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How police found schoolgirl’s remains

Written by on May 21, 2024

Police tracked Justin Stein’s phone to a location in remote NSW where they found the remains of allegedly murdered schoolgirl Charlise Mutten, a jury has been told.

Mr Stein, 33, is facing a trial in the NSW Supreme Court at Parramatta after pleading not guilty to murder, but has admitted to disposing of the nine-year-old’s body.

He is accused of murdering the nine-year-old, who was the daughter of his former partner Kallista Mutten, at a property owned by his parents before dumping her body in a plastic barrel near the Colo River area.

The jury, consisting of five women and 10 men, has been told Mr Stein is accused of shooting the girl before putting her body in a plastic barrel with sand and rolling it down the embankment.

While he disputes the murder, Mr Stein’s barrister Carolyn Davenport SC told the jury her client admits to disposing of Charlise’s body.

As Detective Sergeant Bradley Gardiner remained in the witness box, the jury heard police had tracked Mr Stein’s phone location to an area along the Colo River on January 18, 2022.

A crane was needed to safely recover the barrel, the jury heard.

Crown prosecutor Ken McKay SC asked Sergeant Gardiner whether police were aware Charlise had two gunshot wounds – to her lower back and face – when her body was recovered.

“No,” he responded.

At about 8pm that evening, Sergeant Gardiner and other police attended to Riley St at Surry Hills in Sydney where Mr Stein was living at the time.

When he entered the property the jury heard Sergeant Gardiner told Mr Stein: “I am Detective Senior Constable Gardiner from the Homicide Squad, you are under arrest for the murder of Charlise Mutten, you do not have to say or do anything unless you wish to do so”.

Mr Stein was taken to a police station where he was told Charlise’s remains were found near the Colo River.

“We tracked your phone to the exact location,” the jury heard Sergeant Gardiner had told him.

Mr Stein asked to speak to both his mother and his lawyer, but exercised his right to silence and did not participate in an interview.

The jury was told Sergeant Gardiner told Mr Stein he had been seen on CCTV at Bunnings Marsden Park on January 12 buying bags of sand, before travelling to Five Dock where he remained for almost three hours.

The officer explained to Mr Stein that police tracked him travelling along Lower Colo Rd before he stopped.

“I sent police to that location where we found a barrel with human remains,” the jury heard Sergeant Gardiner told the accused.

He was then charged with murder.

About a month later, the jury was told Mr Stein’s mother, Annemie Stein, attended Katoomba Police Station on February 17.

She was shown two firearms which had been found on a fire trail near the Mount Wilson property, which is where prosecutors allege Charlise was killed.

“In part of that conversation did Annemie Stein say to you, ‘She (Charlise) was shot twice wasn’t she? That’s what’s being reported’,” the prosecutor asked Sergeant Gardiner.

During the interview with Mr Stein’s mother, the jury heard Sergeant Gardiner responded: “We only reported Charlise died from a gunshot injury, we have no disclosed any more information”.

The girl was visiting her mother and Mr Stein during the school holidays, and spent her time in Sydney split between Mr Stein’s family property at Mount Wilson, where she was allegedly shot and killed, and at a caravan park named the Riviera Ski Gardens in Lower Portland, about 1.5 hours away.

On January 11, 2022, crown prosecutor Ken McKay SC told the jury Charlise was to Mount Wilson from the caravan park with Mr Stein, while Ms Mutten stayed behind.

Mr McKay alleges Mr Stein was the “last person” to see Charlise and had the opportunity to her between 7.16pm on January 11 and 10.06am on January 12.

Charlise’s body was found in a barrel on an embankment near the Colo River four days after her mother reported her missing.

After his arrest in January 2022, Mr Stein denied killing Charlise in an interview with a Corrective Services officer but said he was “in the vicinity when Kallista Mutten shot and killed the girl,” the jury heard.

A toxicology report showed Charlise had tested positive for Mr Stein’s schizophrenia medication.

The trial continues before Justice Helen Wilson.