Spotlight on kidnapped teen
- From: The Daily Telegraph
- December 08, 2007
Jessica Beth SMALL
Photo: Kate Geraghty Happy but shy girl ... Ms Small dances with Jessica in 1997. Photo: Kate Geraghty
Police are now appealing for a witness who gave them an anonymous tip-off about a white car similar to this to again contact detectives.
The search for Jessica
|Name:||SMALL Jessica Beth||Sex:||Female|
|Year of Birth:||1982||Age Now:||28|
|At Time of Disappearance|
|Hair Colour:||Blonde||Eye Colour:||Blue||Complexion:||Fair|
|Jessica was last seen in the Kelso area on 26 October 1997|
Jessica Small was kidnapped at 12.40am on October 26, 1997, after she and friend Vanessa Conlon accepted a ride from Bathurst to nearby Kelso to visit friends.
She was the fourth young female hitch-hiker to be killed over an eight week period that year with Lee Ellen Stace, 16 and Lauren Barry, 15, and Nichole Collins, 16, all vanishing.
Jessica's mother Ricki yesterday welcomed the renewed interest by police but remains bitter at what she says has been a lack of information on the case's progress.
"We haven't been told a lot over the years," she said.
"The new strikeforce might bring something but not before time.
"We've been sick of waiting for it to come.
"We've been on the backburner long enough."
A police spokeswoman said the force had always taken the investigation of Jessica's kidnapping seriously.
"We've got the resources of the Chifley command and Homicide devoted to this case," she said.
However, she would not reveal any new lines the investigaion may follow.
Strikeforce Carica is understood to be reviewing all of the material gathered by Bathurst detectives since Jessica's kidnapping.
The case was re-opened in October after Deputy State Coroner Carl Milovanovich requested the police make further inquiries before the matter went to an inquest.
Mrs Small said she had been told there was a hope advances in DNA technology could help the case.
"I didn't even know they had anything that related to Jessica's DNA," she said.
Bathurst Police have spent years trying to track the kidnapper who Jessica's friend, Vanessa, managed to escape.
The pair had been playing the juke box and chatting with friends at the Amuse-Me games parlour in Bathurst when they decided to visit friends in Kelso about 12.40am.
A man, driving what police believed to be a white sedan similar to a VK or VL Commodore, offered the girls a lift.
About 100m short of their friend's house the man stopped and assulted both of them.
Vanessa broke free and ran to a house to raise the alarm but Jessica was never seen again.
It had been just a five minute drive with a man neither of the girls had ever seen in Bathurst.
The night of Jessica's kidnapping remains etched forever in her mother's mind as the night she lost her baby.
"I'm like every mother. I love my daughter," Mrs Small said.
"We'd like to know where she is, where she might be buried and we'd like to know who killed her.
"We grieve for her everyday.
"There's no closure, it's there every day and every night; and they (nights) are the longest."
Detectives from the New South Wales unsolved homicide team have released new information about the disappearance of Bathurst teenager, Jessica Small, 12 years ago.
The 15-year-old was last seen in the Bathurst CBD, in the state's central west, in the early hours of October 26, 1997 when she and a friend got into a car driven by an unknown male.
Police believe the pair were assaulted.
The friend managed to escape but Jessica was never seen again.
The head of Strike Force Carica II, Detective Sergeant Peter Smith, says new information about the car was received after witnesses were re-interviewed.
"The motor vehicle was a light coloured VK Holden Commodore with an orange blanket on the back parcel shelf and a number of holes on the front passenger footwell," he said.
"That's very significant information and we believe it's a very particular vehicle and those particular descriptions should jog somebody's memory."
He says even a small piece of new information can provide significant leads.
"The holes in the passenger footwell combined with an orange blanket on the rear and a VK Holden Commodore, I think someone would remember that car," he said.
"The holes have been described as not big enough to put your foot through but big enough to see the road through, so I think it would stick in someone's mind if they've been in that vehicle."
A coronial inquiry into Jessica Small's disappearance is due to be conducted, possibly next year.
Police have begun systematically door-knocking about 500 homes of men who worked at a timber mill near Bathurst nearly 14 years ago to find a teenage girl's abductor.
Investigators descended on the small town of Oberon today after narrowing the list of men aged 18 to 45 who worked at the local mill in 1997.
In early 2008, the homicide squad reopened an investigation into 15-year-old Jessica Small's abduction from Bathurst in the early hours of October 26 1997.
When they re-interviewed one of the original witnesses, they discovered a man aged about 30 had been asking questions about Jessica at a local entertainment centre, Amuse Me, just hours before she disappeared. The man had revealed he worked at the timber mill, Detective Sergeant Peter Smith told reporters in Oberon this morning.
"We've spent the last few months locating those employees and there are a significant number of them still living in the Oberon/Bathurst areas," he said.
