A 48-year-old man accused of the murder of a missing Central Coast woman six years ago has been formally refused bail in court.
James Scott Church was arrested on the Gwydir Highway, west of Inverell, on Thursday and has been charged with the murder of Leisl Smith. He was arrested at 5.10pm by detectives from the Tuggerah Lakes Police District following an ongoing investigation into Ms Smith’s disappearance and suspected murder in 2012.
The 23-year-old woman first went missing on August 19, 2012, and hasn’t been seen since. Her remains have never been found.
On Friday morning, Church did not appear in Inverell Local Court when his case came before magistrate Michael Deakin.
Church made no application for bail and it was formally refused by Mr Deakin, who ordered Church to remain in custody.
The case was adjourned to Wyong Local Court on December 19.
Investigators had treated Ms Smith’s disappearance as a homicide from the outset, police said.
Ms Smith was last seen on security footage at Tuggerah Train Station at about 1pm on the day she vanished.
The footage showed her getting out of her Honda Accord, locking the car and walking away from the station without boarding a train.
Concerned family members alerted police when she failed to return home and she could not be located or contacted.
Fairfax Media revealed in February 2013 that two days after Ms Smith was last seen alive, her father Storm Smith had received a mysterious text message from her mobile phone. It read: ''F--- you. I can't do this and I'm not going to keep your secret any more.'' Mr Smith had no idea what she could have been talking about, and her phone had already been switched off when he called her back.
Extensive searches were conducted for Ms Smith, however, police have been unable to locate her.
Strike Force Wehl – made up of detectives from Tuggerah Lakes Police District – was subsequently formed to investigate her disappearance.
Ms Smith’s car, a Honda Accord, was found abandoned at the Tuggerah Railway Station car park on September 26, 2012.
Strike Force detectives spoke to Mr Church, aged 42 years at the time, before searching two properties in Wallarah and Brookfield on April 4, 2013, seizing a number of items.
Further properties were searched bordering the Golden Highway at Merriwa, approximately 60km west of Scone, in the upper Hunter Valley.
The investigation has been ongoing since this time, culminating in Church’s arrest on Thursday.
On August 19 this year, Ms Smith’s mother made a desperate plea for information on the Find Leisl Smith Facebook page:
On Friday morning, another message was released on the same page by her family: