COVERT police officers spent four months convincing Brett Peter Cowan they were part of a powerful, sophisticated, organised crime gang with far-reaching tentacles across Australia.
They skilfully crafted this illusion through 24 planned scenarios to assure Mr Cowan that he too could profit lucratively from the many and varied crimes this phony group were involved in.
With the lure of a $100,000 pay packet from a "big job" dangled in front of him, he was keen to prove his mettle.
Mr Cowan's new "friends" reinforced three gang rules every time they hung out - respect, loyalty and honesty.
That last mantra was where the Crown will allege he came unstuck and truly fell for the ruse.
The Crown told Brisbane Supreme Court this week that Mr Cowan, also known as Shaddo N-unyah Hunter, desperately wanted to be part of the gang and share in the spoils of the upcoming job.
One of the key players in the ruse was Craig - who pretended to be a corrupt cop in Western Australia with access to high-level information.
He met with Mr Cowan on August 4, 2011, to tell him a Queensland coroner had issued a subpoena requiring him to reappear in an inquest into Daniel's disappearance.
The Crown said that was an important event in the undercover operation because Mr Cowan had never even uttered Daniel Morcombe's name in the four months since covert officer "Joe" befriended him on a plane from Brisbane to Perth on April 1, 2011.
Mr Cowan knew that his mate Joe had been given $10,000 to disappear overseas when he had some problems that needed to be "cleaned up".
It was repeatedly reinforced that this gang was capable of fixing up problems for its members.
Mr Cowan told his mate Fitzy, also known as Paul, that he had never mentioned his involvement in the Morcombe investigation because he thought it was over.
When the "big boss", Arnold, requested a meeting with Mr Cowan at a hotel in Perth on August 9, he learned he was too "hot" to be involved in the big job coming up and it might need to be postponed.
But, if they could "sort out" or "clean up" the Morcombe mess, he wanted Mr Cowan on board because the other boys had vouched for him.
Mr Cowan initially denied any involvement.
His lawyers say he only changed his tune after learning his $100,000 windfall was at stake and realising he could shore up an alibi.
"Yeah, okay, no, yeah, I did it," he said before detailing how he abducted Daniel, tried to molest him, killed him and then dumped the body.
Mr Cowan was on a plane to Brisbane the next day with two gang members.
He pointed out the spot, a demountable building, where he claimed Daniel died, once sat on Lot 2, 510 Kings Road, Glasshouse Mountains and guided his friends to where he threw Daniel's body from an embankment at an overgrown former sand mine.
Mr Cowan showed the clean-up crew, who were yet to reveal they were undercover cops, where he dragged the body and covered it in branches.
He said when he returned a week later, all he found was a piece of bone he believed to be part of Daniel's skull.
His lawyers make the point the bones were found about 60m from where he indicated.
Mr Cowan showed them a low timber bridge over Coochin Creek where he claimed he threw Daniel's clothes. Clothes were found 15m downstream from that location.
Crown prosecutors have this week forensically tried to give weight to each element of Mr Cowan's story to prove he knew intimate details of Daniel's final moments and resting place.
More than 30 witnesses have told the court about water flows, flood events, DNA matches, bone degradation, wild animals, how bones could have spread and how they could prove the shoes and underpants uncovered belonged to Daniel.
The jury heard a potential witness list on Monday, containing 158 names, which indicated there would be many more specialists to come in the next five weeks.
No doubt Brett Peter Cowan confessed to the murder of Daniel Morcombe
THERE is no doubt Brett Peter Cowan confessed to undercover police that he killed Daniel Morcombe.
His lawyers conceded that on the first day of the trial.
But they suggest he knew exactly where to send his new "friends" to find Daniel's body and his clothes because someone else told him.
Defence barrister Angus Edwards did not confirm how he got the information but in his opening address he pointed the finger straight to Douglas Jackway.
Jackway was driving a blue car at the time and many witnesses driving along Nambour Connection Road the day Daniel went missing claim that is what they saw, he said.
"It became a central aspect of the investigation. They set up a room called the 'blue car room'. They printed out photos and stuck them around the room," he said.
Mr Edwards, whose role as Mr Cowan's legal advocate is to highlight any evidence that could form reasonable doubt about his guilt, told the jury Jackway was supposed to be on the Sunshine Coast that day but there was a large gap between the time he was supposed to arrive at his sister's house and when he actually did.
He told them Jackway had only been out of jail for a month after spending eight years behind bars for abducting a boy from the side of the road and taking him away to rape him.
"You see, at the end of this trial I would like you to conclude that Mr Cowan's confession was a false confession, not a true confession," he said.
