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William Tyrrell: Police work on 600 persons of interest in suspected abduction investigation

William Tyrrell was three years old when he vanished while playing at his grandmother’s house on the NSW Mid North Coast in 2014. Photo: Supplied A poster on a telegraph pole at the start of Benaroon Drive, Kendall asking for information about missing toddler William Tyrrell. Photo: Max Mason Hubers
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Police searching bushland in Bonny Hills, south of Port Macquarie, in 2015, as part of investigation. Photo: Peter Gleeson

William Spedding (centre) with his wife Margaret Spedding (left) at Campbelltown Court. Photo: Kate Geraghty

Police have been given information about 600 persons of interest in the William Tyrrell investigation. Photo: Supplied

The backyard of William’s grandmother’s house on Benaroon Drive at Kendall. Photo: Wolter Peeters

Detectives investigating the suspected abduction of toddler William Tyrrell have been given information about 600 persons of interest in a mammoth case that has engaged police statewide.

As the disappearance of three-year-old William from the Mid North Coast approaches its second anniversary on Monday, the sheer size and complexity of the homicide investigation behind it can be revealed.

It serves as a startling insight into the vast resources dedicated to finding out what happened to the toddler in the Spiderman suit on the morning of September 12, 2014.

Of the 600 persons of interest that Strike Force Rosann detectives have in their sights, 200 have not been completely identified.

Those profiles may include only physical descriptions from suspicious sightings and information gathered by police.

In a bid to rule in or out each name or description on the list, information relating to about 400 persons of interest have been sent out to police local area commands across the state.

Officers in each area have the responsibility of following up on those people and reporting back to the homicide squad, which is running the investigation.

Other teams at NSW Police’s State Crime Command, home to the force’s elite squads, are also helping with the workload and have been assigned people to investigate.

Other targets have been left to the team of 14 detectives that make up Strike Force Rosann, led by Detective Chief Inspector Gary Jubelin.

The overarching strategy, which has absorbed police resources across the state, is believed to be a first for homicide investigations in NSW.

While white goods repairman William “Bill” Spedding has been the investigation’s most high-profile person of interest, Fairfax Media understands there are others police have concentrated on just as intensely.

Mr Spedding has strenuously denied any involvement in the child’s disappearance and police have previously stressed he was only one of many people questioned in the investigation.

He has not been arrested or charged in relation to the disappearance.

Earlier this year the strike force looked closely at another Mid North Coast local after his erratic behaviour drew attention his way.

This included the man walking into a police station, asking to talk to someone on the strike force and asking to be handcuffed.

However, after a detailed look at every aspect of the man’s life, he was ruled out.

Last year a photo came across the desks of NSW detectives showing a young boy and a woman in a McDonald’s in Central Queensland.

The boy looked eerily similar to William, and the woman he was with looked like his grandmother, Natalie Collins.

William’s complicated background prevents reporting of certain aspects of his family life. However Ms Collins is not the grandmother who lived at the Kendall house where William disappeared from.

Fairfax Media reported last year that the hopes of detectives were dashed when police on the ground in Queensland confirmed the mother and boy were not who they hoped.

Ms Collins had already been tagged as a person of interest in the investigation, a suggestion she strenuously disputes.

The Sydney woman said she didn’t know where William was staying at the time he disappeared or that he was going to be in Kendall.

“I didn’t know, I wouldn’t have a clue,” she said.

“Who would have known what day he was going to be there and when he was playing outside?”

Ms Collin’s friend, Kim Loweke, told A Current Affair in August that police visited her and asked if she was hiding William after they found out she intended to move into a three-bedroom house with Ms Collins.

“Why would I do that, seriously? If someone had him, I wouldn’t hide him, I would show the world,” Ms Collins said.

Other persons of interest have included child sex offenders in the Mid North Coast area, with police revealing last year that a paedophile ring in the region might be linked to William’s case.

William’s parents have been previously ruled out of their son’s disappearance as has his grandmother, who moved out of the Kendall area after the unfathomable crime was carried out in her backyard.

Dressed in his Spiderman suit, William was playing on his grandmother’s deck on Benaroon Drive on the morning of September 12 when his mother went inside to make a cup of tea. William would have turned five in late June this year.

William, his sister and parents had travelled up from Sydney the day before for a spontaneous visit to Kendall.

At some point around 10.30am, William wandered around to his grandmother’s sprawling backyard, which slopes onto Benaroon Drive.

A matter of minutes was all it took for the charismatic toddler to vanish from the quiet cul-de-sac.

NSW Police would not comment on the case ahead of the anniversary on Monday.

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