The unsolved murder of 15-year-old Kirsty Bentley in 1998 in Ashburton is seared into the national consciousness. A Stuff investigation has retraced the teenager’s final movements and unearthed new details about the notorious cold case.
On December 31, 1998, 11-year-old Sarah Ward was riding her bike on Chalmers Ave, Ashburton, not far from the river.
The Thursday was hot - peaking at 34C - and Canterbury locals and their dogs were swimming in the river and staying cool in its green fringes. Holiday traffic along nearby State Highway 1 kept up a steady hum.
Sarah waved to a small teenage girl who was walking past Kym and Barbara Mote’s place at number 20. The girl, whom Sarah knew well, had mousey blonde hair and was walking her dog in the direction of the river. Her name was Kirsty Bentley. She was 15 and lived around the corner in a red brick bungalow at 165 South St.
It was about 3pm on that calm, blistering day, and Sarah was one of the last people to see Kirsty alive. Kirsty’s family reported her missing three hours later. Police, friends and locals joined a frantic search, but the teenager and her dog were nowhere to be found.
Around 9am the next day Abby, the family’s sometimes aggressive black Labrador-cross, was found unharmed, tied to a tree in scrub near a section of river track Kirsty would often walk. Kirsty’s underwear was discovered on a bush nearby.
The crucial question – one that dominates this complex case – was whether the scene was staged. And if so, why?
On January 17, a day before what would have been Kirsty’s 16th birthday, two cannabis growers, John Watts and Brendan Wanhalla, alerted police to a body they’d found about 50 kilometres from Ashburton, deep in a small plantation of immature pine trees on the north side of the Rakaia Gorge.
It was Kirsty.
Kirsty’s mother Jill reeled from the “smashing finality” of hearing the words said out loud.
Detectives who broke the news watched the family’s reaction carefully. They hadn’t said where the body was found but, strangely, Kirsty’s father Sid asked if she was found by accident or if somebody had seen something.
For Kirsty’s teenage friends, it was a harsh entry into the worst sort of adult world. Twenty years on, Jasmine Richardson still remembers what she was doing when she was told. Still hoping Kirsty was alive, she was decorating a cake she had made for her birthday. "Then when I found out they'd found [Kirsty] I think I threw it - I was so angry.”
Kirsty had died from a single blow to the back of her head. Her body was placed respectfully in the foetal position and covered with sticks and bracken. Access to the site was limited, so carrying the 54kg teenager there would have been no easy task.
She was wearing a black tank top, a blue sarong with a white butterfly pattern and black Colorado shoes with white soles. Her sarong was unpinned but covered her lower half. Investigators were struck by a scrunchie on Kirsty’s wrist and the fact her hair was down. She hardly ever left home with her hair untied, particularly when she was off for a walk.
Pathology results suggested a time of death between 3.30pm and 7pm on the day Kirsty went missing. Decomposition of the body made it impossible to tell if she’d been sexually assaulted.
A long list of potential suspects emerged. Each had to be eliminated.
One was powerfully built farm worker Barry Hepburn, then 52, now deceased, who was known to walk his Alsatian dog along the river trail and was seen in the area. He had the mental age of a young teen. He didn’t show up for work on New Year’s Day and when he was next seen he was uncharacteristically washed and clean shaven.
Rakaia resident Charlie Smith, who repainted his Ford Falcon car after the disappearance and was said to have boasted of a role in Kirsty’s death, was also looked at closely.
A relatively rare green Commer van, seen in the area at the time of Kirsty’s disappearance, swallowed thousands of police hours but was never found.
Kirsty’s father Sid, then 47, and her brother John, then 19, also became suspects - particularly when Sid changed his account of his movements on the day Kirsty disappeared.
But nothing came of the suspicions and many believe Sid and John were unfairly targeted. The chain-smoking, hard-drinking, Sid died in 2015, leaving his house to the Ashburton New Life Church and the Cancer Society, and nothing to his son.
More than twenty years after Kirsty was killed, the case remains one of the most perplexing New Zealand homicides with confoundingly little forensic evidence and numerous disputed theories.
There is no doubt police know more than they are letting on but in interviews for this Stuff investigation they have revealed more than ever before.
Before Jill left for work on December 31, 1998, at 9.30am, Kirsty played her a song that she thought conveyed her feelings for Graeme Offord, the new love of her young life.
