Man charged with alleged murder of missing Gold Coast girl after body found in barrel

LATEST @ 11.30 AM | A man accused of the murder of a young Gold Coast girl in the NSW Blue Mountains will remain behind bars after a brief appearance in court this morning.

The 32-year-old was taken into custody at a unit in the Sydney suburb of Surry Hills overnight, following a major investigation into the 9-year-old’s disappearance.

His arrest came after police divers yesterday discovered child remains in a barrel near the Colo River, an hour away from where the girl disappeared from a property in Mount Wilson six days ago.


“Unfortunately, this morning, I bring you news we didn’t want to come with,” Acting Commissioner Karen Webb said.

“Five days ago, we started searching for a missing 9-year-old girl. We spent the last five days with hundreds of police and other resources, volunteers, RFS, SES and a number of community members searching for the missing 9-year-old in the Blue Mountains area and other areas.

“Last night police found a barrel near the Colo River and that barrel contains human remains that are consistent with the missing 9-year-old”.

Deputy Commissioner Dave Hudson said detectives made the breakthrough after noticing “a number of anomalies in relation to movement data in the days preceding the reporting of the missing child”.

“Through electronic means, through GPS tracking, through CCTV tracking, we were able to establish certain facts in relation to the vehicle he was driving and those movements and also certain special behaviour which escalated our scrutiny in relation to his involvement or potential involvement,” Deputy Commissioner Hudson said.

Police said phone calls made by the man, who has been identified by police as the fiance of the young girl’s mother, proved crucial.

“Those movements including after a number of telephone conversations with the girl’s mother, to purchase a number of sandbags, 20kg sandbag from a hardware store, to fuel a boat and then try and float that boat on the water at one of the docks in inner Sydney,” Deputy Commissioner Hudson said.

“That was unsuccessful because the boat was inoperable and then tracking that individual back to the location where we commenced the search yesterday afternoon.”

The young girl had been living with her grandparents in Coolangatta on the Gold Coast and was visiting her mother and the mother’s fiance when she disappeared.

“The child’s grandparents have been informed and, as I think you’re aware, those grandparents have custody of the child,” Deputy Commissioner Hudson said.

“They have been informed and, obviously, our thoughts go out to them and all the other remaining family members.”

Police are yet to interview the child’s mother, who remains under health care.

“She has been difficult to approach and contact. She’s under the care of medical supervision,” Deputy Commissioner Hudson said.

“At some stage, hopefully, when those doctors allow, we will be talking further with her.

“At this stage, we keep an open mind to everything. As I said, we investigate. We don’t speculate.”

NSW Deputy Premier Paul Toole said it’s a tragic outcome.

“People across this country have been hoping and praying for a good outcome,” he said.

“Today, the news is not what we wanted to hear. This is horrible. This is horrific. This is shocking.

“I know that many people are distressed by what they’re hearing today. I know that cases like this take a toll on our police and I want to say to them we are all grateful and we are all thankful for your efforts”.

The man appeared in court this morning, where he was refused bail to reappear on March 18.

The investigation remains ongoing, with police appealing for anyone with information to come forward.

“There is still a lot to determine… It’s now in the hands of the coroner, the cause of death and a number of other lines of inquiry,” Deputy Commissioner Hudson said.

“The search will remain ongoing to look for any clues to help us identify the cause of the death.

“So I encourage people to come forward with information.

“There are still many elements of this investigation that we have to work through to determine exactly what happened from the time the young girl was reported missing up until last night when those remains were found”.

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EARLIER @ 8.30 AM | POLICE have confirmed they have located a body during the search for a young Gold Coast girl who disappeared from a property in the New South Wales Blue Mountains.

Police divers made the grim discovery while searching the Colo River for the missing 9-year-old overnight.

“The body of a child was located in a barrel. The body is yet to be formally identified,” NSW Police said.

Following the discovery, detectives attached to Strike Force Buena arrested a 32-year-old man at a unit on Riley Street in Surry Hills around 8.30pm last night.

He was taken to Surry Hills Police Station and charged with murder.

The man was refused bail to appear in Central Local Court today.

Investigations under Strike Force Buena are continuing, with senior police expected to address the media today alongside the Deputy Premier.

More to come.

EARLIER @ 5.30 AM | A man has been charged with murder over the disappearance of a young Gold Coast girl in the New South Wales Blue Mountains.

The 32-year-old was taken into custody by detectives attached to Strike Force Buena at a unit along Riley Street in Surry Hills about 8.30pm last night.

He was taken to Surry Hills Police Station and charged with murder.

It comes following an extensive five-day search for the nine-year-old, who was reported missing from a lavish property in Mt Wilson on Friday.

The man has been refused bail to appear in Central Local Court today.

Detectives are yet to confirm reports human remains have been found.

NSW Police said further information will be provided when available.