Repeat child sex offender Brett Peter Cowan has been found guilty of murdering Queensland schoolboy Daniel Morcombe in 2003.
Jurors in the Supreme Court trial took seven-and-a-half hours to find the 44-year-old pedophile and father-of-three guilty of murder.
He was also found guilty of indecently dealing with Daniel and interfering with his corpse.
The jury in Brisbane announced their verdict shortly after 1pm on Thursday, marking 10 years and three months since Daniel, then 13, was abducted from a bus stop on the Sunshine Coast, shortly before Christmas.
Daniel’s parents Bruce and Denise Morcombe clasped hands when the jury’s spokesperson announced the unanimous verdict before Justice Rosyln Atkinson.
The judge thanked the six men and six women of the jury before dismissing them.
“You’ve brought an end to this terrible case, you’ve considered all the evidence, you considered your verdict very carefully,” she said.
“I have noted throughout the trial the careful attention you have given to all of the evidence.
“You have been a truly magnificent jury and I thank you very, very much for what you’ve done and I excuse you from further jury service.”
The Morcombes embraced after the judge left the room.
The Daniel Morcombe Foundation, established by Daniel’s parents, has released a statement thanking police, SES volunteers and forensics experts for helping to bring a killer to justice.
“On behalf of our entire family we thank everyone who has contributed to finding the answers and especially for never forgetting Daniel,” the statement said.
“Compelling evidence has proven beyond reasonable doubt Cowan’s guilt.”
Before abducting and killing Daniel on December 7, 2003, and dumping his body at the Glass House Mountains, Cowan had been convicted of two previous child sex offences.
In 1987, while completing an order to do community service at a supervised playground in Brisbane, the then 18-year-old Cowan lured a seven-year-old boy into the toilets and molested him.
A few years later, when he was 24 and living at a Darwin caravan park, Cowan was approached by a six-year-old boy who was asking for help to find his sister.
Instead of helping the boy, Cowan led the child into bushland and brutally sexually assaulted him on the rusted wreck of a car.
The assault left the child in intensive care with terrible injuries including a collapsed and punctured lung, blackened eyes, large cuts caused by the rusty wreck, and injuries to his neck that suggested “an asphyxial element”.
To prove that Cowan murdered and abducted Daniel, the prosecution brought 116 witnesses before the court over a four-and-a-half week trial.
The jury rejected Cowan’s defence argument that another convicted pedophile, Douglas Jackway, was responsible.
The prosecution successfully argued Cowan’s admission to undercover police officers, posing as a criminal gang, was truthful.
Cowan will be sentenced later on Thursday.
Make your contribution to independent news
A donation of any size to InDaily goes directly to helping our journalists uncover the facts. South Australia needs more than one voice to guide it forward, and we’d truly appreciate your contribution. Please click below to donate to InDaily.