The disappearance of William Tyrrell resulted in a media frenzy, multiple theories and one of Australia’s biggest ever police investigations. Tragically though, William remains missing.

William disappeared in 2014 aged just 3. Since then, a high-profile investigation has taken place. Many possible theories have been put forward, but the case remains unsolved.

This article reviews this disappearance. There is a reader’s poll towards the end of the article, where you can vote on the theory you believe is most accurate. This will present an overall picture of what our readers believe happened.

William Tyrrell. Picture Credit: New South Wales Police


William Tyrrell was born in 2011. When he was just nine months old, he was removed from the care of his biological parents.

His foster parents had been looking after William and his biological sister since 2012. He was living in Sydney, Australia at the time of his disappearance.

The Disappearance

On September 11th 2014, the Tyrrell family travelled to the town of Kendall in the state of New South Wales, Australia. They did so to see William’s foster grandmother.

William disappeared on September 12th. The exact circumstances of his disappearance are not clear. According to the foster mother, William and his sister were playing hide and seek in both the front and back garden.

His foster parent and foster grandparent were sitting outside watching them. But after going inside for a few minutes, they said that they noticed that William was missing.

The family searched the immediate area and knocked on the door of neighbours. But there was no sign of William.

Around twenty minutes after the Tyrrell family say he was first discovered to be missing, they reported him as missing to the Police. Ten minutes later, the Police arrived and took down details – before a huge search commenced.

The Investigation

In the immediate aftermath of the disappearance being reported, an enormous search was launched. Hundreds of Police officers searched the area, alongside Fire service personnel and volunteers. The search took place throughout the rest of the day and into the night – where temperatures hit freezing point.

Houses were searched in the area, helicopters hovered and specialist teams including Police divers took part. Police dogs were also used but no scent could be picked up anywhere – aside from in the garden where William had been playing.

The searches continued for five days. A large area had been searched and enormous personnel had been devoted to the case. But unfortunately, the search didn’t yield any findings.

The Police investigated the disappearance with the codename Operation Strike Force Rosann. The force was made up of 14 detectives and analysts working full-time on the case.

Their initial focus was on finding the drivers of two cars that had allegedly been parked on the road where William had disappeared from. This detail was given to the Police by the foster family, who said that the two cars were parked near the house on the morning that William disappeared. William’s foster mother said that she had noticed the cars earlier on in the morning – prior to William vanishing.

What was noticeable was that this road was a dead end and that the cars hadn’t been seen before. The cars were described as a white estate car and a grey sedan. Given that the road was a dead end, there didn’t seem to be any discernible reason for them to be parked there.

Other sightings appeared to also place suspicion on the cars. One sighting involved a speeding car leaving the street where William disappeared at around 10:30am – which would fit in with the apparent time of William’s disappearance.

The Police did also investigate the possibility of involvement from the foster family. But with the disappearance involving a child and the fact that there were suspicious cars, the Police moved forward with their belief that William had been abducted by an opportunistic stranger.

They investigated the theory that the abductor was part of a paedophile ring – which would place William in enormous danger. Sex offenders that were living in the area were questioned heavily as the Police sought more information about this theory.

Over the next few weeks and months, a large number of enquiries were made. The Police had numerous persons of interest. This included two convicted sex offenders that had been released previously – Tony Jones and Paul Bickford. One family member of the above duo came forward to say that their family member had met with the other child sex offender on the day of William’s disappearance.

Interestingly, the men’s cars matched the description of the cars seen near where William vanished. The duo were questioned by denied any involvement in the case. While they have never been formally cleared, the Police were unable to find any evidence linking them to the crime.

There have been thousands of reported sightings of William, but at no point have any of these sightings been viewed as legitimate. Many have been investigated closely, but no sighting has proven to be accurate.

More than a thousand people were interviewed by the Police over the first few months. Other hypotheses were looked into as well as the abduction theory. But enquiries were fruitless. As the months went by, there was a growing acceptance that William was not going to be found alive.

Later Developments

One of the big challenges in this case was the identity protections in place in the Australian legal system. In Australia there are strict identity protections in place, meaning restrictions on reporting people in cases are rare.

Therefore, the public were unaware of the fact that William was a foster child at the time. The names of the biological parents of William were initially kept private, before the duo came forward. They have been named as Karlie Tyrrell and Brendan Collins. The duo are currently separated. Brendan is reportedly homeless and has spent time in jail in the past.

For the biological parents of William, the entire ordeal has been incredibly difficult. William’s biological mother has criticised the foster parents for failing to look after and protect her son.

The foster parents have never been identified in the media. Mysterious Disappearances have been made aware of the names of the foster parents but have chosen to not name them for legal reasons.

It took until 2017 for William’s status as a foster child to be reported in the media after the Supreme Court of Australia ruled that this could be reported on. This has proven to be a setback, as many believe that if William’s family situation had been revealed earlier, that vital clues may have been identified.

In September 2016, in line with the second anniversary of William’s disappearance – the New South Wales government announced a $1million reward for information on the whereabouts and recovery of the youngster.

In 2018, the Police announced that a widescale search of bushland around Kendall would commence. It was never revealed what information led Police to do this, but nothing was ever found.

Around this time, there was a strong suspicion among the Police that there was some form of involvement from the foster family in the disappearance. Senior detective Andrew Lonergan told a court hearing that the Police believed the foster mother knew where William’s body was buried.

The suspicion appeared to focus on a theory which suggested Wiliam might have fallen from a balcony at his foster grandmother’s house before having his body moved.

In 2021, the Police announced that new evidence pointed them towards three regions around Kendall. The Police stated that they were expecting to find William’s remains in this search. But once more, nothing was found.

