Morcombe witness person of interest  in 2004
Daniel Morcombe.

An undercover officer has described striking up a conversation and swapping phone numbers with the man accused of murdering Queensland schoolboy Daniel Morcombe as they sat side by side on a plane to Perth.

The undercover operative, a Queensland policeman who assumed the name of Joseph Michael Emery during the operation, has started giving evidence in the Supreme Court trial in Brisbane of Bunbury-born Brett Peter Cowan.

The officer, whose identity is suppressed and is referred to in court by his assumed name, said he had been working with the undercover unit in 2011 when he was briefed on a police investigation into Mr Cowan.

He boarded an 8.10pm flight from Brisbane Airport to Perth on April 1, 2011, to undertake his first task in the operation.

Mr Emery said he took seat 42B on the Qantas flight, placing him next to Mr Cowan, who had already boarded and was in seat 42A.

The operative said he spoke to Mr Cowan about the possibility of moving to Perth and told him he would be staying in a motel.

Mr Emery said Mr Cowan suggested he consider staying in caravan parks, providing him with the details of the caravan park in Orange Grove where he stayed and his mobile telephone number.

He said Mr Cowan, who has pleaded not guilty to murdering Daniel on the Sunshine Coast on December 7, 2003, introduced him to a female identified as Tracey when they landed in Perth.

Mr Emery said various contact between himself and Mr Cowan after their meeting on April 1 until June 16 was recorded and he also took written notes of their exchanges.

Mr Cowan, 44, has pleaded not guilty to charges of murder, indecently dealing with a child aged under 16 and interfering with a corpse.

This morning, the court was told police prepared a "person of interest" report on Queensland child sex offender Douglas Jackway while investigating Daniel's disappearance.

Jackway, who was called to give evidence yesterday and denied any involvement in Daniel's abduction or killing, was also placed under covert police surveillance for about a week in January 2004.

Under cross-examination this morning, Det-Sen. Const. Ross Hutton told the court that he had prepared a person of interest report on Jackway.

Det-Sen. Const. Hutton also confirmed various differing accounts given by Jackway about his movements on the day of Daniel's disappearance during interviews with police and in written statements in December 2003 and January 2004.

He said by the time of an inquest into Daniel's suspected murder in 2011, there were 33 person of interest reports in the case.

In evidence given on a video link yesterday, Jackway denied any involvement in Daniel's killing, abduction or case.

He also denied talking to a fellow prisoner in 2006 about Daniel's case, rejecting suggestions he had laughed about the family's move to set up a group to help other people deal with grief and had referred to the teenager as "Christmas cake".

Mr Cowan is accused of abducting 13-year-old Daniel after offering him a lift as the teenager waited for a bus on Keil Mountain Road on the Sunshine Coast.

Mr Cowan, who also goes by the name of Shaddo Nunyah Hunter, returned to live in WA in April 2010 and was boarding at a house in Bullsbrook at the time of his arrest in August 2011.

He was charged after an elaborate undercover sting involving covert officers from WA who posed as a powerful WA crime gang.

The prosecution case alleges that while trying to ingratiate himself with the "gang", Mr Cowan was recorded making a "complete confession" to Daniel's murder and led two WA operatives to a swampy scene on the Glass House mountains where he is alleged to have murdered the teenager.

The trial continues.

The West Australian

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