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A hearing is underway in the Supreme Court where Bill Spedding is suing the state for malicious prosecution, false imprisonment and collateral abuse of process.
The grandfather was publicly outed as the sole person of interest in 2015, four months after the boy in the spiderman suit vanished from a home at Kendall on the NSW Mid North Coast.
Mr Spedding had previously done work at the property, but on the day in question, claimed he had coffee with his wife at a café and watched his grandchild win an award at a primary school assembly.
As police investigated his alibi, Mr Spedding’s quiet life was thrown into chaos and became headline news.
Later that year, detectives from Strike Force Rosann, which was set up to investigate the mystery of the missing boy, charged the tradesman with unrelated child sex offences against two children from 1987.
Today, the court was told the allegations were looked into in the 80s but no action was taken.
Mr Spedding spent 58 days in prison, where he was held in solitary confinement and threatened by staff and inmates over the missing boy.
After being released on bail, he was assaulted in the street and branded a paedophile in a series of anonymous voice messages left on his mobile phone.
The historical case – described as “utterly hopeless” – ended up being thrown out during a 2018 trial after the claims were found to have been concocted.
It wasn’t until an inquest in 2019 when the one-time suspect was publicly cleared of any involvement in William Tyrrell’s disappearance, that a witness confirmed he saw Spedding and his wife at the school awards ceremony.
A receipt was also produced for two cappuccinos, a citrus tart and a ham and cheese croissant worth $19.95 at Café Buzz in Laurieton.
Mr Spedding is seeking aggravated damages for the ordeal, which he says has left him distressed, embarrassed and humiliated.
“When it was all going on it was quite depressing, very depressing,” he said.
He has singled out three police officers, including former lead investigator, Gary Jubelin, who it’s alleged once warned him in an unrecorded interview “Mr nice washing machine man, I am going to ruin you.”
Barrister Adrian Canceri argued the treatment had severely diminished his client’s enjoyment of life.
“The evidence will overwhelmingly demonstrate that the criminal proceedings were used as a vehicle to further the investigation of the plaintiff as a suspect in the disappearance of William Tyrrell, and to punish him for his suspected involvement,” Mr Canceri said in court.
Asked if police had destroyed his life, Mr Spedding said he wouldn’t be making a comment at this stage.
The hearing is expected to run for up to two weeks.