Disappearance and Investigation:
September 2014, 3 year-old William Tyrrell was taken out of childcare for a ‘surprise’ visit to his grandmother’s house. The family packed up the car and made the three hour drive north to Banaroon Drive in Kendall. On the morning of 12 September the father left to find better signal for his business call, and the mother and grandmother sat in the sun drinking tea while watching William and his sister play hide and seek in the large yard that wrapped around the house. William was wearing his favourite spider-man costume. At around 10:30am the women went inside to make more tea. They never saw William again.
Photo: The iconic photo of William Tyrrell in his spider-man costume was taken the morning of the disappearance.
The last thing his mother remembers before the disappearance was William shouting ‘rawr’ before running down the side of the house to hide. The women became worried when they had not heard a noise from him for a while – they claim this to have been around 5 minutes. William’s father soon returned from his errand and began searching the street and door knocking neighbours. At 10:56am the mother called 000 to report him missing. As the property was directly across from the road to the Kendall State Forest, it was assumed at this point that he may have wandered off alone.
Photo: Rough timeline released to the public of the disappearance.
The police arrived shortly after and began searching with 200 volunteers. The search continued overnight and included helicopters and motorbikes. The family noticed that the police had begun to look into the possibility of other scenarios as the bushland thickened and there was still no sign of the boy. Police, State Emergency Services, Rural Fire Services and members of the community searched day and night, but after 5 days of searching there were still no leads and the possibility of the boy having wondered off grew smaller.
Photo: Showing the area that William was taken from.
Strike Force Rosann was established by specialist police – including the sex crimes squad – and there were investigators, analysts, and a forensic psychologist assigned to the case full time. The disappearance soon became one of the largest investigations ever undertaken by the NSW police-force. All the registered sex offenders in the area were questioned, and after 9 days the huge search was scaled back in order to focus on the evidence that had been gathered.
Photo: Showing the investigators searching for William in their scuba gear.
Investigators eventually ruled that there had been human intervention in his disappearance, but hoped that he would still be alive. A police detection dog was only able to find William’s scent within the backyard – which would suggest that he had been put into a vehicle as opposed to leaving on foot.
Photo: Police teams and hundreds of volunteers searched for William after his disappearance.
The task-force’s forensic psychologist suggested that the kidnapping was most likely an opportunistic crime since no one but the child’s parents and grandmother knew about the visit, so the kidnapper would have had to have another reason for being in the area – either visiting, living or working. She continued that there was only a narrow window of opportunity to take the child from outside the property, which is located in a dead-end street.
“It does seem that this was an opportunistic crime and when somebody makes that kind of impulsive decision, mistakes are made and it’s those kind of mistakes that the investigation is focusing on.”
For two years the public were under the impression that William was taken from his biological family, until it was revealed that at the time of the disappearance the boy was in the care of the Department of Family and Community Services (FACS). William was being cared for by foster parents in ‘out-of-home-care’.
William’s biological parents had two children together whilst in a violent, turbulent relationship. The couple had their daughter taken from them first, and so the two absconded with William and hid with him for almost three months. Eventually welfare workers saw the two in a video store and William, at 8 months old, was taken away to be with his sister in foster care. The couple were allowed to see the children three times a week at first, but at the time of the disappearance they were only allowed to see him for one hour every 7-8 weeks.
Photo: Karlie Tyrrell was revealed to be William’s biological mother, and had been kept out of the public eye for legal reasons.
Karlie Tyrrell had a violent past, having been charged with three serious assaults – two of which were against police officers. The biological mother of William admits to having made ‘bad choices’ in the past, but still believes that she is a good mother.
Brendan Collins was an abusive partner that had spent time in prison for numerous charges including a common assault, drug offences, breach of bail, warrants offences and violence against another person by stealing. At the time of the disappearance Collins was in Silverwater Prison awaiting sentencing on minor charges. The relationship between the father and son was good, and William loved his biological dad. Since the disappearance Collins has descended into heavy drug use, and became homeless and unemployed. Collins’ mother says that he is now ‘too far gone on drugs’, and he regularly rages in his room about protecting his children – whilst hoarding children’s toys.
Unfortunately, in cases like this, the biological parents will always be the first suspects, and at 4:30pm on the day of the disappearance investigators turned up at Karlie’s door to search the property for the missing boy and to ask some questions. Karlie was heavily pregnant with her next child, and had been shopping for baby clothes in Blacktown at the time of the disappearance. The ATM receipts and dockets are able to confirm this alibi.
