Clutching a microphone and piece of paper, a brave schoolgirl fronted a crowd of devastated mourners to deliver a moving speech paying tribute to her former schoolmate and alleged murder victim Charlise Mutten.
Capturing the sentiment of Australia, the student welcomed members of the community to the candlelit vigil at Tweed Head Public School, on the NSW north Coast, on Wednesday night with the poignant words: ‘This should not be happening.’
The nine-year-old girl’s body was found in a barrel on Tuesday night in scrub near the Colo River – drawing an end to an extensive five day search – and with it any remaining hope she may still be alive.
Her mother Kallista Mutten’s fiancé, Justin Stein, has since been charged with her murder, after the schoolgirl flew from Queensland – where she lived with her grandmother – to spend a fortnight’s holiday with her mum.
A day after her body was discovered, friends family and fellow students congregated outside the front gates of her former school as they celebrated her short, but impactful life.
‘We are gathered here tonight to recognise, honour, and celebrate the young life of Charlise Mutten – a beautiful, loving and gentle spirit who has been taken far too soon,’ her schoolmate said.
A brave student (pictured on Wednesday night) who explained she mentored Charlise through primary school delivered a moving speech in tribute to the nine-year-old’s life
Charlise Mutten (pictured) has been remembered as a ‘beautiful, loving and gentle spirit’ who ‘touched many lives on her journey throughout this world’
‘Charlise has touched many lives on her journey throughout this world especially within the school community, where she was loved.
‘Her bright smiling face and her beautiful nature shone as bright as her spirit is now.’
Many of the young mourners held candles as they stood outside the gates adorned with countless bunches of flowers, pink balloons, cards and photos of Charlise.
The school student, who was Charlise’s older peer buddy when she first started primary school, invited attendees to light candles in her memory ‘to keep her bright light strong and shining for everyone to see’.
‘Some of us knew Charlise well, and some of us are here tonight to just simply acknowledge that she existed, and are deeply shocked and saddened by what has happened,’ she said.
‘We recognise her having been here made a difference to those who knew and loved her.
‘And we must take this opportunity to keep in our hearts and minds this very special and beautiful girl.’
Charlise was reported missing on Friday after disappearing from a lavish wedding venue in Mount Wilson, in the NSW Blue Mountains – an hour away from where her body was discovered.
Her mother’s new fiancé Stein, 31, has been charged with murder and was arrested inside a Surry Hills unit shortly after her body was found.
It is understood he normally lives in Leichardt in the city’s inner-west, but had been staying with a friend.
Hundreds of devastated mourners (pictured) held a candlelit vigil to pay their respects to schoolgirl Charlise Mutten on Wednesday night
Many of the young mourners held candles as they stood outside the school gates and remembered their classmate – clutching remembrance posters
Friends, family and fellow students of the nine-year-old congregated outside the front gates of Tweed Heads Public School on Wednesday night
A young girl is comforted by a woman as she leaves flowers outside the school gates in honour of Charlise, who was allegedly murdered by her mother’s fiancé
A woman wrapped her arms around two young girls at the Wednesday night vigil that was attended by more than 150 people
A woman is seen struggling to hold back tears as she placed a bouquet of flowers amid the flowing tributes to Charlise
The emotional vigil began outside the primary school at 7.15pm, with more than 150 turning up to pay their respects despite sprinklings of rain.
A message on the school’s notice board read ‘don’t count the days, make the days count’.
‘Charlise was a much loved member of our school who brightened all our days, every day,’ the school said in a statement on Wednesday.
‘We are absolutely devastated by the news.’
The statement on their Facebook page was accompanied by a touching photo of the nine-year-old holding a literacy award she had received at the end-of-year presentation day.
The school has been in touch with the Department of Education to ‘explore options to support our students and staff when school resumes’.
Police will allege Stein spent up to five hours driving around Sydney with his fiancé’s daughter’s body in the back of a boat, the Daily Telegraph reports.
The 31-year-old spent hours deciding where to leave her body before dumping it near a river, police will claim.
Detectives believe Charlise’s mother had left her daughter in the care of Stein last Tuesday night – the last time she was confirmed to be alive.
Police will allege she was killed within the following 15 hours.
