“The information’s led us to a line of inquiry that we know that Melissa was seen around the 18th, 19th of April in 1994,” he said. “Information was received that there was possibly a domestic incident [that] may have happened at this address [prior to her death].
“Inquiries reveal Melissa used to go to a number of premises in the Newcastle area so … people are being doorknocked as we speak by homicide detectives and actually all week, we’re making those inquiries in the Hunter region.”
The home has been searched previously but has never been subject to a full forensic examination, Superintendent Doherty said.
He said police are looking at every person of interest mentioned over the past 27 years.
“We’re keeping an open mind in relation to who may be responsible,” he said. “That person knows they’ve done it and there’s other people [who] may know the truth and we’re here to search for the truth and get those answers.”
Associates and witnesses living in South Australia, Queensland and Victoria are also being contacted.
Following a coronial inquest in 1998, the case was sent to the Office of the Director Of Public Prosecutions for review and referred to the unsolved homicide unit. Officers returned to the dam in October 2020 to review the original crime scene. No arrests have ever been made.
In December, NSW Police Minister David Elliott said he hoped the increased reward for information would bring closure to the family and “ensure that a murderer is off the streets”.
“These cases, as historic as they are, will never be put in the too-hard basket,” he said.
Superintendent Doherty on Tuesday urged anyone with information to contact police so that Melissa’s family can be given “much-needed answers”.
“It’s not about the reward, it’s about doing the right thing,” he said. “This Anzac Day it’ll be 27 years since Melissa’s body was found. That’s a long time for people to hold that burden of grief.”
He said Melissa’s brother, Peter Hallett, still holds out hope.
“But we can’t give false hope, we want to give him reality and show that we are doing something in relation to this matter,” Superintendent Doherty said.
“There’s someone out there who knows something. Someone who actually committed this crime is holding a dark secret, we’d like to expose that secret.”
With Josh Dye
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Sarah McPhee is a breaking news reporter with The Sydney Morning Herald.