William Tyrrell inquest: Convicted man refused to speak to police about boy's disappearance

William Tyrrell

William Tyrrell

A service station attendant convicted over the sexual assault of two cognitively impaired young men on the Mid North Coast refused to participate in a police interview about the disappearance of little boy William Tyrrell.

Six months before police attempted to interview Robert Donohoe at the Wagga Wagga Police Station, Strike Force Rosann detectives executed a search warrant on the property at which Donohoe's parents and brother lived.

In 2015, Donohoe was convicted of sexually assaulting two intellectually impaired men in their early 20s. He had met them through the Taree SES.

Donohoe was sentenced to at least three years in prison. He has since been released.

The warrant enabled police to seize his van, electronic records, documents and clothes pertaining to William, who was three-years-old when he vanished without trace from his grandmother's front yard in Kendall.

Donohoe, 42, told the coronial inquest on Friday that he had joined in the search for William in his capacity as an SES volunteer, but couldn't remember the exact details of the search.

The initial search in the days after William vanished

The initial search in the days after William vanished

"I've been bashed in jail so my memory's not 100 per cent," he said, adding that he suffers from a cognitive impairment.

"The place was like a football match, the amount of people that were there," he said of the search.

The court heard that Donohoe had told police where he was on the morning of William's disappearance.

Sharon Starr, Donohoe's manager at the Lakewood Caltex - some 10 minutes by car from the Benaroon Drive home from which William disappeared - told the inquest this week that she found him "creepy".

Donohoe brought a star stamp to work to hand out to children, despite it being against the Woolworths-owned petrol chain's rules, she said.

"He brought a candle to work. There's a sign outside saying do not have a naked flame," Ms Starr said.

Donohoe also bought chickens to work in the back of his van, which he occasionally slept in.

Former head of Strike Force Rosann Gary Jubelin

Former head of Strike Force Rosann Gary Jubelin

Ms Starr could not say for certain if Donohoe was working the day of William's baffling disappearance, but said the company would have records.

On Friday afternoon, the solicitor acting for washing machine repairman Bill Spedding - who had been identified in numerous reports as a person of interest in the case - will apply to have a number of additional people heard by the inquest.

The inquest will travel to Taree next week where it is understood a number of locals will testify.