UPDATE: A man told Bruce Morcombe he had seen his son Daniel “heavily drugged” in the back of a vehicle in Brisbane after the teenager was abducted.
In an interview arranged by police with a “person of interest”, Mr Morcombe says he asked the man if he had seen Daniel after his disappearance on December 7, 2003.
“He said yes. He said, ‘I saw Daniel in the back of a vehicle’, and when I asked the description of the vehicle he declined to give it to me,” Mr Morcombe said in Maroochydore Coroners Court.
“I then asked what was Daniel’s state. He said he was heavily drugged, he was lying on the back seat in some sort of semi-unconscious position and I believe I did ask what location that was. He indicated it was perhaps around the Valley (in Brisbane)."
It was the first time Mr Morcombe had ever heard somebody say they had seen Daniel after he had been abducted.
“It was really strong and had a scent that maybe we were on the right track.”
Bag of clothes 'worn by Daniel after abduction'
Giving evidence during the first day of the inquest into the disappearance and suspected murder of his son, Mr Morcombe says he was given a bag of clothes that were allegedly warn by Daniel after he had been abducted on December 7, 2003.
When he took the bag of clothes to Maroochydore Police Station, Mr Morcombe says “it was not greeted with enthusiasm”.
He says an officer said to him words to the effect: “Do you expect me to examine every piece of clothing you bring in here?”
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He said the bag of clothes, given to him by someone considered a “person of interest” by police, included tracksuit pants that would have been too big for Daniel.
“It was not greeted with, ‘Gee, let’s hope this is the one that solves the case, that this is the piece we are looking for’,” Mr Morcombe said.
“I was feeling like I was bringing something that was troubling.
“It was disappointing but I can only say it like it is.”
Mr Morcombe says he has received several maps marked, sometimes with a cross, to indicate where Daniel's remains are buried.
He says he has been given information about weapons or guns and even about where burnt-out cars might be located.
On one occasion, Mr Morcombe says he became aware of the home address of somebody considered a "person of interest" by police.
He says he was "enormously apprehensive" about knocking on the person's front door and sat in his parked car across the road for 15 to 20 minutes beforehand.
When he finally went went to the home, which he says was "terribly unkempt", Mr Morcombe says he found out the "person of interest" had moved away.
Police 'casual' about Daniel's disappearance
Mr Morcombe says police were "casual" when he and wife Denise first reported Daniel missing on the afternoon of Sunday, December 7, 2003.
He says he thinks the report of his missing teenage son "was not being taken seriously” when police were first contacted.
Mr Morcombe says he and Mrs Morcombe had been at a work function in Brisbane during the day.
Daniel, 13, walked on foot to a bus stop on Nambour Connection Road in the morning to catch a bus to Sunshine Plaza to do Christmas shopping and get a hair cut.
He never reached the destination.
Mr Morcombe says the family realised “something was amiss” when Daniel had not returned home by 5.45pm.
At first he says they thought Daniel might have missed the bus or not had enough money for the return trip.
After driving to the bus stop to look for their son and trying to contact the bus company, Mr and Mrs Morcombe reported their missing son to police.
In a 20 minute conversation at the police station, Mr Morcombe says he and Mrs Morcombe gave officers a description of Daniel including his build and character.
Mr Morcombe says the initial officer they spoke to tried to make them feel comfortable, saying Daniel might just be running late.
Mr Morcombe says the officer did not enter Daniel into the missing person database and said the pair should return home and that police would be in touch.
“That struck me as somewhat casual,” Mr Morcombe said.
“But at the end of the day we did what we thought was right.
“We believed (police) were the best people to look after that.
“We were concerned for his welfare and indicated it was not in Daniel’s makeup. He was always punctual.
“It (the advice to return home) was concerning to us but we really didn’t know what to do or where else to turn.”
Mr and Mrs Morcombe continued trying to search for their son.
During a call back from police around 11pm, an officer said to report Daniel as missing at the station when it opened at 8am the next day.
“As casual as that,” Mr Morcombe said.
Mr Morcombe says they returned to the station at 8am to report Daniel missing, at which point police started searching for their son.
Coroner Michael Barnes opened the inquest into the abduction and suspected murder of Daniel Morcombe earlier today.
In an opening address in Maroochydore Coroners Court, Mr Barnes was told there would be different stages of the inquest including detailing the investigations into 35 “persons of interest”.
Assistant to the coroner, Peter Johns said there had been 18,000 job logs created for the investigation into Daniel’s disappearance and an “overview” of the police report was more than 10,000 pages long.
Mr Johns said the “tireless and unprecedented” efforts by Mr and Mrs Morcombe had made the face of a 13-year-old Daniel recognisable to millions of people.
The court is expected to hear evidence about eyewitness accounts of one or two men standing near and in some accounts interacting with Daniel on the day he was last seen.
The names of persons of interest are likely to be suppressed from publication until the coroner determines if individuals are involved in Daniel’s disappearance or not.
Daniel’s family arrived at Maroochydore Courthouse carrying umbrellas and four boxes around 9.15am.
Several months ago Mr and Mrs Morcombe received the 7500-page report, which will provide the basis for the inquest.
Between 20 and 40 persons of interest feature in the documents.
Mr and Mrs Morcombe will have the opportunity to question witnesses during the inquest.
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