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The stepfather accused of murdering missing schoolgirl Charlise Mutten allegedly drove around Sydney for hours with her body before dumping it in a river.
The nine-year-old’s body was found in a barrel on Tuesday night in scrub near the Colo River – an hour from where she disappeared on a private property in Mount Wilson, in the NSW Blue Mountains.
Police will allege Justin Stein, 31, spent up to five hours driving around the Harbour City with Charlise’s body in a boat while he tried to figure out where to dump her, the Daily Telegraph reports.
It is understood detectives believe Charlise’s mother Kallista Mutten had left her daughter in the care of Stein last Tuesday night.
Charlise Mutten, 9, was initially believed to have last been seen on Thursday but was reported missing on Friday morning
Charlise’s mother Kallista Mutten’s fiancé Justin Stein (pictured) has been charged with murder
Initial reports said Charlise had last been seen on Thursday before family members reported her missing from the property on Friday morning.
Police have since announced the last time Charlise was confirmed to be alive was around 7pm last Tuesday, and they will allege she was killed at some point within the following 15 hours.
Homicide detectives retraced Stein’s steps using CCTV after he allegedly bought five 20kg sandbags from Bunnings, fuelled up a boat, then tried to launch it from an inner-Sydney dock.
After finding the boat was inoperable, police will allege he then tried to dump the barrel containing Charlise’s body in Colo River but was unable to roll it in due to the weight of the sandbags.
It is alleged he instead left it in bushland, where it was later discovered.
Police revealed in a press conference on Wednesday they will allege Stein discussed buying sandbags and boat fuel before later travelling to the riverbed where his stepdaughter’s body was later found.
‘(There were) a number of telephone conversations, to purchase a number of sandbags,’ Deputy Police Commissioner David Hudson said.
Footage of Stein’s arrest was released on Wednesday afternoon, showing as he walked from the car to the holding cell at Surry Hills Police Station with his hands cuffed in front of him.
He wore a grey Everlast jumper and shorts which he was still dressed in when he fronted court on Wednesday morning.
The accused appeared in Central Local Court on Wednesday from Surry Hills police station, where he is detained
Ms Mutten and her fiancé reported Charlise missing to police on Friday morning, claiming they last saw her on Thursday afternoon.
But the police fact sheet tendered in court on Wednesday indicates police believe there are contradictions to that timeline.
Police have alleged she was killed sometime between 7pm on Tuesday, January 11 and 10am Wednesday January 12.
Detectives are still waiting to speak to Ms Mutten because she remains under guard at hospital and is ‘hard to approach’.
‘The mother is currently under healthcare and is difficult to approach,’ Deputy Police Commissioner David Hudson said.
‘She’s under medical supervision, but when doctors allow, we will be talking to her.’
Mr Hudson said it was too early to speculate as to whether the accused had an accomplice.
‘At this stage, we have no evidence to support whether the accused acted alone… However it is still early days,’ he said.
There has been a significant delay in speaking with the girl’s mother Kallista Mutten (pictured) because she remains in hospital under guard. ‘The mother is currently under healthcare and is difficult to approach,’ Deputy Police Commissioner David Hudson said
Footage of the man’s arrest was released on Wednesday afternoon, showing as he walked from the car to the holding cell at Surry Hills Police Station with his hands cuffed in front of him
Police have seized Stein’s red ute (pictured) as part of their investigation
Police were investigating a number of ‘anomalies’ they identified in the accused’s initial testimony, which included giving two separate versions of events in the lead up to the girl’s disappearance.
Mr Hudson said through tracking the movements of a car they seized via CCTV, they were able to establish certain facts as to the movements of the man charged.
‘Thursday afternoon, he purchased a number of sandbags from a hardware store,’ he confirmed, adding that petrol was also used in an attempt to float a small boat which was later deemed inoperable.
‘We then tracked the individual back to the location where we found the body.’
