Knives, torched car, bloody footprint uncovered in Declan Cutler homicide investigation

Police are working to forensically analyse knives found in a burnt-out car connected to the alleged murder of teenager Declan Cutler.

Homicide squad detectives believe those knives were used in the 16-year-old’s death as they piece together what allegedly happened on the morning he was chased down, beaten and fatally stabbed by eight youths following a house party in Coburg North.

Declan Cutler.

Seven teens aged 13 to 17 remain in custody charged with Declan’s murder. Two of them are brothers; an eighth person is yet to be apprehended.

Further details of the police case can now be made public, almost six weeks after the teenager was killed in an alleged street gang attack described by senior police as one of the most brutal killings they’ve ever seen.

Those details include the discovery of a bloody footprint, a burnt-out car, blood-soaked clothing and knives seized as part of the homicide investigation.

The scene on the corner of Horton and Elizabeth streets.Credit:Penny Stephens

A recent hearing in a children’s court, which can now be revealed, heard homicide squad detectives had uncovered a burnt-out Mazda hatchback dumped in the car park of a Meadow Heights mosque in the hours after the March 13 attack.

Inside were knives believed to have been used in the killing. Forensic analysis remains under way.

Reservoir boy Declan, 16, was attacked on Elizabeth Street in Coburg North, about 2.30am on March 13. Police said the teen – known as DJay to his friends – had been at a nearby house party when a group of youths in a dark-coloured car chased him along a street. All eight youths are alleged to have beaten and stabbed the teenager.

Declan died at the scene.

Investigators believe the killers spent the afternoon of March 13 at Melbourne fast-food stores including KFC and McDonald’s, and the Riversdale Shopping Centre in Tarneit, in the hours before the attack.

Police allege the gang members then travelled in a stolen Mazda hatchback through Melbourne’s north before CCTV captured the vehicle travelling east past a Coburg hotel, at 2.20am.

The court heard further CCTV footage captured the Mazda “pursuing” the victim as he ran before he was attacked about 2.28am.

That same vehicle was then later seen driving back past the same Coburg hotel, this time heading west, at 2.38am, court documents show.

The Mazda was later found burnt out in the car park of the ICMG mosque in Meadow Heights.

“There were knives contained in that vehicle at the time of it being engulfed,” Detective Senior Constable Jake Ferguson said.

A second vehicle — a Toyota Orion — has also allegedly been connected to the crime. Seized from Hoppers Crossing in recent weeks, police said they found heavily blood-stained items of clothing in the glove box.

The court heard that during dual raids across Melbourne’s west last month, police also seized various items from the accused teens’ homes including a mobile phone.

Police found a search history on the phone showing terms including, “does God forgive murder in Islam?”.

Detectives also believed a bloody footprint found at the scene would match with a shoe found at the home of one of the teens when a forensic report returned, the court heard.

Earlier this month, The Age revealed that Declan might not have been his killers’ “intended target” as police investigated whether the assault stemmed from issues between two gangs.

Online taunts posted on social media platforms have since threatened further violence.

At the time, Assistant Commissioner Bob Hill said police had described the “profoundly violent attack” as one of the most vicious and brutal they’d ever investigated.

The matter is due to return to court in June.

Those charged with murder cannot be identified because of their age.

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