The highlight of the day was going to be Graeme coming for dinner, then staying the night in her room. Jill was resigned to the relationship with Graeme becoming intimate. Sid was not happy about it but felt he'd lost the argument.
John had already left for his berry picking holiday job. Sid was still in bed, but left to run some errands in Christchurch about 11.15am. Kirsty went into town with a friend.
John got home about midday to find only the dog home and answered a phone call from Graeme at 1pm. According to John, Kirsty returned home about 2.30pm and he heard her in her bedroom. He told her about the call from Graeme and retreated to his room to listen to music and watch TV.
Emerging for something to eat, he noticed Abby was gone and assumed Kirsty had taken her for a walk. After another call from Graeme about 4.20pm he started thinking Kirsty had been away too long.
Jill was home from work shortly after 5pm, and as she pulled into the driveway, John greeted her with “Where the f... is Kirsty?”
Worried, Jill rushed to the river to look for her daughter. She was back by the time Sid walked through the door just after 6pm. After some discussion, Sid called the police about 6.20pm. Jill went back out searching.
A local arrived to tell Sid about hearing a dog barking and Sid left with the man to check the river bank. Sid, who said he had a migraine, vomited on the way.
John had been out searching since 6pm and eventually met Jill on the river track. When they returned, police sent him out on his bike to check another section of the track. Sid picked John up about 8pm and took him home. However, it wasn't long before John headed out again and joined groups of other searchers, including his uncle, until about 12.30am.
Sid also headed out searching after 8pm, on his own. He later said he checked local areas before deciding to go to Wakanui Beach, a 15-minute drive away, to look there. He was home around midnight.
After a cup of coffee at home, Sid and John drove off about 1am and carried on searching the river track, rugby club grounds and industrial areas until 3am.
Their search efforts and apparently genuine concern were not enough to exclude them from the suspect list.
By January 6, the police had moved the Bentley family to a motel so they could forensically examine the house. For Sid, a private, stubborn man who suspected society was increasingly under watch by “big brother”, the search felt like a violation.
When a detective asked for his car keys so they could examine his ute, he flung them at the police officer and stormed off. His already testy relationship with the police was never the same.
Dave Saunders, now 77, was a search and rescue veteran by the time he joined a search party fanning out along the Ashburton River track on New Year’s Day, 1999.
He noticed a trail of flattened damp grass leading off the track and found a small clearing with Kirsty’s dog tied to a tree. Abby hadn't made a sound.
As he approached, she remained silent. “It looked so sad … it wasn’t barking or jumping for joy.” But when he mentioned Kirsty’s name, her ears pricked.
The way Abby was tethered meant she must have been unleashed before she was tied to the tree. Saunders remembers thinking, “someone who knows the dog has done this”.
Shortly afterwards, searchers found Kirsty’s boxer shorts and underpants about 30 metres away, on scrub about two metres from the ground. The discovery became a pivotal part of the investigation.
The obvious conclusion was that Kirsty had been restrained on a track she often walked, her underwear removed and her dog hidden nearby. A classic stranger abduction that realised every parent’s darkest fear.
However elements of the scene suggested an attempt at deception. There was no evidence of a struggle. Kirsty’s underwear showed no sign of contact with the ground and the clothing on her body was not ripped or damaged.
Police and locals with their dogs had also scoured the area the evening before, calling out for Abby and Kirsty without reaction. The Bentley family and their friends had searched well into the night, calling out Abby’s name.
“If Abby had heard us calling, she would have responded,” Jill, who has remarried and now lives in Invercargill, says.
But maybe Abby had just hunkered down and ignored everybody. On January 3, police tied her up in the same spot and called her from the track. Not a peep. She was also tested for drugs but nothing was found.
If the dog and underwear were put there later by a random killer they were taking a terrible risk. If they couldn’t bear killing Abby as well as Kirsty, they could have just released the dog somewhere around Ashburton.
But what would be the purpose of staging a scene? Maybe it was not a stranger abduction and the culprits wanted to deflect attention from themselves?
Kirsty regularly walked her dog Abby on a track near the Ashburton River.
Kirsty regularly walked her dog Abby on a track near the Ashburton River.
John Winter was surprised to be appointed to lead the inquiry. The police were in the middle of a restructure and he had been told his job was going. His leave, starting in mid-January, had been approved.
Winter, who is now a commercial beekeeper in Nelson, arrived in Ashburton when the inquiry was still officially a missing person investigation but was told to put together a team to look into a homicide.
