The former suspect in the disappearance of William Tyrrell, William “Bill” Spedding, is suing the state of New South Wales and seeking damages for wrongful imprisonment and malicious prosecution.
William Tyrrell vanished from his foster grandmother’s house in New South Wales on September 12, 2014. He had been playing in the front yard of the property in Kendall, and was wearing a Spider-Man suit at the time of his disappearance. Despite extensive investigations and an exhaustive search by hundreds of volunteers and emergency service workers, the then three-year-old has not been found.
Spedding was named a person of interest in the disappearance after visiting the home of William’s foster grandmother to repair a washing machine, only days before the three-year-old’s disappearance.
This led police to raid Spedding’s home and business in 2015 and later charge him over historical allegations that he had sexually assaulted two children in 1987, a court at the time found the claims had been fabricated and the children were allegedly “coaxed” into making the damaging statements.
Spedding’s barrister Adrian Canceri told the court that documents showed witnesses were “lacking credibility” and that evidence indicated the two children were “coaxed” into making the statements against Spedding.
Spedding spent 58 days behind bars before he was cleared of any wrongdoing and found not guilty of all charges in 2018.
Canceri told the court on Monday, April 25 2022 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”.
“Part of the strategy to inculpate the plaintiff was to arrest and charge him for old sexual assault allegations, which had previously been investigated by police and no action taken,” he said.
“At the time of the trial, when it came to give evidence in respect of those allegations, there was no evidence.”
Canceri also took aim at the NSW Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions as he claimed the case against Spedding “was utterly hopeless and doomed to fail”.
“The case that was bad from the beginning got a whole lot worse when the director had carriage of it,” he said.
“The director or his delegates persisted in prosecuting the plaintiff to justify the public resources that had been expended in the investigation into the plaintiff and to also justify his public identification as a person of interest in the disappearance of William Tyrrell.”
The court also heard claims that police had allegedly threatened and intimidated Spedding during the course of the investigation.
Spedding claimed his ordeal as well as the intense media and public scrutiny had a profound effect on his mental health.
“When it was all going on it was quite depressing, very depressing,” he said.
“I’ve lost 20kg.
“I’ve got to force myself to do things. It’s an effort to get in and do anything.”
Spedding was never charged in relation to William Tyrrell’s disappearance and has denied any involvement.
The hearing remains ongoing.