Twist in case of suspected Milat victims

 

Detectives investigating the disappearance and suspected murders of three teenage girls in the 1970s have made a major breakthrough in the cold case.

Police have spent the past 40 years investigating the disappearance of the three girls, all from the Lake Macquarie region on New South Wales' Central Coast.

Ivan Milat was long suspected of the 1979 disappearances and was questioned by police about it in the years leading up to his death.

Milat, who died earlier this year after a long battle with cancer, gave evidence at the 2002 coronial inquest where he denied being involved.

Today they released an image of a vehicle similar to the one they believe may be linked to two of the cases and appealed to the public for assistance.

The vehicle is described as a distinct green-coloured, mid-1970s four-door Holden Torana sedan.

Police have identified this car as being seen in the vicinity of the disappearances of Amanda Robinson and Robyn Hickie.
Police have identified this car as being seen in the vicinity of the disappearances of Amanda Robinson and Robyn Hickie.

The Daily Telegraphreports police have now dropped their Milat theory and are instead focusing on a 58-year-old businessman from the Hunter region who now lives in the Gold Coast.

The publication reported that during a bail hearing on the Gold Coast last month, NSW Police revealed it had been investigating him over a 1979 cold case murder.

In a press conference this afternoon, NSW Police Detective Chief Inspector Greg Thomas said he hoped photos of the Torana will jog memories in the Lake Macquarie area.

The car is thought to have travelled between the area and Queensland.

"Whether it's still even on the road we don't know - but it's a very specific car," Det Chief Insp Thomas told reporters in Belmont.

"Going back 40 years to when these disappearances occurred in this area, there could be someone who has knowledge of that vehicle.

"The car has become a focus, not the sole focus, but a focus of investigators."

Det Chief Insp Thomas said the families of all three missing girls continue to suffer.

"It (the pain) lingers to today, and that's why the investigators treat every inquiry to its highest," he said.

"What it gives them is the confidence ... that police are continuing to investigate these disappearances."

Robyn Hickie, 18, left her home around 7.15pm on April 7, 1979 and was last seen standing at a bus stop on the Pacific Highway, Belmont North.

Amanda Robinson, 14, was last seen a fortnight later on April 21, 1979 near a bus stop on Lake Road, Swansea, after attending a dance at her high school in Gateshead.

 

Robyn Hickie was the first reported missing.
Robyn Hickie was the first reported missing.

About 9pm on November 24, 1994, Gordana Kotevski, 16, was forced into a vehicle on Powell Street, Charlestown, while walking from Charlestown Square Shopping Centre to her aunt's home on the same road.

Despite extensive investigations at the time, and over the years, none of the girls have been located.

 

A missing persons poster for Gordana Kotevski.
A missing persons poster for Gordana Kotevski.

A subsequent coronial inquest into their disappearances found that the girls were deceased, most likely as a result of foul play.

A strike force was set up in April to investigate the cases.

Detectives identified the vehicle they believe may be linked to the disappearance and suspected murders of Robyn Hickie and Amanda Robinson.

Lake Macquarie Police District Crime Manager, Detective Chief Inspector Greg Thomas, said this was a significant new lead.

"We are hoping anyone who was living in the Lake Macquarie region in the late 1970s may have a recollection of this Holden Torana, in particular in the month of April 1979," he said.

 

A youthful Ivan Milat.
A youthful Ivan Milat.

 

"We understand it's been 40 years since Robyn and Amanda's disappearances, however, we are seeking assistance from anyone who may even have moved to a different state or who may have some memory of this vehicle to come forward to police - you can remain anonymous through Crime Stoppers if you wish.

"It may seem like small or insignificant information from decades past but it could help investigators solve these cases."

- With AAP

 

Amanda Robinson disappeared from a high school dance.
Amanda Robinson disappeared from a high school dance.

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