The man accused of murdering Daniel Morcombe panicked when the 13-year-old tried to escape and killed him accidentally before he had a chance to molest him, a court has been told.
Crown prosecutor Glen Cash said Brett Peter Cowan had admitted to undercover police he abducted Daniel and tried to molest him, but when the boy struggled he tightened his arm around his neck and felt something snap.
As Daniel’s parents sat listening in the Brisbane Magistrates Court today, Mr Cash quoted from a transcript of Cowan’s recorded conversation with the undercover police in which he described taking Daniel to a demountable house on a remote road at Beerwah on the Sunshine Coast and offering him a glass of water.
He said the boy had panicked when he tried to pull down his pants.
“I never got to molest him or anything like that,” Cowan said in the recording.
“He panicked and I panicked, and I grabbed him around the throat and before I knew it, he was dead.”
The court heard Cowan then drove Daniel’s body to another area of bushland, where he placed him near a tree and covered him with leaves and branches.
He dumped Daniel’s clothes in a nearby creek.
During the conversation with police, Cowan described offering Daniel a lift as he waited for a bus on the Sunshine Coast on December 7, 2003.
Cowan led two undercover officers on August 10, 2011, the day after the conversation was recorded, to the area where Daniel’s bones were later found, the court was told.
Cowan, 43, was arrested three days later and charged with murder, child stealing, deprivation of liberty, indecent treatment of a child and interfering with a corpse.
Outside court, Daniel’s father Bruce said the account was “very grim“, while his wife Denise described it as “upsetting”.
“We take it on the chin, but it’s very difficult to listen to and remain composed,” Mr Morcombe said.
“You always expect the worst, and for over nine years we wondered how it happened.”
Cowan’s committal hearing will continue on Thursday, when his lawyers will finish their cross-examination of witnesses.
Magistrate Brendan Butler is then expected to decide whether to commit Cowan to stand trial in the Supreme Court.