Homicide detectives are yet to identify a motive behind the alleged murder of nine-year-old Charlise Mutten – as it’s revealed the girl and her mother were staying at a ramshackle caravan park in the lead-up to the child’s death.
Three days since the body of the little girl was discovered inside a barrel on the banks of the Colo River in the New South Wales Blue Mountains, police have no idea why her stepfather Justin Stein, 31, allegedly killed her.
Stein, who was educated at the prestigious Cranbrook School in Sydney’s eastern suburbs and is engaged to Charlise’s mother Kallista Mutten, has been charged with her murder.
NSW Police homicide squad detectives are still trying to establish why Charlise was in the care of Stein between January 11 and January 12, when she died.
The girl and her mother had been staying at the Riviera Ski caravan park at Lower Portland on the Hawkesbury River, about a 90 minute drive from where Stein lived at Mount Wilson.
Homicide detectives are pursuing three key lines of inquiry surrounding the alleged murder of nine-year-old schoolgirl Charlise Mutten
Antiques dealer Annemie Stein (above) defended her accused son Justin Stein and said she didn’t approve of his relationship with Charlise’s mother Kallista Mutten which she called ‘a headache’
It’s understood Charlise and Ms Mutten had been spending time at the caravan park and at Stein’s luxurious property Wildenstein.
Detectives hope Ms Mutten can shed light on why her daughter was alone in Stein’s care the night she was allegedly murdered.
However, they have been unable to interview her due to her mental state, and she remains in hospital under close medical supervision.
Ms Mutten – who is pregnant with Stein’s baby – suffered a ‘medical episode’ about the time she contacted police on January 14 to say her daughter was missing.
Police allege Charlise Mutten, 9, was murdered and her body encased in a barrel which was towed for hours in a boat before being dumped on a lonely riverbank in dense bushland
A cabin at the Riviera Ski Garden caravan park Ms Mutten had been staying at on Hawkesbury River
The mother is understood to have been staying at the Riviera Ski Park, at Lower Portland, when her nine-year-old daughter was allegedly murdered 80 kilometres away at a lavish wedding venue in Wildenstein
As police continue to build a picture of what happened, residents claimed they saw Stein with Charlise and Ms Mutten at the park in the days before she was reported missing.
‘The daughter was there for a couple of days, she was playing around with the daughter of a friend of mine,’ one person told The Daily Telegraph.
Detectives were seen taping off a an area of the caravan park earlier this week, before leaving the scene carrying evidence bags.
It comes after Stein’s mother defended her son and made extraordinary comments aimed at the nine-year-old’s biological mum, calling the situation ‘a headache’.
Annemie Stein revealed she didn’t approve of the whirlwind relationship between her son – who went to Cranbrook, one of Sydney‘s most elite private schools – and the girl’s mother Ms Mutten.
Social media posts show the pair shared a rapid romance, announcing they were in a relationship about a year after Ms Mutten, a former ice addict who has served jail time, walked free from prison.
‘You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make them drink, or choose their partners, and sometimes it ends up in a headache like this one,’ Ms Stein told the Telegraph.
Detectives have yet to identify a motive behind the alleged murder after charging the girl’s stepfather Justin Stein, 31, over her grisly death on Wednesday
The area next to the Colo River (pictured) where Justin Stein allegedly dumped Charlise’s body in a barrel five days before the nine-year-old’s decomposed remains were found
Kallista Mutten and Justin Stein (pictured) had a whirlwind romance before becoming engaged and inviting her daughter on the tragic trip to Mount Wilson
The 56-year-old said it would be painful for any parent to have a child go through what her son was experiencing because ‘parents know their children’.
Mrs Stein defended her privately-educated son revealing he had a ‘tortured life’ despite his wealthy upbringing.
On Wednesday, the alleged killer appeared in Central Local Court where he did not apply for bail and it was formally refused.
His barrister told magistrate Robert Williams that while on remand in prison, Stein needed supplies of medication which he had been taking in high dosage for many years to treat ‘mental health problems’.
The antipsychotic medications are used to treat bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and autism.