The above search involved extensively searching the grounds of where William disappeared from. The Police were seen paying close attention to ground under the balcony of William’s foster grandmother’s home.

In April 2022, William’s foster mother was charged with giving false information relating to William’s disappearance. However, in November 2022 she was found not guilty.

The hearing did find though that the foster mother had hit a different foster child with a wooden spoon and kicked them. An audio recording revealed the child screamed in pain. The foster mother was criticised for her actions and some suggested it was a sign that she had little regard for those in her care.

In 2021, a child was removed from the care of William’s foster parents. The girl removed was William’s biological sister. Many have assumed that the girl hit by the foster mother was William’s biological sister.

William’s foster grandmother passed away in March 2021. Some believe that the foster grandmother took the secrets of what happened to William to the grave. Her house – where the incident happened – was sold.

However, William’s foster family have vehemently denied the idea that they had anything to do with William’s disappearance. They have also tried to ensure the case remains in the news with their “Where’s William” campaign. They have also cooperated with the Police throughout their investigation.

The Police were criticised at numerous parts of the investigation. For example, in 2016 a man was due to appear in court on unrelated historical sex charges. Lead detective Gary Juvelin was found to be “malicious” in his investigations of the man and had tried to create past sex crimes to try and coerce the man into confessing involvement in William’s disappearance. The man was awarded just under $1.5million in damages in 2022. Juvelin was removed from the case in 2019 amid his misconduct.

The case remains open and the Police are hopeful that William will be found – albeit his remains. Ultimately, William’s whereabouts remain unknown.

The disappearance of William Tyrrell is a high profile case in Australia


There are a few potential theories as to what happened to William Tyrrell. Each has their merits and could feasibly be accurate.

We take a look at the evidence for each:

Theory One: William Tyrrell was abducted by a stranger

Many believe that William was abducted by a stranger. William seemed to vanish out of nowhere and logic would suggest he was taken. If his foster mother took her eye away from him, this could have presented an opportunity for someone.

Unfortunately, most child abductions are sexually related, meaning William may have harrowingly suffered before presumably being killed. His body would have likely been disposed of somewhere.

While this is a terrible thought, it would explain why he has never been found. Moreover, the paedophile ring theory has many backers. It could feasibly involve the two suspicious cars that were spotted on the day of the disappearance. Also, sadly there are many depraved people with bad intentions towards children.

This theory does answer most questions in the case. It would also be the most logical. Despite large searches from the Police in the area around Kendall, nothing has been found. This would suggest William was taken elsewhere by someone abducting him.

But if William was taken in a moment of opportunity, what are the chances that such a sick individual would be there at the time? Perhaps the two suspicious cars could be involved; the occupants may have been waiting for a moment to pounce. But if the two cars were not involved, then the chances of a child-snatcher walking by at that exact moment is unlikely.

Theory Two: Foster parent involvement in William Tyrrell’s disappearance

It is possible that the foster family of William had some involvement in his disappearance. Could an accident have happened which led to the unfortunate death of William? Could the foster mother, with the help of her loyal mother, have buried William somewhere away from view.

It is known that the foster mother had hit another child in her care with a wooden spoon and kicked her. If this is the way that she treats children, could she have done something similar to William?

Moreover, sniffer dogs were unable to find any scent of William anywhere outside of the garden. There is also the question over whether the two cars that the foster family mentioned were really there. Could this have been a red herring perpetrated by the family to divert Police attention elsewhere?

The fall from the balcony theory has also been discussed. If William did fall and the mother became worried, she may have leant on her mother (the foster grandmother) to help bury William’s body. But if the balcony fall did happen, then why didn’t the foster family call an ambulance? This weakens this theory – unless they were afraid of being blamed and acted rashly.

But given the Police’s seemingly endless searches in the area, they clearly have some form of evidence that suggests William is buried in Kendall. If someone did abduct William, it would make no sense for them to bury him in the area where he was abducted from.

There has been a significant search for William. The Police have ploughed enormous resources into the case but have been unable to find any trace of William. Does this point to foster family involvement – as if they ensured he couldn’t be found?

However, the searches that have been carried out on and near the property where William disappeared have been fruitless. Extensive searches have failed to find anything that suggests the foster family were involved. If they had buried William themselves in the area, he surely would have been found.

Moreover, given how the foster family cooperated with the Police, it would make this theory difficult to believe. They have seemingly done what they can to help find William.

Theory Three: William Tyrrell wandered off and fell

Another theory is that William may have wandered off on his own accord and fell to his death somewhere in the vicinity of the house.

There is a large bushland near the house, so if William had wandered off there it is feasible that he might not have ever been found. While this would be a tragic death, it wouldn’t at least involve prolonged harm for William.

This theory would explain why he has never been found. However, given the intense and long searches that have taken place in the area, it makes this theory unlikely.

Moreover, in the first inquest into William’s disappearance, the court was told that William “wasn’t a wanderer” – meaning it would have been out of character for him to walk away.

The foster father also told investigators that William would’ve needed to climb over a wire fence to reach the edge of the property. The foster father said “it would be too hard” for William to do this, especially as he had asthma.

Reader Vote

Now that you have read the arguments for and against the above theories, you are welcome to vote on the theory that you believe is most likely.

What Happened to William Tyrrell?


The disappearance of William Tyrrell is incredibly sad. Amidst all of the family drama and media interest, it has been forgotten that a young boy has seemingly lost his life.

While the Police continue to show an active interest in the case, it is unknown if he will ever be found. Questions over what truly happened to William will go on for some time.

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