Remembering Daniel Morcombe

Daniel Morcombe has been farewelled with a guard of honour formed by students of his former school.

As Daniel's coffin, carried by six pallbearers including his two brothers, neared the end of the guard of honour guard, State Emergency Service volunteers stood to attention beside the hearse.

The hundreds of members of the public gathered at the Siena Catholic College also joined the honour line.

And as the hearse pulled away the crowd broke into a quiet applause.

"A moment in time that will live with all of us forever'': Bruce Morcombe 

He's like the son I might have known.

Bring him home, bring him home.

The words that accompanied a montage of photographs and home videos of Daniel Morcombe saw tears flow among the crowd gathered to farewell the Sunshine Coast schoolboy today.

But his father Bruce asked mourners not to be sad.

‘‘A moment in time that will live with all of us forever occurred nine years ago today," Bruce Morcombe said.

‘‘Appreciate that the evil act which took Daniel happened a long time ago. Today is about embracing his return to family and being reflective of what might have been.’’

Mr Morcombe pledged to work in his son's name to keep other children safe.

‘‘I’m sure we have all discovered strengths we did not know we had," he said.

‘‘Australia is a better place because of this. Our children and grandchildren are safer because of Daniel’s legacy.

‘‘What is truly ironic about all the recognition, support, help and publicity his search has attracted is that he was such a quiet kid.

‘‘He was not an attention seeker yet because of his sparkling eyes and beaming smile captured in photo after photo he is someone everyone took into their hearts.

‘‘That is what made him special."

The beaming face of Daniel as a toddler, standing next to his twin, both wearing matching Thomas the Tank Engine t-shirts, elicited smiles from mourners, as did videos of him chasing bubbles and swimming in a pool.

The montage shared the Morcombes' happiest memories of Daniel, but also reflected on his disappearance, the nine-year search to find him and the arrest of the man accused of killing him.

Newspaper headlines were flashed across the screen, as were images of State Emergency Services volunteers searching for Daniel's remains in bushland in the Glasshouse Mountains earlier this year.

It ended with words from former Queensland Police commissioner Bob Atkinson. ‘‘It's the answer, it's a very sad answer, but it's the answer.’’

Daniel would have been proud of his parents for ‘‘keeping the search active’’ and the community ‘‘for never giving up’’, his big brother Dean said.

Daniel Morcombe.

Daniel Morcombe.

‘‘Daniel was my younger brother and a twin with Bradley - born eight weeks premature on the 19th  of December, 1989,’’ Dean said.

‘‘Bradley and Daniel shared that special bond as you would imagine. He was a gifted student and the two of them shared many secrets.

‘‘They were great friends often getting into mischief or blaming each other as the reason why their room was so untidy. What are brothers for?’

’The three brothers shared a love of motocross, according to Dean who recounted an incident where Daniel came a cropper.

‘‘Daniel was my riding buddy,’’ Dean said.

‘‘We would encourage each other to go that bit harder, higher and faster.

‘‘He was tough – I recall him taking a fall one afternoon trying to attempt a big jump on his new motocross bike.

‘‘Over the handlebars he went, smack into the ground with the bike just missing him. He refused to show the pain. That was what made him special.’’

Bruce and Dean spoke after the melody of Hallelujah resounded across the grounds of Siena Catholic College at the start of the service for Daniel. The crowd of hundreds gathered fell silent, with many bowing their heads.

Inside, Bruce and Denise Morcombe and their sons Dean and Bradley sat before a white coffin adorned with red flowers.

Denise wiped tears from her eyes, as did many sitting outside. The Morcombes were not alone in their grief.

For nine years, the Christmas presents Denise and Bruce Morcombe bought their son Daniel sat unopened, a permanent reminder their little boy who went out and never returned.

Today as they laid him to rest, the Morcombes were at last be able to give Daniel his gifts, placing them on his coffin before saying their goodbyes.

Mourners arrive

Mourners started to gather early in the morning.

State Emergency Services volunteers, as well as officers from Emergency Management Queensland also joined the members of the public seated outside the church, while students from Siena Catholic College have handed out red ribbons to the crowd.

Outside the church, Queensland Police Commissioner Ian Stewart said the state's police force was beside the Morcombes today.

‘‘It has been a wonderful resolution to such a tragedy that the whole community of Queensland - and in fact I think the whole of Australia - has been touched by,’’ he said.

‘‘I am certain that this funeral will impact on members of the police service but also it will impact just as heavily the entire Queensland community, because the entire Queensland community has been behind the Morcombe family and behind the police investigation ever since day one.’’

It is estimated about 900 mourners filled the church, with hundreds more congregating on the lawn outside where the service shown on a large screen donated by the local community.

As it did on the morning of December 7, 2003 when Daniel set out from his Palmwoods home to catch a bus, it rained on the Sunshine Coast today but stopped shortly before 9.30am.

By that time, a steady stream of mourners - all wearing red shirts, dresses, ties or ribbons - started arriving at the church and filling the public seating area outside.

As they walked a pathway lined with red ribbon, family, friends and past and presents students from Siena Catholic College paused to glance at the photograph of Daniel projected onto a large screen in the school grounds.