Justin Stein, 31 (pictured), has been charged over the grisly death after Charlise’s body was discovered in a barrel near the Colo River near Sydney’s Blue Mountains on Tuesday, following a five day search
Social media posts show the pair shared a rapid romance, announcing they were in a relationship about a year after Ms Mutten (pictured), a former ice addict who has served jail time, walked free from prison.
Mrs Stein described what would have been her step-granddaughter as a ‘lovely’ and ‘beautiful’ little girl who didn’t deserve to die.
Mr Stein revealed he had not seen his son for ‘some time’ and was shocked by the tragedy.
Ms Mutten left her daughter in Stein’s care last Tuesday, and court documents show detectives allege Stein killed her in the following 15 hours.
The wealthy antique dealer Stein family have owned the Wildenstein property for two decades.
Ms Stein described what would have been her step-granddaughter (pictured) as a ‘lovely’ and ‘beautiful’ little girl who didn’t deserve to die
Detectives haven’t had the opportunity to ask Ms Mutten (pictured) key questions about the alleged events after she suffered a ‘medical episode’ at the Wildenstein estate
The sprawling estate is currently being operated as a wedding venue by Justin’s older brother James and his husband Keegan Buzza with the younger Stein brother staying in a shack on the five-hectare property in past years.
Charlise normally lived fulltime with her grandparents, Deborah and Clint Mutten in the Queensland border town of Coolangatta, but arrived in the Blue Mountains during the Christmas-New Year school holidays.
Kallista Mutten had relinquished guardianship of Charlise after developing a methamphetamine addiction, failed attempts to undergo rehabilitation and a two year prison stretch for killing a female friend she drove into a river while high on ice.
As police continue to investigate the case, they allege Stein drove approximately 200km towing a boat loaded with a plastic barrel carrying the remains of the nine-year-old over a circuitous five-hour trek.
Stein stayed a shack on the five-hectare Wildenstein property (pictured) in past years
Charlise (pictured) had been staying at the Wildenstein property with Stein and her biological mother over the New Years-Christmas holidays when she first went missing
The barrel allegedly lay under a blue tarpaulin in the boat towed by Stein’s red Holden ute from the Blue Mountains to Bunnings at Marsden Park, a nearby BP petrol station, and then on to two Sydney boat ramps.
Attempts to dispose of the schoolgirl’s remains in the water are said by police to have been thwarted by Stein’s inability to launch the motor boat taken from his family’s luxury Blue Mountains property.
In the end, after failing to start the boat and take the barrel now also weighted down with sand to sink into deeper water, Stein allegedly took off for the Colo River.
On the afternoon of Thursday, January 13, on a river bank around 80km northwest of Sydney, police say the 31-year-old pulled up his ute in bushland.
Stein then allegedly tried to drag the heavy barrel to the river’s edge and roll it in, but the weight of the sand prevented him doing so and finally he was forced to abandon it in the scrub.
Rescue teams worked tirelessly to find Charlise in thick bushland at Mount Wilson (pictured on January 17) – before a body was eventually discovered
Charlise’s remains lay in the barrel for five days as emergency workers searched fruitlessly for the missing girl around Mount Wilson, 65km further west.
That was until the afternoon of Tuesday, January 18 when police, acting on GPS data, located the barrel in the bush and made the gruesome discovery of Charlise’s decomposing remains.
Police allege that between 7pm on Tuesday, January 11 and 10am on Wednesday January 12 – when Ms Mutten is said to have been absent from Wildenstein – Stein murdered Charlise.
On Thursday, January 13, Stein left the Wildenstein property at Mount Wilson in his Holden Colorado, police say, towing a boat carrying the barrel with Charlise’s body inside.
A blue tarpaulin is believed to have been draped over the barrel in the boat.
According to GPS data detectives later obtained from Stein’s mobile phone and his ute, he allegedly made the one hour 20 minute journey to Marsden Park Bunnings.
Charlise (above) with her grandmother Deborah Mutten who learnt the tragic news this week that the adored granddaughter for whom she was full-time carer had died
Emergency services volunteers gathered for another futile day looking to find Charlise alive when in fact her body lay inside a barrel on a river bank 65km away
At Bunnings, Stein bought five 20kg bags of sand and made a phone call, police allege, emptying the bags of sand into the barrel to weigh it down.
At the Five Dock boat ramp on the Parramatta River in inner western Sydney, where he is said to have failed to launch the motor boat, because it was ‘inoperable’.
