William Tyrrell was born on 26 June 2011. In 2014, aged just 3 years old, he would vanish from his foster grandmother’s home in Kendall, New South Wales, and become one of Australia’s most tragic missing person cases.
Background of William Tyrrell
William was born to Karlie Tyrrell and Brendan Collins, a violent, thieving, and materially abusing couple. Their tense relationship resulted in a court order from the Department of Family and Community Services to place William in foster care; however, this did not occur for six weeks, as Karlie and Brendan concealed him at his paternal grandfather’s house in Western Sydney until he was eventually discovered.
William was taken from his parents and placed in foster care when he was 9 months old and early in 2012. His foster parents and foster grandma have chosen to keep their identities private and have not been made public. According to all accounts, his foster parents were extremely affectionate and hoped to foster him forever.
This is where the situation becomes troublesome and unfortunate. Although we now know Karlie and Brendan’s identities, this didn’t occur until 2017 three years after William went missing. In 2017, a NSW Supreme Court judge deemed it to be in the public interest for William’s status as a foster kid to be made public. Previously, news articles frequently referred to William’s foster parents as his parents.
In 2015, William’s foster parents appeared on 60 Minutes, but their names were unknown. At the time of the abduction, foster parents were frequently represented by acquaintances, making it difficult for the public to comprehend why they were clearly “unwilling” to come out publicly.
This misunderstanding, combined with the absence of a formal “face” to speak for William, made it difficult to connect with the general public. Additionally, it prompted conspiracy theories regarding family members and the disappearance itself. In following years, after Karlie and Brendan’s names were revealed, the media would use their records to stir up tabloid drama, while social media would circulate claims that they stole their son an impossibility that persists nonetheless.
Despite these issues, the audience would continue to recall the single image of the youngster in the Spider-Man costume.
The Disappearance and First Search
William’s foster parents, along with his 4-year-old sister, would accompany him to visit his foster grandma in Kendall on September 11, 2014. The following morning, on September 12 at approximately 10 a.m., William’s foster mother and grandmother would observe him and his sister playing outside. William, costumed as Spider-Man, screamed as he sprinted around the house’s side. His foster mother and grandma then stepped inside to make a cup of tea. Five minutes later, William’s foster mother became alarmed when she discovered it had gone quiet outdoors and stepped out to check for him. Nonetheless, William had vanished.
At 11 am, the cops were called. Within minutes of their arrival, a combined search effort with the local society was initiated. The home, neighbourhood, and surrounding woods were meticulously investigated. The 21 houses surrounding the residence were checked up to 4 times over with new faculty to make sure fresh eyes would spot anything out of place. A Sydney-based revolt team flew up and searched the adjacent forest, their overalls shredded by the dense undergrowth. The police dogs detected William’s scent within the bounds of the yard.
Hundreds of people, professional police and task forces, tracking dogs, emergency services, helicopters, and divers searched continuously for five days until finally the effort was scaled back before being wholly called off. There was not a single scrap of evidence, no torn clothing, no footprints, nothing.
The Town of Kendall
Kendall is a tiny town on New South Wales’ Mid-North Coast. With less than 900 people living there, it’s not that special. Tourists don’t come here very often, especially now that the Pacific Highway has been improved to go around the nearby town of Kew, which is on the other side of the river.
Port Macquarie, one of the biggest towns on the Mid-North Coast, is to the north. To the east are the small towns of Laurieton and Camden Haven, which are popular with tourists who want a quiet vacation by the river or at the beach. Along with Kendall, they have slowly turned into retirement towns for older people who want a change of scenery by the sea or in the woods, since there are many beaches and national parks to visit.
There is a dark side to the Mid-North Coast which many (even those living there) are oblivious of though. For many pedophiles, the area is a good place to relax ate to after being released from jail or outed in public.
The Kendall House
As the search was going on, the police also began their investigation. The foster grandmother of William hasn’t been described yet, so I’ll do it now.
The house where William’s foster grandmother lives is on a small estate with several other homes. There is only one official way to get to the estate: a single street that turns sharply to the right and ends at an unpaved dirt road that leads up to a mess of fire trails in the national forest next door. There is a side street before this that leads to the local cemetery. There are also some dirt paths for walking, but they are not marked and are hard to find on satellite images.
In general, the area feels very isolated. The estate is mostly cut off from the rest of the town because it is surrounded by thick bushland, except on the east side, which leads to the main road. All of the houses have big lawns, but few of them are fenced in. Instead, trees and bushes in front of most of the houses hide the lawns from view.
The house of the foster grandmother is on the straight side of the road where it curves. It also sits on a cliff, with some trees on the bottom half and a lot of room for the road on the other half. There are no barriers, like many of the other houses in the neighbourhood. The slope and shape of the two-story house make it easy to get from the back yard to the front yard and out of sight. One side of the house has a balcony, which makes it hard to see where the garage is. Since there is a carport on the upper level, I think the garage was mostly used for storage, since it doesn’t have a paved driveway like the carport does.
Since the house has since been sold, you can find pictures of the backyard and inside on the Internet. But I won’t put a direct link to them here because I want to respect the new owners’ privacy.
