William Tyrrell's foster mother has told a NSW coroner she heard a high-pitched and muffled "scream" minutes after the three-year-old vanished in September 2014.
The woman also testified she thought he'd been snatched when it went quiet while the boy, dressed as Spiderman, was playing "daddy tiger".
"I couldn't hear a thing. It was silent. There was no wind. There were no birds," the foster carer said on Tuesday at a Sydney coronial inquest into William's disappearance and suspected death.
William's cry is quite distinctive when he's distressed.William's foster mother.
The week-long inquest will present evidence to Deputy State Coroner Harriet Grahame. The evidence is the culmination of almost five years of searching for the little boy who vanished from his grandmother's home in Benaroon Drive, Kendall in September 2014.
William's foster mother said sound carries "unbelievably" well in the little village of Kendall and "you can hear everything".
She stood in the backyard of her mother's house wondering why she couldn't hear William or see his costume as "it hasn't been that long".
"My immediate thought was somebody has taken him and he's gone," she said.
The woman, who cannot be identified, said she heard "like a scream" while searching for William near long grass.
"When a child hurts themselves unexpectedly, there's a scream. And it felt like a scream. And it was quick, and it was high-pitched and it was sharp," she said.
"I got into the bush and I thought ... maybe I imagined it, maybe it was a bird."
In a statement made to police, the foster mother said: "William's cry is quite distinctive when he's distressed."
"But it was quick, it was ... almost only like, three seconds and it sounded muffled."
She then called triple-zero at 10.56am, estimating he had gone missing at 10.30am.
The last photo of William was taken at 9.57am.
A widespread search involving emergency services personnel from across the Mid-North Coast and Kendall residents was launched the same day and continued for several days in and around the bushland surrounding Benaroon Drive.
Police on the scene at the time of the initial search indicated while it is possible William Tyrrell was abducted, they were treating the investigation as a search for a lost little boy.
During the inquest proceedings on Monday, the foster mother said she saw three cars on the street the morning he disappeared - including one white and one grey car parked between two driveways.
He's either hit his head and can't answer me or somebody's taken him because he knows to answer me.William's foster mother.
Continuing her evidence on Tuesday, the woman said she didn't realise until after William went missing that those two cars were gone.
"In the initial stage (of searching), it didn't even occur to me those cars weren't there," she said.
Neighbours quickly helped to look for William, with some posting on Facebook for assistance while others did line searches with the SES or brought in their quad bikes, the coroner heard.
Anne Maree Sharpley said the foster mother was "rather upset" and told her words to the effect of: "He's either hit his head and can't answer me or somebody's taken him because he knows to answer me."
Another testified her young daughter called out for William because "I thought by now he would be scared (and) maybe he would respond to a little person".
William's foster father, biological parents and police are due to give evidence for the remainder of the week.
Further hearings will run in August when persons of interest will be called to testify.
Counsel assisting the coroner, Gerard Craddock SC, said he expected the evidence would altogether establish William "was taken" and his disappearance "was the direct result of human intervention".
The inquest before Deputy State Coroner Harriet Grahame continues.
WILLIAM TYRRELL'S FINAL KNOWN MOVEMENTS:
- William's foster parents, who can't be identified, were planning to take the boy and his sister to Kendall on Friday, September 12, 2014 but left a day early.
- They arrived at 9pm on September 11 and put the children to bed, no one including the foster grandmother had advance knowledge they would leave Sydney at that time.
- The foster mother awoke the next morning to the sound of William's giggle in a nearby room, got up and opened the sliding glass door.
- She noticed two cars, parked on the nearby street, one was white the other grey, parked close together. They were dirty, had missing hubcaps and tinted windows.
- She did not see number plates but instead went to get the children ready as her husband prepared for a business call.
- William's foster father went to nearby Lakewood about 9am for a solid internet connection for the call. He had a prescription filled at a chemist there at 10.19am.
- William and his sister started riding bikes on the driveway after he left.
- Another man drove past them in the dead-end street. The foster mother locked eyes with him as he continued down the road in an old teal-coloured car.
- William and his foster mother played a game called "mummy monster" where they would roar at one another.
- They explored the tree-lined yard as William's sister sat inside with their grandmother drawing art for their late grandfather's grave.
- William's foster mother made cups of tea before snapping the now iconic photo of the three-year-old boy sitting on the deck dressed as Spider-Man at 9.37am.
- As the woman and her mother drank tea William jumped around the deck, again roaring while playing a new game called "daddy tiger".
- She heard him roar, then silence so she raced around the house trying to find him in the yard. She then searched inside the home in every cupboard and under the house.
- She checked her phone and saw a text from her husband saying he was nearly home after stopping to buy some newspapers at a nearby store.
- She ran out the front and told her husband William was missing. He began searching yards while the foster mother alerted neighbours and then police.
- Australian Associated Press