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Tears, tributes to 'beautiful, gentle butterfly' as Coast mourns its little girl lost

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Classmates wept and a devastated community mourned as Coolangatta and the Tweed remembered nine-year-old schoolgirl Charlise Mutten at a candlelit memorial Wednesday night.

 

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Hundreds of community members who gathered outside the gates of Tweed Heads Public School early Wednesday evening remembered the “beautiful and gentle butterfly” who was allegedly murdered while on holiday in the NSW Blue Mountains.

Letters, flowers, cards, photographs, toys and images of butterflies were placed outside the school gate for the little girl who will never return after her body was found in a barrel near the Blue Mountains’ Colo River.

“Rest easy beautiful angel. You are so loved,” one card said.

Shocked and distraught mourners carrying candles for Charlise questioned how the community could deal with the loss of the nine-year-old that “should not be happening”.

“She was a really nice girl. I enjoyed having her at my school, she was just a really lovely girl,” one grieving schoolmate said.

Another said she was crushed for the girl “who always was happy to play with me”.

School teacher Sophie Cutler said all of Charlise’s teachers had her in their thoughts. Cutler told News Corp Charlise was a popular student and had a “love for learning”.

“Charlise was universally loved by everyone at the school,” Cutler said.  “Her enthusiasm, positivity and warm, gentle, bubbly personality made our school a much better place.”

School representatives released a photograph of Charlise being awarded a certificate for her literacy achievements late last year.

The school said students and staff would be supported when the primary school re-opened.

“Our hearts go out to her family, we cannot begin to imagine the distress they must feel.

“Charlise was a much-loved member of our school who brightened all our days, every day.”

Charlise’s biological father Scott Hensby vowed to “find answers” for his daughter.
“Goodbye you beautiful little girl. I love you so much, I miss you every day,” he posted on Facebook.

“You have captured the hearts of the nation and the world and now those hearts are breaking, with mine. This doesn’t happen. Kids need to be safe. What is wrong with you people??? We will get the answers for you baby, and we will honour you properly.”

In the final days of the school holidays, Charlise had left her Coolangatta home where she lived with her grandparents, to travel to stay with her mother, Kallista Mutten.

Her mother’s fiancé, 31-year-old NSW man Justin Stein, has been charged with murder.

It is alleged Stein murdered Charlise between 7pm last Tuesday and 10am on Wednesday.

Stein and Kallista Mutten reported Charlise missing on Friday morning last week, telling police they had last seen her on Thursday.

While police and volunteers searched for Charlise from last Friday, scouring the Blue Mountain area and the Wildenstein wedding venue property owned by Stein’s family, detectives began piecing together a homicide investigation.

Police allege Stein offered differing versions of the events leading up to the time of the nine-year-old’s disappearance.

Police seized his red ute Friday afternoon for forensic testing.

It is alleged Stein used 100kg of sand bought from Bunnings on Thursday and an empty barrel to try to cover up the alleged murder.

He allegedly drove his ute to the river where he planned to tip the barrel into the water, but it was too heavy, so he left it on the riverbank.

Police discovered the body in the barrel on Tuesday night and soon after arrested Stein at his Surry Hills apartment, charging him with murder.

Stein appeared in Central Local Court via audio-visual link from Surry Hills police centre on Wednesday.

He did not apply for bail. His lawyer asked for him to be held in solitary confinement in prison over fears for his safety. Magistrate Robin Williams refused to make the order.

Stein will appear in court again in March.

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