Brett Peter Cowan may spend the rest of his life in prison for the December 2003 murder of 13-year-old Daniel Morcombe.
Justice Roslyn Atkinson handed down a life sentence in Brisbane’s Supreme Court this afternoon following five-week trial in which a 12-member jury found Cowan guilty of all three charges he faced: murder, indecently dealing with a child under the age of 16 and improperly dealing with a corpse.
Sentencing was delayed initially while Justice Atkinson waited to the Morcombe family to be present, but the family told the Court they declined for “personal reasons”.
Cowan, 44, pleaded not guilty to the charges, but after the verdict was returned, it emerged that he’d already been jailed twice for vicious sexual assaults on boys aged 6 and 7, over the last 25 years.
He was sentenced to life in prison for Daniel’s Morcombe murder, with parole at 20 years, five years more than the legislated mandatory sentence.
“But let me make it clear that I think you should not be released in 20 years time,” Justice Atkinson said, issuing a warning to the parole board that Cowan was an habitual liar with no prospect of rehabilitation.
Cowan was also sentenced to 3.5 years, the maximum available, for indecently dealing with a child and two years for improperly dealing with a corpse. Both sentences will be served concurrently.
Daniel Morcombe’s body was found in bushland on on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast in August 2011, following an police undercover sting that led to Cowan’s arrest.
Police posed as members of a criminal gang to befriend Cowan. He was arrested in 2011 after he confessed to an undercover policeman that he had abducted and murdered the teenage boy.
During yesterday’s victim impact statements, Daniel’s father, Bruce Morcombe, said he often wondered about Cowan’s other victims, adding that he was “completely devoid of any remorse” and “predators like you cannot be rehabilitated”.
In the wake of their son’s murder, he explained that the family had to sell their business and move house. But his resilience was in no doubt.
“You picked on the wrong family, our collective determination to find Daniel and expose a child killer was always going to win,” he said. The public gallery applauded after he spoke.
Victim impact statements by Daniel’s mother, Denise and brothers, Dean and twin Bradley, were read out by Crown prosecutor Michael Byrne, QC.
Cowan showed no emotion during the addresses, but the public gallery applauded when each statement concluded.
In handing down her sentence today, Justice Atkinson paid tribute to all those involved in the case, including the “courage” of the defence counsel in representing Cowan.
She described Cowan’s behaviour as “entirely abhorrent” and that “you were in your own words an opportunistic offender” and “a convincing and plausible liar” who “tragically and pointlessly snuffed out one life.”
She ruled out the possibility of rehabilitation.
“You knew that if he ran away, he could identify you… you knew he could pick you out in court. You killed him because you didn’t want to get caught,” she said.
“Everything you did to this child was horrific and disgraceful,” Justice Atkinson said. She spoke in a slow and sombre fashion, as she seemed to fight to keep her own emotions in check.
“I see no evidence in the months that you’ve been in this court that you ever felt any remorse, apart from feeling sorry for yourself.”
“Of course it’s had an impact on the wider community… The fear of the stranger drives fear into the hearts of everyone, particularly vulnerable children.”
“These are chilling and disgraceful crimes.”
“Your own children will be forever associated with your evil name.”
She said any prospect of parole would have to be seen in the light of the fact that Cowan is “a convincing, plausible and adaptive liar.”
After sentencing Cowan, Justice Atkinson adjourned the court with the words “This is the end of the journey for justice for Daniel”.
This is the third, and hopefully final time Cowan has been jailed for child sex offences.
We’ll leave the final word to Daniel’s mother, Denise.
You can help Dan's legacy by helping his foundation thanks a lot. Denise x http://t.co/IHry38U3Td
— Denise Morcombe (@DeniseMorcombe) March 13, 2014
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