Detective suspects Rahma El-Dennaoui's relatives
The Daily Telegraph
November 09, 2012 12:00AM
POLICE believe toddler Rahma El-Dennaoui probably died in her home and her family concocted an abduction hoax to conceal the child's death, an inquest heard yesterday.
But the officer who has led the investigation into her disappearance for nearly seven years admitted there was little "hard evidence" to support many of his suspicions.
Detective-Sergeant Nick Sedgwick told an inquest his focus had recently turned to Rahma's immediate family due to "inconsistencies and deceit" from several key witnesses.
"(That) led me to believe that Rahma has died at (her) house ... and that the abduction scenario has been staged and her body disposed of," he said.
The 20-month-old was last reportedly seen at her family's Lurnea home about 2am on November, 2010, when her father Hosayn El-Dennaoui said he put her to sleep next to her two sisters. A hole was found cut in the fly screen above her bed later that day. Her family denies involvement in her disappearance.Investigators previously explored theories a paedophile abducted and killed Rahma, or that she had been kidnapped and taken to Lebanon, among other possibilities.
Sgt Sedgwick said he now believed it was "unlikely" the toddler was abducted and she probably died in an "accident or mishap" at home.
He said his suspicion was based on several pieces of evidence, which included Rahma's bed being placed in an unusual position under the window that night and recent telephone intercepts in which relatives referred to police "digging up" her body.
"I find that talk unusual for family members who believe she may still be alive."
Sgt Sedgwick said it was also an "extraordinary coincidence" that the family now claimed to have moved a large cable reel - which would have helped a kidnapper to reach through Rahma's window - into their front yard on the day before the disappearance of the child.
But under cross-examination from David Evenden, representing Mr El-Dennaoui, Sgt Sedgwick said he had thought for "many years" that Rahma had been abducted.
He admitted that police could have better explored potential family involvement in her disappearance early in the investigation - but they pursued other leads when they uncovered no history of violence or abuse in the household.