A group of young girls stand close together as they hold candles in honour of Charlise Mutten outside her former school
‘Charlise was a much loved member of our school who brightened all our days, every day,’ a statement from her school read (pictured, mourners hold each other during the vigil)
A message on the school’s notice board read ‘don’t count the days, make the days count’ during the emotional service
A group was seen addressing the large crowds during the emotional candlelight service in a tribute to the schoolgirl
Charliese’s biological father has also shared an emotional tribute to his daughter and vowed to ‘get answers’ about her tragic death.
‘Goodbye beautiful girl… We will get answers for you baby, and we will honour you properly,’ he said.
‘You have captured the hearts of the nation and the world, and now those hearts are breaking with mine.’
Her father vowed this ‘would not be the end of [her] or [her] story’ in his statement.
‘This doesn’t happen. Kids need to be safe. What is wrong with people?’
The schoolgirl, who was under the full-time custody of her grandparents in the Gold Coast, was spending the holidays with her mother and stepfather at the Blue Mountains property when she was reported missing on Friday.
Homicide detectives retraced Stein’s steps using CCTV after he allegedly bought five 20kg sandbags from Bunnings, fuelled up a boat, then tried to launch it from an inner-Sydney dock.
Countless bunches of flowers, colourful balloons and letters addressed to Charlise were left outside the school gates
The nine-year-old’s body was reportedly found in a barrel on Tuesday night in scrub near the Colo River – an hour from where she disappeared on a private property in Mount Wilson
The vigil was attended by around 150 people, including Charlise’s classmates, despite the light sprinklings of rain overhead
The candlelight vigil was held to celebrate the life of the school girl who brightened the days of those around her, as described by her school
Charlise’s biological father has shared an emotional tribute to his daughter and vowed to ‘get answers’ about her tragic death (pictured, a mourner arrives at the scene)
Police revealed in a press conference on Wednesday they will allege Stein discussed buying sandbags and boat fuel before later travelling to the riverbed where his stepdaughter’s body was later found (pictured, mourners comfort each other at the service)
After finding the boat was inoperable, police will allege Stein then tried to dump the barrel containing Charlise’s body in Colo River but was unable to roll it in due to the weight of the sandbags.
It is alleged he instead left her in bushland, where she was later discovered.
A blue tarpaulin was also found in the back of the boat, police say. The barrel has now been seized and will be forensically examined.
Police revealed in a press conference on Wednesday they will allege Stein discussed buying sandbags and boat fuel before later travelling to the riverbed where his fiancé’s daughter’s body was later found.
Footage of Stein’s arrest was released on Wednesday afternoon, showing the moment he walked from a car to a holding cell at Surry Hills Police Station with his hands cuffed in front of him.
He wore a grey Everlast jumper and shorts which he was still dressed in when he fronted court on Wednesday morning.
Ms Mutten reported Charlise missing to police on Friday morning.
Touching photos of Charlise were left outside the school gates along with dozens of candles, flowers, balloons and letters
A woman was seen reading a tribute from her phone as she addressed the dozens of mourners who came to honour Charlise
Mourners comfort each other as the nine-year-old is remembered by loved ones, friends and students at the service
Police will allege the nine-year-old (pictured) was killed within the 15 hours after she was placed in the care of Stein last Tuesday night
Detectives believe Charlise’s mother Kallista Mutten had left her daughter in the care of Stein last Tuesday night – the last time she was confirmed to be alive
A woman comforts a little girl at the service while another is seen holding a candle in honour of Charlise Mutten
The police fact sheet tendered in court on Wednesday indicates police believe she may have been killed several days before this call was made.
Police alleged Charlise was killed sometime between 7pm on Tuesday, January 11 and 10am Wednesday January 12.
Detectives are still waiting to speak to Ms Mutten because she remains under guard at hospital and is ‘hard to approach’.
‘The mother is currently under healthcare and is difficult to approach,’ Deputy Police Commissioner David Hudson said.
‘She’s under medical supervision, but when doctors allow, we will be talking to her.’
Mr Hudson said it was too early to speculate as to whether the accused had an accomplice.
‘At this stage, we have no evidence to support whether the accused acted alone… however it is still early days,’ he said.
