Driver told not to stop for Daniel

Bruce Morcombe, followed by Daniel's twin brother Bradley (left), leave the Maroochydore Court House.
Bruce Morcombe, followed by Daniel's twin brother Bradley (left), leave the Maroochydore Court House. Brett Wortman

A BUS driver has defended in court his decision not to pick up teenager Daniel Morcombe from the side of a Sunshine Coast road in December 2003.

Ross Edmonds told an inquest in the Maroochydore Coroners Court today into the suspected abduction of Daniel, 13, that he was ordered not to stop for any further passengers because his bus was already running 40 minutes behind schedule after an earlier breakdown.

"Why didn't you stop?" asked Peter Boyce, who is representing the Morcombe family.

"Because I was told not to," Mr Edmonds replied.

"I was ordered on the day to keep going on with the passengers (already on the bus), who'd been waiting long enough."

"It would have taken you no longer than 30 seconds to stop," Mr Boyce said.

"Exactly right mate, but that's what I was told to do," Mr Edmonds replied.

He told the inquest the Sunbus duty controller, Jeff Norman, had given him the instructions to drive directly to the Sunshine Plaza at Maroochydore, and that he would follow in a shuttle bus to collect other waiting passengers along the route.

Mr Edmonds said he radioed Mr Norman when he passed Daniel to tell him there was someone waiting to be picked up.

Inquest told of argument on bus

A PREGNANT woman told an inquest today she had an argument with a bus driver about not picking up Daniel Morcombe the day he disappeared almost seven years ago.

Katherine Bird said the bus she was travelling on from Nambour to Maroochydore had broken down.

She said she got on a replacement bus with her partner and she saw Daniel trying to hail the bus.

Ms Bird said the bus driver had been told not to pick anyone up, to go express to Maroochydore, because he was about 45 minutes late.

She said she argued that they were already late so why not pick him up.

"I've got kids, I would have liked someone to pick up my kids," she said.

"People were picked up there all the time during the (two years) I was catching Sunbus from Nambour to Maroochydore.

"That was used as a bus stop."

Ms Bird said she saw another man standing against the wall of the overpass.

She said he had a tattoo on his leg, short hair around his ears and a longer fringe.

Her partner Matthew Finlayson said he saw the driver flag that another bus was coming to the child.

"(The child) put up his hand and then put down his hand like he was disappointed he wasn't picked up," he said.

He also noticed a man with the tattoo, who looked like a construction worker.

Neither of them felt confident enough to do a sketch of the man he saw.

The inquiry is continuing.

'We thought we’d found Daniel's T-shirt'

BRUCE Morcombe told yesterday of finding faded red material, a similar colour to the T-shirt his son Daniel was last seen wearing, at a spot marked X on a map.

Mr Morcombe and his wife Denise had "desperately" searched bushland with three friends after being handed a map with a cross on it from a person of interest in their son’s disappearance.

Daniel, 13, was last seen trying to hail a bus from beneath the Kiels Mountain overpass on Nambour Connection Road about 2.20pm on December 7, 2003.

He was heading to Sunshine Plaza to get a haircut and buy Christmas presents.

"We were told that map indicated where Daniel’s remains were buried," Mr Morcombe said. "We found a location that looked similar to that map, largely bushland with a (sandy dirt) track next to it.

"There were a number of spots where people had dumped items illegally.

"There were several piles over an area several hundred metres long. Lo and behold, we did find some red clothes, red material.

"Denise and I were on our hands and knees.

"It was entwined with soil and leaf matter. There were a couple of pieces no bigger than your fingers. It had perished in the sunlight.

"A couple of people wanted to dig it up thinking we might find Daniel’s remains.

"Denise and I were looking at this red material thinking ‘do we touch it, do we dig?’.  

"We did consider digging it up but we decided not to touch the site, we would hate to contaminate a potential crime scene."

Mr Morcombe described the heartbreaking find on day one of an inquest in Maroochydore Coroner’s Court into his son’s disappearance.

The court heard cadaver dogs searched the site and the material was tested but there was no human DNA.

Mr Morcombe said he had also been given information about weapons and burnt-out cars with an alleged connection.

He said he once became aware of the home address of a police person of interest and decided to visit the "terribly unkempt" house.

"I was enormously apprehensive. I parked across the road for 10 to 15 minutes deciding whether to knock," he said. "The neighbours were going out to the shops. They recognised me. The female burst into tears.

"They said the house was empty. They indicated some of the conduct... They were really pleased that occupant had left."

Mr Morcombe said he also went to Brisbane for an interview, arranged by police, with a person of interest.

He described sitting in a room not much bigger than two phone booths joined together with a sheet of glass between him and a man who "wanted to tell Daniel’s father what he believed had happened" without prejudice.

Mr Morcombe said the man told him he had seen Daniel in a car in "the Valley" in Brisbane after December 7, 2003, but would not give a description of the vehicle.

"He said (Daniel) was heavily drugged, lying on the back seat in a semi-conscious position," he said.

"It was fairly vague (but) that was the first time somebody ... saw Daniel after the 7th. It had a scent that maybe we were on the right track."

Coroner Michael Barnes will preside over the inquest into the abduction and suspected murder of Daniel.

Coroner assistant Peter Johns said despite 18,000 jobs logged with police and 10,000 pages of inquest information, no witness version was reliable enough to lead to prosecution or to Daniel.

He said the "tireless and unprecedented" efforts by the Morcombes had made the face of the teen recognisable to millions of people.

"This constitutes the largest criminal investigation in the history of this state," he said.

Mr Johns said the inquest would focus on how Daniel died, police response to the missing person report and the investigation as a whole.

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