Crews searching for Charlise Mutten have been given a grim warning today, as questions arise over a strange detail in the nine-year-old’s disappearance.
The critical hours between Charlise Mutten’s disappearance in NSW’s Blue Mountains and when her family notified the police could hold the key to finding the nine-year-old.
The young girl was staying with her mother Kallista Mutten and her fiance Justin Stein at the luxury Mount Wilson wedding venue when she vanished on Thursday, January 13.
She was last seen by her family some time that afternoon but wasn’t reported missing to the police until 8.20am on Friday, January 14.
The search for Charlise has now entered its fifth day, with the Daily Mail reporting rescue teams were warned on Tuesday morning that she would like be “lethargic” and “stationary” by now.
“It’s day five. She’s not going to be mobile,” a police officer reportedly told the RFS and SES crews, adding she would likely need water when found.
The exact time Charlise’s family realised she was missing is not yet known, though it is possible she was missing for anywhere between 15 to 20 hours before police were notified.
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University of Newcastle criminologist, Dr Xanthe Mallett, said it is “quite unusual” for there to be such a long period of time between the child disappearing and it being reported to police.
“I think what is unusual is that she wasn’t reported missing for a number of hours. That is quite unusual in a child disappearance,” she told Sky News.
“However, we don’t know why that was.”
Dr Mallett said Charlise’s mother will need to be formally interviewed by police before investigators can start to determine the reason for the delayed reporting.
Ms Mutton had to be taken to hospital following her daughter’s disappearance as she suffered a medical episode.
She was expected to be interviewed by police on Monday.
There is no suggestion Ms Mutten had anything to do with Charlise’s disappearance.
Dr Mallett said the first 24 hours after a child disappeared were often critical to the investigation.
“There is certainly still hope that she could be found, but it is a very worrying situation,” she said.
“The first 24, 48 hours are so important in any serious investigation. Certainly those first 24 hours have been lost but [police] would be making up for it, throwing every resource possible at this.”
“They are doing everything they can to locate her and look for any information that may lead to finding her.”
There has also been reports of some confusion around what Charlise was wearing at the time of her disappearance.
She was intitally believed to have been wearing a pink top with a round neck collar, a black knee-length skirt and pink Nike thongs.
However, according to the Daily Mail, Charlise’s mum and her partner haven’t been able to recall exactly what she was wearing when they last saw her, a police officer telling search crews that “unfortunately” they “don’t know what she is wearing”.
The homicide squad is assisting in the search for the missing girl, but a NSW Police spokeswoman told news.com.au on Monday they were not confirming at this stage whether the disappearance is being treated as suspicious.
She said it was standard procedure for different units, such as the homicide squad, to assist with these types of investigations.
PolAir, police divers, the dog squad, SES and RFS have all been assisting with the search.
The major search operation has now entered its fifth day, with the RFS describing the search area as “extremely rugged with very thick bush in parts”.
“We thank everyone involved in this extremely important effort,” the RFS Katoomba/Leura Brigade said in a Facebook post on Monday night.
The 12.5 acre, multimillion-dollar Wildenstein estate where Charlise was staying is surrounded by thick bushland.
The popular wedding destination is owned and run by James Stein, a relative of Ms Mutton’s partner.
Charlise usually lives with her grandmother in Coolangatta, Queensland, but was spending two weeks with her mother during the school holidays.
Investigators running ‘against the clock’
Dr Mallett said while she is still hopeful the nine-year-old will be found safe, investigators were running against the clock.
“They really are against the clock to try and find her alive and well,” she told Sky News.
“But obviously they are doing ground searches, they are doing air searches, so I am very hopeful that she will still be found.”
As well as conducting ground and air searchers, Dr Mallett said police would also be focusing their attention on anyone who was in the area at the time of Charlise’s disappearance.
“They are probably looking for witnesses who may have been in the area at the time as well. This is quite a remote space, it is a large area. so that kind of information will be limited,” Dr Mallets said.
“There won’t be as much CCTV, for example, as you may find in a more suburban or urban area.”
The Daily Telegraph reported on Tuesday that investigators have turned their attention to a red ute which Ms Mutton’s partner, Mr Stein was known to drive.
Officers seized the vehicle after Mr Stein drove it to Penrith police station over the weekend to speak with investigators.
There is no suggestion Mr Stein had anything to do with Charlise’s disappearance.
Police are now reportedly sifting through hours of CCTV footage from cameras around the area to track the movements of the car.
Neighbours have previously told police they saw a car leaving the Mount Wilson property without headlights on at about 4.30am on Friday.
Investigators also seized a boat over the weekend for “further examination”.
Dr Mallett also noted recent foot tracks along nearby trails could also help determine Charlise’s location.
“Obviously people will have been using these trails so it is going to be difficult to determine what pieces of information being recovered could in fact lead to finding where she is,” she said.
Charlise is described as caucasian, between 130cm and 140cm tall, of thin build, with brown hair and brown eyes.
She is believed to have been wearing a pink top with a round neck collar, a black knee-length skirt and pink Nike thongs when she went missing.
Anyone with any information about Charlise’s whereabouts is urged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.
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Source: News AU