A person of interest in William Tyrrell’s disappearance approached the local shopkeeper to rejoice police had “got” another man, a NSW inquest has heard.
Frank Abbott’s interaction with people in the mid-north coast township of Kendall, from where three-year-old William went missing in 2014, was examined at the toddler’s inquest in Taree on Wednesday.
Patrick Teeling, the Johns River General Store owner, said Abbott came up to him when news broke that Tyrrell investigators had seized a car associated with another person of interest, Tony Jones.
No one has ever been charged over the disappearance of William, who vanished while playing at his foster grandmother’s Kendall home on the morning of September 12, 2014.
“Frank was saying ‘I knew they’d get him, I knew they’d get him’,” Mr Teeling told the Coroners Court.
“I said ‘Who’ and he said ‘that Jones chap’ and I wondered what that was all about.”
Mr Teeling told the court he’d not previously discussed the Tyrrell investigation with Abbott, who he’d known since the early 1990s.
“He decided he just had to tell you?” counsel assisting the coroner, Gerard Craddock SC, asked Mr Teeling.
“Yeah, for some unknown reasons,” the shopkeeper replied.
“I did [see media coverage of Jones that night] … it worried me why he is telling me that.”
Abbott, who is in a Cessnock jail on an unrelated conviction, was questioned by police in late 2019.
Representing himself at the inquest via video link from prison, he took issue with Mr Teeling saying he “ran up to him”.
After Abbott suggested he had a walking frame, the shopkeeper agreed the running might not have happened.
On Tuesday, Mr Jones told the court he had no recollection “whatsoever” of the day William went missing, before claiming he might have been having extramarital sex with his next-door neighbour.
He thought about it again overnight but was unable to remember anything, he told the court on Wednesday.
Hundreds of people have been dubbed “persons of interest” during the investigation and a case detective admitted during the inquest there’s “a very low standard to meet in order to become a person of interest”.
The inquest heard Mr Jones and Abbott met in Grafton prison in 2019 and had a falling out over what Abbott was saying about the Tyrrell investigation.
“You were talking s—,” Mr Jones said, under questioning by Abbott, on Wednesday.
“I said ‘I didn’t give you up’ and I was locked in my room for a number of weeks because the officer said I was going to be shivved,” Abbott replied.
The inquest is in its third tranche, having begun in early 2019.
Mr Craddock earlier this week said it’s “certainly clear” someone knows something they haven’t passed on to police.
“Perhaps they don’t realise the significance, perhaps they’re afraid either of some person or merely afraid of being disbelieved,” he said.
“It’s [an] appalling thing that we still have no certainty as to what became of a three-year-old innocently playing in a suburban back yard.”