Video: Top cops defends Morcombe investigation
QUEENSLAND'S top cop has avoided any suggestion there should be a review to assess possible systematic failures in the Daniel Morcombe investigation.
Police commissioner Ian Stewart said he suspected the length of time it took to bring Brett Peter Cowan to justice would be debated for the next 10 years.
But he defended police processes to ensure they got enough evidence for an arrest and a conviction.
"I suspect there'll be books and films come out of this investigation so I'll leave that decision up to the public … but at the end of the day, what I can say, police work is about meticulous, rigorous process to make sure when we do get the evidence it withstands scrutiny required for an arrest and ultimately for a court case," he said.
"I think that there'll very much be a review through the media as it's already started.
"What I can say, though, is that the proof is in the pudding.
"Cowan was convicted of the murder of Daniel Morcombe.
"That means that the processes followed actually worked and was a credit to all of the police involved."
Mr Stewart said he did not think there was too much focus on fellow person of interest Douglas Jackway, also a convicted child sex offender, in the early stages of the investigation.
He said many police formed views about particular persons of interest but it was up to the senior leadership team to keep an open mind and investigate all possibilities.
"There were many suspects who were followed up … I would suggest of the many hundreds of detectives who worked on this case - many of them would have had very strong views about particular persons of interest," he said.
"That's the nature of police work but we don't arrest people on the intuition of detectives or other police.
"What we do is allow the detectives to work meticulously and rigorously towards one end and that is to find enough evidence that can be lawfully placed before the courts to arrest a person.
"One of the great dangers in any significant investigation is to form a view very early of who the person is that's committed the crime.
"Obviously there was a huge amount of investigation around about a blue car but quite properly there was other significant information coming forward at the same time.
"Our job was to meticulously work through all of that information in a step by step process.
"Of course what the investigators will always do is what's the best possible lead to follow at the moment.
"In this case the blue car was one of those. It wasn't the only one.
"So this was a very complex investigation and analysis that was undertaken, unprecedented."
Former policeman criticises investigation
A former police officer who identified Brett Cowan as a 'red hot' suspect in the disappearance of Daniel Morcombe told the ABC's 7.30 program on Thursday night there were 'systematic problems' with the way the case was handled.
It was eight years after Cowan was first interviewed by Kenneth King and his partner that he was arrested, following an elaborate and unprecedented undercover police operation.
Cowan, who was living on the Sunshine Coast, was well known to police after snatching and assaulting children for more than a decade, in both Brisbane and Darwin.
In 1993, he led a six-year-old boy into bushes on the outskirts of Darwin, abused him and left him for dead in the wreckage of an abandoned car.
The child was found wandering naked, dazed and traumatised before being treated at hospital for a collapsed lung, blackened eyes and deep cuts around his head, legs and scrotum.
Four years earlier, Cowan had assaulted a seven-year-old boy in a public toilet in Brisbane.
He was shown leniency by the Northern Territory judge because of his early confession, his admission that he needed help and his effort to get treatment.
Cowan, who was one of the persons of interest in the Daniel Morcombe coronial inquest, was among known paedophiles checked by police as part of their early investigations after Daniel disappeared while waiting for a bus at Woombye in December 2003.
Cowan had confessed to a prison psychologist that in his mid to late teenage years he abused up to 30 children, under 12.
He was released on parole in early 1998 and moved to the Sunshine Coast hinterland where he undertook a second sex offenders treatment program.
The ABC's 7.30 program showed an interview with Cowan from the following year where, while on parole, he came across a TV journalist doing random interviews with people on the streets for a documentary.
Cowan tells the reporter that he had been in trouble but says he's been "going to church all my life and, yeah, just became a Christian about 18 months ago".
Daniel's murder trial heard that Cowan got married and had been going to the then Christian Outreach Centre just near where Daniel disappeared.
His uncle and aunt were pastors at the church at the time.
Cowan, however, had stopped going to church at the time he snatched Daniel from near the church's main carpark.
Kenneth King told 7.30 that he and his partner, Senior Constable Dennis Martyn, went to the house of Cowan as part of a routine check of the alibis of known sex offenders.
