For 32 excruciating hours there was hope that missing autistic teenager William Wall, 14, would be found alive – that he would walk out of the dense bushland outside Melbourne dazed and with a few scratches, but otherwise unscathed.
William was last seen going for a jog on Tuesday – his disappearance sparking a massive search, and the tearful appeals of his distraught family tugging at the nation’s heartstrings.
But the sad reality is the search for William – hampered by Stage Four covid restrictions that stopped volunteers joining the hunt – was never going to have a happy ending.
When police put out the news on Wednesday afternoon the autistic teenager had been found dead it was accompanied by an ominous statement.
‘His death is not being treated as suspicious and police will prepare a report for the Coroner,’ it read.
It can now be tragically confirmed that William’s death was from suicide.
William Wall (Pictured), 14, was found dead at Yarra Junction, Melbourne on Wednesday, 32 hours after going missing on his daily jog on Tuesday
William’s distraught father Shane (pictured) struggled to fight back tears as he thanked volunteers, police, the SES and family members who had been searching all night
Hours earlier, police had come under fire after worried locals had been turned away from helping the search efforts.
As far as they knew, the 14-year-old had gone out for his daily jog along the Yarra Ranges’ Warburton Trail at 6.45am on Tuesday, promising his family he would be back in 15 minutes.
But he never returned to his home in Launching Place.
It remains unknown how long WIlliam had been dead before his body was found.
In all likeliness, the search – perhaps unbeknown to those that participated – was a recovery mission from the start.
William’s disappearance had sparked an air and ground search involving about 100 personnel from Victoria Police and the State Emergency Service.
But police appeared keen to enforce Melbourne’s stage four coronavirus restrictions, which includes staying within a five kilometre radius from home.
William’s two older brothers and friends, who spent Tuesday night with rescuers looking for him on dirt bikes were stopped from continuing their search the next day.
‘We’ve been told by all the police, saying we’re not allowed to help because we’re beyond the five kilometre radius, which is going to put more of a delay in finding him,’ his older brother Harrison told Seven News.
Family friend Flynn Cousens added: ‘I’d rather go outside the five kilometre radius and find him than stick to five kilometres and let him stay out there another night.’
William’s older brother Harrison Wall (pictured) was stopped by police from continuing the search due to Melbourne’s strict stage four lockdown restrictions
It’s understood William’s body was found in bushland at the end of a residential street less than two kilometres from his home.
Last night, William’s family gathered at the blocked off road near where his body was found.
Distraught rescuers and locals were also seen consoling each other at the scene.
Family friend Tyson Truscott said the Walls would be shattered by the tragedy.
‘He was a great kid. There is nothing bad about him. He loved going for runs, he went flat out,’ he told the Herald Sun.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison described the outcome as very sad news.
‘My heart goes out to William’s family and loved ones. Thank you to all those who were involved in the search,’ he tweeted on Wednesday night.
Federal health minister Greg Hunt added: ‘ So deeply sorry to hear of the loss of William Wall. Just a terrible, terrible loss of a beautiful young life. My thoughts and prayers are with his family, his friends and the Yarra Ranges community.’
Friends console each other at the scene after police confirmed William’s body had been found
Distraught rescuers console each other after William Wall’s body was found on Wednesday
The search entered its second day on Wednesday after rescue crews spent overnight searching the area after temperatures plummeted to 7C.
Locals fumed after being advised to keep an eye out for William, but not to breach Melbourne’s stage four COVID-19 restrictions by limiting outdoor time to two hours and staying within the five kilometre radius from home.
‘In line with coronavirus restrictions, at this stage we do not require any assistance from the public,’ a post on the Eyewatch Yarra Ranges Police Facebook read on Tuesday night.
‘We want to say a big thank you however, for the all the offers we have received.’
Police later claimed their position had nothing to do with lockdown.
‘This is not to do with COVID,’ local police commander Inspector Jason Goddard told reporters.
‘We don’t want to bring this into a COVID conversation. What we are doing is focusing our search on Will.
‘If the resourcing we have on the ground here and deployed today is not adequate we will ask for more resources.’
Locals vented their anger at police during a tense meeting.
‘If that my kid out there, I would want every person on the ground out there, just having a look,’ one resident said.
An ambulance leaves the street in Yarra Junction where William’s body was found
Distraught rescuers at the scene comfort each other after the search came to a tragic end
Bush Search and Rescue Victoria volunteers are pictured outside Warburton Police station ahead of the search, hours before William was found dead
SES personnel depart the Warburton Police state ahead of the search for missing autistic boy William Wall, who was later found dead
William’s distraught father Shane struggled to fight back tears as he thanked volunteers, police, the SES and family members who had been searching all night.
‘I just want everyone to be safe,’ he told reporters on Wednesday afternoon, hours before police confirmed his son had been found dead.
‘I never want to be in this situation but the people around here are fantastic. I mean, I’ve been in the valley for a long time and come from overseas but this has just blown me away.’
‘Actual support from local people, the Facebook community and the noticeboards and that, fantastic. Top notch and the police and SES, again, it has been great.’
‘I have hardly spoken to my wife much but they are liaising with them to look after her and I’m out helping where I can.’
At the time, he was still hopeful William would be found alive, adding his son was ‘pretty hardcore’ and knew the area well.
Police advised volunteers to stay home instead of search for William, saying: ‘At this stage we do not require any assistance from the public’
William’s dad Shane Wall fought back tears during a press conference on Wednesday, several hours before the search for his son came to a tragic end
Mr Wall said his ‘energetic, very athletic’ son loved exercise and had dreams of joining the police force or the army when he got older.
William had a younger sister, Sophie, and two older brothers Jake and Harrison, who joined the search effort on Tuesday night.
William’s disappearance had come three months after non-verbal autistic teen William Callaghan became separated from his family during a walk at Mount Disappointment, 60km north of Melbourne.
The teen spent two nights alone before being miraculously found safe and well.
For William’s family, there would be no happy ending.
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Police blocked off this road in Yarra Junction after William Wall’s body was found