While coy on when the team started to look seriously at Sid and John as suspects, he says a considerable amount of time was spent looking at family dynamics. Those dynamics did not add up to a particularly happy family.
Sid was brought up in Workington, an iron smelting town in the north of England. He became an engineer in the merchant navy and his ship called at Timaru Port where, in 1973, he met Jill who was training to be a nurse. They went out for a week and then Sid’s ship sailed. Jill was surprised to get a letter from Panama in which Sid proposed to her.
They married in South Canterbury in 1976, after which Sid went back to sea. By the end of 1977, Jill had joined Sid in England and John was born there in 1979. Sid enjoyed being at sea for months at a time but agreed to settle in New Zealand so the family could be together. He got a job as an engineer in a plastics factory in Ashburton and Kirsty was born on January 18, 1983.
Kirsty was a kind and caring girl but inclined to be a little precious. Sid doted on her but their relationship became colder as Kirsty entered her teens.
Jill blamed the difficulties on Sid’s heavy drinking which sometimes led to angry outbursts. In 1993 he joined Alcoholics Anonymous and spent time at a rehabilitation clinic in Hanmer Springs.
Sid told The Press in 2002 that he had been drinking the night before Kirsty went missing and had topped up in Christchurch the next day.
“Put it this way, I could put away a 40oz [1.2l] bottle of scotch and drive to Christchurch without any problems.”
Kirsty struggled at school but was talented in drama and enjoyed writing poetry. She wasn’t a popular, sporty girl but she had a close circle of friends who could count on her for a sympathetic ear and sensible word. She frowned on drugs or alcohol and was what her friends described as a “good girl”.
John was very bright and in 1998 was doing well at the University of Canterbury where he had completed the first two years of a Bachelor of Science degree. He boarded in Christchurch during the university year and his life at home centred on his darkened bedroom where he played computer games and listened to heavy metal music. He dyed his long hair black to avoid any similarities to the pop group Hansen.
A self-described nerd who stuck to himself, he took on his mother’s belief that Kirsty’s “little princess” behaviour was due to her resentment of the fact he was the smart one in the family. He told police he tried to stay out of Kirsty’s relationship with Graeme and had no feelings about it.
Angela Rouse, 37, one of Kirsty’s close friends, says they would often spend the weekend at each other’s houses. “I was part of the furniture at her house and she was part of the furniture at mine.”
Jill was quiet and reserved and Sid just seemed to sit in his chair drinking whisky from a cup. He could be aggressive when drinking but not to the stage of hitting anyone, Rouse says.
“John just stayed in his room . . . John and Sid never really seemed to get on well. I don’t think anyone got along well with Sid.
“I think that’s why she [Kirsty] liked to come down to our house. I think that because we were such a normal family . . . she kind of craved that sort of stuff.”
Jill concedes they were not an average happy family - but “it was still a family”.
“I didn’t have a close relationship with Sid but we had a routine," Jill says.
"John was a loner but I enjoyed it when he came home at weekends . . . the two children had just developed a respect that came with age and when he was home he watched Kirsty’s TV with her. Having said that they were chalk and cheese.”
She says Sid’s alcoholism set him apart, but he worked hard and remained a good provider. “He was in his own foggy world and for the large part I didn’t know what was on his mind. He could be bitter towards me because I didn’t invite a close relationship.”
On New Year’s Eve, 1998, Anita White was manning the Beach Road store in Ashburton she had owned for 15 years with her husband, thinking about having a drink with her staff later on.
When she talked to a police officer the next day her memory was already hazy but she remembered being out the back bagging eggs when Kirsty came in to buy a 50c mixture of sweets in the afternoon. Her till showed a 50c sale at 3.50pm. Details were a struggle. She thought Kirsty was wearing a black cardigan and a white T-shirt and couldn’t recall whether she had her dog.
White knew Kirsty both as a customer and as someone she regularly saw walking her dog in the area.
“I often thought she looked a bit of a lonesome kid - she was often on her own, a quiet wee thing.”
Her sighting of Kirsty was fairly typical of those police receive in any investigation. It lacked detail and provided information inconsistent with other sightings. But if White was correct, Kirsty was still alive at 3.50pm. But did she call past the shop at the end of her walk or go home first and then go out again?
Garry Marsh, who was mowing the lawn at his property in Dobson St, one block north from Kirsty’s home, is adamant he saw her in her blue sarong, with Abby, on his street about 4pm. He didn’t know Kirsty but recognised her from police images.
