THE confirmation from police that a reward is being offered for information leading to the arrest of Bathurst teenager Jessica Small’s killer was a double-edged sword for her family yesterday.
Jessica’s mother, Ricki Small, said while she was pleased that a reward had finally been announced more than 17 years after her daughter went missing, the amount of $100,000 was disappointing.
Deputy state coroner Sharon Freund recommended, at the conclusion of an inquest last year into Jessica’s death, that a sum of not less than $500,000 be offered.
Speaking in Bathurst yesterday, Mrs Small said she was hopeful it would be enough to entice someone with information about the case to come forward.
“Yes, I’m disappointed that it’s not a bigger amount, but nonetheless it is a reward and I’m hoping it’s enough to flush someone out," she said.
“After 17 years I’m grateful that it has been announced."
Asked if she thought $100,000 was enough, she said she was praying so.
“I’m praying it will make a difference. I need help from the public [to find out what happened to Jessica],” she said.
Jessica was just 15 when she was abducted from Hereford Street after she and her friend Vanessa Conlan accepted a lift with a man they did not know.
Vanessa made it out of the car to raise the alarm, but Jessica has not been seen since.
It is now well known that the initial police investigation into her abduction was seriously flawed.
Police failed to take statements from critical witnesses, including a man who was possibly the last person to see Jessica alive.
Mrs Small said she had no option but to keep fighting for her daughter.
“It’s a fight that I’ve always wanted to win. I didn’t want to let Jess down – she has already been let down – but at this point I would just like some answers.”
Mrs Small said she also had to keep going for her other children Matt and Rebecca. She said the family just needed some closure.
“This has been going on and on. At the inquest we thought we may have been getting close [to finding out what happened], but that went out the window.
“I’m just now hoping this reward might bring someone forward.”
Police described the reward as significant. Mrs Small disagreed.
“I don’t see it as significant; this has been going on for 17 years. Obviously I would have preferred it to be higher,” she said.
Jessica’s sister Rebecca Small agreed.
“The coroner recommended no less than $500,000. Why wasn’t that offered?” she asked.
“It’s a kick in the teeth.”
NSW Homicide Squad Commander, Detective Superintendent Michael Willing, who announced the reward yesterday, said while he was not able to comment on the figure, it was in line with rewards in other similar cases.
Superintendent Willing said he supported the application from Detective Sergeant Peter Smith – who led the investigation into Jessica’s disappearance – for a $500,000 reward, but said it was the Reward Evaluation Advisory Committee which decided the amount.
He said he was well aware of the flaws in the initial investigation, but commended Detective Sergeant Smith for his work on Strike Force Carica II.
Anyone with information is urged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.