Today, 25 years ago, 17-year-old Jessica Small from NSW Central West made plans to meet a friend in town. She told her mother she “wouldn’t be home late.”
Since Jess was taken when she was 15, after she and a friend took a ride from a stranger, her family has been living a terrible nightmare.
Jess and her best friend Vanessa Conlan were at a Bathurst amusement park on Russell Street before they got in a white Commodore and went with a man to Kelso. During the ride, the car stopped in Hereford Street and a struggle took place.
Reports say that the man driving the car stopped on Hereford Street in Bathurst, turned off the headlights, and attacked both girls while trying to keep them in the car. Her friend was able to get out of the car and tell people nearby, but Jessica was still in the car when it drove away.
Authorities think the car was last seen going towards Hill End near Duramana Road and Willott Close in Eglinton.
Ricki Small, Jess’s mother, said that she will never give up hope of bringing Jess home and giving her a proper burial, even though a lot of time has passed. She said, “The last 25 years have been terrible, but I still have hope that we’ll be able to bring her home someday.”
Ricki Small, who has never stopped fighting for justice for her daughter, said that life goes on even though she and her family are in pain and suffering all the time. “Life goes on, though, and next year I will become a great-grandmother. I can only pray that something will finally put an end to this and bring back my beautiful Jessica Beth “she told me.
Ricki said that her sadness is still as strong as it was the day Jess went missing, and that nothing can take away the pain of losing her daughter. “Even after all these years, it still breaks my heart every single day,” she said. An inquest showed that the initial police investigation into the kidnapping was not thorough enough, which made the family’s pain even worse.
Adding to the family’s sorrow is the realization that the original police investigation into Jess’s abduction was deemed insufficient during an inquest. In 2017, an investigation found that the detectives who were in charge of the case did nothing in the hours, days, and months after she was taken. Witnesses and important leads were not paid attention to.
When the case was brought to the attention of Coroner Sharon Freund in 2014, she said that the problems with the first investigation were a “blatant indictment” of the detectives who did it.
In January 2015, the government of NSW offered a reward of $100,000 for information that led to the arrest and conviction of the person or people who killed Jessica.
Detectives from the Homicide Squad’s Unsolved Homicide Unit were given the case. They are still looking into the circumstances surrounding Jessica’s disappearance and possible murder as part of Strike Force Carica II.
Troy Grant, the Minister for Police and Emergency Services, said that the NSW Government reward for information has been raised to $1 million to help with ongoing investigations.
The fact that the police did nothing at the time makes it even harder for Jess’s family.
“I still can’t believe what happened,” Ms. Small said.
If you know anything about what happened to Jessica Small, please call Crime Stoppers at 1800 333 000. Information is kept secret at all times.