William’s family felt marked by suspicion
After years of rumours and conspiracy theories they were involved in his abduction, William Tyrrell's birth family feel the stain of suspicion has lifted.
But they are still desperate to know what happened to the boisterous little boy who went missing and never returned and who was sometimes described as a "handful".
William's biological grandmother told news.com.au the honest and sometimes fiery evidence given by her son and William's birth mother at a recent inquest hearing had helped dispel the cloud of suspicion that had hung over them.
"It'll be almost five years now since William went and we've been accused of so many things, it's ridiculous," she said.
Rumours of her family's involvement in William's disappearance included stories about bikie gangs, drug dealers and paedophiles.
But she said the appearance of William's biological parents at the inquest had cleared the air.
She also revealed she had seen documents during the course of the inquest that said William was a rowdy kid who had been difficult to control.
"I've seen some documents that say he was … difficult," she said.
William Tyrrell disappeared, aged three, from the home of his foster carers' mother, in Benaroon Drive, Kendall on the NSW mid north coast on the morning of September 12, 2014.
Despite an immediate search by neighbours, the State Emergency Service and police officers, not a single trace of William has been found.
Since that day wild theories have abounded which at times pointed to his birth family.
But when William's birth father gave evidence late last month at the inquest his anger and despair were real and raw.
When (my son) said what he did in the court, he was telling the truth," the birth grandmother said.
"His life has been ruined since William disappeared; it's not normal any more and you hear terrible things about who is supposed to have done what.
"And you saw how my (former) daughter-in-law was, swearing and upfront.
"We don't have anything to hide."
The woman's son bluntly told the court the NSW Family and Community Services (FACS) minister had "f***ed up" in not keeping William safe after taking him from his birth parents.
He admitted in court: "I broke down, I lost it" after William vanished.
Both he and William's biological mother talked openly of the time they had hidden William away, in February 2012, when he was just seven months old to stop FACS workers handing him to the foster couple.
In her police statement, William's birth mother says, "I just couldn't imagine handing over my son … eventually we were found by the police … and William was taken from us."
A day later, on March 16, 2012, William was given to the foster couple, and came under the supervision of the Salvation Army's Young Hope out-of-home care program.
The foster mother's police statement says that William was in "a neglected state" when he was retrieved.
But his biological grandmother says her son was "always a good father" to William, who continued to call him "Daddy" after being taken in by the foster family.
"We've been blamed, in every way you can think of," she said.
The birth grandmother said it was "too easy" to demonise a family of "battlers" while William's case remained unsolved.
She said a TV program, to which she had given an interview to set the record straight, had implied she was the grandmother present when William vanished, and somehow responsible.
At the inquest, the birth grandmother and her son were forced to enter the NSW Coroner's Court at Lidcombe in Sydney's west via the front door and in the media spotlight.
This was in contrast to William's foster family, who were allowed in through a side door. When a cameraman tried to film them, a formal complaint and warning was made in court.
No complaint was made on behalf of the birth family, unlike the foster family, FACS, the Salvation Army and two individuals who had lawyers defending their interests in court.
After the first week of the inquest, which resumes in August, police statements made by William's birth mother and foster mother were released.
William's birth mother also told police the last time she saw William he had a black eye, which a Salvation Army worker said happened after he climbed on the foster mother, lost his balance and fell.
His birth mother says in her statement to police that the black eye was still visible during the final visit, 22 days before William vanished.
William's foster mother said in her statement that William was being assessed by a female community service worker "currently … to see if there are any behavioural issues".
The community service worker, who accompanied two Salvation Army supervisors on the last visit, "is trying to figure out if the kids need any help", the birth mother stated.
"I am a bit worried about (my daughter) and William because I think they're a bit too skinny.
"It's hard because I don't know the carers.
"I don't want to come across as though I am blaming them or being mean, but it's just been really hard."
On this last visit, instead of running around as usual, William "was happy sitting on my lap and giving me a cuddle".
"He was more affectionate than usual," his birth mother said.
She said since the Salvation Army had taken over supervision from FACS, she had seen less of William.
She also stated that while William was "still comfortable in giving me affection", he had stopped calling her "Mum" in the last eight months.
"Up until the beginning of the year William called me Mum," she said.
"The last time I saw William he didn't really call me anything.
"It upsets me that … William (doesn't) call me Mum, but I know I'm their mum.
"I feel more upset for the kids because it would be confusing for them.
"I want my (child) back.
"Since … William (was) taken from me I have been trying to get them back through the courts and by doing counselling."
In two statements made to police after William's disappearance, the foster mother said on the morning in question she slipped and grazed her right hand while playing with William outside the Benaroon Drive house.
She had offered for William to play in "a cool climbing tree" but he had refused and got "worried" and when she tired of spinning them around, they returned inside.
After more games, William had become bored and "jumped off the side of the patio" and said "daddy tiger".
When he fell quiet and the foster mother could not find him she told her mother, "I can't see William" and her mother replied, "Oh, the little devil".
She worried because "William is only quiet usually when he is sick … if he was distressed … he will cry, scream out" and "William doesn't stray".
The foster couple looking after William had planned to drive up on September 12, a Friday, in their new green-grey coloured 2014 Land Rover Discovery.
But they went a day early when she managed to get their two cats into boarding kennels.
In a heavily redacted statement released to the media, the foster mother tells police she paid a cattery about $260.
The couple picked up William about 4pm at a branch of Acre Woods child care centre and began the four to five hour journey north to Kendall.
Police would later retrieve CCTV images of them at Raymond Terrace McDonalds for a 15 minute pit stop, about 6.30pm.
They arrived about 9pm at the foster grandmother's house.
William went to sleep in a bedroom with the foster father.
The next morning, William suggested racing on his new bike, riding on the path off the driveway.
"William rode his bike down that same footpath and deliberately crashed his bike into the garden," the foster mother told police.
Around this time the foster mother saw a "dark green-grey sedan" drive up the street.