First of all, I’m sorry if any of this is hard to understand. There is a lot of information out there, so it hasn’t been easy to make a timeline of what was known or being done before the inquest. I’ll try to put everything together as best I can, using what came to light later.
On September 15, 2014, Strike Force Rosann was put together. It was made up of a group of investigators and analysts who would go through the hundreds of tips sent in by the public.
The police started questioning the foster family right away and quickly found out that they had nothing to do with the case. As they said, William’s foster mother and grandmother were in the house, but his foster father was in a nearby town. He came back soon after William’s foster mother started looking for him.
When William’s foster mother was asked about what she had seen that morning at 7:30, she said that she had seen a white station waggon and an older, sort of grey sedan with their driver-side windows down. Both were parked between driveways, which was strange since it would have been easier to drive into the large acre lots each house was on and park closer there.
She also remembered a green or grey car driving by at 9 a.m. while William and his sister were riding their bikes in the carport with their parents. When it got to the end of the road, it turned around in a neighbor’s driveway and left the estate again.
Later that morning, about a kilometre away from where William went missing, Ronald Chapman heard a noise outside his house and went to see what was going on. A woman with blonde hair was driving a fawn-colored 4WD quickly by. A little boy dressed as Spider-Man was standing in the back seat without a seatbelt.
Soon after, a blue sedan driven by a man came along. Even that car was driven so quickly that it went onto the other side of the road.
Later, Chapman would see a report on TV about William, which would let him know that police were searching the area. He waited for someone to come to his door, but no one did. He didn’t talk to the police for a long time, and when he did, he only told the sister of a police officer what he had seen. The police wouldn’t talk to him officially until six months later.
Even though these sightings seemed important, they weren’t shared with the public until about a year after William went missing. At 11 pm, neighbour Paul Savage saw a dull red Nissan waggon enter the fire trail at the end of the street, but he never told anyone about it.
At the 2020 inquest, it came out that William’s foster mother had told police she hadn’t seen any strange cars that morning, but two days later, she remembered seeing them. No one else in the neighbourhood could confirm the sightings, and a memory expert thought it might have been a false memory. The same could be said about Chapman’s sighting, and the expert was sure that both of them were telling the truth, even though memories can be wrong.
Reports that William had been taken as part of a planned kidnapping were proven to be false, but the idea that he had been kidnapped was still the police’s biggest worry. They started making a list of people they were interested in, which quickly grew to include hundreds of names. Still, a few names stood out from the rest.
Bill Spedding: William “Bill” Spedding, a man from a nearby suburb, was the first person of interest to be named. A few days before William and his foster parents came, Spedding fixed a washing machine at the house of William’s foster grandmother. The police were interested in Spedding as a possible suspect. Not only was the time of his visit to the house strange, but he also seemed to be friends with another suspect and had been accused of sexually abusing a child in the past.
Spedding was questioned by police at the Port Macquarie station a few days after William went missing. He said that he and his wife had been at a cafe before going to a school assembly to see one of his grandchildren get an award. The police didn’t check out this alibi for several months, which could have saved them a lot of time and trouble in the long run.
On January 16, 2015, forensic teams went to Spedding’s home and shop. Several things were tested, and the septic tank on the property was filled with water. There was no real proof found. But a Spiderman toy was found in Spedding’s van. His wife said that one of the kids they cared for gave it to Spedding as a gift to keep him company while he drove.
Spedding was let go after a 6-hour interview, but the police warned him that they were on to him. Child welfare workers took his grandchildren away soon after that.
Inspector Gary Jubelin would take over the next month, in February. At the time, Jubelin was one of Australia’s most famous murder detectives. He looked into the case with a lot of passion, which got him in trouble in the end.
A few months after the first raid, in April 2015, Spedding would be arrested and taken to court for the old claims of child sexual abuse. These would be thrown away quickly because the information, which had already been turned down by police, was at best weak.
Spedding took the NSW Police to court many years later and said that Jubelin had put him in danger of going broke.
Tony Jones: Tony Jones was the next suspect. Even his own family didn’t like him. Jones and Spedding used to live next door to each other in another town, so it’s been said that they were friends. Jones was told about even more people who might be involved.
It’s not surprising that Jones became a suspect. With more than 90 convictions, some of which were for assaulting women and children, it’s even more surprising that he was still free.
Jones hasn’t been able to give a good explanation for where he was on the day William went missing. Most of what we know about what he did comes from what other people said. From what we know, Jones told his (now-ex) wife that morning that he and his son were going to the jungle to find scrap metal. His son says it’s not true. In the nearby town of Laurieton, another man says he saw Jones park at Henry Kendall Reserve, which is a quiet park with trees and a river. He was driving a white Toyota Camry, which was similar to one of the cars that William’s foster mother had seen that morning.
It turned out that the car was real, but Jones’s wife owned it. Jones says he wasn’t there or driving the car because his wife wouldn’t let him without her permission. Both his ex-wife and his estranged son will say he was driving it at the investigation in 2020. Even though the results were not clear, the police still took it for testing.
