A NATURAL history student photographing vegetation and animals in a remote section of bush outside Scone in August 2016 stumbled upon skeletal remains, clothing and sandals, a discovery that would soon become a major breakthrough in the nearly two-year disappearance of missing mother Carly McBride.
Sayle Kenneth Newson, 43, Ms McBride's boyfriend of about eight weeks at the time of her disappearance, is on trial in Newcastle Supreme Court accused of murdering Ms McBride at Muswellbrook on September 30, 2014, and dumping her body in bush about 25 metres from Bunnan Road at Owens Gap. The prosecution allege Mr Newson - who Crown prosecutor Lee Carr said had competed in a number of professional Muay Thai fights - intercepted Ms McBride after she left a visit with her daughter and killed her by inflicting a number of blows to her head and back.
Mr Newson has pleaded not guilty, with barrister Chris Watson, who replaced Philip Massey in the trial due to Mr Massey's ill health, on Monday delivering a brief opening, telling the jury there would be significant challenges to the prosecution evidence.
Theresa Byrne, the first prosecution witness in Mr Newson's trial, told the jury on Monday she had been photographing plants and animals in the Bunnan Road area, outside Scone, in July 2016 and had seen marks on a tree she wanted to revisit.
She went back to the bush near the side of Bunnan Road on August 7 where she discovered what she initially thought were animal bones.
Upon closer inspection she realised there was a human skull, among other human skeletal remains, clothing and sandals.
Mrs Byrne photographed the bones to show police and marked the side of the road with a rock so police could easily find the site.
The jury had previously heard that the discovery was a significant breakthrough in the case and an event shrouded in secrecy.
Mr Carr said Ms McBride's skeletal remains were intact, except bones from her hands and forearms were missing.
He told the jury detectives delayed publicly announcing the discovery for four days and established a fake "crime scene" at another location, distributing photographs and vision of the dummy discovery site to the news media. Mr Carr told the jury Mr Newson later called Ms McBride's father, Steve McBride, and said "he had heard that somebody was in possession of [Carly's] hand".
The only people who knew about the condition of Ms McBride's skeletal remains were the police, her parents and those at the forensic medicine department at John Hunter Hospital, Mr Carr told the jury.
As well as the woman who discovered Ms McBride's remains, the jury on Monday heard from a specialist crime scene officer who examined the grave site.