City News

Surry Hills man charged with murder after human remains ‘consistent’ with missing nine-year-old girl

The accused was taken to Surry Hills Police Station last night. Photo: Paul Gregoire.

By DANIEL LO SURDO

A 31-year-old man was arrested and charged with murder at a unit in Surry Hills last night following an investigation into the disappearance of a nine-year-old girl, NSW Police confirmed this morning. This comes after the human remains of a child, which were found to be “consistent” with those of the missing nine-year-old, was found in a barrel in the vicinity of the Colo River yesterday.

The nine-year-old girl was last seen in the Blue Mountains region on Thursday afternoon while holidaying with her mother and was reported missing the next morning. The man charged with murder, Justin Stein, is the de facto fiancé of the girl’s mother. The last place that the girl was seen alive was at Mount Wilson wedding venue Wildenstein, which is owned by Mr Stein’s parents and billed as a destination for “some of Australia’s most breathtaking & memorable events” on its Instagram profile.

Following the disappearance, the multi-agency search operation Strike Force Buena was established by the Blue Mountains Police Area Command, with police divers, the Hawkesbury Police Area Command, the public order and riot squad, operational support groups and the police rescue squad called to help with the investigation. NSW homicide detectives also joined the search this week, as local volunteers, including those in the Rural Fire Service, offered their assistance with the operation.

While the force was investigating the Colo River area yesterday, the human remains of a child were found in a barrel within the vicinity of the region, which has since been found to be consistent with those of the nine-year-old. A crime scene has been established and is being examined by specialist forensic officers.

Detectives arrested Mr Stein in a unit on Riley Street at 8:30 pm last night and was taken to Surry Hills Police Station, where he was charged with murder. Mr Stein was refused bail and appeared via audio-visual link in the Central Local Court today, with the court hearing that he has suffered from “long-term” mental health problems. Mr Stein will face court again on March 18.

An ongoing investigation

The nine-year-old lived with her grandmother at Coolangatta in Queensland and attended Tweed Heads Public School just south of the New South Wales-Queensland border. NSW Police said that the remains were in the “hands of the coroner”, adding that investigations are still ongoing.

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