One forensic psychologist and former police officer acknowledged that it is very likely that the veil over the biological parents made the investigation more difficult in the early stages. The truth was not revealed to the public until over two years after the disappearance. It must have been hard for the biological parents to remain silent while the foster parents were being identified as his real family during the investigation.
Interestingly, it was revealed that William is also the nephew of 5 Seconds to Summer guitarist Michael Clifford.
Photo: Bill Spedding has never officially been a person of interest.
Tradesman Bill Spedding was understood to have given the foster grandmother a quote for a washing machine repair a few days prior to the disappearance. Spedding was supposed to return to the property with a new part for the washing machine on the day of William’s disappearance. The date on which the family arrived to the area is debated by some, and it may be possible (albeit not probable) that the boy was at the property when Spedding first visited the property.
Spedding had previously been charged for multiple child sex offences in Victoria – including various counts of indecent assault and sexual intercourse with children between 1983 and 1985. He claims to have tried to call the grandmother in the morning, but when he couldn’t get hold of her he went for coffee with his wife and went to the school assembly of his grandchild.
On January 2015, forensics teams searched Spedding’s unit and pawnshop in Laurieton. A number of items were seized including computer equipment and a single mattress, and the septic tank on the property was drained. There was also a search of a ‘maze-like structure’ underneath the rented home.
One witness had called the police after hearing a child crying in a cabin where a middle-aged couple from Victoria stayed from September 28 to October 9. The police searched this cabin in the caravan park and the owner gave them the address of the couple, but little more is known about this – and whether there is any information connecting Spedding to this cabin. The police searched the dense bushland of Bonny Hills and Lake Cathie after other tip-offs, but again, it is unknown if there was anything found, and whether this was connected to Spedding.
There were reports of a spider-man toy being found in Spedding’s work vehicle, but this was neither confirmed or denied by investigators. It would appear that there is no connection between Spedding and William’s disappearance, and it is unclear whether he is still a person of interest in the case. In the months after William’s disappearance however, Spedding posted several related messages on Facebook, apparently encouraging those involved in the search by saying ‘don’t give up looking’, and a few days later asked ‘where is he?’.
Photo: Tony Jones, a person of interest in the disappearance.
At age 60, Jones was a convicted paedophile who, in 2015, had been serving a three year sentence for an aggravated assault on an 11 year-old girl. Jones had been released early on parole and was living back in the community at the time of the disappearance. Jones was living just 20 minutes away from Kendall in Wauchope, with a relative, and would have no reason in be in Kendall.
As a person of interest Jones told police that he had been out collecting scrap metal on the day of the disappearance. Jones told others that he had borrowed a chainsaw from the council and was out in the bush. When questioned about the confusing alibis by television show ‘A Current Affair’ Jones had become violent and aggressive, shouting that he had been helping a neighbour fix their hot water system – which was later denied by the neighbour. Relatives say that Jones had told them he was meeting up with another child sex offender, and he had returned home after lunch, drunk.
Photo: Jones was violent and aggressive to the camera crew as he shouted another alibi that would later be denied.
Although Jones has previously denied any involvement in the disappearance it appears that he may have met up with his friend Paul Bickford that day – another child sex offender – and the two know more that they are letting on.
Photo: Person of interest, Paul Bickford.
Not much is known about Bickford other than at the time of the disappearance he was serving a suspended sentence for indecent assault of a girl with Asperger’s syndrome. Bickford is known to frequent the local pub regularly and is described by many as being close friends with Jones. Bickford claims to have been having lunch in Port Macquarie with friends on the day of the disappearance, and denies ever being friends with Jones.
Vehicles of Interest:
As the road was a ‘no-through road’ in a secluded, rural area there was no reason to be there unless you had a purpose, so the cars that were seen in the vicinity on the day of the disappearance are of key significance.
At 9am of the day of the disappearance a dark green/grey coloured sedan drove past the driveway where William and his sister were riding their bikes. The car drove into the ‘no through road’, performed a U turn in a neighbour’s driveway, and drove away.
At 10:30am a 4WD was seen driving out of Banaroon Drive – which would have been around the time of the disappearance – and the same vehicle was later witnessed speeding down another Kendall street.
On 7 September 2015 the police appealed for information about two cars that had been parked between two driveways opposite the house on the day of the disappearance. The drivers-seat windows were down and the car was unknown to the locals, and never seen again, which is suspicious in the area.
Photo: Police appealed for information from the public about these two cars that were seen parked across the street before the disappearance.
Interestingly, Bickford owned a grey sedan that fit the cars description, and an old white station wagon, like the one described, was seized from Jones’ property in 2015. Jones denied ever driving the vehicle, saying that it was his ex-wife’s car and she never let him drove it. Relatives however, say that he regularly drove the car without her permission, and the car was taken by police and forensically examined.
