William Tyrrell investigation led by detective David Laidlaw in Kendall
He is the no-nonsense old school cop who has turned the William Tyrrell case on its head.
With his thick moustache and shock of grey hair, a slight paunch and a limping gait, Detective Chief Inspector David Laidlaw is no glamour TV cop from central casting.
A decorated 40-year veteran with a flair for cracking cases, including one of the nation’s most shocking child murders, Laidlaw was already known for his superior analytical skills before taking on the troubled, high profile Tyrrell investigation.
In marked contrast to the style cultivated by the man he replaced as Strike Force Rosann boss, Gary Jubelin, DCI Laidlaw does not do walk-throughs of a crime scene for the cameras.
Detective Chief Inspector David Laidlaw is leading the search for William Tyrrell’s remains near his foster grandmother’s home in Kendall, on the NSW mid north coast
As his strike force rolled out a series of stunning developments in both Kendall and Sydney this week, rocking to the core previous conceptions about William’s disappearance, Laidlaw kept in the background.
But as police toiled on the William Tyrrell dig and tore apart the garden under the Kendall house from which the boy vanished in 2014, Laidlaw was there, quietly directing his troops.
On Saturday, Laidlaw was at the bush block again, patting officers on the back in encouragement as they spent a sixth consecutive day on a search now predicted to take months rather than weeks.
Since he took over in January 2019, Laidlaw has steered the investigation through inquest hearings and the controversies left in the wake of his predecessor.
It appeared to be Jubelin, who was stood down for illegally recording a former suspect and has since left the police force, that NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller referenced when he described the case as an ‘inherited mess’.
And it was clearly Laidlaw that Fuller was referring to when he said, ‘I’m confident that the team who has the investigation at the moment can solve it’.
Under the guidance of Laidlaw, a former investigations coordinator for the NSW Homicide Squad, outwardly it had appeared the Tyrrell probe was treading water.
Behind the scenes, nothing could be further than the truth.
Laidlaw is a no-nonsense, old-school cop with a history of solving tough criminal cases
Last month, it was reported that Laidlaw’s investigators were looking at a new ‘person of interest’, who was intimately connected with the case.
In the last week, solid and steady Laidlaw revealed his hand with a stunning series of twists, one of which was the revelation William’s foster mother was that person.
Laidlaw showed his skill for concluding cases involving the death of children in the shocking killing of seven-year-old Ebony, whose ‘mummified’ body was found in her parents’ NSW Mid-Coast home in 2007.
Even seasoned detective Laidlaw and his team of detectives could not be prepared for the sight of the little girl, found lying in her own faeces with bull ants crawling from her mouth.
Weighing just 9kg, the girl had been imprisoned in the putrid bedroom which ‘doubled as a toilet’ and was emaciated to the point she ‘looked almost like a mummy’.
The mother and father of ‘Ebony’, known as SW and BW, were convicted of murder and manslaughter and jailed for a maximum of 40 years and 16 years.
Laidlaw was in charge of the investigation of the horrific death of Ebony (above). Her parents were convicted of murder and manslaughter and both jailed
Weighing just 9kg, the girl had been imprisoned in the putrid bedroom which ‘doubled as a toilet’ and was emaciated to the point she ‘looked almost like a mummy’
Also known for closing critical incident investigations, Laidlaw investigated the 2008 deaths of six people aged 20 to 32 who were killed in a boat crash on Sydney Harbour when a fishing vessel slammed into a boat out at night on an illegal cruise.
The boat’s skipper and barman were convicted respectively for manslaughter and dangerous navigation and jailed for five years.
Recognised in the 2017 Australia Day Honours with the Australian Police Medal, DCI Laidlaw has been a police officer since 1977.
He became a detective in 1988, and in 1994 was promoted to the rank of detective sergeant.
He worked in the Major Crime Squad and in 2000 he was promoted to detective inspector at the Drug and Organised Crime Strike Force Program.
Since then he has served at the Crime Agencies Drug Trafficking Squad and the State Crime Command Homicide Squad.
Laidlaw investigated the 2008 deaths of six people aged 20 to 32 who were killed in a boat crash on Sydney Harbour (above)
He has dedicated the majority of his 40 years of policing to criminal investigation. At the Drug Trafficking Squad, Laidlaw led Strike Force Buffier which investigated an Italian organised crime cannabis syndicate and seized drugs worth up to $200m.
In 2007, he led the Coronial Investigation Team which developed closer working relationships between police and the NSW State Coroner’s Office.
He is a member of the SIDS Advisory Committee with the State Coroner’s Office and NSW Health, advising on children who die from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
By August last year, Strike Force Rosann’s original team of 26 at its height had dwindled to five investigators, including Laidlaw at its helm.
He told the William Tyrrell inquest at that time that no-one had ben eliminated as a suspect, saying ‘we haven’t closed a door on anybody’.
Since then, Laidlaw has rebuilt his team with detectives now confidently leading the massive high-intensity dig of a square kilometre of forest on the NSW Mid North Coast.
Chief scientist on the dig, Professor Jon Olley, has concluded if William’s body has been left in the area his remains – either bone or a scrap of clothing – should have washed into a tributary of the creek which flows through the private land Laidlaw’s team are currently digging up.
On Saturday, as Laidlaw visited the dig, it was predicted the search would take months rather than weeks.