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Morcombe family stunned by release of Daniel's remains

Daniel Morcombe during a 12th birthday party.
Daniel Morcombe during a 12th birthday party.

7pm UPDATE: THE State Coroner has made an order releasing Daniel's remains to funeral directors acting for the the Morcombe family.

Daniel's father Bruce said the move was a "huge milestone" and the family hoped to lay him to rest in the next seven to 10 days.

He said the family was having a meeting, working through possible funeral arrangements and what they could achieve in that time frame.

"It's been an amazing couple of hours really," Mr Morcombe said.

"We never started today thinking we'd be in this position at the close of the day."

Earlier, Mr Morcombe told media how the family had endured 3280 days without their Daniel.

The Morcombes cautiously welcomed news that  the man accused of killing Daniel, Brett Peter Cowan, had signed instructions saying he no longer needs to scientifically test the remains.

Speaking outside the Brisbane Magistrates Court, Bruce and Denise were not showing joy but stressing it was just another step - albeit a significant one - in being able to hold a proper farewell for Daniel.

Mr Morcombe said it was time all the players, including police and the DPP, signed off on the release of Daniel's remains.

"Daniel's remains were discovered 467 days ago," he said.

"He has been not in the family's unit for 3280 days.

"On anyone's perception, both of those are long numbers.

"We treat this as no joy, that announcement, but it is a step in the process to getting Daniel's remains released to the family and once they are released, obviously we can make plans for a funeral from there."

Daniel's father said the family had been included in correspondence through Coast laywer Peter Boyce about the remains but they had not been listened to in their pleas to have them returned quickly.

"There are a number of players that appear to have held up Daniel's remains," Mr Morcombe said.

"But 467 days since Daniel's remains were found, one would suggest that is more than ample time for everybody concerned in this matter to do their own tests and be satisfied with those results and cross check and triple check if required."

Mr Morcombe said the family did not expect Daniel's remains to be released quickly.

"We don't expect their release today, tomorrow or the next seven days.''

Denise Morcombe said today's development was "just one process we have to go through''

"I don't know how much longer we have to wait for but it's not going to be an easy process.''

"We're patient people

"We just have to keep waiting, it's all you can do.''

Mr Cowan's defence lawyer Michael Bosscher said it was important the DNA evidence was carefully examined before Daniel's remains were released.

"My exact instructions were that he (Cowan) didn't see any benefit in having those remains further examined.

"And in those circumstances, now that he has heard all of the evidence and we've had an opportunity to cross-examine all of the relevant witnesses, he was content for those items located to be released.''

He said he did not believe it could have been done more quickly.

"We did immediately after I'd finished cross examining the very last relevant scientific witness

"Within half an hour of that concluding and confirming my instructions in the break, then we were in a position to do that.''

"We don't see any value in re-examining or re-testing any of those items that were located.

"It doesn't mean any facts are admitted or there won't be challenge taken to some of the evidence being given, but we don't seek independent evidence to corroborate or alternatively speak against the evidence that's been given.''

"On behalf of Brett I sincerely hope these remains will now be released so others involved in this matter can get some closure.''

Morcombes win first battle to have Daniel's remains released 

The Morcombes have overcome the first hurdle to getting Daniel's remains returned to them.

The man accused of killing Daniel, Brett Peter Cowan, has signed instructions saying he no longer needs to scientifically test the 13 year old's remains.

Lawyer Michael Bosscher, acting for Cowan, presented the form in Brisbane Magistrates Court on Thursday after robustly testing DNA evidence over the first four days of his client's committal hearing.

Daniel's family has been waiting 15 months to lay him to rest after his remains were found at a search site at Glasshouse Mountains last year.

After much correspondence, they were told they must wait to see how sound the DNA evidence was when examined during the court hearing.

Father Bruce Morcombe, who has listened to all the evidence tested so far, said on Wednesday the science appeared to hold up.

"Obviously we're not experts in that field but from a layperson's point of view it's certainly encouraging," he said.

"And we're hopeful common sense will prevail and we'll end up with Daniel's remains sooner rather than later."

Even though Cowan's defence team has relinquished its hold over the remains, there are other parties which must sign off too before Daniel can be released to his family.