At least a few things were certain. After a day in town with her friend Lee- Anne Jellyman, Kirsty was at home at 2.38pm when she made a telephone call to Graeme’s house and spoke to his brother.
Police were also reasonably sure Kirsty took Abby for a walk about 3pm on the day of her disappearance.
Within four days, they had five sightings of her walking Abby in Chalmers Ave towards the river. Two sightings gave no description of her clothing; of the others, two said she was wearing a dark top, one mentioned a black top and blue sarong, and Kym Mote believed she was wearing a cream tank top and dark trousers.
It wasn’t unusual for Kirsty to go for frequent walks with Abby. A blue sarong was hardly suitable gear for walking a dog, which made it possible Kirsty had gone home before changing and heading off again.
No one reported seeing her on the track that led along the river from the bottom of Chalmers Ave. Going west appeared to be Kirsty’s preferred route although she sometimes took the east route, even if some thought it was frequented by unsavoury types.
There were also numerous sightings of cars similar to Sid’s distinctive Holden Kingswood ute. One was from a woman who was pulling out of a petrol station in Methven, between Ashburton to the Rakaia Gorge, and knew her cars. That put the Holden in the gorge area around 5pm.
Sid later called the woman, but she refused to talk to him.
The quality of the sightings left many things up in the air and importantly didn’t rule out the involvement of her family in her death.
Gavin Briggs sat with a comatose Sid on the night he died in June 2015, but wasn’t expecting a confession in Sid’s last gasps.
“No way in hell was he involved . . . he was persecuted to a degree because he was a soft target. I’d back him. He made the mistake of letting alcohol get in the way of his life.”
Briggs and his brother Rodger owned Rainer Irrigation, Sid’s employer when Kirsty was killed. Sid worked on a lathe in the company’s machine shop, making parts for irrigation equipment, and was highly regarded. Briggs says although his drinking was noticeable it didn’t seem to affect his work.
“I’ve met a lot of personalities employing people. You know instinctively if you can trust them and Sid Bentley you could trust. Kirsty was the apple of his eye - there’s no doubt about that - the way he spoke about her. John, I never heard about him.”
Briggs’ faith in Sid is not shared by Greg Williams, who took charge of the inquiry after Winter left for a Nelson posting. Williams is now a Detective Superintendent heading the National Organised Crime Group.
His scenario looks something like this: Sid arrived home sometime shortly after 4pm to find John had killed Kirsty, perhaps accidentally. Together they bundled her body into a tarpaulin, put her into Sid’s ute, and Sid drove to the Rakaia Gorge to carefully hide her body. John was left at home to deal with Jill and Sid arrived back about 6.15pm. Sid or John then planted Abby near the track.
When Williams put the theory to Jill, she was stunned. “The idea of it hurt,” she says, “but I was determined to understand it.”
She believes the timings are too tight given the drive to the Rakaia Gorge - about 80 minutes return - and the time needed to dispose of the body. She can’t see Sid forming a detailed plan in a matter of minutes while reeling from the death of a beloved daughter.
“Sid was a proud Englishman and I believe he wouldn’t have considered a [cover-up]. He was enormously fond of his daughter and [if John was responsible] I am certain he would have rung the police and stood by his son.”
She doesn’t believe John - “cut from the same cloth as Sid” - would have covered for Sid.
To suggest John was jealous about Kirsty’s new boyfriend is just “silliness”, she says.
Sid originally said he had driven to Christchurch to drop off a water blaster and get some tools on the day Kirsty vanished, after which he spent a couple of hours in Lyttelton before driving straight home.
But police had possible sightings of him in Hotel Ashburton, on the edge of the town, about 4pm. A witness said a man with an English accent who matched Sid’s description was in the queue in front of him buying cigarettes. A till receipt seemed to corroborate the account.
Sid changed his story in October 2000, after he apparently banged his head on a cupboard. The new version of events had him coming back from Christchurch about 2.30pm. He was within 30 seconds of his own home when he decided to drive to Wakanui Beach to get over a migraine, he said.
Confusingly Sid retracted his change of story when spoken to again by police not long before his death.
In an unusually frank interview, Williams says the change in Sid’s story showed he lied from the first night Kirsty went missing.
“That night he says, ‘I’ve just driven all the way back from Christchurch’ when in fact that does not seem to be the case at all.”
