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Missing Charlise Mutten twist as neighbours break silence on car leaving Mount Wilson home at 4.30am

An eyewitness who was reading on her porch at 4.30am has told how she saw a mysterious car with no headlights on leaving a wedding estate where a nine-year-old girl was last seen. 

The development comes as an expert bush tracker said the missing girl could stay alive for ‘many weeks’ in the wild if she has access to drinkable water and shelter. 

Charlise Mutten was last seen on Thursday afternoon on the verandah of a five-hectare wedding venue in Mount Wilson, in the Blue Mountains – which is owned by the family of her mother Kallista’s fiance, Justin Stein.

But police were only notified of her disappearance at 8.20am the following day, and investigators are now trying to determine whether Charlise is lost in the bush or has been kidnapped.

One theory circulating is that the youngster was whisked away from the property in a mysterious car with no headlights.

On Tuesday, John Haitzler – who lives next to the Steins and claims he previously had a nasty confrontation with Charlise’s stepdad – told Daily Mail Australia his wife Carole was reading at 4.30am on Friday when she heard the sound of a car on the driveway.

Charlise Mutten (pictured) was not reported missing for more than 12 hours after she was last seen on Thursday afternoon

John Haitzler (pictured) says his wife Carole saw a vehicle with no headlights leave the Stein's driveway at 4.30am on Friday - approximately four hours before police were notified of Charlise's disappearance

John Haitzler (pictured) says his wife Carole saw a vehicle with no headlights leave the Stein’s driveway at 4.30am on Friday – approximately four hours before police were notified of Charlise’s disappearance

Bush tracker Jake Cassar (pictured) says Charlise Mutten could still be alive if she has access to drinkable water - and could keep going for 'months'

Bush tracker Jake Cassar (pictured) says Charlise Mutten could still be alive if she has access to drinkable water – and could keep going for ‘months’

‘She got out of bed and went to the window and saw a shadow moving,’ he told Daily Mail Australia.

‘It is very quiet here at night and you can see the headlights – there weren’t any on.’ 

Investigators have been scouring the scene since Charlise (pictured) went missing

Investigators have been scouring the scene since Charlise (pictured) went missing 

Mr Haitzler said his wife couldn’t see what make of car it was or who was driving it, but that he reported it to police after he heard a little girl had gone missing from next door.

The orchardist said the Stein family were known to leave their property in the middle of the night, but the headlights were always on. 

Mr Haitzler also said Mr Stein lived ‘in a shack’ on the grounds of Wildenstein and had been there with a different girlfriend when he had got into trouble more than five years ago with ‘drug dealing on the property’. 

Daily Mail Australia confirmed on Tuesday that Mr Stein was sentenced to six-and-a-half years in prison in 2017 for possessing a marketable quantity of a border-controlled drug the previous year.

Police confirmed on Friday that a neighbour saw a car with no headlights leave the property. 

Later that day, they seized Mr Stein’s red Colorado ute in Penrith for forensic examination.

Daily Mail Australia is not suggesting Mrs Haitzler saw Justin Stein’s ute leaving the property, or that he is connected to Charlise’s disappearance. 

Charlise Mutten's stepdad Justin Stein (pictured) is a convicted serious drug offender

Charlise Mutten’s stepdad Justin Stein (pictured) is a convicted serious drug offender

Police have seized Mr Stein's red ute (pictured) as part of their investigation, which will be forensically examined

Police have seized Mr Stein’s red ute (pictured) as part of their investigation, which will be forensically examined

A distressed Kallista Mutten is consoled by emergency workers on Saturday

Kallista Mutten pictured smiling with her daughter Charlise

Her distressed mum Kallista Mutten (pictured, left and right, with Charlise) was consoled by emergency workers on Saturday

Rescue teams were warned in a Tuesday morning briefing that Charlise would likely be ‘lethargic’ and ‘stationary’ if she’s been sleeping in the Blue Mountains National Park for five days.

Expert tracker Jake Cassar told Daily Mail Australia that she would probably be exhausted – particularly if she’s stressed and has been pushing through dense scrub – but says she could survive for two months if she has access to drinkable water.

Mr Cassar believes the nine-year-old could potentially have a lot of energy if she stays hydrated and finds shelter.

Charlise Mutten was last seen on Thursday afternoon. She was reported missing on Friday

Charlise Mutten was last seen on Thursday afternoon. She was reported missing on Friday 

‘Her stomach would have shrunk by now so she’s probably not that hungry, but she’s probably stationary and sticking close to water, and hopefully shelter as well,’ he said.

‘If the climate is not too harsh and exposure isn’t a risk, and there’s water, then evidence suggests people can last for many weeks.’

The search was hampered by heavy rain on Monday, forcing SES and RFS volunteers to wind up their efforts ahead of what would be Charlise’s fifth night missing in the mountains – but the downpour could help keep the schoolgirl alive.

