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Daniel Morcombe shoe found among pine trees

On their hands and knees, shoulder to shoulder, State Emergency Service volunteers crawled through bushland in the Sunshine Coast hinterland looking for the remains of slain schoolboy Daniel Morcombe.

Volunteers searched crime scenes established at a macadamia farm off Kings Road in the Glass House Mountains, Sunshine Coast police forensic co-ordinator Inspector Arthur Van Panhuis told a jury in the Brisbane Supreme Court on Wednesday.

The crime scene was established after the man charged with Daniel's murder, Brett Peter Cowan, allegedly re-visited the site with undercover police officers in early August 2011.

The farm housed old tobacco-drying sheds and a disused sand mining site.

A demountable house had been removed from the farm and renovated in the years after Daniel's disappearance.


With small gardening tools, the volunteers crawled their way through the fallen pine needles, long grass and lantana, searching for any clues that would lead them to Daniel's remains.

On August 17, one SES volunteer spotted the outline of a shoe partially buried in the ground.

To an untrained eye it appeared no different to a rock embedded in the dirt.

The leaf litter covering the right shoe was brushed away to reveal the brand name "Globe" - the same brand of shoe worn by Daniel.

Denise Morcombe was later able to find the shoebox that would have contained the Globe Occy shoes, in the boxes of Daniel's possessions the family kept in plastic containers.

On August 20, the left shoe was found, as well as the first of 17 bones recovered until September 9.

The bones were found in the top 10 centimetres of material on the forest floor, "scattered" a little distance from the embankment where Mr Cowan told undercover police he had dumped the body.

The exhaustive search effort was detailed as Inspector Van Panhuis testified on the third day of Mr Cowan's trial.

"The search was exceptionally intensive," Inspector Van Panhuis told the court.

Police consulted hydrologists, botanists, feral animal experts and geo-technicians to determine areas to search and which areas to excavate.

"We had searched the tobacco-drying sheds, we searched the shed, we had searched the area where the demountable had been, we had excavated where the carpet [from the demountable] had been buried and we located the carpet," Inspector Van Panhuis said.

"There was a well on the site. We obtained specialists to search the well. No items were located.

"We used metal detectors during this time as well. We also used cadaver dogs on several occasions to provide us with some assistance."

Water was also pumped from a small pond on the site and 500 cubic metres of sand was ultimately removed from the search area and hand-sieved.

A fox den was found and also excavated, but nothing of interest was found.

Mr Cowan has been charged with one count each of murder, indecently dealing with a child under the age of 16 and unlawfully dealing with a corpse.

He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

The trial continues.