William Tyrrell’s foster father has been found not guilty on five charges of lying to the secretive NSW Crime Commission.
A magistrate dismissed all counts against the 56-year-old on Tuesday afternoon, saying he ‘cannot be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt’ that the foster father knowingly lied during a November 2021 hearing about William’s disappearance.
The foster father, who can only be identified as JS for legal reasons, had been charged with lying when asked about his wife assaulting an 11-year-old girl in their care.
Magistrate John Arms said the questions about the assaults put to JS during the hearing were not sufficiently specific, or were ambiguous, and he could not rule out that the foster father had inadvertently answered that he couldn’t recall them.
Magistrate Arms said ‘there is no evidence as to what “recent times” and no clarification as to what “harm” meant in the questions asked of JS.
William Tyrrell’s foster father (right) has been found not guilty on five charges of lying to the secretive NSW Crime Commission.
The foster father denied any knowledge of the foster mother ever assaulting a child, a girl aged 11 in their home seven years after William Tyrrell’s (pictured) disappearance
A two-day hearing into the charges heard that William Tyrrell’s foster father told the Commission his wife had never assaulted a girl just days after she kicked the 11-year-old ‘hard’ at their home.
The Sydney court hearing on Monday and Tuesday was told by police prosecutor Detective Sergeant John Marsh that JS had lied ‘to cover the fact his wife had assaulted a child in their care’ just 22 days before the secret hearing.
Det-Sgt Marsh told the court covert recordings made on devices placed in the foster parents’ home and cars had captured JS asking his wife, ‘Did you kick her hard?’
He said the foster mother – who can only be identified as SD – replied, ‘I can’t believe I did that’.
He told the court that, in another covert recording made 10 months earlier, SD mentioned a ‘massive welt’ left when she hit the girl with a wooden spoon.
The court heard the foster father responded: ‘We’ve got a problem, we’ve got a big problem.’
Det-Sgt Marsh told the court the foster father was asked several questions during the 2021 hearing about whether his wife had ever hit the 11-year-old girl in their care.
The court heard JS was asked, ‘To your knowledge has (SD) ever hit (the young girl)?’, with the foster father replying, ‘Not to my knowledge, no’.
Det-Sgt Marsh also said JS answered no to the questions, ‘To your observation had she ever hit or harmed William?’, ‘(or the young girl)?’, and ‘Never in recent times has she ever harmed (the girl)?’
The prosecutor told the court that the foster father’s reason for ‘lying … was to cover the fact his wife has assaulted a child in their care’.
The foster mother repeatedly denied she had anything to do with William’s disappearance when asked questions such as ‘Did you find his body in the ferns and in the foliage under the verandah’ at her mother’s Kendall house
However, the foster father’s lawyer Phillip English told the court the fact the covert recordings were not played to the crime commission when JS was being questioned meant that the questioning was too vague, and therefore JS had not lied in response.
He said it was ‘an honest mistake’ that JS later told welfare authorities he had not known his wife had kicked the girl until after his appearance in front of the crime commission.
‘He was denied any opportunity to explain his state of mind on the topic,’ Mr English said.
A total of 82 minutes of secret recordings of conflict between the foster parents and the 11-year-old girl were played to the court.
The girl could be heard sobbing and crying, ‘No, mummy no’, ‘please stop’ and repeating ‘help’ as she is hit with the wooden spoon.
She could also be heard weeping after later being kicked.
During cross-examination of police by Mr English on Monday, details of the foster mother’s testimony at that crime commission hearing emerged.
Mr English read out to the court a series of questions William’s foster mum was asked at the hearing, including: ‘Did you find his body in the ferns and in the foliage under the verandah that day?
The foster mum was also asked: ‘Did you find his body and realise he has died and there’s no point calling emergency services?’
Another question asked of SD was: ‘I want to suggest to you what happened that day was William went around on that verandah and toppled over and it was nobody’s fault’.
Each of the questions were accompanied by the foster mother’s steadfast denials of having any knowledge of William Tyrrell’s disappearance, or his injury, disappearance and death.
William Tyrrell disappeared as a three-year-old and has not been seen since September 12, 2014, becoming Australia’s most notorious missing person’s case.
No one has ever been charged over his disappearance.
Despite Monday’s hearing involving charges against the foster father, much of the evidence heard in court related to William’s foster mother.
William Tyrrell’s foster parents both turned up at the Downing Centre for his trial on five charges of lying to the NSW Crime Commission. He has been found not guilty
During a cross-examination of a police officer on Monday, the foster father’s lawyer Phillip English detailed to the court how it had been suggested to the foster mother at a Crime Commission hearing that she ‘may have dumped William’s body near a riding school’.
Counsel assisting the Crime Commission, Sophie Callan, then asked the foster mother: ‘Did you take his body down (to the riding school at Kendall, on the NSW Mid North Coast)?’
SD answered: ‘No’.
SD was then asked: ‘Did you decide to take care of the situation that was beyond remedy?’ and ‘did you decide to take care of the situation and hide his body rather than let your (SD’s) mother take .. responsibility’.
SD denied both of the propositions put to her. They related to William Tyrrell’s foster grandmother, who owned the home where he disappeared from, and has since died.
Ms Callan then put to the foster mother that SD found William’s body ‘and you put his body in your mother’s car, and that’s why you took the drive (to the nearby Kendall riding school) that day?’
William’s foster mother was last year found not guilty of lying to the NSW Crime Commission following a hearing where police alleged she had falsely stated during her evidence that she did not strike a child – not William – with a wooden spoon.