The NSW town of Bathurst is holding a secret about the fate of Janine Vaughan almost two decades after the “beautiful, bubbly” woman was abducted.
Ms Vaughan’s family on Friday pleaded with locals to out one of their own over the suspected murder as police announced a $1 million reward for fresh information.
The 31-year-old was last seen getting into a red car on Keppel Street after leaving a Bathurst nightclub in the early hours of December 7, 2001.
A NSW coroner concluded in 2009 that Ms Vaughan was murdered, though the circumstances remained a mystery.
“Janine was beautiful, she was very bubbly,” her sister Kylie Spelde told reporters in Sydney.
“It had been quite difficult for us as a family to continue on with our lives, things don’t stop, time doesn’t stop, life does not stop.”
Police investigators believe a red car, which had stalked another woman ten minutes earlier, is the key to her disappearance .
“We’re confident it was the same car and by extension the same driver,” Detective Superintendent Scott Cook told reporters on Friday.
Police seized that car a decade ago and recovered partial DNA samples.
But they’re turning to more modern analysis to link Ms Vaughan to the car.
The owner of that car remains firmly on the police radar and the homicide chief believes a local resident at that time was involved.
Detective Superintendent Cook confirmed the car’s driver spoke at a coronial inquest.
Janine’s brother Adam is worried Janine’s killer has not faced justice despite two decades of police attention.
“I hope that information given to police 18 years ago didn’t get missed and we’ve gone through all this s–t for all this time when it could have been solved,” Mr Vaughan said.
“That’s what we’ve gone back to today, the same car the same woman on the street.”
Detective Superintendent Cook hopes the massive reward, now one of the largest in NSW, will compel someone in Bathurst to give up some information.
Janine’s family, who now live in Muswellbrook, feel the town is holding back, which makes it difficult to return to Bathurst to mark anniversaries and birthdays for their missing sibling.
“I personally feel that they have been holding a very big secret,” Ms Spelde said.
“The feeling I get when I enter Bathurst is a terrible feeling. I don’t like to go there which is hard because that’s where Janine’s gone missing.”
The initial police investigation into Janine’s death was considered flawed by the state coroner in 2009.
Among those who fronted the inquest was a former police officer-turned local politician who participated in the initial investigation into Janine’s disappearance.
Detective Superintendent Cook said modern investigators were unable to remedy some of the issues around initial police investigations but confirmed no one had been ruled out.