As the excavator backed away from where it had been digging for her son’s remains, Faye Leveson put her hands on her knees before covering her face with both hands.
It was 1.37pm on Thursday and she had just witnessed the final moments of a seven-day police search for the body of Matthew Leveson, 20.
Not long afterwards, Mrs Leveson cried as she clutched onto a laminated picture of her son, which she had planned to place on the ground when his body was finally found.
But it was not to be.
Mrs Leveson read the caption of the picture aloud at the search site and said, “Matt our beautiful son and brother, we made a promise to you nine years, one month and 24 days ago to find you and bring you home. Today we get to bring you home to where you belong. Shine bright in the sky our gorgeous boy and fly free with the angels, you can dance all night now without a care. We will never let you be forgotten. Love you now, always and forever – Mum, Dad Pete and Jase.”
Then she said: “But I can’t really say that now, can I, because we didn’t find him and we haven’t fulfilled our promise to him yet – but I promise you we will bring you home.”
The search for Matthew Leveson’s remains was called off on Thursday afternoon after an extensive search of bushland at Waterfall in the Royal National Park.
Homicide detectives were led to the site by Mr Leveson’s former boyfriend Michael Atkins, who had previously been acquitted of murder by a jury.
Mr Atkins, struck an extraordinary deal last week with NSW Attorney-General Gabrielle Upton that granted him immunity from prosecution for perjury or contempt of court in exchange for leading police to Mr Leveson’s body.
However, the deal was conditional on the body being found.
Mr Atkins may now face a perjury charge, punishable by up to 10 years in prison, because he admitted to lying during his evidence at the inquest into Mr Leveson’s death.
On Thursday, Chief Inspector Gary Jubelin addressed the media, saying that the search of the area had concluded.
“The search conducted by NSW Police in this area has now concluded – we are going to continue in our efforts to locate Matthew Leveson,” he said.
“I can’t talk details of the investigation subject to the current coronial inquiry … I would just like to pay tribute to Matt’s family and the way they have conducted themselves in the past seven days in very traumatic circumstances – it’s been difficult for them and it’s been a privilege to work with them on this investigation.”
Mark Leveson, Matthew’s father, then addressed the media, thanking all those involved in the search.
“I want to also convey a formal thanks to the National Parks and Wildlife staff, they’ve done a fantastic job at this potential crime scene; to the police, Gary and his team, the forensic police that have been here, the Dog Squad. They’ve done a phenomenal job.
“Although there are no results here, what this does, it only strengthens our resolve. So we are even more determined to find Matt.
“Atkins – look over your shoulder.”