IF THERE'S one book that every Australian adult should read (and every child should be told about at an appropriate time), it’s The Sting. This is both a fascinating step-by-step account of the genius that eventually tripped up one of the country’s most dangerous pedophiles and a warning to unsuspecting mainstream citizens that psychopaths of this ilk are moving freely among us.
Since the morning on which Daniel Morcombe’s disappearance was first reported in December 2003, Kate Kyriacou – chief crime writer for the Courier-Mail newspaper in Queensland – has followed the case of the shy, quiet 13-year-old who set out from his family home on the Sunshine Coast early one Sunday afternoon to get a haircut and buy Christmas presents and never returned.
Local police quickly assembled a list of persons of interest – among them a twice-convicted child rapist who had already served three years in jail for two earlier attacks. Although investigators were convinced Brett Cowan was their man they were unable to find even the barest shred of evidence linking him to the missing boy, and with a reasonable alibi he appeared to be beyond their reach.
Rather than deter them, however, this potentially insurmountable roadblock merely inspired the team to adopt an innovative, demanding and resource-intensive approach: working with colleagues in Victoria and Western Australia, Queensland police devised an elaborate covert operation to convince Cowan he was being recruited as the newest member of a bicoastal criminal syndicate. The one thing standing in his way? He would need to confess to “the gang” of undercover officers any previous crimes, including specifically his role, if any, in Daniel’s abduction.
The unfolding events make for a fast-faced, twisting and turning storyline with all the hallmarks of a Hollywood script but with one gigantic asterisk: the victims in this sickening scenario are entirely real.