Williams says police are happy they know where Sid was until 2.30pm, and clearly he was home to make the call alerting police about 6.20pm. But where was Sid in between? “That’s still in dispute today,” Williams says.
He remains convinced the scene with Abby was staged to mislead the inquiry and believes the dog was put there around 6.30pm. No evidence, he says, puts Kirsty near the scene where Abby was found. “Again that was strange and not consistent.”
Williams believes the person who tied up Abby near the track had to have known the area and, more importantly, Kirsty’s usual routes in walking the dog.
The sightings of Kirsty after 3.50pm – the dairy and Dobson St – were critical but unfortunately not bulletproof because clothing descriptions were different.
It’s very likely, he says, that Kirsty did not go walking in her sarong and special shoes and instead wore black track pants and possibly a white top. She then returned home and changed, perhaps to go out again in her sarong to be seen in Dobson St. Her shoes did not contain any material from the river track and a white singlet was the only item of clothing police could not account for.
Williams has not ruled out a random killing but says it does not fit with the Abby scene and the careful and respectful way the body was hidden. The fact she wasn’t buried suggested the killer was in a hurry, yet the choice of site indicated a determination the body would not be found for a long time.
Random attacks are “so rare that in most cases investigators will put randomness to the side".
As for John, Williams says his account changed about whether Kirsty told him she was leaving for the walk and the “manner in which it was done”. He would not elaborate.
All this meant Sid and John became “significant persons of interest” and continue to be “because we have still not resolved key aspects of timing and placement”.
Jill is still mystified about why Sid lied. “I can only wonder if he was doing something he wouldn’t have wanted to be publicly aired. Again a very proud Englishman. He took his secret to the grave . . . It doesn’t fit the timing and I couldn’t imagine him hurting Kirsty.”
Winter is not nearly as strong on Sid and John’s involvement as Williams.
“Can we say categorically 100 per cent we were satisfied with all the answers? Probably not . . . Sid’s story had significant inconsistencies which he was caught on. Once those inconsistencies were discovered that raised alarm bells for us and he got a lot more attention accordingly.
“There were all sorts of questions and innuendo around him but at the end of the day it doesn't make him the murderer. We simply had no evidence.”
Both John and Sid were intelligent but unsophisticated, he says.
“I have a strong feeling their unsophistication would have led to a breakdown reasonably quickly if they had been involved. There is no evidence whatsoever that satisfied me of their involvement.”
Detective Inspector Greg Murton, Canterbury district crime manager, is now in charge of the file. He has looked at a number of other scenarios including the possible involvement of Russell Tully, the killer of two Work and Income staff in their Ashburton workplace on September 1, 2014. Tully had a good alibi.
Jason Frandi, a Waimate loner who killed a hitchhiker and then himself in a forest in May 2012, also came into Murton’s radar, but was ruled out.
Murton says police have evidence that hasn’t been made public that would "indicate who the type of offender is in this case". He believes a piece of information “from the right person” could solve the murder.
"There are many unanswered questions. Was it an abduction from the riverbank? Was it a local or someone passing through? Could it have been a neighbour or someone on her walking route? Was it someone close to her?
"It would be immensely satisfying to resolve this case, not only for Jill and Kirsty's wider friends and family, but because it is a mystery, and I personally would very much like to know what happened."
John Bentley, now 41, lives overseas and is finishing a doctorate in astronomy. He says he is “just trying to live my life as normally as I can . . . having a good circle of friends helps”.
He understands he remains a "person of interest" and finds it frustrating.
“Unfortunately Dad, for whatever reasons, could not, or would not, clear himself, and therefore I could not be 100 per cent cleared. I know I didn't have anything to do with Kirsty's death, but there is nothing I can do to clear myself. I have to wait until they find the killer, and that will then prove my innocence. Having to be passive and wait to be proven innocent is very frustrating.”
He was formally interviewed by police about three or four times and doesn’t remember being pressed on any inconsistencies.
“I remember not seeing her leave, but I think I heard the gate shut. I can't remember if she told me she was going for a walk, or I just presumed it from hearing the gate.
“I stand by what I did say when I was interviewed.”
His gut feeling is that his father played no part in Kirsty’s disappearance.
“He was always super prideful, and a bit overly principled. If he had anything to do with it, he'd have gone to the police immediately. If I had done it he would have marched me up to the police station and got me to confess, because that was the right thing to do. Also, Kirsty was his favourite. If he had hurt her in any way, he'd not have been able to hide it.”
