Daniel Morcombe’s parents have expressed their fury over the release of an “appalling” Australian film based on the events of the 2003 murder of their son.
The upcoming crime-thriller, which had its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival on May 18, tells the story of an undercover police officer tasked with soliciting a confession from a man suspected of murder.
The film, starring Joel Edgerton and directed by Thomas. M Wright, reportedly focuses on the relationship between the two men rather than Daniel’s ordeal.
“One reason I chose not to show the child or family [in “The Stranger”] was to make a film with a clear moral perspective,” Wright told Variety.
“I couldn’t presume to know anything of the experience of that family. But I could see that there was a story about empathy and making meaning in the wake of violence, not violence itself .”
Daniel’s mother, Denise Morcombe, called the movie “morally and corrupt and cruel” in a tweet slamming the upcoming film.
“The movie The Stranger is not supported by the Morcombe family,” she said.
“Individuals who make money on a heinous crime are parasites.
“They are callously disrespectful to Daniel, the (Daniel Morcombe Foundation) and the Morcombe family.
“We find the making of the movie morally corrupt and cruel. Shame on you.”
Daniel’s father, Bruce, also took to Twitter to question “how can anyone give oxygen to a crime that is so, so evil.”
“We are not amused!” he said.
“Connections of the movie have blood on their hands.”
The Morcombes expressed their anger with the film further in a statement issued to the Daniel Morcombe Foundation Facebook page.
In response to the Morcombe’s reaction to the release of the film, the producers of The Stranger issued a statement claiming they “approached the family to make them aware of the film.”
“The Stranger is a fictionalised account of the undercover police operation that resulted in a successful murder prosecution. Out of our deepest respect for the family, the name of the victim is never mentioned in the film and the film does not depict any details of the murder. Nor is the family represented in the film in any way,” they said.
“When the film was first in development, the producers approached the family to make them aware of the film. They declined to be involved. It is a decision we continue to respect.”
The disappearance of Daniel Morcombe sent shockwaves across the country after the then 13-year-old was abducted from the Sunshine Coast in broad daylight on December 7, 2003. The boy’s disappearance prompted one of the largest criminal investigations in Queensland’s history. He was last seen wearing a red t-shirt while waiting for a bus. In October 2004, a $250,000 reward was posted by the Queensland Government for information on Daniel’s disappearance. By December 2008 the reward had increased to $1 million.
Police determined he was abducted and murdered; after an extensive search and an undercover police investigation, Daniel’s remains were finally found in 2011. In the same month, police arrested and charged Brett Peter Cowan with murder, child stealing, deprivation of liberty, indecent treatment of a child, and interfering with a corpse. Daniel’s parents, Bruce and Denise, launched the Daniel Morcombe Foundation in 2005 “to give back to the community who had supported them from the day that Daniel went missing”.