Remembering Daniel Morcombe 18 years on

The teen's tragic disappearance and murder in 2003 shocked the country.
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It was the case that captured the attention of the entire nation, and nearly two decades after the murder of Sunshine Coast schoolboy Daniel Morcombe, the tragedy remains etched in the minds of all those who followed the devastating event.

WATCH: Daniel Morcombe’s parents react to Coroner’s findings

Eighteen years on, we reflect on the gut-wrenching case and the effect the 13-year-old’s senseless murder had on the psyche of the Australian public.

Daniel Morcombe’s abduction

December 7th, 2003 started like any other day but would turn out to be one that ended in unspeakable tragedy.

Daniel Morcombe’s abduction captured the nation. (Credit: Daniel Morcombe Foundation)

On that rainy Sunday morning, 13-year-old Daniel Morcombe had decided to visit the Sunshine Plaza Shopping Centre for a haircut and to buy Christmas presents for his family.

Waiting for the 1:35 pm bus under the Kiel Mountain Road overpass in Woombye, Daniel was forced to wait for a replacement bus after the original had passed the unofficial stop, with the driver arranging a second bus to pick up the teen.

By the time that bus arrived three minutes later, Daniel was gone. 

Despite police holding a re-enactment with a mannequin at the bus stop following the young boy vanishing, the case baffled both police and the Australian public.

One year following his disappearance, a memorial service attended by 1000 people was held for Daniel, with a special plaque being unveiled at the site.

Daniel’s disappearance baffled police. (Credit: Daniel Morcombe Foundation)

The arrest of Brett Peter Cowan

Eight years after Daniel Morcombe disappeared, former Sunshine Coast man Brett Peter Cowan was charged with his murder after he had confessed to killing the teen in a secret recording made by undercover police acting as criminal gang members.

On 13 March 2014, Cowan was found guilty of the murder and was sentenced to life imprisonment for indecently dealing with a child and interference with a corpse.

At his sentencing, Justice Roslyn Atkinson described the crime as “entirely abhorrent”.

“You didn’t look like a monster, you didn’t look like a paedophile, you looked like an ordinary person,” she said.

“You knew if he ran away, you’d be caught. So you killed him. You killed him because you didn’t want to get caught.

Brett Peter Cowan was charged with Daniel’s murder. (Credit: Queensland Police Service)

“Everything you did to that boy is horrific and disgraceful. I’ve seen no evidence in the months you’ve been in this court that you ever felt any remorse for what you did.

“You have tragically and pointlessly snuffed out a young life.”

In a victim impact statement, Daniel’s father Bruce detailed the gut-wrenching tragedy his family had suffered as a result of Cowan’s actions.

“Ten years ago you made a choice that ripped our family apart. You have robbed [Daniel] of 70 years of life,” he said.

“I often wonder about the other victims you have left in your wake.

“Sitting in the same room as you revolts me.”

Daniel’s parent created the Daniel Morcombe Foundation. (Credit: Instagram)

Daniel’s mother Denise added: “I made a vow to Daniel I would find out where he is and that justice is done.

“This day doesn’t bring closure, but the streets are safer.”

Daniel Morcombe’s ongoing legacy

Despite the unthinkable devastation and trauma suffered by the Morcombe family, Daniel’s parents vowed to make sure their son’s death was not in vain, utilising the case’s public interest to bring awareness to child safety by creating the Daniel Morcombe foundation.

The Morcombe family don’t want Daniel’s death to be in vain. (Credit: Instagram)

According to the official Daniel Morcombe Foundation website, the aims of the Foundation are to “educate children and young people about how to stay safe in physical and online environments and to support young victims of crime.”

​​Every year, thousands of people dress in red for an annual National Day of Action for Child Safety, held on the last Friday in October, which has since been dubbed Day for Daniel.

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