Crown prosecutor Michael Byrne had pre-empted defence would make Jackway appear "to be a person responsible for the abduction and killing", earlier telling the jury it was the Crown case that Mr Cowan acted alone.
Mr Byrne said the Crown case was that the people with the blue car had nothing to do with Daniel's abduction.
"Let me make it perfectly clear, the Crown case is that (Mr Cowan) had nothing to do with that blue car," he said.
Mr Cowan told undercover cops he was annoyed that witnesses reported seeing a blue car and two blokes talking to Daniel when it was just he and the boy.
The court has now heard there were multiple searches relating to Daniel Morcombe's disappearance, several resulting from fake confessions.
Mr Edwards has questioned various police officers about these other searches and spoken about other murders but he has not explained yet how they might be connected.
He also has been forensically testing whether the story Mr Cowan gave about how Daniel died was even plausible.
"I never got to molest him … he panicked, I panicked, I grabbed him around the throat and just before I knew it he was dead," Mr Cowan reportedly said in a video recording with undercover police.
Mr Edwards asked forensic pathologist Peter Ellis about airway compression leading to death, questioning what might happen in a struggle.
Mr Ellis said, hypothetically, if one's airway was blocked then they could lose consciousness "very quickly" with irreversible brain damage possible in about four minutes if oxygenated blood to the brain had ceased.
"Once you get irreversible brain damage … (and) the interruption of oxygen supply persists then death will occur in a small number of minutes," he said.
When asked what could cause a crack or clicking noise, Mr Ellis said the only thing he could think of was that the force around the neck was so much that it broke the spine.
Mr Ellis said a chokehold could break the thyroid cartilage, which is the voice box, which could cause damage to the airway.
"In a child of Daniel's age they would be very soft. They wouldn't break easily," he said
- Police divers Chae Philip Rowland and Gordon Paul Thiry located Bonds underpants, dark, long shorts and a belt when they searched Coochin Creek, 15m downstream from where Mr Cowan said he threw Daniel's clothes. Bruce Morcombe had previously told the court Daniel wore Bonds brand underwear. He said Daniel commonly wore dark shorts, that hung below the knee.
- Water science expert Jonathon Olley said Daniel's remains would have under water from flooding twice since 2003. Mr Olley said nearby Coochin Creek would have flooded on May 21, 2009, and January 21, 2011. He said those floods would have produced small flushing flows which meant any fabrics thrown into the creek would not have moved far and would quickly have hooked on vegetation.
- Police scientific officer Donna Marie MacGregor, who specialises in human anatomy and forensic anthropology, concluded Daniel's body was most likely left on the ground at Glasshouse Mountains, rather than being buried, because all 17 bones were found in the top 10cm of leaf and soil on the forest floor. She said she was able to determine the bones belonged to someone aged 9.5 to 14 years with a height between 127.3cm to 135.6cm but she could not determine gender. Mr Cowan told undercover police officers that he left Daniel's body above ground covered in branches.
- New Zealand forensic scientist Catherine McGovern said she believed an upper arm bone she examined was 540 times more likely to come from Daniel Morcombe than from the rest of the Queensland population.
- Ancient DNA expert Jeremy James Austin said he had no doubt the bones belonged to Daniel Morcombe after matching mitochondrial DNA, which comes from the maternal ancestry, to his mother Denise and brothers Dean and Bradley.
- Forensic scientist Dadna Harthman, from the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine, also tested bone samples and confirmed a match for Mrs Morcombe and Daniel's brothers.
- Forensic pathologist Peter Ellis told the court he too believed the bones belonged to Daniel but he could not establish a cause of death because of the degradation. He said scratches on one bone could have come from animal teeth or excavation tools during the search.
- Police scientific officer Ashley Huth was not surprised when he found no trace of Daniel Morcombe in a white four-wheel-drive Pajero that Mr Cowan confessed to abducting the boy in. He said he analysed the car eight years after the event and the car was in poor condition.
- SES volunteers crawled in a line on hands and knees, shoulder to shoulder, using small garden tools to search the ground. Photos showed of the bones could easily have been mistaken for sticks from the pine trees above but volunteers had been shown worn animal bones to help them identify bone fragments during the painstaking search.
- The search included excavations, police divers, cadaver dogs, metal detectors, sandbagging, pumping water out of search sites and using large purpose-build sieves to go through mud and 500 cubic metres of sand.
- Two Globe shoes, believed to be the ones Daniel Morcombe was wearing when he went missing, were found. Searchers then uncovered 17 human bones - the left and right upper arm bones, left shoulder blade, one of the bones from a right forearm, parts of the left and right pelvis, the left and right thigh and lower leg bones as well as five vertebrae from the lower back between August 20 and September 9, 2011.
Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.