An anonymous tip-off was received by police about an abandoned rusty car that they had found hidden in the bushland surrounding Kendall – just a short drive from the site of the disappearance. By the time police arrived at the scene the car had been flipped over and set alight. Some witnesses pointed out that it was the same car that Jones used to drive. Investigators seem confident with the evidence they were able to collect from the vehicle, however this information has not been made public at this point.
Photo: The burnt-out car that police found after following an anonymous tip-off.
This information regarding vehicles of interest was not made public knowledge until 12 months after the disappearance, and it is wondered whether an earlier public appeal could have helped the investigation significantly.
Paedophile Ring Theory:
At the beginning of the investigation the suspect was believed to have been an opportunistic stranger in connection with a paedophile ring – however this is not believed by investigators anymore. Although this is not the direction that investigators are moving forward with, it is crucial to establish whether this change of direction is justified.
Some experts believe that the suspect must have known the boy, and there is suggestion of stalking behaviour prior to the disappearance, suggesting that the crime was not impulsive.
Police revealed the escape route that they believed the suspect will have taken, and the route suggests that the person knew the area well as many individuals would struggle to navigate through the thick bushland.
The abduction occurred on a Friday morning, around 10:30am – it was broad daylight and the individual would risk being seen from the balcony of the house, as well as the neighbouring properties. The individual would have been foreign to the area, which adds to the boldness of the crime. This would suggest that the individual was confident in his actions – possibly having done it numerous times before, or by planning it very carefully. This could also suggest insight knowledge, as the boy was only at the foster-grandmothers house due to a last minute change in plans.
At the time of the disappearance there were over 20 registered sex offenders living in the surrounding area of Kendall. Evidence of an organised paedophile ring operating in the area that may explain the secrecy of the investigation. A larger-scale operation such as this would mean that investigators may not want public awareness as they need to gather hard evidence that will definitely secure a conviction, otherwise evidence may be destroyed and people of interest could disappear.
Although the family, both foster and biological, have seemingly been ruled out of the investigation it must be noted that the foster parents have never publicly identified themselves for the safety of the daughter – who is still under their care, and has not been returned to the biological mother. Not much is known about the foster family and it has been suggested that they may have had something involved in the disappearance.
As the public became more aware of the secretive investigations hindering on the finding of William, they started a petition to get the case a ‘Coronial Inquest’. The Daniel Morcombe inquest was crucial to solving the case, and the public feel that it is the only way the investigation will be solved.
The petition pointed out several miscarriages of justice, including that the birth-family were gagged for years while other people of interest still remain anonymous. The public feel as though they have been kept in the dark away from the truth, and the whole case is marred by ‘lies and bullshit’. Misinformation has purposefully been published and the public finally want to know the truth.
The petition far surpassed the needed signatures and the pressure finally built enough for an inquiry in 2019, which was recently announced. The inquiry will not have the power to criminally charge someone for the offence, but they can compel witnesses to talk where otherwise might not have to. The inquest will also examine key pieces of evidence and hopefully this will be helpful to the investigation.
Future of Investigation:
Photo: The Facebook page and website set up to help the boy are being followed by thousands.
A line of inquiry into a ‘high risk’ person of interest led to another search location in Batar Creek in June 2018. At the end of the two-day search investigators said there was a person of interest that knew why the area was being searched. Police also conducted a large-scale forensic search in the Kendall Bushland over four weeks. The searches collected new evidence and police suggested that the suspect is believed to be living nearby.
Investigators revealed that they have received almost 3000 calls through Crime Stoppers, and there have been more than 1000 alleged sightings of William in NSW, and another 300 around Australia or overseas. Hundreds of people of interest, and hundreds more potential vehicles of interest have been brought forward – with more than 450 addresses canvassed and more than 300 statements obtained. All this information has provided numerous lines of enquiry, and each has been followed meticulously.
As there is so much secrecy surrounding the investigation, and there being several persons of interest that have never been named by the media, it is unlikely that the public will receive any new information before the case is solved. Police have advised the public that people close to the suspect may notice a change in their behaviour as the pressure of the investigation increases.
The 2019 inquest, and subsequent criminal proceedings should hopefully provide some answers and justice for the family, although it has been noted that ‘the tragic probability is that William is no longer alive’.
There is currently a $1million reward for information about the disappearance – even if the information does not lead to a conviction – which is one of the largest rewards in NSW history.
Police are urging anyone with information about the disappearance of William Tyrrell to call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.