Matthew Ross White, 25, of Mooroobool has been charged with the murder of Cooktown woman Donna Louise Steele. He has been charged with one count each of murder, misconduct with a corpse by interfering and enter dwelling with intent. PICTURE: FACEBOOK
Matthew Ross White, 25, of Mooroobool has been charged with the murder of Cooktown woman Donna Louise Steele. He has been charged with one count each of murder, misconduct with a corpse by interfering and enter dwelling with intent. PICTURE: FACEBOOK

Man charged over Cooktown murder

MOOROOBOOL father Matthew Ross White has been charged with the death of Cooktown woman Donna Louise Steele.

Detectives charged the 25-year-old former talented local AFL player with murder overnight following extensive investigations into the death of Ms Steele.

Police attended White's home in McCoombe Street, Mooroobool around 9.30pm last night, taking him into custody.

Following an interview, the 25-year-old was charged with one count each of murder, misconduct with a corpse by interfering and enter dwelling with intent.

Detective Inspector Geoff Marsh said the offering of a $250,000 reward for information did not play a part in the arrest of White.

"No reward will be paid, no reward has been sought by any person who has provided evidence or information to the Queensland Police Service," he said.

"All information that's been supplied to us has been supplied freely."

Det Insp Marsh thanked those involved in the investigation, especially the Cooktown community for their patience.

Donna Steele, 42, whose body was found in a creek west of Cooktown.
Donna Steele, 42, whose body was found in a creek west of Cooktown.

"Both the husband of Donna Steele and her brother have been informed of the result, they are both relieved that the matter has now been resolved," he said.

"Mr Brown is now also extremely relieved that he can tell his sons what happened to their mother and they can move on.

"Since their state, Mr Brown has not live in Cooktown with his boys and has remained remote from the community and this may now change in the coming weeks or months."

Det Insp Marsh said there was a "loose relationship" between White and Ms Steele.

"Matthew White grew up in Cooktown, he left Cooktown and has now resided in Cairns for some years, but he has connections with Cooktown community," he said.

Cook Shire Mayor Peter Scott said the arrest offered some relief to the small community that had been rocked by the tragedy.

"The community is going to be very happy about this," he said.

"Cooktown is a very quiet, little community and this has thrown a bit of a spanner in the works for over six months.

"(To know) it's not a local person (responsible), that gives us a bit of comfort up here, but we've lost a valuable member of the community, a wife, a mother, a daughter.

"(To know that it wasn't the reward that got this result) it gives us a bit of confidence in the people that we've got up here."

Cr Scott credited the Queensland Police Service for their efforts in finding Ms Steele's killer.

 

 

EARLIER: DETECTIVES have charged a 25-year-old Mooroobool man with the murder of Cooktown woman Donna Steele.

Around 9.30pm last night police attended a home in McCoombe Street, Mooroobool and took the man into custody.

Following an interview, he man was charged with one count each of murder, misconduct with a corpse by interfering and enter dwelling with intent.

He appeared in the Cairns Magistrates Court this morning and has been remanded in custody to reappear in Cairns Magistrates Court on May 2.

 

 

The State Emergency Service (SES) conducting searches of Leggett’s Crossing as part of continuing investigations into the homicide of Donna Steele in Cooktown.
The State Emergency Service (SES) conducting searches of Leggett’s Crossing as part of continuing investigations into the homicide of Donna Steele in Cooktown.

 

The arrest comes after police yesterday publicly confirmed the belief that the person responsible for Ms Steele's murder was not from Cooktown.

Ms Steel was last seen at the Cooktown IGA around midday on August 2, 2017.

On February 23, a $250,000 reward was offered by the Queensland Government for information leading to the identification and conviction of the person or people responsible for Ms Steele's death.

Payment of rewards is considered by the Rewards Committee - chaired by the Detective Superintendent, State Intelligence - which then makes a recommendation to the Intelligence, Counter-Terrorism and Major Events Command Assistant Commissioner.

Payment is at the discretion of the Commissioner.

Operation Papa Thorium - a joint investigation by Far North District and State Crime Command detectives - is continuing.

 

Timeline of events

Wednesday August 2, 2017

Donna Louise Steele is last seen at the Cooktown IGA around midday.

Thursday 3 August, 2017

Donna Louise Steele is reported missing from a Poison Creek Road home in Cooktown by her husband.

Cooktown police complete a search of Ms Steele's family property.

Queensland Police Media issue a missing person release in an attempt to help locate Ms Steele.

Friday August 4, 2017

Aerial searches by the Rescue 510 are completed.

Further searches of Ms Steele's property and door knock of surrounding properties.

Saturday August 5, 2017

Further searches of Ms Steele's property and surrounding areas are conducted by the Cooktown Police, Cairns Dog Squad, the Cooktown State Emergency Service and Cooktown Rural Fire Service.

Further aerial searches by the Rescue 510 helicopter are completed.

Sunday August 6, 2017

Officers from the then Stock and Rural Crime Squad conduct further ground searches on trail bikes

Ms Steele's body is located in the Endeavour River.

An Investigation Centre (IC) is set up and homicide investigation Operation Papa Thorium commences with resources from Cooktown and Cairns Criminal Investigation Branches, Major and Organised Crime Squad and the Homicide Investigation Unit.

A crime scene is declared at Ms Steele's home and where her body was located.

August 9, 2017

Ms Steele's brother Jason conducts a public appeal for anyone with information about his sister's death to come forward.

August 11, 2017

The State Emergency Service search the Leggett's Crossing / Endeavour River area.

Images of Ms Steel's car are released as part of a further appeal for public assistance.

August 17, 2017

Ms Steele's funeral is held in Atherton

August 25, 2017

Further searches are conducted of the Endeavour River area.

A contingent of 20 detectives with the support of general duties officers remain on the investigation.

Scientific analysis on more than 200 items including 95 from the primary search location is ongoing - trace evidence is identified on some of them.

October 10, 2017

• Further appeals for public assistance are made by police in Cairns.

October 31, 2017

A man's shoe is located as part of ongoing searches of the Endeavour River area.

February 23, 2018

Police Minister Mark Ryan announces a $250,000 reward for information leading to the identification and conviction of the person or people responsible for the murder of Ms Steele.

March 2018

New information is provided to police regarding Ms Steele's death.

March 2, 2018

Police publicly confirm the belief that the person responsible for Ms Steele's murder is not from Cooktown.

Police attend a McCoombe Street address in Mooroobool and arrest a 25-year-old man.

Detectives formally charge the man with one count each of murder, interfere with a corpse and enter with intent.

March 3, 2018

A 25-year-old man appeared in Cairns Magistrates Court charged with murder, misconduct with corpse by interfering and enter dwelling with intent.

Reward process

The $250,000 reward was offered by the Queensland Government for information leading to the identification and conviction of the person or people responsible for Ms Steele's death.

Payment of rewards is considered by the Rewards Committee - chaired by the Detective Superintendent, State Intelligence - which then makes a recommendation to the Intelligence, Counter-Terrorism and Major Events Command Assistant Commissioner.

Payment is at the discretion of the Commissioner.

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