WANTS ANSWERS: Acting Snr Sgt Mark Wright thinks of Jessica Gaudie almost every day.
WANTS ANSWERS: Acting Snr Sgt Mark Wright thinks of Jessica Gaudie almost every day.

Search for missing girl is a 15-year quest for closure

MARK Wright's dream is to one day phone the family of murdered teenager Jessica Gaudie to tell them he is bringing home their little girl.

The Sunshine Coast acting senior sergeant, together with now Inspector Peter Brewer, put Derek Sam behind bars for the murder of the 16-year-old Nambour girl.

But 13 years after Sam was found guilty by a jury and sentenced to life for his crime, Acting Snr Sgt Wright said his job was only half done.

He is determined to find answers and Jessica's body, for the family's sake.

"I don't think I have gone a day since Jess went missing that I have not thought about where she might be," Acting Snr Sgt Wright said.

Jessica was one of three women who vanished without a trace on the Sunshine Coast between July 1998 and August 1999.

Despite one of the biggest search efforts in Queensland history, the bodies of backpacker Celena Bridge, teacher-aide Sabrina Ann Glassop and teenager Jessica Gaudie were never found.

Sam was linked to all three women in some way, but convicted of murdering only Jessica.

After more than a decade in jail, he still denies playing any part in the disappearances.

Police have started a new taskforce, dubbed Operation Echo Troop, in a renewed bid to find the women's bodies and bring closure to their families.

"Being on the (Daniel) Morcombe case for two-and-a-half years made it more difficult because I had to try and explain to the Gaudies why so much time and effort was being put into the Daniel Morcombe case when Jessica's body was still missing," Snr Sgt Wright said.

"I know how heart wrenching it has been for the Gaudies to not know where she is and not know what really happened to her, and you feel so desperate to give them answers.

"To me, our job was only half done - yes we got a conviction and some idea of what may have happened to her, but we have never been able to locate her and that eats away at you as an investigator.

"I dream of the day I can make that phone call to the Gaudie family to tell them that we've found her."

Snr Sgt Wright said Sam was still considered a person of interest in the disappearance of Sabrina Ann Glassop and Celena Bridge.

After spending 13 years behind bars, Sam will be able to apply for bail next year.

Police hope it is refused and that he will give up information of where to find Jessica's body.

"A murder conviction does not get any harder to prove than one without a body, a crime scene or admissions," Acting Snr Sgt Wright said.

"It was a circumstantial case that took every ounce of our investigative ability to put a brief together good enough to obtain a conviction."

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