Robert Donohoe refused to speak to police about toddler’s disappearance

In 2015, Donohoe was convicted of sexually assaulting two intellectually impaired men in their early 20s. He had met them through the Taree SES.

William Tyrrell, who disappeared in 2014.

William Tyrrell, who disappeared in 2014.

Donohoe was sentenced to at least three years in prison. He has since been released.

Donohoe refused to participate in a police interview following the disappearance of William Tyrrell.

Six months before the aborted interview, police attempted to interview Donohoe at the Wagga Wagga Police Station, Strike Force Rosann detectives executed a search warrant on the property at which Donohoe’s parents and brother lived.

The warrant enabled police to seize his van, electronic records, documents and clothes pertaining to William, who was three-years-old when he vanished without trace from his grandmother’s balcony in Kendall on the mid-north coast.

Donohoe, 42, told the coronial inquest on Friday that he had joined in the search for William in his capacity as an SES volunteer, but couldn’t remember the exact details of the search.

“I’ve been bashed in jail so my memory’s not 100 per cent,” he said, adding that he suffers from a cognitive impairment.

“The place was like a football match, the amount of people that were there,” he said of the search.

Police searching bushland in Bonny Hills, south of Port Macquarie, in 2015, as part of the investigation.

Police searching bushland in Bonny Hills, south of Port Macquarie, in 2015, as part of the investigation. Credit:Peter Gleeson

The court heard Donohoe had told police where he was on the morning of William’s disappearance.

In a separate job, Donohoe’s manager at the Lakewood Caltex – some 10 minutes by car from the Benaroon Drive home from which William disappeared – told the inquest this week that she found him “creepy”.

Donohoe brought a star stamp to work to hand out to children, despite it being against the Woolworths-owned petrol chain’s rules, she said.

“He brought a candle to work. There’s a sign outside saying do not have a naked flame,” Ms Starr said.


Donohoe also bought chickens to work in the back of his van, which he occasionally slept in.

Ms Starr could not say for certain if Donohoe was working the day of William’s baffling disappearance, but said the company would have records.

On Friday afternoon, the solicitor acting for washing machine repairman Bill Spedding – who had been identified in numerous reports as a person of interest in the case – was refused in his application to have former officer in charge Gary Jubelin and other police officers added to the list of witnesses to appear before the Coroner.

“This has been a frustrating investigation for the loved ones of William Tyrrell, the community and the police,” Peter O’Brien said in a failed application to include another eight officers.

“It’s also been frustrating and damaging for Mr Spedding and he as well as the rest of the community are entitled to know whether it could’ve been done better”.

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