By Paul Dobbyn
BRUCE and Denise Morcombe are adamant the recently launched book on their son Daniel’s too-short life and tragic death is “definitely not a crime novel”.
Speaking from the Daniel Morcombe Foundation office at Woombye’s Big Pineapple complex, Bruce said “the terrible crime which took Daniel’s life is definitely an ingredient – it’s obviously been our journey for the past ten-and-a-half years”.
But, as the Morcombes said, the story about the abduction and murder of the former student of the Sunshine Coast’s Siena College, confirmed just three years earlier in Maroochydore’s Stella Maris Church, is more than that.
“Where is Daniel? The Family’s Story is truly a time capsule of how we have survived, how we harnessed all the energy that was out there, how we used the media’s enthusiasm to motivate the police to find the answers to bring Daniel home and to get a guilty verdict,” Bruce said.
“It’s also how our family unit has held together, because Daniel was not an only child, he had a twin, Bradley, and he had an older brother, Dean.
“Time has moved on, Bradley and Dean have grown up, they’re men, they’ve got jobs and purchased houses …”
Denise said Bradley was getting married in the next couple of weeks, which was “something nice for the family to look forward to”.
Constant media exposure has ensured the Morcombes are not strangers but almost family to Queenslanders.
And their fortitude in ensuring justice for their murdered son Daniel, and ability to move beyond their own tragedy and advocate and promote child safety programs in schools around Australia, has inspired.
For 10 years their battle went on, even having to confront various forms of government bureaucracy to reclaim Daniel’s remains and ensure their son could finally have a decent burial.
Bustling around the foundation office on this sunny July morning, the couple were focused on two projects.
One was their lobbying of State and Federal politicians to ensure the Daniel Morcombe Child Safety Program was included under the umbrella of the national curriculum.
They were also preparing for the book launch by Lindsay Simpson, author and co-author of eight books including five in the true crime genre.
Pressure was on early after Daniel’s abduction in December 2003 to write a book.
“Even in the first year we had people coming up to us and saying why don’t you write a book?” Denise said.
“Sometime after the arrest (of Brett Peter Cowan), on August 13, 2011, we decided to do it and found an author.”
Both agreed the process had been painful.
“Going back to the early years was particularly difficult,” Denise said.
“We’re all smart in hindsight, but gee whiz, things could have been done so much better,” Bruce said.
“For example getting Daniel’s remains released to the family was not an easy process.
“There was a strong suggestion to us at a private meeting that Daniel’s remains would not be released until after every legal avenue has been explored … we could still be sitting here without a funeral and that would be just intolerable.”
Bruce described the situation as “very untidy”.
Ultimately the Morcombes’ desire to protect others from the pain they’ve suffered is their major driving force.
Their dream is to have the Daniel Morcombe Child Safety Program in school curriculums across Australia.
“Nearly two weeks ago in Canberra, we met with about 18 members of parliament, both houses, both sides of politics as well,” Denise said.
“There was a lot of support – (Federal Education) Minister (Christopher) Pyne will receive a review within the next week with a number of recommendations including that the Daniel Morcombe Child Safety Program is included to be rolled out under the umbrella of the national curriculum.”
“But there are still a number of steps to go – we’re pushing as hard as we can,” Bruce said.
“It’s working incredibly well … the actual cost for other states to pick it up and run with it is zero, nothing.
“What government body, what parents, what teacher would say they don’t want it?”
This strong sense of community responsibility is also at the heart of the book.
“We know an incredible number of families watch us,” Bruce said.
“So in a way we’re saying here’s a story from which hopefully you can draw some strength.
“Maybe you can say: Look, if Bruce and Denise were able to cope with that, hey, my problems are nothing.
“Let’s just get on with it. And stop being silly about some things that really don’t matter.”