Divers are searching Isabella Creek in far north Queensland after police hit a roadblock in their investigation into the suspected murder of a well-known Cooktown woman.
Donna Steele’s body was pulled from the creek on Sunday, four days after she was last seen at the local supermarket.
Her boys arrived home from school four hours after the last sighting on Wednesday and despite their mother missing, they took themselves to bed that night and to school the next day, without telling their teacher.
“You can only imagine how they felt for 24 hours without a mother and not knowing what their future held for them,” Detective Inspector Marsh said.
Ms Steele’s partner, who lives away from Cooktown, returned to the family home on Thursday to finally raise the alarm, which sparked a helicopter and SES search.
Four crime scenes have been established, including at Ms Steele’s house in Poison Creek Road in Cooktown and at a nearby property.
Isabella Creek, about 25 kilometres west of Cooktown, is also being searched.
The well-loved fishing spot was patrolled for crocodiles before the police divers jumped in on Wednesday afternoon.
Local knowledge was also used to see if any were territorial crocodiles in the area where they would be searching.
Engines were also run and nets thrown into the water to try to scare away any of the beasts.
A 20-metre radius was examined, not far from the Leggett’s Crossing bridge.
Isabella Creek, which is a tributary of the Endeavour River, where Ms Steele’s body was found. (ABC News: Casey Briggs)
Donna Steele ‘likely to have known attacker’
The overall police investigation is focusing on the hours between when Ms Steele was seen at the supermarket and when her children arrived home.
A lack of CCTV in the town has proven a roadblock in the case.
“Our investigations are continuing in that area but there’s no reason to suggest that she didn’t [go home],” Detective Marsh said.
It is believed Ms Steele’s attacker was known to her but unlikely it is her partner, the children’s father, he said.
“The way her house was presented would suggest there was no forced entry,” Detective Inspector Marsh said.
“A number of people have provided statements to police, we are continuing to call on people to come forward with information and we’ll continue examining the evidence we have at this time.
“At this time there are no significant witnesses.”
Cook Shire Councillor John Dessmann said the community where “everybody knows everybody” was completely devastated.
“It’s something that does not happen in a small community like this,” he said of the community of 2,500 people.
“It’s why people live here — they can feel safe to walk the streets.”
Police want to hear from any witnesses who saw Ms Steele or a distinctive white Hilux ute at the Cooktown IGA supermarket or nearby on Wednesday afternoon, or any drivers with dashcam footage from the area.