A child removed from the care of William Tyrrell's former foster parents was "so scared" after one of the couple put his hands around the youngster's neck, a court has heard.
The ex-foster parents, a 58-year-old woman and her 56-year-old partner, returned to Parramatta Local Court on Thursday to face allegations of assaulting and intimidating the child.
The foster mother has pleaded guilty to hitting the child with a wooden spoon in January 2021 and kicking them in October but is fighting two intimidation charges over incidents between January and August that same year.
Her partner has pleaded not guilty to allegedly grabbing the child's neck in October 2021 and intimidation in November 2020.
Neither the foster parents nor the child, who was removed from their care in November 2021, can be named for legal reasons.
A woman who met the child around that time was also with the youth for support when they were interviewed by police in December 2022.
She recalled what happened when the child began sobbing and officers left the room.
"(The child) turned to me and said, 'my dad put his hands around my neck'."
The support person recalled the child telling her: "I was so scared."
She did not tell police when they came back in the room but followed up with an email recording the comment immediately afterwards, the woman told the court.
She rejected a suggestion from the foster father's barrister, Phillip English, that the child had instead reported the man using an open palm to apply force on their shoulder, causing them to slide down a wall.
Covert recordings captured the alleged abuse as police listened in on the foster parents' conversations during their investigation into William's unsolved disappearance.
In one recording previously played to the court, the foster mother theorised that police targeted her because they had no other suspects in the toddler's 2014 disappearance.
"They're doing it because they f—– it up," she said.
The woman's barrister, John Stratton SC, suggested the assault and intimidation allegations were not serious enough to warrant investigation by specialist police.
Child abuse unit detective Matthew Davis agreed his squad would not normally investigate such matters, but he said he was helping homicide investigators who detected the alleged abuse during their ongoing probe into William's case.
The toddler was three years old when he vanished from a Kendall property belonging to his foster grandmother on the NSW Mid North Coast.
No one has been charged over his disappearance.
The court was closed for much of Thursday while the child gave evidence.
The hearing continues on Friday.
If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault, domestic or family violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit 1800RESPECT.org.au. In an emergency, call 000.