"They're obviously spread all over Australia but we're endeavouring to speak to all of them in the coming weeks."
Jessica's mother, Ricki Small, said the past 13 years had been a "nightmare".
"It's been a nightmare to live through and it's still a nightmare until we uncover something and the person who abducted her," she said.
Jessica's sister, Rebecca, wept as she begged anyone with information to come forward.
"We just need some closure," she said. "And we really miss her and we really need to know what happened."
Jessica was last heard screaming in the back of a car just east of Bathurst about 12.40am on a Sunday morning. Her best friend, Vanessa, managed to escape after hitchhiking with the unknown man.
Saffron Howden is a crime reporter for the Herald.
SOME old photos, children's toys and a roadside cross embedded in a heart-shaped slab of concrete are the few physical reminders that Jessica Small ever existed.
Barely 15 when she and a friend hitchhiked their way out of central Bathurst in October 1997, Jessica's last known stamp on the world was her screams from the back of an old rusting car driven by an unidentified man.
Her friend, Vanessa, fled the car after the man attacked them and ran to a nearby house for help, police believe. But Jessica disappeared from the flat, windswept stretch of road, along with the white Holden Commodore sedan and its driver.
While the homicide squad set up camp in nearby Oberon yesterday with 20 investigators and a list of 500 people to interview, for nearly 14 years Jessica's mother, Ricki Small, has felt ignored by a ''judgmental'' system she believes cares less for ''battlers''.
''They took it very lightly,'' she said. ''Because I was a pensioner, I wasn't anyone famous or whatever, but [that] should never have mattered.''
While she is grateful to homicide detectives who recently unearthed a vital clue, that an Oberon timber mill worker was asking about Jessica at a games parlour the night she was abducted, she is bitter it took more than a decade for the information to surface.
''This is crucial information,'' Ms Small said. ''It could have been taken back then. It could have saved us years of heartache.''
The mother-of-three, whose elder daughter Rebecca joined her in an emotional public appeal for information about the abduction yesterday, said she sometimes felt numb.
''Someone was lurking around and someone had their eye on my child,'' she said. ''When you're in bed at night and you're alone, you think about it and sometimes you end up in tears.''
Police yesterday began the long process of interviewing each of the 500 males aged between 18 and 45 who were employed at the Oberon timber mill in 1997.
The head of the investigation, Detective Sergeant Peter Smith, said most remained living in the central tablelands, but some were spread across the country. ''I certainly think that the employee of the Oberon timber mill that was in the amusement centre that night holds very significant information,'' he said.
Ms Small is in no doubt her daughter, once a ''shy but happy girl'' who liked music and fashion, is dead. ''I really don't hold out any hope that she's alive because there's no way she'd stay away from the family,'' she said.
Investigators plan to spend about a fortnight in Oberon and Bathurst as part of the renewed focus on the case.
Jessica Small, 15, disappeared in October 1997 after a
night at the Amuse Me games arcade in Bathurst, in the state's
It's believed she was killed after trying to hitchhike home.
Jessica and a female friend were picked up by a man in a white Holden Commodore and the driver assaulted the girls.
Her mate escaped but Jessica was never seen again.
Police are searching for a man who contacted Bathurst police anonymously with information about a former colleague who owned and disposed of a white Holden Commodore around the time Jessica vanished.
The car may also have been involved in an accident in late 1997, police said.
The men are believed to have worked together at Oberon Timber Mill, southeast of Bathurst.
Police have previously revealed that a mill employee was at the games arcade the night Jessica disappeared and asked about the teenager.
Detectives carried out interviews with past and present mill employees in June 2011.
Officers will also travel to Western Australia in coming days to interview other former employees.
Anyone with information about the case is asked to call Crime Stoppers on 1800333000.
A two day search for the remains of a missing Bathurst teenager has been unsuccessful.
Police investigating the disappearance of Jessica Small have used heavy machinery, radar and cadaver dogs to scour half-an-acre of land near the O'Connell Road.
The site has been searched because a white car, similar to the one the teenager was last seen in 15 years ago, was seen parked there after she vanished.
Detective Sergeant Peter Smith says he will not rule out further searches of the area.
"Not at this point," he said.
"We haven't found anything that would link us to the matter we're investigating.
"I would have been more disappointed if we hadn't of tried.
"If we receive any further information then we would go back to the site, but look as far as the physical site we've searched we're satisfied we have covered every aspect of that site."
Police say they want to know more about a man who asked about Jessica Small the day she went missing.
Detective Sergeant Smith says there are two men who worked at the Oberon timber mill at the time of her disappearance who may hold vital information.
"We have fielded that information.
"We've also received information that a male person that
worked at the timber mill was making enquiries about Jessica on
the night she went missing.
"So those two pieces of information are very interesting to us and they still interest us to this day."