William Tyrrell’s foster family is maintaining hope of finding the Sydney boy alive three years after he disappeared, believing a renewed national appeal for information might deliver him back into their arms.
The cheeky grin of the three-year-old in the Spider-Man costume has appeared across countless newspapers and websites since he was last seen on September 12, 2014, but it’s only been in the past month that the public has learned more about his short life.
William would have celebrated his sixth birthday in June and his carers say they’ve endured “unspeakable heartache” and “endless tears”.
“William, we will never stop loving you,” they said in a statement on Monday.
“We will never stop looking for you.”
William’s in-care status was only made public last month after the NSW Department of Family and Community Services lost a legal bid to stop an advocacy group using the information in pushes for a coronial inquest.
Senior police insist the investigation is “very much ongoing” and a $1 million reward for information leading to his return is still being offered.
Detective Chief Inspector Gary Jubelin, who leads the homicide investigation, will speak publicly about the case on Tuesday after last month reiterating his defence of the foster family, saying they’d provided “a loving home” for William.
The identity of William’s biological parents, Karlie Tyrrell and Brendan Collins, was revealed only after the recent case – where the Court of Appeal upheld a Supreme Court ruling citing public interest and the need for scrutiny of the out-of-home care system in allowing more to be publicly known.
Those court documents paint a picture of the life of a boy who was given a fresh start after being removed from the care of his biological mother as a seven-month-old.
There were concerns about domestic violence and drug use in the home and William, the second-eldest of four children, was placed with a Sydney family.
He was reunited with his older sister a week later and the pair settled into their new family after the Children’s Court found there was no “realistic” possibility of them returning to their birth mother.
William vanished in 2014 while playing in the garden of a foster family member’s home at Kendall, south of Port Macquarie.
Police spent days scouring bushland and neighbouring houses to no avail.
Washing machine repairman William Spedding, who’d been due to carry out repairs at the home that day, came under heavy police scrutiny the following year but publicly denied any involvement.
Detectives feared William had been targeted by a paedophile ring operating on the NSW north coast, but Mr Spedding was one of nearly 700 persons of interest to supply information.
The reward money was offered on the second anniversary of William’s disappearance, but there’s been disheartening public acknowledgement from the NSW judiciary prior to the third anniversary.
“Sadly the probability of (William) being found alive continues to decrease with the passage of time,” Supreme Court judge Paul Brereton said in his January decision.
But William’s foster family won’t stop searching.
“We will never give up hope that you will be found and returned home to the arms of your loved ones where you belong,” they said.
A renewed national appeal for information began this week, publicising the $1 million reward on billboards and in shopping centres, offices and cafes.