A Mother's pain over daughter's abduction never goes away

STILL HOPING: Ricki Small, with a picture of her daughter Jessica, abducted from Bathurst in October 1997. Photo: CHRIS SEABROOK
STILL HOPING: Ricki Small, with a picture of her daughter Jessica, abducted from Bathurst in October 1997. Photo: CHRIS SEABROOK

IT’S almost 21 years since her daughter was abducted, but for Ricki Small, the pain is as raw as if it were yesterday.

Jessica was last seen alive in October 1997 after she and her best friend, Vanessa Conlan, accepted a lift in William Street from a man they did not know.

The pair had been at a local amusement centre and, while they had enough money for a taxi, they got into the man’s white Commodore after he offered them a lift.

However, just minutes later, the girls faced the fight of their lives. As the man drove along Hereford Street he stopped the car and attacked the girls. Vanessa made it out and ran to a nearby house for help. She thought Jessica was behind her. But by the time she reached the house to raise the alarm, the car was gone and so was Jessica.

Jessica’s abduction was the beginning of an ongoing nightmare for Ricki; not only was she left to deal with the trauma of losing her daughter, it also marked the beginning of a 20 year fight to get justice for Jessica.

It is now known police initially investigating her abduction formed the opinion without proper basis that Jessica had falsified her disappearance. As a result they did nothing to try and find Jessica or bring her killer to justice.

Ricki had long suspected police had bungled her daughter’s case and after fighting for 10 years, in 2007 successfully petitioned for NSW police to re-investigate her daughter’s case, seven years after, in 2014 the matter went before the coroner.

Even now, Ricki said she still has to contact the authorities all the time to follow up on Jessica’s case.

“Some days I think ‘do I have to wait another seven years?’ but I really need to know [what happened],” she said.

“I won’t stop [fighting] but time is getting away.”

She said she is often dumbfounded to think after 21 years, there are still no answers.

“How could she just disappear?”

A spokesperson for NSW Police said the re-investigation into the disappearance and suspected murder of Jessica Small remains under the responsibility of the Homicide Squad and her disappearance continues to be investigated under Strike Force Carica II.

The case currently has a $100,000 NSW Government Reward in place for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the person responsible for the suspected murder. 

“Investigations in the case are very much ongoing and Strike Force Carica II detectives are actively pursuing lines of inquiry. 

“We are committed to getting justice for Jessica and will continue until we have answers for her family.”