Detectives are still waiting to speak to Ms Mutten because she remains under guard at hospital and is ‘hard to approach’ (pictured, mourners look on at colourful balloons left for Charlise)
Emotional schoolchildren and their parents commemorated Charlise outside the school gates on the rainy Wednesday night
One mourner gave another a hug as crowds weathered the rain to say goodbye to Charlise who was found in a barrel by police on Tuesday night
Police alleged Charlise was killed sometime between 7pm on Tuesday, January 11 and 10am Wednesday January 12 (pictured, flowers, candles and posters pay tribute to the schoolgirl)
Charlise’s doting grandmother, who lives in Coolangatta, has been notified of her death (pictured, crowds outside Tweed Heads Public School on Wednesday night)
Police were investigating a number of ‘anomalies’ they claimed to identify in the accused’s initial testimony, which included allegedly giving two separate versions of events in the lead up to the young girl’s disappearance.
Mr Hudson said through tracking the movements of a car they seized via CCTV, they were able to establish certain facts as to Stein’s movements.
Charlise’s doting grandmother, who lives in Coolangatta, has been notified.
More details about Charlise’s death and final moments are expected in the coming days after her post-mortem results are shared with detectives.
Stein, who was arrested inside a Surry Hills unit shortly after her body was found, did not apply for bail in court on Wednesday.
His lawyer asked the court for a 12 week adjournment to seek a mental health assessment, noting he’s been on ‘long term medication’.
Detectives have said it was too early to speculate as to whether the accused had an accomplice (pictured, a woman looks forlorn as she attends the candlelit vigil)
Police have seized Stein’s red ute (pictured) as part of their investigation into Charlise’s alleged murder
Police made the grisly discovery near the Colo River (pictured) – an hour from where she disappeared on a private property in Mount Wilson, in the NSW Blue Mountains on Tuesday night
Stein, 31, was arrested at an apartment in Surry Hills on Tuesday night and he briefly faced court on Wednesday
More details about Charlise’s death and final moments are expected in the coming days after her post-mortem results are shared with detectives (pictured, mourners at the vigil)
‘Charlise, we will miss you,’ a handmade sign left on the gates reads as more than one hundred mourners pay their respects to the little girl
An eyewitness also told Daily Mail Australia they had seen a car leaving the property she was last seen at in the early hours of Friday morning.
The one hour drive from Mt Wilson to the Colo River follows Mt Wilson Road to the Bells Line of Road then via one of two routes to reach the river.
Driving past houses and equestrian properties, the road becomes a dirt track as it enters the Wollemi National Park.
Comleroy Road to Upper Colo is a winding and often steep and treacherous dirt road which crosses through the flowing Colo River past the remote Wheeny Creek campground.
A road posted with a sign warning ‘Protect children! Please drive carefully’ goes past the Upper Colo Anglican Church and local rural fire brigade headquarters.
TIMELINE OF CHARLISE MUTTEN’S TRAGIC DISAPPEARANCE
January 13: Nine-year-old girl was last seen on the verandah of an estate in Mount Wilson, north-west of Sydney.
January 14: Charlise was reported missing at 8.20am. Police flocked to the last known address where she was seen and established a crime scene.
Neighbours told detectives they saw a car at 4.20am on Friday, with no headlights on.
Investigators seized a Holden Colorado ute on High Street in Penrith for forensic testing.
Her stepdad Justin Stein spoke with police in Penrith.
January 15: Homicide detectives took over the search.
Police divers seized a boat in the Hawkesbury River and scanned it for fingerprints. The boat will also be kept for forensic testing.
Investigators continued to scour fire trails in dense bushland surrounding the property.
January 16: RFS volunteers found ‘very small and barefooted’ prints along a fire trail.
‘Certain items’ have been uncovered by detectives, but police have not been able to determine the schoolgirl’s whereabouts.
January 17: A convoy of five police vehicles and detectives on foot entered the property around 11.30am.
One detective ordered media to ‘leave, now!’ from outside the gates of the five hectare wedding venue retreat
A police bus followed by unmarked police cars rolled through the gates as a uniformed officer stood guard.
Earlier, plain clothes child protection squad officers drove into the property.
January 18: Police say Charlise will likely be ‘lethargic’ and ‘stationary’ if she’s lost in the bush.
January 19: Revelation a body was found inside a barrel near the Colo River as Justin Stein, 31, is charged with her murder
Read more at DailyMail.co.uk