Michelle Coral Lewis was last seen riding her white and maroon bike leaving a friend’s house on Stenlake Avenue, North Rockhampton, headed to her home on Alexandra Street about 10.45pm on January 14, 1989.
The trip should have taken just a few minutes. Neither Lewis’s body nor bike have ever been found.
Former lead investigator and retired detective Ann Gumley said the initial investigation involved dozens of interviews and several persons of interest but ultimately, the leads “dried up.”
In 1994, a coroner concluded that there had been a foul play but there could be no finding about whether Lewis was alive or dead.
Police desperately want to identify a male person who called Rockhampton Police Station on February 18, 1989 – about a month after Lewis was last seen.
The caller said he had information concerning Lewis’ disappearance but the call was terminated before it could be put through to investigators.
“There are not too many cases that have stayed with me over the years, but after 33 years, but I still think about Michelle Lewis and what happened to her,” Gumley said.
“She had such a sad life and then to just disappear just seems so unfair.”
Lewis was abandoned by her mother as a baby and cared for by her grandmother and other relatives until her grandmother died and she was taken in by a local woman Dell Salhus.
Friend Kerry Bartley said Lewis “loved living there” and never stayed out too late so as not to worry her foster mum.
“Michelle had a tough upbringing but she had a heart of gold and a lot of friends,” Bartley said.
Bartley said her friend was a “creature of habit” and would often spend most of the weekend at her house.
The night she disappeared the pair drank tea, watched a movie and made plans for the following night before Lewis left to ride home.
She was wearing a pink tie-dyed shirt and boardshorts.
“In my heart I know that Michelle would not just run away without contacting me or anyone else,” Bartley said.
“Every year that passes becomes harder, not easier, because there are no answers.
“If she met with foul play it would be nice to have the answers as to who and why so we can have closure and Michelle can be laid to rest.”
“We believe there are people out there with information and with this significant reward announced, now is the time for those people to reconsider 33 years’ of silence and come forward to police,” Senior Detective Sergeant Tara Kentwell said.
“It is never too late to come forward.”
There has been long speculation now-deceased serial killer Leonard Fraser was involved in Lewis’ disappearance.
Fraser died of a heart attack in hospital in 2007 having complained of chest pains in his cell at the Wolston Correctional Centre.
He had been serving multiple indefinite life terms for the murders of Beverley Leggo and Sylvia Benedetti, and the manslaughter of Julie Turner in the Rockhampton area in the late 1990s.
He had also previously been jailed for the abduction and murder of nine-year-old Rockhampton girl Keyra Steinhardt.
Gumley said despite retirement she remained committed to justice for Lewis, saying “miracles can happen.”
“If they find Michelle’s bike they’ll find Michelle. She never went anywhere without that bike,” Gumley said.
The Queensland government’s reward of $500,000 is for information that leads to the conviction of the person, or persons, found to be responsible for Lewis’ suspected murder.
This week is National Missing Persons Week.