The disappearance of William Tyrrell has been officially referred to the coroner who helped solve the murder of Queensland schoolboy Daniel Morcombe.
Authorities have made it clear that they still have hope that William is alive and say the case was referred to the NSW coroner as a procedural step.
“The referral of William Tyrrell’s disappearance to the local Coroner is in line with standard protocol for matters of this kind,” a statement from NSW Police said.
“As has been previously stated, police will continue their inquiries in the belief William is possibly still alive.”
The case for the three-year-old was referred to NSW coroner Michael Barnes back in January, The Australian reports.
A coroner’s file into the case of Tyrrell was then opened in February, paving the way for a possible inquest into the suspected abduction.
In his previous role as the Queensland coroner, Mr Barnes decided to hold a public inquest into the 2003 abduction of 13-year-old Daniel.
The 2010-11 inquest provided the breakthrough in the case that, at that stage, had a list of 33 “persons of interest’’.
However, The Australian reports that such an inquest into William’s disappearance would not be expected to occur until NSW police's Strike Force Rosann had exhausted all its inquiries.
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If they did then submit a brief of evidence for Mr Barnes to formally consider an inquest, the decision would typically be made after the coroner consulted with the homicide squad and William’s family.
A spokesman for the NSW Coroner’s Court noted that there had been no formal request for an inquest.
“The coroner has been advised that the police investigation into the disappearance of William Tyrrell is ongoing,’’ they said yesterday.
The announcement comes more than a year after the then three-year-old vanished from the front yard of his grandmother's home at Kendall on the NSW mid-north coast.
Despite an almost immediate search for the toddler, no trace of him has ever been found. Police believe he was abducted by an opportunistic kidnapper who was already in the area.
Earlier this month, police released details of four cars seen on the road in Kendall near where William was playing with his sister, on the day he disappeared.
Crime Stoppers has since been inundated with calls and hundreds of pieces of fresh information have been given to police.
Police have investigated a number of people in regards to the investigation, including former truck driver Anthony Jones, who was arrested over the indecent assault of an 11-year-old girl near Kendall in October last year.
Local whitegoods repairman Bill Spedding was also previously investigated in relation to Tyrrell's disappearance.
Mr Spedding, who is facing unrelated historical child sex charges, used a YouTube video last week to deny he had any involvement in what took place
Neither he nor Jones have been charged over William’s disappearance.
The inquest into Daniel Morcombe’s disappearance was requested by his frustrated parents Bruce and Denise Morcombe, in the face of opposition from some senior police who worried that it could damage the investigation.
The inquest found flaws in the police investigation, including the failure to look deeper into the past of Daniel’s now convicted killer Brett Peter Cowan and to test alibis.
Cowan was eventually forced to appear before the inquest and, after giving evidence, police launched a sting operation that led to the discovery of Daniel’s remains. He was convicted in March last year.
Anyone with information is urged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.