Mr Cassar referenced 18-year-old Matthew Allen who was found in dense bushland in Westleigh, near Cherrybrook in Sydney’s north-west, two months after he was reported missing in 2013.

The teenager had lost half his body weight, was dehydrated, exhausted and covered in leeches and bugs, but was alive nonetheless.

TIMELINE OF CHARLISE MUTTEN’S DISAPPEARANCE

January 13: Charlise Mutten, nine, was last seen on the verandah of an estate called Wildenstein in Mount Wilson, north-west of Sydney. 

January 14: Charlise was reported missing at 8.20am. Police flocked to the 12.5-acre wedding venue 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, which belongs to her mother’s fiance.

Her mother Kallista Mutten, 31, collapsed and was taken to hospital.

Ms Mutten’s fiancé Justin Stein, whose family owns the lavish property, 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. 

Ms Mutten will be questioned by police.

January 18: Police say Charlise will likely be ‘lethargic’ and ‘stationary’ if she’s lost in the bush. 

Daily Mail Australia reveals Charlise’s step-dad has a criminal history and was recently released from prison.

RFS volunteers (pictured) were deployed to the area to search for the nine-year-old

RFS volunteers (pictured) were deployed to the area to search for the nine-year-old  

Police told volunteers that Charlise would likely be exhausted lying still if she was lost in the bush

Police told volunteers that Charlise would likely be exhausted lying still if she was lost in the bush

Pictured: Police vehicles moving down the driveway at Wildenstein - the five-hectare property in Mount Wilson

Pictured: Police vehicles moving down the driveway at Wildenstein – the five-hectare property in Mount Wilson

Pictured: RFS volunteers on Tuesday. Rescue workers have been searching for five days

Pictured: RFS volunteers on Tuesday. Rescue workers have been searching for five days

WHO’S WHO IN CHARLISE MUTTEN’S FAMILY

CHARLISE MUTTEN

Nine-year-old Charlise Mutten was last seen on the verandah of her step-father’s sprawling family home on Thursday, January 13.

She was not reported missing until 8.20am the next morning. 

Police and volunteers have been scouring the Wildenstein estate and surrounds since they first learned of her disappearance. 

DEBORAH MUTTEN – THE GRANDMOTHER

Charlise lives with her maternal grandmother, Deborah Mutten, in Coolangatta on the Gold Coast.

Ms Mutten is a local artist who dotes on her granddaughter. 

She shared a sweet photo with Charlise on January 5, just days before she vanished.

On January 10, she admitted she was ‘struggling quite a bit’. This was after she’d agreed to allow Charlise to visit her mum in a different state.  

KALLISTA MUTTEN – THE MOTHER

Charlise’s mother Kallista Mutten recently spent two years in jail after she was convicted of dangerous driving occasioning death and driving under the influence of an illicit drug.

She was released from jail in 2019 and was no longer using drugs after a stint in rehab and prison. 

It’s unclear how involved Mutten has been in her daughter’s life, but she was granted the opportunity to spend some time with Charlise over the summer school holidays before she vanished.

Charlise and Kallista were at the sprawling family estate of her fiancé, Justin Stein, when the nine-year-old vanished. 

JUSTIN STEIN – THE STEP-FATHER

Daily Mail Australia revealed on Tuesday Kallista’s fiancé, Justin Stein, is a convicted serious drug offender.

He was sentenced to six-and-a-half years in jail in 2017 for possessing a marketable amount of an illicit substance, and released on parole in November 2020.

Within a month of his release, he had proposed to Kallista. The couple have now been engaged for 13 months.

Stein comes from a wealthy family who own the Wildenstein estate where Charlise was last seen. It is a well known wedding venue in the Blue Mountains. 

THE FATHER 

Charlise’s biological father – who has not been named – is ‘absolutely shattered’ the nine-year-old is missing, a friend said on Tuesday.

He, along with his family and friends, are hopeful she’ll be found safe and unharmed.

It’s still unclear how much time Charlise spends with her biological parents – if any.  

He said most people who get lost in the bush are found within a few kilometres of where they were last seen, but are often missed by search teams.

‘I’ve got an enormous amount of respect for the volunteers, but people are often missed in these situations and it’s incredibly important to ensure searches go on for weeks,’ the bush tracker explained.

‘If this girl is in the bush, then statistics would suggest she’s no more than three to five kilometres away.’

Mr Cassar successfully helped police search for three-year-old AJ Elfalak when he wandered off into bushland for four days near his home in the NSW Upper Hunter Valley, and says he will join the search for Charlise if she’s not found soon.

He said AJ ‘set a real benchmark’ for how a child could stay alive in extreme circumstances, and said the little boy’s story ‘taught us not to underestimate the human spirit’.

The bush tracker added that Charlise’s state-of-mind is critical to her survival because ‘if you were to panic, you could become dehydrated a lot quicker’.

