ANOTHER year, another Missing Persons Week and another chance for Bathurst to bask in an unwanted spotlight.
Every year at this time NSW Police release details of many of the state’s unsolved missing persons cases in the hope someone might finally come forward with that last vital piece of information. But for Bathurst it is just another a reminder of the three high-profile unsolved cases that remain open on the books here.
It is now more than 20 years since teenager Jessica Small was last seen alive on Hereford Street; it’s more than 16 years since Janine Vaughan disappeared on a night out with friends; and it is eight years since Andrew Russell and was last seen.
The three cases are unrelated but are inextricably linked in the Bathurst psyche.
The three victims never met each other and their killers’ paths had never crossed. But the manner of their disappearance and the mystery they created all bear similarities that mean the people of Bathurst cannot think of one without thinking of them all.
Police have found no trace of any of the three victims despite countless hours of police resources being assigned to the tasks.
Each of the cases has gone to inquest and while suspicions about some persons of interest have been raised, none of those inquiries returned a concrete finding.
Those three unsolved cases remain a dark stain on the recent history of Bathurst, a stain our community wants to see erased.
NSW Police announced earlier this year that up to 500 unsolved murder cases would be reviewed in the hope that new technologies and, potentially, new evidence might help them crack a raft of cases dating back to the 1970s. If this new push by NSW Police can bring closure to any or all of these Bathurst cases then whatever it costs will be money well spent as far as our community is concerned.
More importantly, solving any of the 500 murder mysteries will finally bring some sense of relief for the families involved.
Losing a loved one in any circumstance is a tragedy, especially when that person is a child or grandchild.
But the pain of losing someone without ever having the chance to properly say goodbye or lay them to rest can only be imagined by those who have gone through it.
There are too many of those families in NSW and too many here in Bathurst.
Hopefully some of them are about to get the answers they crave.