sat behind privacy screens during intermissions.
But the media blackout around them has unintentionally fed rabid conspiracy theories on social media by people unwilling to digest the legitimate legal reasons for it.
Ms Grahame said “public interest” around the case must have made grieving the loss of the boy harder for his loved ones.
The court heard the investigation had not ruled out family members or associates as suspects but it was indisputable the biological parents were in Sydney.