City News

Surry Hills man charged with murder responsible for ‘disposing’ the barrel containing remains of stepdaughter

Justin Stein (pictured), the stepfather of Charlise Mutten, who was found dead earlier this week, has been charged with murder by NSW Police. Photo: Facebook.

By DANIEL LO SURDO

Charlise Mutten (pictured) was described as a “much loved member” of Tweed Heads Public School. Photo: Facebook.

Charlise Mutten has been formally identified as the nine-year-old girl whose remains were found inside a barrel near the Colo River in NSW’s Central Tablelands on Tuesday. Charlise’s stepfather was Justin Stein, the 31-year-old Surry Hills man who was arrested on Tuesday night at a Riley Street residence.

Police have alleged that Mr Stein murdered Charlise sometime between 7:00 pm on Tuesday, January 11 and 10:00 am the following day. On Thursday, January 13, police allege that Mr Stein purchased a number of sandbags from a hardware store after a conversation with his fiancé and Charlise’s mother, Kallista Mutten, who was hospitalised on Friday after suffering a medical episode following her daughter’s disappearance.

NSW Deputy Commissioner David Hudson said that “the accused is responsible for first placing her in the barrel and then disposing of that barrel” after detectives used GPS data and CCTV to follow the movements of Mr Stein and find the barrel in a bush near the Colo River on Tuesday night.

Police became suspicious of Mr Stein after uncovering inconsistencies in his version of events prior to Charlise going missing.

Charlise lived with her grandmother in Coolangatta, just north of the New South Wales-Queensland border. She was holidaying last week with her mother in the Blue Mountains and according to family was last seen on the afternoon of Thursday, January 13 while staying at Mr Stein’s family property in Mount Wilson.

Deputy Commissioner Hudson alleged that the accused unsuccessfully tried to float a boat on Sydney Harbour, with police then tracking the man to the Colo River, about an hour away from where Charlise was last seen alive.

In a Facebook post, Tweed Heads Public School said that they were “absolutely devastated” to hear of Charlise’s death, describing their student as a “much-loved member of our school who brightened all our days, every day”.

A candlelight vigil was to be held for Charlise at the front gates of the school on Wednesday evening.

Court Appearance

Mr Stein will be taken to Silverwater Prison, where he will undergo a 14-day quarantine in line with COVID-19 measures and will remain behind bars until he appears at Penrith Court in March.

He appeared at Central Local Court on Wednesday morning, with the court hearing that he had been medicated for mental illness for multiple years.

Deputy Commissioner Hudson said that “we will leave no stone unturned in the search for the truth of this matter”, with Police Commissioner Karen Webb adding that “there are still many elements of this investigation that we have to work through”.

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