Crown prosecutor Glen Cash appeared blind sided by the move and asked for a brief adjournment.

He said he expected things could move "rapidly" from this point and he wanted to immediately consult people about it.

The Morcombes hugged and appeared relived they had taken the next step.

Woman tells of seeing 'scruffy-looking', drug affected man with Daniel Morcombe

A WOMAN has described seeing a "scruffy-looking" man at Southport with a boy she believed could have been Daniel Morcombe the day after he went missing.

Tracey Carpentar told Brisbane Magistrates Court she was only 80-90% sure it was the teen because she did not take note of his clothes or face.

She said she contacted police because she learned Daniel was missing and this boy "didn't fit the picture".

Ms Carpentar said the man with the boy appeared affected by drugs and alcohol, with eyes red and rolled back.

She said he had a long beard, dark hair and looked 35-45 years old.

"Something didn't feel right," he said.

"(The boy) didn't seem to be part of the picture. He just didn't fit in."

UPDATE 10am: A South Australian forensic scientist says the significance of matching mitochondrial DNA from Daniel Morcombe's mum and brothers cannot be assessed statistically without an Australian database. 

But Jeremy Austin, from the Australian Centre for Ancient DNA, would not agree with suggestions Australia's population would result in geographical clustering of such DNA.

He said the bulk of this nation's population involved immigration for the past 200 years and it was unlikely there would be clustered ancestry DNA structures that could be found on small islands.

Mr Austin said Australia was a multicultural country with people from all continents of the world so American and European mitochondrial DNA databases could give an indication of the "rarity".

Under cross-examination, Mr Austin said the highest he could put his findings was that he could not exclude the bones belonged to Daniel Morcombe.

He told Brisbane Magistrates Court he had used ultraviolet light radiation, 15 minutes on each side of the bone, followed by physical scraping to ensure the bone was not contaminated.

Mr Austin said, after 12 to 13 years examining huge numbers of human and animal bones, he was confident these methods worked.

He said his analysis detected just one DNA profile which he confirmed no contamination.

Check back for continual updates from the case today.

EARLIER: Another forensic scientist is expected to testify today as lawyers probe the strength of the DNA evidence linking bones found at Glasshouse Mountains to Daniel Morcombe.

Two hydrologists are also expected to be quizzed about how water in the area came into play at the search site.

Brisbane Magistrates Court heard yesterday how the same DNA test identifying infamous bushranger Ned Kelly's remains at Pentridge Prison in Victoria was used in the Daniel Morcombe alleged murder case.

Mitochondrial DNA, linking maternal lines on the family tree, has connected bones found at Glasshouse Mountains to Denise and Bradley Morcombe.

Dadna Hartman, from the Victorian Institute of Forensic Science, told Brisbane Magistrates Court via videolink yesterday the tests could not identify an individual but she could link DNA samples from Daniel's mother and brother to the bones.

"We would expect the mother to have the same mitochondrial profile as her children," she said.

"You cannot positively identify an individual but it can be used as an inclusion or exclusion tool."

Lawyer Michael Bosscher, acting for Daniel's accused killer Brett Peter Cowan, questioned whether the reliance on a European database made such assumptions "pointless".

Ms Hartman pointed to her studies on remains belonging to 25 people at Pentridge Prison.

"They were very similar to the patterns seen in Europe," she said. "In my opinion ... the profiles we see do fit those for a Caucasian population.

"It is an assumption based on our years of experience."

Queensland's top pathologist, Peter Ellis, said he believed the size of the bones, consistent with a 13-year-old, and no duplication in the uncovered bones, together with mitochondrial and low carbon number DNA tests, led him to conclude it was Daniel.

"They are Daniel's body, that's my opinion," he said.

Mr Bosscher asked whether he could still reach that conclusion if the DNA evidence proved unreliable or wrong.

Mr Ellis said he could not.

He said he found "tiny marks" on the bones, probably consistent with how long they had been exposed in the open.

Otherwise, however, he said he found no cause of death or evidence of "manually produced surface damage".

"When you have just skeletal remains, apart from presenting some challenges for identification, there's a limited amount of evidence about the cause of death."

Topics:  committal hearing, daniel morcombe, day four, dna testing


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