Convicted paedophile Frank Abbott pointed to an area of land near where Australian toddler William Tyrrell disappeared and said it had a "smell of death" as he went past in a car, a court has heard.
The man driving, Geoff Owen, said he "shrugged it off" at the time as nothing was unusual when it came to Abbott.
Owen appeared before the high-profile inquest into the toddler's disappearance as it resumed on Tuesday before deputy NSW coroner Harriet Grahame.
The inquest also heard a last-ditch bid for the investigation's former top police officer, Gary Jubelin, to give evidence, but it was knocked back by Magistrate Grahame who said it could be a "significant distraction" at this stage.
William was 3 when he went missing from his foster grandmother's house on Benaroon Drive in the northern NSW town of Kendall on September 12, 2014.
Geoff Owen was scheduled to repair the deck at the Benaroon Drive home on a day around the time William disappeared. He told Lidcombe Coroner's Court on Tuesday he offered up his caravan for Abbott to live in after hearing he needed accommodation.
He sometimes gave Abbott a lift, and on one of these drives, Abbott pointed to an area north of Kendall and said he'd encountered a bad smell there, Owen said.
"Did he say that he could smell death?" asked counsel assisting Gerard Craddock.
"Those were the words he used," Owen replied.
Owen added that he "just sort of shrugged it off" as "nothing was unusual" when it came to Abbott.
He agreed with Abbott, representing himself in court, that this likely happened after July 2015.
The inquest has previously heard from others who said Abbott also mentioned the death smell to them.
Justine Hopper, the barrister for William's foster family, argued that Jubelin, who led the investigation from early 2015 to early 2019, should give evidence.
Jubelin was stood down from the Tyrrell investigation and later resigned from the police force after he was accused of illegally recording a person of interest, of which he was later convicted.
Hopper said Jubelin was best placed to testify on matters including when the investigation began to consider if William had been abducted or murdered, and on persons of interest.
But Magistrate Grahame disagreed, saying she was satisfied all evidence Jubelin had collected was already before the inquest and the proceedings were not a review of the police investigation.
"The focus must remain on finding out what has happened to William," she said.
Earlier today Senior Constable Daniel Dring testified about police searches undertaken north of Kendall in 2019 and 2020.
In a June 2020 search officers paused at a tree with black electrical tape wrapped around the trunk at a point about two metres high.
The tape appeared to have been there a long time and there was "lumpy ground" at the foot of the tree, Dring said.
A cadaver dog was taken through the area.
In another area officers did not sift through large piles of debris created by land clearing, instead probing them with stainless steel poles and searching around and over the top of them.
Photos were tendered of the piles, including one showing Dring, who is 6'4", for scale.
"You are dwarfed beside this mound," pointed out counsel assisting Gerard Craddock.
Among the items found in the searches were bones, a red singlet, and a piece of rubber that may have been the sole of a child's shoe.
All bones underwent forensic examination, the court heard, except in rare cases where it was "extremely obvious" that an entire skeleton belonged to a particular animal.
The officer did not say, and wasn't asked, if any of the items were thought to be connected to William.
The inquest continues.