Three families and their desperate search for loved ones
DIANNE Nicholls is haunted by the last conversation she had with her teenage daughter.
It was an argument about the then 16-year-old Tanya's boyfriend.
He was in Parklea jail and Mrs Nicholls didn't approve of him.
Tanya stormed out of their home near Wollongong in September 1998 and went to her grandparents.
It was the last time Mrs Nicholls saw her daughter.
"In some ways it's worse than death, because with death you have closure," Mrs Nicholls told The Sunday Telegraph, marking the 30th anniversary of Missing Persons Week.
"With a missing person you have a lot of questions that no one has the answers for."
While 10,000 people are reporting missing in NSW every year, only 30 of those will become the long-term missing, such as Tanya.
After she left home, the teenager was traced to Kings Cross.
She was mixing with drug dealers and prostitutes, who were unwilling to speak to police after Tanya vanished.
In October 1998, Tanya signed a visitor's book, using the alias Marie Ann Owen, at Parklea jail.
Wollongong Police Detective Sergeant Jason Hogan said there was nothing to suggest Tanya had committed suicide or that she was murdered.
"I believe there would be people that police have already spoken to or yet to speak to that know something about her movements," he said.
Exactly what happened to the teenager is a mystery, despite a coroner ruling in 2011 that she died sometime in late October 1998.
In the same year, Melcom Arthur Cross, 40, vanished from Sydney.
The taxi driver's vehicle was found abandoned on McElhone St in Woolloomooloo and his credit card was used weeks later in South Australia to buy toiletries and clothing.
"The fact the purchases made on this credit card were personal items, it was like he was starting afresh," Mr Cross's daughter Michelle Farrell said.
Mr Cross, who had separated from Michelle's mother, lived a nomadic life and it wasn't unusual for him to relocate without notice.
Regardless, not knowing what happened has caused his family pain.
"My last memory of him was from around my 10th birthday in 1985," Ms Farrell said.
"We are always hoping to have contact with him if he is still alive."
In the case of James West, he disappeared from his home in the Blue Mountains after a long battle with depression.
The 35-year-old was last seen catching a train from Blackheath to Katoomba in the early hours of August 27, 2006.
He left his favourite shirt laid out on his bed and tied his dog up at a local service station.
"I personally think he saw us and the strain his sickness put the family under," his mother Michele West said.
"Maybe he did go away to make a new life. Every day he is in my mind.
"We don't say to people that we have two sons, we always say we have three."