"When we knocked on the door, we spoke to both Cowan and his wife. He was quite subdued, almost overly polite and a little bit chilling in the way ... I distinctly recall his eyes,'' Mr King said.
"I recall it very vividly because I sat back down in a police vehicle after that conversation and I said to my partner...
"I basically said to him, 'Look, if he's not good for that, he's good for something'.
"I left with the distinct impression of guilt.''
Cowan, however, gave an alibi that he was picking up a mulcher at a friend's place but police suspicions were raised because the times Cowan gave left a gap of 30 to 40 minutes.
Cowan had also recently shaved off a goatee similar to the ones in the police comfit drawings.
"By the time my inquiries finished on this matter, we had someone who was a known serious child sex offender who resembled one of the comfits who'd recently removed his goatee beard, he had a white vehicle that could have matched one of these white vehicles on the side of the road and he had a time gap in his alibi that couldn't be explained that put him in close proximity to the missing person at the time they went missing,'' Mr King told 7.30
"To put it in blunt terms, I thought he was a red-hot suspect.''
But given the numerous reports of a blue car at the scene, the focus shifted away from Cowan.
APN understands Queensland's most senior investigators were of the firm view that another known sex offender, Douglas Jackway, who had a blue car, was the prime suspect in the case.
Jackway even featured in a special TV program on the Seven Network as the major person of interest in the Daniel investigation.
In 2004, police were adamant that it was most likely that Daniel was abducted by a person or persons in a blue car because many of the witnesses had reported seeing a blue car.
"There was an understandable interest in the blue vehicle. There seemed to be an almost sort of blanket approach as far as locating the blue vehicle to the exclusion of other information,'' Mr King told 7.30
Cowan's white car was inspected on Christmas Eve, 2003 but Mr King believes more should have happened at the time.
"I would have thought that the appropriate thing at that point in time would have been to execute search warrants at his home address and any other address associated with him, to seize his vehicle, his clothing, just about every imaginable examination you could think of to find evidence that may be related to the crime, but I didn't see evidence of that activity.''
PHOTO GALLERY: Bruce and Denise Morcombe's 10 year journey
Cowan a key suspect at the Daniel Morcombe inquest
Cowan was brought before the Daniel Morcombe coronial inquest six years later, where he was referred to as P7.
The 42-year-old suspect looked Bruce and Denise Morcombe in the eyes when he said he "had nothing to do with Daniel's disappearance".
"As I said to police, and I'm sorry if this sounds bad, I thought it was funny that they still thought I had something to do with Daniel's disappearance," P7 said.
Asked why he thought it was funny, P7 said 35 minutes would not be long enough to abduct and murder a young boy.
He said the gap was a time when he was buying drugs from his dealer at Beerwah but the woman who he said sold him marijuana has no memory of seeing him on the day.
The Morcombes were unconvinced of Cowan's alibi.
At the time, APN reported: "Bruce and Denise Morcombe believe they could have stared their son's killer in the eye on Friday.''
Bruce Morcombe told media outside the court there was a 'definite chance' that P7 was responsible for the abduction and murder of Daniel on December 7, 2003.
"We've got a long way to go but it's very interesting for sure," Mr Morcombe said.
Mrs Morcombe said before his evidence she thought another person of interest, P5, could have been responsible for their son's disappearance.
"We had our mind set on it being P5 and then when this one (P7) walked in yesterday, he's exactly like the sketches," she said.
It was after the inquest that police launched their elaborate sting, convincing Cowan he had joined a powerful criminal gang.
It was during this covert operation that police finally obtained the confession they needed.
Cowan eventually led undercover police down an isolated forest road in the Glass House Mountains area, where he identified where he had left Daniel's body.
Cowan is expected to face the Brisbane Supreme Court shortly for sentencing after he was yesterday found guilty of three counts over the murder, indecent treatment of and interference with the remains of Daniel Morcombe.
Police issued a statement to 7.30 saying there will always be opposing views within a complex investigation.
The Queensland Police Service was comfortable with the strategies it used, it said.