An "elaborate" undercover police operation saw Brett Peter Cowan allegedly confess to Daniel Morcombe's murder and show officers where he left the body, but he "never got to molest him".
The details of an elaborate undercover police operation which netted Daniel Morcombe's alleged killer have been heard for the first time in the public arena.
The undercover operation was detailed as the trial of Daniel's accused killer Brett Peter Cowan began in Brisbane's Supreme Court on Tuesday.
Crown prosecutor Michael Byrne QC told the court Cowan had emerged as a suspect in Daniel's disappearance as early as December 21, 2003.
Cowan was called to give evidence at a coronial inquest in Brisbane in early 2011, by which time he was living in Perth.
The undercover operation swung into action as soon as Cowan boarded a domestic flight back to Perth.
"Mr Cowan befriended the passenger sitting next to him, who introduced himself to the defendant as Joe," Mr Byrne said.
Joe was in fact an undercover police officer.
After a few weeks, Joe introduced Cowan to some friends of his, including a man known as Fitzy.
Fitzy was also an undercover police officer.
The covert officers allegedly convinced Cowan they were part of a wide-reaching criminal gang, with friends in high places, who could "fix" anything.
"Part of what he was consistently told over a period of months is that there were three main mantras, or three main rules that members of this gang had to live by: loyalty, respect, honesty," Byrne said.
"This was a ruse; it was part of the undercover operation."
Cowan was slowly included in the gang's criminal activities.
First he was told what the gang did. Then he was allowed to observe some of their activities.
"He was then allowed to do some tasks for the gang. He started with the minor and it increased in significance," Byrne said.
He participated in a total of 24 scenarios, the court heard.
August 9, 2011, was a highly significant day, Byrne said.
That day Fitzy took Cowan to a Perth hotel room to meet the gang's boss, Arnold.
Arnold too was in fact an undercover police officer.
Arnold told Cowan he expected loyalty, respect and honesty. In return, he could make Cowan's problems go away.
It was then Cowan allegedly confessed to Daniel Morcombe's murder, saying he had spotted him waiting at the bus stop and offered to give him a lift to the nearby shopping centre.
Instead of taking him to Maroochydore, Cowan allegedly drove Daniel to an abandoned house on a Beerwah macadamia farm.
Byrne read the recorded confession:
"I never got to molest him or anything like that. He panicked and I panicked and grabbed him around the throat and before I knew it he was dead," Cowan allegedly said.
Arnold told Cowan he would need to see the alleged murder site to ensure no incriminating evidence was left behind.
Cowan boarded a flight to Brisbane the following day, where he met another of the gang's supposed members and drove with him to the site where he claimed to have dumped Daniel's body.
There, in the bush, the undercover operation came to an end.
Police and State Emergency Service volunteers then began the painstaking search for Daniel's remains.
Over the next fortnight, several human bones belonging to Daniel were found, Byrne said.
The trial continues.
- Fairfax Media