Friends and family of William “Bill” Spedding have rallied around the washing machine repair man after he became caught up in the high-profile search for a missing toddler.
On Thursday police allowed Mr Spedding to return to his NSW mid-north coast home at Bonny Hills, after detectives combed his property as past of an investigation into the disappearance of three-year-old William Tyrell.
Police said that the 63-year-old grandfather “is not a suspect in the case”.
Investigators turned to the Bonny Hills property as part of their investigation after William vanished from his grandmother’s backyard on September 12 in nearby Kendall.
Mr Spedding became entangled in the investigation as he visited William’s grandmother’s home four days before he went missing, for a washing machine repair quote.
A close friend said the tradesman had to source a spare part, but never installed it, after failing to get in contact with William’s grandmother on the morning of September 12.
In the afternoon he called again and spoke to William’s mother, during the early stages of a frantic search for her son.
“She said to Bill `I am afraid you won’t be able to come to do the job, we will call when we are able’,” his friend said.
An excavator was brought in, septic tank drained and forensic police searched a basement below Mr Spedding’s rented semi-rural property on Wednesday.
A number of items were seized, including a mattress and a computer, after an earlier search of Mr Spedding’s pawnbroker business, “Speddo’s” in nearby Laurieton.
Police have reiterated Mr Spedding is not a suspect in William’s disappearance.
Mr Spedding took refuge in an apartment in a neighbouring town as the search and media attention continued on Thursday.
Close friend Colin fears the damage may already have been done.
“He is very upset of course,” he told AAP.
“They are trying to cope with it. Even if it’s totally untrue, things like that stick.”
Mr Spedding’s family also leapt to his defence.
“My uncle I love him his (sic) innocent, he would never hurt a fly,” niece Shay Handsaker wrote on Facebook.
Another relative said she felt sick and upset at things that had been said about Mr Spedding.
Mr Spedding and his wife Margaret have been described as loving guardians to the three grandchildren they share with in the Bonny Hills home.
Friend Colin said the couple moved from Wellington to the mid-north coast five years ago for health reasons and into the Bonny Hills property about 12 months ago, so there was more room for the children.
Police finished their meticulous search on Thursday and removed police tape from around the family home.