Ronald Chapman claims he saw William Tyrrell (pictured) in a car on the day he disappeared
A man who claims he saw William Tyrrell unrestrained in the back of a speeding car on the day the child went missing was waiting for police to interview him to tell them what he saw.
Ronald Chapman, from Kendall on New South Wales’ mid north coast, was waiting for a delivery the day the three-year-old in the Spider-Man suit went missing from his foster grandparent’s home on the NSW mid-north coast on September 12, 2014.
He said he was shocked to see a car speeding through his quiet street with an unrestrained child – who he believes was William – in the back seat with his arms pressed against the window.
But it took Mr Chapman almost 1000 days – until the inquest resumed this week – for him to reveal what he saw.
Mr Chapman told Deputy State Coroner Harriet Grahame at the NSW Coroner’s Court he was ‘100 per cent certain’ it was William he saw peering out of the car.
After he spoke, the rest of the coronial inquest was delayed for another eight months without reason. The next round of hearings will now not occur until March 2020.
Mr Chapman said it wasn’t until later that night on September 12 that he learned William was missing, and questioned if what he saw that morning was worth reporting.
He heard police would be conducting interviews with locals one by one, and assumed it wouldn’t be long until police were knocking on his door to discuss the incident, The Australian reported.
Mr Chapman (pictured) was waiting for a delivery on the day the three-year-old in the Spiderman suit went missing from his foster grandparent’s home
But police were too busy scouring the dense bushland and nearby dams to speak with locals.
After weeks passed and Mr Chapman realised nobody was coming to question him, he told the inquest he sought out a local police officer named Wendy Hudson who he had known since she was a baby.
He found her sister-in-law instead, and asked her to pass on a message that he believed he saw William on the day of his disappearance, but the message didn’t make its way to police until 2015.
William vanished while playing at his foster grandmother’s home in Kendall on the NSW mid north coast on September 12, 2014
He was eventually spoken to once in 2015 and again in 2016 before he made an official statement to police in April 2017 rehashing the details of what he believes he saw.
During the inquest, he said he was certain the driver was female.
‘She was almost off the tar, in the back seat was a young boy… I would say about three or four. He was standing, he wasn’t crying. He was wearing a Spiderman suit.’
He said the car was a fawn coloured old ‘box-type’ 4WD, but that he couldn’t identify the exact make.
Mr Chapman said he could identify the Spiderman suit because it was the same one a little boy who lived next door often wore.
‘(The driver) was a woman in her late 20s to late 30s, blonde hair, very fair complexion. She wore a white, short-sleeved blouse.’
He went on to say that in hindsight, he knew he should have reported what he saw sooner.
But the shock of the disappearance paired with initial doubt over what he saw held him back, and then led to a fear that he would get in trouble for withholding information.
The inquest into William’s disappearance began in March this year, with the first batch of hearings focused on the toddler’s family situation and the events leading up to his disappearance
During the inquest into William’s disappearance on Monday, Detective Sergeant Laura Beacroft said Mr Chapman was outside his Laurel Street home in Kendall when he saw two cars travelling east.
Detective Beacroft said the local man ‘saw a child in the back seat … up against the passenger-side back seat window and has a recollection the child was wearing a Spider-Man outfit’, news.com.au reported.
Mr Chapman, whose home was about 1.6 kilometres from where William was last seen, claims he saw the child in a car driven by a woman, while the second car had a man behind the wheel.
Detective Beacroft told the inquest further interviews with Mr Chapman led her to believe he wasn’t making up the possible sighting.
Laurel Street sits between Benaroon Drive, where William’s foster grandmother’s home was, and the highway on the eastern side of Kendall.
The street links to Benaroon Drive via Batar Creek Road.
Detective Beacroft added that while Mr Chapman believed the two cars were driving in convoy, it was possible the cars just happened to be heading in the same direction at the same time.
She said she wasn’t sure if he provided a description of the person driving the second car.
The inquest was also told on Monday that more than 400 ‘persons-of-interest packages’ were created as police tried to identify and interview every person who could have taken William.
Acknowledging ‘person of interest’ wasn’t an official term used by NSW Police and had no settled definition in policing worldwide, Det Sgt Beacroft said the threshold for nominating someone a person of interest was very low.
The inquest into William’s disappearance began in March this year, with the first batch of hearings focused on the toddler’s family situation and the events leading up to his disappearance.
The second tranche of inquest hearings began on Wednesday August 7.
Timeline of William Tyrrell’s disappearance
Still missing: William Tyrrell vanished from his foster grandmother’s home three-and-a-half years ago
September 12 – Dressed in a Spiderman outfit, three-year-old William Tyrrell goes missing from the garden while visiting members of his foster family on the NSW north coast.
September 21 – Police stop searching for the missing boy after scouring surrounding bushland and neighbouring houses.
January 20 – Police search the home and business of washing machine repairman Bill Spedding, who had been due to carry out repairs at the house at the time the three-year-old went missing.
Detectives take items for testing including a mattress, computer and vehicles. They drain his septic tank.
January 23 – The washing machine repairman publicly denies any involvement in William’s disappearance and says he and his wife are on the verge of a breakdown due to the public attention.
February 19 – Homicide detectives take over the case and say it’s likely William was abducted.
March 2 – Police fruitlessly search an area of bushland near Bonny Hills for three days after a tip-off.
April 17 – William’s foster parents speak publicly for the first time in an emotional video released through police which does not identify them.
April 17 – Police say the boy may have been a victim of a paedophile ring.
September 6 – The Nine Network’s 60 Minutes reveal two suspicious cars were parked on the street the morning William went missing.
September 12 – ‘Where’s William’ week is launched one year after he disappeared.
September 12 – A $1million reward is offered for information leading to William’s return.
August 24 – William’s foster child status is revealed after a landmark court ruling.
June 12 – NSW Police announce the start of a four-week forensic search of bushland conducted by Strike Force Rosann.
June 14 – William’s grandmother scolds police who have failed to find the young boy after four years, and claims their latest search is ‘just for show’.
June 26 – The forensic search continues on what would have been William’s seventh birthday.
June 27 – Strike Force Rosann announces it will move the search to an 800sqm block of bushland just 4km from where William was last seen alive.
June 5 – The latest search ends with Detective Chief Inspector Gary Jubelin saying the case could soon go to a coroner.
August – Investigation leader Detective Chief Inspector Gary Jubelin and a sergeant get into a disagreement during a briefing.
September 13 – Police reveal they found a burned out car wreck belonging to a former person of interest.
December 19 – Coroners say William could still be alive and the inquest will determine if he died or not.
February – DCI Jubelin is removed from the investigation amid a misconduct probe.
March 25 – The inquest into William Tyrrell’s disappearance begins, with William’s biological and foster parents appearing over the course of a week.
The inquest’s first batch of hearings focused on William’s family situation and the events leading up to his disappearance.
Both his foster and biological parents were quizzed, as were neighbours who helped in the search.
It was disclosed that William’s biological parents absconded with him for six weeks in 2012, following a children’s court order.
William’s biological father slammed authorities for letting them down.
‘Authorities f***ed up … The minister had a duty of care to keep William safe until he was 18. That was not the case at all.’
May: DCI Jubelin quits the Police Force.
June: Four charges of breaching the Surveillance Devices Act are laid against DCI Jubelin. He denies any wrongdoing whatsover
August: The second tranche of inquest hearings began on Wednesday August 7