Need answers: Julie Talevski, whose niece Gordana Kotevski was kidnapped at Charlestown 24 years ago. The family renewing its public appeal for help finding answers. Crime Stoppers: 1800 333 000. Picture: Simone De PeakIn the decades since Gordana Kotevski was kidnapped from a suburban street near a busy shopping centre, herfamily has wavered between hope and grief.
The 16-year-old Cardiff High School student was snatched and bundled into a white Toyota Hiluxabout 8.45pmon November 24, 1994, while walking to an aunt’s houseafter late night shopping with friends atCharlestown Square.
Today, Gordana’s family is renewing apublic appeal for information that could help bring those responsible for herabduction and likely murder to justice and solve one of the state’s most baffling coldcases.
Newcastle Jets CEO Lawrie McKinna has organisedfree rental of space on the billboard outside McDonald Jones Stadium for the next fortnight, where an image of the teenagerwill be emblazoned, and the family will hand outbumper stickers in the coming weeksto get the community talking and jog people’s memories.
Read more: Police re-open cold case of missing teenager (2009)
“They say that scars heal with time, but I know that until I have answers about whathappened to my sister my scars will only get bigger and deeper,” said Gordana’s brother Damien, who was 10 when his older sister was taken.
“The things I had to witness from such a young age have affected me throughout mywhole life. I have been quiet for a long time but it’s time to stand up and make somenoise, not only for my family, but for every family who has been dealt this horriblecard.
“I wouldn’t wish this pain upon anyone, which is why I’m appealing to the public tocome forward with any information that may help us find Gordana.Our family needs answers.”
Gordana –who would now be 40 years old –was about 50 metres from the safety of her aunt’s home in Powell Street when she was set upon.
Tragic: Gordana Kotevski was kidnapped in 1994. An inquest found in 2003 she was likely murdered by an unknown person. The case remains unsolved.
Witnesses said they heard two screams and saw a white Toyota Hilux speed out of the street.
Butaside from unfruitful leads on peopleof interestand the 2009 discovery of a fingerprint belonging to an unknown person on the plastic bag containing Gordana’s wallet found at the crime scene, the trail has remainedcold.
Another of Gordana’s aunts Julie Talevski, who has spearheaded the organisation of the billboard campaign with the help of the Missing Persons Advocacy Network, said the family was trying to have the reward for information that leads to the case being solvedincreased to $1 million –up from $100,000, where it has sat since early 1995.
Ms Talevski described the feeling of not knowing what happened to her niece as “an ambiguous loss, you waver between grief and hope –there’s no in between”.
Read more: Police reveal new lead in Gordana Kotevski abduction (2009)
“Nothing really active has happened for such a long time,” she said.
“Newcastle is a small place. We just want to get the word out there, she’s still missing, if somebody knows anything, no matter how small or insignificant they might think it may be, to go to Crime Stoppers.”
It’s been about 15 years since a Coronial inquest found Gordana was likely murdered by an unknown person.
The teenager’s family was critical of the police investigation in the years after her disappearance, alleging leads were not followed in the weeks after Gordana was kidnapped. It prompted a public apology from the then NSW Police Commissioner Peter Ryan in 1998.
Her parents told investigatorsat the time Gordana had expressed concern about a man who was following her –who her mother referred to as “The Spook”.
Depictions of two persons of interest in the disappearance of Gordana Kotevski composed from witness descriptions.
At another point in the investigation, police were considering whether the teenager had fallen victim to a serial killer or killers along with nine other young people who had gone missing in the Hunter between the late 1970s and early 1990s.
Detective Inspector George Radmore, who now heads the northern NSW anti-bikie squad Strike Force Raptor North, was an investigator in the homicide unitthat looked atthe case for three years from 1998,then as part of the unsolved homicide squad in 2009-10.
Inspector Radmore told the Newcastle Herald on Wednesday persons of interest were identified, but it “didn’t reach the level of being firm suspects”.
He described the case as “tragic” and said he believed it was a random attack by people who were probably unknown to the 16-year-old.
Bumper stickers appealing for help solving Gordana’s case. Picture: Simone De Peak
“There was literally, I would suggest, thousands of pieces of information that came in specifically about Gordana’s –we’ll certainly call it a murder because that’s what it is –abduction and murder around that time and over the ensuing years,” he said.
“The really frustrating part for the investigators that have worked on it, and the tragic part for Gordana’s family, has been that people actually witnessed this take place. We’ve had, probably, good quality evidence back to 1994.
“People heard her screams, saw the car take off afterwards, were able to describe the car and able to provide images of the occupants of the car from their descriptions.
“We were certainly a lot further advanced in that investigation than many other investigations that have been solved so it is extremely frustrating to every investigator that worked on it.
“There’s not anyone I know who worked on those cases over all those years who would not want to find who did it and convict them.”
If you know anything that could help police, contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.While you’re with us, did you know The Herald is now offering breaking news alerts, daily email newsletters and more? Keep up-to-date with all the local news – sign up here.