Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Qld. Missing Persons Bureau did not work Sundays when Daniel Morcombe went missing

IF Daniel Morcombe had been reported as a missing person the day he vanished, the file would have gone to "an empty office".

The inquest into his suspected abduction and murder was told yesterday that in 2003, the Missing Persons Bureau "did not work Sundays".

Sergeant Robbie Munn, the police officer who took the initial statement from 13-year-old Daniel's parents, Bruce and Denise, early on the evening of December 7 that year, defended his decision not to immediately launch a full-scale search. Sgt Munn said even if he had forwarded a report to the Missing Persons Bureau, it would have been a waste of time. "They would not have had any staff on a Sunday and it would not have been attended to until Monday," he said. "At that time, it would have been forwarded to an empty office." Sgt Munn said for that reason an "official" missing persons report would have been "impractical and ineffective".

However, the inquest heard processes had since changed and several policies improved. These included the addition of a "risk assessment" check that now had to be completed by police every time someone was reported missing.

Under at times heated questioning from the Morcombes' solicitor Peter Boyce, Sgt Munn stood by his decision to send the Morcombes home to wait and see if Daniel turned up. He said there had been no pre-arranged time for Daniel to be back, so at that point he technically was not missing. Sgt Munn said Daniel had been from a good home, there were no tensions or obvious "warning signs" that would cause the boy to run away.

He organised a Be On The Lookout For (BOLF) bulletin to be broadcast to police in the Sunshine Coast area and said he would call the Morcombes a few hours later.

The inquest heard that when Sgt Munn phoned them at 10pm, darkness and the fact no shops or cinemas were open caused added concern.

Senior Constable Paul Campbell was the next officer involved. He had finished his 2-10pm shift at Palmwoods station, but was passed the responsibility to contact the Morcombes, which he did between 10.30 and 10.45pm. Sen-Constable Campbell said he treated it like a fresh complaint and interviewed Mr Morcombe about the events of the day. He decided it best to wait until the morning and arranged for the Morcombes to go to Palmwoods at 8am on the Monday to ask to lodge a missing persons report. "There were no facts before me that would lead me to think anything sinister had happened," said Sen-Constable Campbell.


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