Charlise Mutten’s heartbroken cousin has revealed the family is still struggling to come to terms with the schoolgirl’s alleged murder.
The child’s disappearance while holidaying at Wildenstein Private Gardens at Mount Wilson was reported on January 14, triggering an intensive five-day search of bushland until her body was discovered a week ago, in a barrel dumped near the Colo River northwest of Sydney.
Her stepfather, Justin Stein, 31, is charged with her murder.
Charlise’s cousin Mellese Hensby said the family still does not know how to feel or react to the tragedy.
‘I’m still heavily shocked, I still haven’t really processed that yet,’ she told 7NEWS.
Charlise Mutten (pictured) was allegedly murdered between 7pm Tuesday January 11 and 10am Wednesday January 12
Mellese Hensby (pictured with Charlise) says she is still shocked by her younger cousin’s alleged murder
‘But it’s definitely affected every day for me … knowing that we have lost a beautiful soul that shouldn’t be gone just yet.
‘It’s hard not knowing or even knowing we could’ve prevented it and that we weren’t there to help her.’
Ms Hensby has organised a vigil for her younger cousin, which will be held next to the Ballina RSL at 6.30pm on Wednesday.
She said she organised the event for Charlise to ‘know that people love her’.
It comes after hundreds of mourners attended a candlelit vigil at the front of Tweed Heads Public School, where Charlise was a student, last week.
Charlise, who was under the full-time custody of her maternal grandparents in the Gold Coast, was reported missing on January 14 while spending the holidays with her mother at Wildenstein Private Gardens at Mount Wilson.
Her disappearance triggered an intensive five-day search of bushland, culminating in the tragic discovery of her body on January 18.
On Tuesday, police released CCTV footage allegedly showing Stein driving around Sydney with the young girl’s body in the back of his ute, covered by a blue tarpaulin.
The red Holden Colorado in the video can be seen driving around and towing a boat in Drummoyne, in the city’s inner-west, followed by the northern areas of Wisemans Ferry and Colo River.
Justin Stein, 31, (pictured) is accused of murdering Charlise – who was soon to become his stepdaughter – with police alleging she was killed by a single gunshot wound
A large crowd gathered outside Tweed Heads Public School last Wednesday for an emotional candlelight service in a tribute to the schoolgirl
Police will allege Stein had previously tried to float a ‘covered up’ boat at an inner-Sydney dock after buying sandbags from a hardware store, before travelling back to the Colo River.
Homicide squad commander Detective Superintendent Danny Doherty on Tuesday said an extensive post mortem had revealed how the girl died.
‘Charlise … suffered a fatal gunshot wound and that’s how she died,’ Det Supt Doherty told reporters, describing it as an ‘unimaginable’ murder of a child.
Investigations are continuing and the crime scene at Mount Wilson is ongoing.
According to court documents, Charlise was killed days before she was reported missing.
Stein faced court last Wednesday charged with murder after being arrested at a Surry Hills unit in inner Sydney a day earlier.
Pictured: CCTV of a red ute – allegedly owned by Stein – with an object in the tray covered with blue tarp and towing a boat through Drummoyne toward a boat ramp. Police allege Stein drove around for hours with Charlise’s body in his car
Police have interviewed Charlise’s mother Kallista who provided a formal statement that she was not present at the property at the time of the murder and corroborated other key evidence.
Police say there was no evidence that puts her at the property at the time of the murder.
Stein was alone with Charlise on the night of her murder, Det Supt Doherty said.
A plastic barrel was missing from the property indicating a ‘high probability’ of the murder taking place at the remote estate near the Blue Mountains, Det Supt Doherty said.
Police are appealing to anyone who may have seen suspicious activity in those locations.
‘We’re working on behalf of Charlise. We’re trying to provide answers to her family and deliver justice on her behalf more importantly’.
Charlise (pictured) had been staying at the Wildenstein property with Stein and her biological mother over the New Years-Christmas holidays when she first went missing