Foster mother charged in 2014 disappearance of Australian ‘Madeleine McCann’

The foster mother who had legal responsibility for a 3-year-old orphan from Australia when she was last seen in 2014 has been charged with lying in another child-related case, according to the New South Wales Crime Commission.

The woman, who has not been named, was looking after William Tyrrell when he disappeared from her parents’ home in 2014, and police now say they believe they know where his body is.

The boy was last seen in a Spider-Man costume playing in his step-grandparents’ garden and has often been described as Australia’s ‘Madeleine McCann’, the British toddler who disappeared without a trace from a holiday home in Portugal in 2007.

The foster mother appeared in court on Thursday facing separate charges that she lied to the NSW Crime Commission about abusing a different foster child in her care with a wooden spoon.

He has never been charged in connection with Tyrrell’s disappearance eight years ago, but Detective Sgt. Andrew Lonergan told the court he believes he should be. “I have formed the opinion [she] knows where William Tyrer is,” Lonergan told the Downing Center Local Court, according to the Associated Press.

The court on Thursday heard recordings of secret bugs planted in her home by police who suspected her of abuse. The child is heard crying and screaming and threatening to call the police amid what sounds like the child being beaten. “Where did you put the wooden spoon?” the foster mother can be heard saying after demanding the girl stand up, turn around and wave her arms on three separate occasions, presumably to row.

The foster mother’s lawyer, John Stratton, told the court that the detective was wrong and that he was only charged in the wooden spoon case to force her to admit involvement in Tyrrell’s disappearance. “You hope to break her spirit,” Stratton told Lonergan in court.

“It’s not the purpose, but if it’s help,” Lonergan replied in court. “Our main objective is to find out the whereabouts of William Tyrrell.”

Lonergan and Detective Scott Jamieson have been accused by Stratton of fabricating a story about finding Tyre’s body to get his client to confess. “I knew the area I believed William was in,” Jamieson told the court in his defence.

The foster mother is in court facing allegations that when asked about the wooden spoon incident, she didn’t say she couldn’t remember it, but that she hadn’t. Prosecutor Amin Asad told the court that if she had said she did not remember, she could potentially use a mental health claim in her defence. But as it stands, Assad said: “Unfortunately, this answer … is an outright lie.”

Detectives told reporters they believe Tyrrell fell from the home’s balcony and the foster mother dumped his body. During the inquest into Tyrrell’s disappearance, detective Sophie Callan suggested to the foster mother that the boy had died accidentally and if she admitted it she might not face serious charges. “William went back to the porch and fell over and it was nobody’s fault,” Callan said, according to testimony given Thursday. “It was an accident he fell off that porch.” Callan said the mother denied this, saying: “No, I would have found him.”

The jury is expected to deliver a verdict on the wooden spoon lie on Friday.

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