They never talked to each other about the suspicions.
“I never asked him about whether he did it, or what he was doing on the day, and he never asked me. I guess we both kind of assumed that we had nothing to do with it and so there was no point in asking about the obvious.”
Like Jill, he believes Sid’s movements might have been “embarrassing” but irrelevant.
John "wasn't into doing much of the things that people of that age did in Ashburton - partying, sports, clubs”, but he says he wasn't a recluse. On his university holidays he would go out to see his friends or hang around home.
“I definitely wasn't super sociable. As my family were kind of distant with each other, most nights Mum and Dad would be in the living room, Dad complaining about how everything is wrong, and Mum passively not responding. Kirsty and myself would just spend time in our rooms.”
Growing up, he and Kirsty just seemed to annoy each other.
“Kirsty was trying to be popular and it was an embarrassment to have a 'nerd' brother. However I had spent most of the year at university and suddenly having a brother at university was cool and so Kirsty would tolerate me more.”
His relationship with his father soured because he called him out over spreading rumours about Jill’s new partner, Noel. “Dad hated the rumours that people in Ashburton had spread about us but he was perfectly willing to believe, and spread, the rumours about Noel. I called him a hypocrite and he got angry.”
His father’s alcoholism also made him more negative and withdrawn from the family.
John says his comment, "Where the f--- is Kirsty?" on Jill arriving home from work on New Year’s Eve should not be misconstrued.
“My language around people I'm comfortable with tends to have a few swears in it, especially in an informal situation. At the time I was surprised that Kirsty had been away for so long. Kirsty had just gone to walk the dog, something that would take maybe 30 minutes, and she hadn't mentioned doing anything else. I was a bit surprised, but not that worried. What I said would have been taken by Mum as nothing unusual in terms of tone.”
About five years ago, on the 15th anniversary of Kirsty’s death, Ruth Cocks, now 37, visited 165 South St where Sid lived alone and was dying of cancer.
“He looked like a man who’d had a very hard life.”
Inside the now tired-looking home she found him sitting in his armchair watching television. They sat and shared their happy memories of Kirsty, who was Ruth’s best buddy at Ashburton College.
As she was about to leave, Sid gave her a sun-faded photo of Kirsty in a wooden frame.
“It was a big deal,” she says. “That picture meant the world to him. He wouldn’t have just given it to any of Kirsty’s friends.”
The photo is one of the last taken of Kirsty. She thought it made her look fat. Cocks likes it because Kirsty looks “happy and carefree”.
Cocks, who still lives in Ashburton where she works for a meat packing company, is one of several of Kirsty’s friends who wondered if Sid harboured an awful secret. If he had played a role in Kirsty’s death he would have “suffered horribly”, she believes.
As they reminisced about Kirsty on that 15th anniversary, she felt at least he had someone to talk to.
Cocks says Kirsty told her Sid could get angry when he was drunk, but she never mentioned anything about him getting physical. John, with whom she had a relationship after Kirsty’s death, never talked about the case with her.
She was appalled at his treatment after he was identified as a suspect.
“It was disgusting. In Christchurch, when John went back to university, I would stay with him on the weekends and we'd walk down the street and people would spit on him, yell abuse through the car window.”
New Zealand remembers Kirsty Bentley as the victim of a dreadful, unsolved crime. Friends like Jasmine Richardson, who shared Kirsty’s obsession with the Backstreet Boys and crush on Prince William, remember her in more personal ways.
“She was just innocent - it shouldn't have happened. That's probably how I want to remember her. That innocent girl who was into Winnie the Pooh, Backstreet Boys and just a good friend.”
Identifying the culprit or culprits would allow Kirsty to finally rest, Richardson says.
"Every New Year's I think about her. For 20 years there's not once that I haven't looked up at the sky and wished her a happy New Year. Even in another 20 years if it's still not solved, she'll never be forgotten.”
Ending a story like this almost inevitably leads to cliches. Someone out there knows something. Police will never give up. A promising life snuffed out before it had really begun. A cold case where secrets may have been taken to the grave. The importance of a resolution for the family’s sake. Closure.
The fact the phrases are well-worn doesn’t make them any less true or poignant.
One cliche that hasn’t been mentioned so far is “the perfect crime”.
Someone got away with the murder of Kirsty Bentley.