The details of Daniel’s disappearance –and horrific death – are worth remembering. Daniel was supposed to have gone fruit- picking with his brother Dean and twin brother, Brad, in the morning before he went missing.
He was to join his parents at a Christmas picnic in Brisbane. But rain meant the fruit-picking was cancelled, leaving Daniel free to go to the shops.
About 1pm, he walked 1km to an unofficial bus stop under the Kiel Mountain Road overpass, about 2km from the famed Big Pineapple tourist attraction, and waited for the 1.35pm bus. What Daniel didn’t know was the bus had broken down 750m before the overpass. No problem, there would be another.
A replacement bus went past Daniel at 2.15pm, and while he waved for the bus to stop, the driver, Ross Edmonds, continued on to Sunshine Plaza. It wasn’t that he hadn’t seen him. Indeed, it would have been difficult not to see Daniel in his red Billabong shirt.
But the driver was under strict orders not to stop to pick up passengers. In 2014, at Cowan’s murder trial, Edmonds told the Brisbane Supreme Court Daniel “lifted his finger and I pointed to him that there was another bus coming”.
Later, witnesses would report seeing one, possibly two, scruffy-looking men standing near Daniel. They also reported seeing a blue sedan. There was also talk of a white van.
At 2.18pm, the bus reached the underpass, but in the three minutes between buses, Daniel had disappeared. His parents, Bruce and Denise, arrived home from the picnic later that day, expecting to see Daniel.
“He wasn’t home and we really started to panic,” Denise told Crime Investigation Australia in 2005.
What followed was one of the biggest police investigations in Queensland history. Years went by without a breakthrough. Then, on Aug. 13, 2011, Cowan was arrested by police and charged with Daniel’s murder, as well as child stealing, deprivation of liberty, indecent treatment of a child under 16, and interfering with a corpse. An undercover sting, in which police posed as gangsters, tricked him into confessing to the murder.
Over the next two months, police scoured bushland at the Glass House Mountains, finding a pair of shoes and human bones – DNA tests proved the bones were Daniel’s.
It took just over a month to find Cowan guilty on all charges on March 13, 2014. At the trial it was revealed Cowan was a serial paedophile and had two previous convictions for sexually abusing children. He was sentenced to life in prison with a 20-year non-parole period.
After Cowan lost an appeal in 2015, Bruce told reporters outside court, “Eleven-and-a- half years ago was the last time Denise and I and the family saw Daniel. We don’t forget, and today we hope Mr Cowan doesn’t forget.”
In February 2019, the foundation will move into its own office, Daniel House, about 200m from where Daniel is buried. “What Bruce and Denise have is not closure, but a resolution,” Brennan says.
“They smile in their eyes now. They have a grandson named Winston. Daniel will never be forgotten. He has a legacy called Daniel House.”