Jones came home drunk in the afternoon. When his wife found out about his lies, he would get angry and leave quickly. A few weeks later, he would be sent to prison for three years because he had done more child sex crimes. In 2018, the police would follow a tip that led them to a forest near where William went missing. There, they would find a car that looked like Jones’s but had been burned and flipped over. Since then, there has been no news about it.
There’s more to the story. Jones supposedly belonged to a local social support group called Grandparents as Parents Again (GAPA), or at least he lived near Paul Bickford, who was the group’s president at the time. Bickford is said to have gone to Jones’ house many times, but Jones’ wife never let him in because Bickford was also being charged with sexually abusing a child.
The police talked to the group and questioned Jones and Bickford because they thought they might be connected to a paedophilia ring in the area. But these ideas were soon shown to be wrong, and Bickford was later found guilty of the charges he made.
In 2019, a man named Ray Porter was dying in a Port Macquarie nursing home for the elderly. He told his caretaker that he had picked up one of his friends from a shed behind Kendall Elementary School. A small boy helped the man, and Porter drove them 300 km north. Records show that Porter was in the hospital getting dialysis on the day William went missing, but he was caught on several traffic cameras in the area in the days that followed, including one at Kew near Kendall.
A woman who was taking care of strawberries in her garden 10 km north of Kendall the day after William went missing said she heard the scream of a little boy in the nearby bushland. She didn’t think anything of it until 2018, when she found out that Frank Abbott lived in a caravan across the paddock from her.
Abbott is a very strange person, and it’s not a surprise that he was convicted of paedophilia. He also knew Tony Jones and Geoff Owens, who owned the caravan that Abbott lived in. Owens is also a person of interest, but the police have said he is not a suspect.
The things that witnesses say about Abbott and how he acted after William went missing are not good. On the day Owens was confirmed to be a person of interest, Abbott went to a neighbor’s house at 10 or 11 pm to tell them the news. The neighbour also told the 2020 investigation about the time Abbott tried to get into her car while she and her kids were in it. He also got their dog to follow him to his caravan, where it was found lying face down on Abbott’s bed (thankfully alive).
When the police took Jones’ car, a shopkeeper said that Abbott came up to him out of the blue to tell him the news and say, “I knew they’d get him.”
Owens, who sometimes drove Abbott to the bus stop, confirmed that on a few occasions Abbott talked about a part of the bush and said it smelled like death.
A worker at a takeaway shop where Abbott did repairs also said he was told about the smell. When the worker said it smelled like a dead kangaroo, Abbott said he “knew the difference between a dead kangaroo smell and a dead human smell.”
Not only did he tell this person, but another neighbour of Abbott said he told everyone in Kew who knew where William was that the police should check Owens’ place.
In 2020, there was a search in the area where Abbott lived, but nothing solid was found. Abbott would end up back in jail before this happened, and he and Jones would fight in the cell they shared.
Paul Savage: At the time William went missing, Savage lived next door to William’s foster grandmother. He had met William before when William’s foster parents came to the area.
There isn’t a lot of information about where Savage was on September 12, which made him a suspect. Even so, it’s important to note that he can’t confirm details because he’s old and his mental health is bad.
After William went missing, he helped look for him. Later, detectives would say that he did “weird” things because he went into the woods and got lost in a place he “should have been used to.” He was then able to get back home, but he didn’t tell anyone what he had found. Then, he got a surprise visit from family at 11:45 a.m., but his family says they come at 1:15 p.m., so there was a gap in time that the police were interested in.
Savage also had an AVO against him from 2012 because a local post office worker said that he had followed her on her mail route.
An NSW Magistrate said that Inspector Gary Jubelin started to go after Savage “at all costs,” even though he didn’t have any proof.
In 2016, Savage would find a police spy camera hidden in a tree near his home. He didn’t know it was still on, so he took it inside, where it kept taking pictures. He didn’t tell anyone until 5 weeks later, when the police came to his house. In interviews, he said he thought it took him only a week to give it up.
In July 2017, the police put a small Spider-Man suit in a bush where they knew Savage walked. Savage’s reaction was secretly recorded to see what he said. On the first day, he stopped for a few seconds nearby, but he didn’t tell the police he saw it until the second day.
Jubelin kept going to Savage’s house, where he illegally recorded their conversations. He said, for example, that Savage ran over William by accident and used the time he spent in the bush to hide the body. He also tapped Savage’s phones, which were already being watched, but he kept recording conversations even after the warrants had run out.
Since Savage often talked out loud to his dead wife, some of the recordings did have interesting lines. Among the things that were said, “Don’t tell anyone about love, because they’re coming for me. Sorry” and “You’re just a little boy, you’re no one.” “. But because the recording quality was so bad, these words have never been confirmed.
In 2020, Jubelin was found guilty of breaking the law. He was given a $10,000 fine and taken off the case. He then quit the police force. Police also confirmed that Savage was no longer a person of interest.
Unfortunately, William Tyrrell is still missing. Sightings and tip-offs have not been victorious despite repeated pleas and cash rewards over the years. Searches continue to happen but with no results. Did he disappear into the bush that day and become wedged somewhere the police can’t find? Or was he snatched up by an opportunistic stranger? We may sadly never find out