Once seated, they were silent, reflecting on their memories of the past nine years and the impact Daniel and his family have had on their lives.

Final farewell

As the congregation was led in the Song of Farewell, an honour guard formed outside the church waiting to receive Daniel’s coffin.

To the strains of the Celine Dion song My Heart Will Go On, the Morcombes approached their son’s coffin again, and pall bearers including brothers Dean and Bradley, prepared to escort the coffin outside.

As the casket made its way outside, choristers sang the Elton John song Daniel.

Bruce and Denise Morcombe followed the procession as the honour guard stood in silence, heads bowed, as the coffin passed by and was placed in a hearse.

Mrs Morcombe was held by her son Dean, while Mr Morcombe embraced Daniel’s twin Bradley.

After the public memorial service, the Morcombes will follow the hearse to a private burial at the Woombye Cemetery.

In his eulogy, Mr Morcombe thanked the Queensland and West Australian police, SES volunteers, Crime Stoppers, the Queensland Homicide Victims Support Group and the Queensland Coroner for helping to bring his son home.

He also acknowledged the other families with lost loved ones, whom he and Denise had met, over the past nine years.

‘‘Clearly the Morcombe family are not alone," he said.

‘‘We have been touched by each of your unique journeys and we will continue to do what we can to help.’’

"For all the Daniels'': community gathers to remember

Tributes have been pouring in for the Morcombe family. The Sunshine Coast and Siena Catholic College communities banded together to coordinate the memorial service.

Siena Catholic College 2012 graduates Joel Bolton and Sam Letchford returned to the school this morning to help with the funeral preparations.

‘‘I think there will be a lot of tears, but we're glad that he's come to rest,’’ Sam said.

To Joel, Daniel's story is a reminder ‘‘not to take things for granted because they could be taken from you at any stage’’.

Hayley Carswell, 22, who was in Year 8 at Siena Catholic College when Daniel disappeared, was among the first mourners to arrive at the funeral today.

‘‘Everything changed very quickly after Daniel disappeared," she said.

‘‘It affected our lives terribly. We were forced to grow up very quickly. Suddenly we weren't ignorant. We realised the world could be a horrible place. We were scared.

‘‘It has been hanging over us ever since.’’

But now Daniel is home.

Today, Hayley and her other former classmates had their chance to say goodbye.

‘‘It's closure for us too,’’ she said.

Shan Fleming, from Ferny Grove in Brisbane's north, arrived clutching a piece of red ribbon she bought not long after Daniel disappeared.

‘‘At the time everyone was buying red ribbons and putting them on their front doors and letterboxes," she said.

‘‘It became very hard to find any red ribbon. I bought this and hung it in my office. I have moved twice, and I have taken this with me each time.’’

Ms Fleming decided to attend the funeral for Daniel and ‘‘all the Daniels’’ taken from their families.

‘‘It's all the children,’’ she said.

‘‘He represents all of them."

Susanne Norwood, a grandmother of six from Bribie Island, said she wanted to show her respect for the Morcombe family.

‘‘They've done so much for our community,’’ she said, wiping tears from her face.

‘‘I want them to know that we care.’’

Reflections on the search for Daniel

Julie Elliott, a  former police media officer who was called in to support the Morcombes when Daniel went missing and has since become a close personal friend of the family, said today was the saddest of homecomings.

‘‘They have been wanting to have Daniel back with them and they realised years ago there was little possibility of him coming back to them alive, so this is a necessary part of their grieving and perhaps a little healing as well," she said.

‘‘He's not lost, he's not unknown, they re not wondering forever and a day where he is. He's with them and that's really, really important.

‘‘We've absolutely admired Denise and Bruce for their strength, their tenacity even those times when perhaps others gave up, they never did and Daniel would be very proud of them  very, very proud."

Commissioner Stewart reflected of what was the largest missing person investigation in Queensland's history.

‘‘This was without doubt the largest missing person ... investigation we have ever under taken. It took eight years; literally hundreds of police ... and at its peak more than 100 police officers working on the case itself," he said.

‘‘We as a police department undertake that we will never give up in the case of missing persons in this state.’’

However, he said Daniel's lasting legacy was the community's renewed commitment to child safety.

‘‘I think there are many legacies, but probably the most important is that I think families generally and the community generally is much more understanding of the need to watch for the safety of children,’’ he said.

‘‘Perhaps now the community is more willing to help a child who looks lost or in distress than they would have previously. That's a great legacy that this has engendered right throughout out community."

"They have shown incredible stoicism": Premier

Queensland Premier Campbell Newman is in Canberra for a Council of Australian Governments' meeting but says his thoughts are with the Morcombe family.

‘‘I wish I could be there with them today,’’ he told reporters.

‘‘But I know that all Queenslanders, indeed all Australians, are thinking of them on this very sad day. They have been amazing people through this terrible ordeal, they have shown incredible stoicism.’’

Police Minister Jack Dempsey represented the Queensland government at Friday’s service. Opposition police spokesman Bill Byrne also attended. Former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd was among those gathered to remember Daniel.

- with AAP