The child’s doting grandparents, who have fulltime custody of her in Coolangatta on the Gold Coast, have been notified.
More details about the girl’s death and final moments are expected in the coming days after her post-mortem results are shared with detectives.
The 31-year-old accused, who was arrested shortly after the body was found inside a Surry Hills unit, faced court on Wednesday morning.
The 31-year-old man was arrested at an apartment in Surry Hills on Tuesday night. He will face court on Wednesday
Police made the grisly discovery near the Colo River in Sydney’s west on Tuesday night. A child’s remains, which are yet to be identified, were found in a barrel
He did not apply for bail and it was formally refused. Neither he nor the girl can be identified for legal reasons.
His lawyer asked the court for a 12 week adjournment to seek a mental health assessment, noting he’s been on ‘long term medication’.
Police will allege he tried to get the barrel to the river but couldn’t drag it through the dense bushland and left it abandoned in scrub nearby.
The barrel has now been seized and will be forensically examined further, police said.
An eyewitness also told Daily Mail Australia they had seen a car leaving the property she was last seen at in the early hours of Friday morning.
The one hour drive from Mt Wilson to the Colo River follows Mt Wilson Road to the Bells Line of Road then via one of two routes to reach the river.
Driving past houses and equestrian properties, the road becomes a dirt track as it enters the Wollemi National Park.
Comleroy Road to Upper Colo is a winding and often steep and treacherous dirt road which crosses through the flowing Colo River past the remote Wheeny Creek campground.
A man has been charged with murder after a nine-year-old girl disappeared in the Blue Mountains. Emergency crews are seen in Colo River near the Blue Mountains
Pictured: Police vehicles moving down the driveway at Mount Wilson, in the NSW Blue Mountains
RFS volunteers (pictured) were deployed to the area to search for the nine-year-old and have been combing bushland
A road posted with a sign warning ‘Protect children! Please drive carefully’ goes past the Upper Colo Anglican Church and local rural fire brigade headquarters.
The victim’s ‘shattered’ father, who also cannot be identified, shared an emotional tribute on Wednesday morning, hours after learning of her death.
‘Goodbye beautiful girl… We will get answers for you baby, and we will honour you properly,’ he said.
‘You have captured the hearts of the nation and the world, and now those hearts are breaking with mine.’
Her father vowed this ‘would not be the end of [her] or [her] story’ in his statement.
‘This doesn’t happen. Kids need to be safe. What is wrong with people?’
TIMELINE OF TRAGIC NINE-YEAR-OLD’S DISAPPEARANCE
January 13: Nine-year-old girl was last seen on the verandah of an estate in Mount Wilson, north-west of Sydney.
January 14: Victim was reported missing at 8.20am. Police flocked to the last known address where she was seen and established a crime scene.
Neighbours told detectives they saw a car at 4.20am on Friday, with no headlights on.
Investigators seized a Holden Colorado ute on High Street in Penrith for forensic testing.
The victim’s stepdad spoke with police in Penrith.
January 15: Homicide detectives took over the search.
Police divers seized a boat in the Hawkesbury River and scanned it for fingerprints. The boat will also be kept for forensic testing.
Investigators continued to scour fire trails in dense bushland surrounding the property.
January 16: RFS volunteers found ‘very small and barefooted’ prints along a fire trail.
‘Certain items’ have been uncovered by detectives, but police have not been able to determine the schoolgirl’s whereabouts.
January 17: A convoy of five police vehicles and detectives on foot entered the property around 11.30am.
One detective ordered media to ‘leave, now!’ from outside the gates of the five hectare wedding venue retreat
A police bus followed by unmarked police cars rolled through the gates as a uniformed officer stood guard.
Earlier, plain clothes child protection squad officers drove into the property.
January 18: Police say the girl will likely be ‘lethargic’ and ‘stationary’ if she’s lost in the bush.
January 19: Revelation a body was found inside a barrel near the Colo River as a man, 31, is charged with her murder
Source: Daily Mail