"It means everything. We’ve been waiting nine years."
THE patience and grace Bruce and Denise Morcombe have exhibited over the past eight years, 11 months and 25 days is extraordinary by any measure.
The Sunshine Coast parents were thrust into the public eye at a velocity that has barely reduced since.
They handled the constant media spotlight like professionals, answering endless questions with honesty and genuineness.
TV screens and newspapers took their pain and understandable need for answers into people's homes and tore at hearts around the country.
But beneath their brave public face, admired by so many, has always been a dogged determination to get their son Daniel back.
This week they finally ended that nine-year battle.
The State Coroner on Friday released the teen's remains, uncovered in Glasshouse Mountains bushland 15 months ago, to funeral directors acting for the Morcombe family.
Bruce and Denise woke up Thursday morning ready for the next onslaught of DNA evidence about their son's remains.
They went to bed that night knowing they would be reunited with him at last.
"It means everything. We've been waiting nine years," Denise said.
The shock release of the 13-year-old's remains came after his accused murderer relinquished his hold on them in Brisbane Magistrates Court.
Brett Peter Cowan, 43, instructed his legal team he did not need them independently tested after hearing four days of scientific evidence in a committal hearing.
It is 3283 days since the Morcombe family last saw Daniel and 469 days since the first of his remains were discovered.
The Morcombes take no joy in the shock release, having endured months of to-ing and fro-ing with authorities reluctant to hand them over, but they can now say a final goodbye to the little boy ripped from them too early.
They will be able to lay him to rest on the anniversary of the day Daniel went missing nine years ago while he was waiting for a bus on the Nambour Connection Rd at Woombye on December 7, 2003.
Morcombe family lawyer Peter Boyce watched intently and took careful notes during the first four days of the hearing this week.
He said they had developed a strategy to get Daniel's remains back, after months of correspondence resulted in nothing.
"Bruce and Denise, as usual, have been very patient but they got to a point where they were starting to run out," he said.
"Unless something happened soon it was going to be full on.
"They were certainly feeling disappointed at the system, a system they put their complete trust in, but equally an understanding of the problems being encountered.
"That's the thing you have to admire about Bruce and Denise, when there's an obstacle they don't just give up or fly off the handle.
"They look at it, rationalise and work out the best option.
"The fact that it's happened so swiftly, the fact they can collect them (Friday) and the fact December 7 is fast approaching, no doubt has their heads spinning."
The Morcombes spent hours this week viewing photos and analysis of 17 bones found at his final resting place.
Bruce steeled himself and pushed through. It was too much for Denise who had to take a break.
And she was also understandably absent for the harrowing evidence that her little boy's remains were most likely dispersed because of scavenging wild animals competing for food.
But there is no shame in that.
It was tough for hardened media and lawyers to stomach those images.
The couple otherwise remained as stoic as ever - their end goal firmly in sight.
Mr Boyce, who dedicated hundreds of hours preparing for and questioning witnesses in the coronial inquest for the Morcombes, said that was one of the toughest proceedings he had been involved in.
While the inquest was about learning the unknown, Mr Boyce said this case must be trying for the Morcombes now knowing what allegedly happened to Daniel.
"It's confronting to us who are not family but how confronting it must be for each of them every day to hear something about him.
"I'm sure privately they find that very tough but their resolve is 'we're going to find out what happened'.
"Once they're on that path, their dedication and their drive is exceptional.
"If it wasn't for the coroner's inquest, they might still be wondering. Who were the drivers behind (the inquest)? They were."
Mr Boyce said it was important he and the family heard the DNA evidence because they did not have access to the brief.
He said the approach the defence took was also important but he was encouraged to see the police had done "the best they can" in compiling the brief.
"The disadvantage for us is we don't have the reports in finest detail, but it does seem that all the cautions that needed to be taken were taken and the persons who have given expert evidence were good witnesses," he said.
"We didn't leave there unhappy."
Even amid the logistical nightmare of planning a funeral, Bruce and Denise arrived at the Brisbane courthouse for another day of evidence on Friday.
Bruce said having Daniel's remains released was an "enormous relief and a huge milestone" and he had made sure there were "not too many dark thoughts" as his family realised the significance on Thursday night.
But he asked the media not to forget why they were still in Brisbane.
"All those years ago Daniel was abducted, he was murdered and that's the reason we're going through this process," he said.
"Someone did this and we need to find who is responsible."
There are many more days, and weeks, of heartbreaking and horrendous evidence to be presented - both at the committal hearing and impending trial.
To bring someone to justice is the next hurdle in a remarkable display of human strength and endurance.
Even in that, despite what they probably feel inside, they have been dedicated to a fair trial and letting the justice system play out as our society demands.
After laying their boy to rest somewhere close on the Sunshine Coast, they will take a planned and much-needed month-long break.
They will return ready for another year spreading the child safety message through the Daniel Morcombe Foundation and ready themselves for the next step in their journey - justice.
WHEN: Friday, December 7, 11am.
WHERE: St Catherine of Siena, Sippy Downs Drive, Sippy Downs. On the grounds of the Siena College.
CLOTHING: Wear a touch of red in memory of Daniel
DONATIONS: Instead of flowers, please donate to the Daniel Morcombe Foundation.
Stepping through the Daniel Morcombe story:
December 7, 2003: Daniel disappears while waiting for a bus under the Kiel Mountain Overpass on Nambour Connection Rd, Woombye. He was on his way to buy Christmas presents for his family.
December 2003: Police place a mannequin at the spot where Daniel was last seen, sparking a massive reaction from potential witnesses. Police reveal details of a vehicle that might be linked to the disappearance. SES join search of bushland. Police reveal grave fears for Daniel.
March 18, 2004: Daniel's parents meet with then-premier Peter Beattie, who declares a second Red Ribbon Day for a state-wide campaign aimed at protecting children.
April 2004: Bruce and Denise Morcombe launch an advertising campaign appealing for information.
May 25, 2004: Police put an extra 20 detectives on the case after receiving new leads.
June 2004: A man faces Brisbane cou
rt for sending a hoax email to extort money from the Morcombes.
November 2004: Police release three sketches of a man seen standing near Daniel on Nambour Connection Rd, generated from multiple witness accounts. Police seize a van in Brisbane.
February 2005: Bruce and Denise announce the launch of the Daniel Morcombe Foundation.
December 2008: A $1 million reward offered for information that leads to an arrest.
May 2009: A clay model, created by combining elements of suspect sketches, is commissioned to help campaign for information from the public.
October 2010: A coronial inquest begins into Daniel's suspected abduction and murder.
December 19, 2010: Daniel's 21st birthday marks a poignant time in the middle of the coronial inquest.
August 13, 2011: Police arrest and charge Brett Peter Cowan with Daniel's murder.
August 21, 2011: After finding two shoes, one of Daniel's bones is located at a Glasshouse Mountains search site. 17 are found in total.
November 26, 2012: Cowan faces committal hearing for allegedly abducting and murdering Daniel.
November 30, 2012: State Coroner releases Daniel's remains to the Morcombe family.