The boat was still unable to be started and from the Windsor ramp, on the Hawkesbury River, it is a 24km drive north to the Colo River via the Putty Road.
It is alleged Stein tried to drag the barrel from the boat and dispose of it in the river, but due to its weight didn’t get very far and dumped it in scrub near the bank.
Almost four hours later a person, believed to be Ms Mutten, dialled Triple-0 to report that Charlise was missing from the Wildenstein property.
When police arrived, Ms Mutten was present at the estate without the company of her fiancé and during an informal round of police questions she had ‘a medical episode’ and was taken to Blue Mountains Hospital at Katoomba.
The court heard on Wednesday that Justin Stein (above, depicted by a court artist) is on a heavy dosage of antipsychotic drugs which he has been taking for years
After allegedly dumping his stepdaughter’s body Justin Stein travelled to Sydney and stayed at a housing commission apartment block in the inner Sydney suburb of Surry Hills (pictured)
Around 8.30pm, detectives went to Surry Hills and arrested Stein, who was taken back to the Surry Hills Police Centre and charged with Charlise’s murder
On Friday afternoon, Stein drove his ute to High Street, Penrith and entered Penrith Police station and spoke with detectives.
Police seized his parked ute and impounded it, towing it away to a location for forensic examination; officers also seized the motor boat from Wildenstein estate.
For five days, emergency services workers searched steep terrain around Mount Wilson looking for Charlise, with police warning by day five – the morning of Tuesday, January 18 – that the girl would by now be ‘lethargic’ and immobile.
While Ms Mutten was in hospital, Stein travelled to Sydney and stayed at a housing commission apartment block in the inner Sydney suburb of Surry Hills.
Sometime between 3pm and 5pm, police are believed to have set off for the Colo River using GPS tracking co-ordinates, locating the barrel and its grisly contents.
Police seized a boat from the Wildenstein property (above) where Charlise was staying with her mother and Justin Stein on holiday before she was allegedly murdered
Young girl leave tributes for Charlise after a candlelit vigil was held outside the front gates of the Tweed Heads Public School on Wednesday evening
Around 8.30pm, detectives went to Surry Hills and arrested Stein, who was taken to the Surry Hills Police Centre and charged with Charlise’s murder.
A court on Wednesday heard that Stein wanted to be placed in a protection wing in prison for his own safety as he awaited his next appearance, in Penrith Local Court in March.
Meanwhile, detectives have been frustrated in their attempts to speak to Charlise’s pregnant mother in recent days as she remains in hospital.
She is said to be in the care of doctors and ‘difficult to approach’, meaning police still had no conducted a formal interview with her.
On Wednesday evening, devastated mourners held a candlelit vigil for the schoolgirl – leaving tributes outside
On Wednesday evening, devastated mourners held a candlelit vigil for schoolgirl Charlise Mutten outside the front gates of Tweed Heads Public School.
The nine-year-old had been a student at the school on the NSW coast with her fellow classmates commemorating their friend with colourful balloons, notes and flowers.
A message on the school’s notice board read ‘don’t count the days, make the days count’ with the school releasing a statement on Wednesday morning.
‘Charlise was a much loved member of our school who brightened all our days, every day,’ the statement read, adding the school was ‘absolutely devastated’ by the news.
It was accompanied by a touching photo of the nine-year-old holding a literacy award she had received at the end-of-year presentation day.
‘Charlise was a much loved member of our school who brightened all our days, every day,’ a statement from the school read (pictured, mourners outside her school on Wednesday)
‘Goodbye beautiful girl… We will get answers for you baby, and we will honour you properly,’ the schoolgirl’s biological father shared (pictured, a woman lights a candle at a vigil outside Charlise’s school on Wednesday)
Charliese’s biological father has also shared an emotional tribute to his daughter and vowed to ‘get answers’ about her tragic death.
‘Goodbye beautiful girl… We will get answers for you baby, and we will honour you properly,’ the man, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, said.
‘You have captured the hearts of the nation and the world, and now those hearts are breaking with mine.’
Her father vowed this ‘would not be the end of [her] or [her] story’ in his statement.
‘This doesn’t happen. Kids need to be safe. What is wrong with people?’