Pictured: RFS volunteers during a briefing on Tuesday morning. Heavy fog descended on the area later that evening

Pictured: RFS volunteers during a briefing on Tuesday morning. Heavy fog descended on the area later that evening

Police an emergency crews have been at the Mount Wilson property for five days (pictured on Tuesday)

Police an emergency crews have been at the Mount Wilson property for five days (pictured on Tuesday)

A police officer told the Rural Fire Service and SES searchers on Tuesday: ‘It’s day five. She’s not going to be mobile.’

The officer warned them that Charlise would need water from a ‘bottle, puddle or dam’.

A thick blanket of fog descended on the Blue Mountains on Tuesday afternoon after a day of slippery conditions in Mount Wilson.

At the search command post in Mt Wilson, a troupe of emergency services volunteers – much-reduced in numbers after some tested positive for Covid – began making their way back to base around 3.30pm as the mist rolled in. 

Charlise Mutten (pictured) went missing on Thursday afternoon. Search teams have been scouring the scene for four days

Charlise Mutten (pictured) went missing on Thursday afternoon. Search teams have been scouring the scene for four days

While Charlise was initially said to be wearing a pink top, black knee-length skirt and pink Nike thongs when she was last seen, neither Kallista Mutten or her fiance have been able to definitively say how she was dressed. 

NSW Police sent out multiple geo-targeting text messages to all residents in the area on Friday and Saturday evening to inform them of Charlise’s disappearance and request help.

They also asked social media users to share the missing girl’s photo widely.

Police are appealing for anyone with information about her whereabouts to call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000. 

INSIDE CHARLISE MUTTEN’S COMPLICATED FAMILY TREE

A former drug addict mother, stepdad on parole and doting grandmother who ‘struggled’ after letting the missing nine-year-old travel to Sydney to reconnect with her family 

– By Brittany Chain for Daily Mail Australia  

As Christmas passed and school holidays dragged on, missing schoolgirl Charlise Mutten’s doting grandmother agreed to let the nine-year-old visit her mother in Sydney.

The summer trip was the perfect opportunity for mother and daughter to reconnect after Covid-enforced border closures and a jail stint had driven them apart.

Charlise lives with her grandmother, Deborah Mutten, in Coolangatta on the Gold Coast and attends a local primary school south of the border, where she’s known as a spritely and cheerful student. 

Deborah shared a sweet photo just two weeks ago on January 5. With the ocean as a backdrop, Charlise leaned back and kissed her beaming grandmother on the cheek.

Five days later, after Charlise had already made the trip to NSW to see her mother, Deborah confessed to a friend she was ‘struggling’.

Deborah shared a sweet photo just two weeks ago on January 5. With the ocean as a backdrop, Charlise leaned back and kissed her beaming grandmother on the cheek

Deborah shared a sweet photo just two weeks ago on January 5. With the ocean as a backdrop, Charlise leaned back and kissed her beaming grandmother on the cheek

‘A bit of silly business was needed to lift the mood,’ she said alongside a photo of herself using a comedic Snapchat filter. 

‘Struggling a bit to be quite honest.’ 

Then, on January 14, she learned her beloved granddaughter had vanished while in the temporary care of her daughter, Kallista Mutten.  

Now Charlise’s disappearance puts a halt on what should have been a chance for Ms Mutten to bond and reconnect with her daughter after so many missed moments.

Ms Mutten was jailed in November 2017, when Charlise was just five, after she was convicted of dangerous driving occasioning death and driving with an illicit substance in her system.

It’s understood Charlise was handed over to her grandmother to care for her at the time. 

The court heard Ms Mutten was an ice addict and using two to three points every day when she swerved off the road and into the Tweed River, killing her passenger and friend, 53-year-old Karen ‘Kaz’ Bunch.

After the crash, Ms Mutten checked herself in to a rehab facility, but relapsed and began using again, the court heard.

She was also expelled from a clinic at Logan in Queensland after she threatened a fellow resident with violence. 

It’s unclear if Ms Mutten ever regained full time custody after her stint in jail. 

Daily Mail Australia revealed on Tuesday Charlise’s stepdad, Justin Stein, also has a criminal past from about the same time as when her mother was convicted.

Stein was sentenced to six-and-a-half years prison for possessing a marketable quantity of a border enforced drug in 2017.

He was released on parole after serving a mandatory three years and nine months in November 2020, and by December 1 2020 was engaged to Ms Mutten.

It’s unclear if the duo knew each other prior to Stein’s release from jail just three weeks earlier. 

Stein comes from a wealthy family who moved to the Blue Mountains from Perth around the time he was born.

They own and operate the Wildenstein estate where Charlise was last seen – which is known as an exclusive wedding venue – as well as a jeweler in the Queen Victoria Building in Sydney’s CBD.  

Charlise’s biological father – who has not been named – is ‘absolutely shattered’ the nine-year-old is missing, a friend said on Tuesday.

He, along with his family and friends, are hopeful she’ll be found safe and unharmed.  

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Read more at DailyMail.co.uk