A quarter of a century after her brutally-battered body was discovered floating in a Hunter dam, the family of Melissa Hunt wants a coronial inquest into the 22-year-old's grisly death to resume - or for the unnamed person of interest that led to the hearing being suspended two decades ago to be charged.
The mother of two's beaten body was found floating in Burrenjim Dam on Anzac Day, 1994. She was believed to have been dead for between three and six days.
A post mortem at the time found she died of massive head injuries before being thrown into the water, weighted down by sandstone rocks placed inside her clothes.
She suffered 11 fractures to her skull during the ordeal.
The State Crime Command's Unsolved Homicide Unit confirmed on Thursday it was reviewing the case and re-testing evidence collected from the scene - though it was not specific as to what was being examined.
Homicide Squad commander Detective Acting Superintendent Mark Henney said the process would be overseen by senior investigators and involve three separate assessments that focussed on "triage, review and quality control".
But Ms Hunt's widower, Scott Hunt, wants an independent inquiry into the murder investigation and why it has produced no results - Mr Hunt has been pursuing answers through the state government.
He said it was a "miscarriage of justice" that his wife's killer had never been charged.
"I fully intend to keep calling for an independent inquiry into the police investigation into this matter," said Mr Hunt, who married Melissa six weeks before she was killed.
"I want this case in some way resolved.
"Justice denied, justice delayed, no-one cares - I do."
The inquest into Ms Hunt's death was suspended in the late 1990s under Section 78 of the Coroner's Act, which says a case is to be handed back to prosecutors if the Coroner thinks there is sufficient evidence for charges to be laid against a person of interest.
As of Thursday, the inquest remained on hold and the person of interest who prompted the suspension had not been publicly identified or charged.
Ms Hunt's brother, Peter Hallett, said the inquest should be re-opened.
"The inquest was suspended 20 years ago on the basis that there was enough evidence for potential charges to be laid," Mr Hallett told the Newcastle Herald.
"But no charges were laid, the police have been given the case back from the DPP [Department of Public Prosecutions] with no explanation to the family and the inquest remains suspended."
Mr Hallett was one of Ms Hunt's two older siblings - their parents Ron and Jan adopted Melissa when she was six weeks old.
He described his sister, who was nine years his junior, as outgoing and friendly, with a big smile.
"She was intelligent, she did well at school, she seemed to pick up music and art really well - she played the piano for a while," he said.
"She just seemed to be naturally gifted in some of those kinds of things.
"She was very much a typical child."
The family moved around regional NSW while Melissa was young - her adoptive father was a Uniting Church minister.
But she began to struggle in her mid-teens, moving out of home at 16.
"I think we knew there was a challenge there around her identity, particularly as she got older," Mr Hallett said.
"We knew virtually nothing about that adoption - that's the way they did it, in those days you were just given the minimal details."
Melissa maintained a connection with her family and returned home soon after, when she fell pregnant with her first child - something Mr Hallett said the family embraced.
"My parents took her back in and showered her with love," he said. "Those were very happy days, actually."
In her late teens, Melissa married her first husband and gave birth to a second child - but the marriage lasted only a few months.
It's incredible that we don't know the location where she was killed... I think there's plenty to investigate, even though it's been 25 years.Peter Hallett, Melissa Hunt's brother.
Soon after, her life spiralled into one of drug use and prostitution. At the time of Ms Hunt's death, her parents had custody of her young daughter and her son was in the care of her first husband.
"She was fighting for her life," Mr Hallett said. "She pretty much lost everything along the way."
Mr Hallett last saw his sister alive at Christmas, 1993. Driving her home from a family get-together, he appealed to her to turn her life around.
Four moths later he received a late night phone call at his Canberra home from his father in western NSW saying Melissa had been found dead.
Mr Hallett said it left him "forlorn, devastated and helpless".
"It was horrific. We were alert that she was missing in the sense that she left the family home, but we were not too worried at that stage because she was a very independent person and very street wise," he said.
Officially, Ms Hunt was last seen alive leaving a former boyfriend's house at Lambton Road, Waratah on April 17, 1994. But a police statement from the time shows another possible sighting by a West Wallsend hairdresser - who claimed to have cut Ms Hunt's hair on either April 20 or 22 - "could be considered creditable".
According to police, Ms Hunt told the hairdresser she planned to stay a few days at cabins in Stockrington. Investigators have not confirmed the sighting.
"To me, was that something that needed to be looked at more closely? Why was she having a haircut? Maybe she met someone she was trying to impress," said Mr Hallett, who recently visited Burrenjim Dam for the first time.
"I think police knew at the time it's not an easy dam to find. Having been there, having realised the location, those other sightings and comments make a lot more sense to me."
In 2000, police forensically tested a cigarette butt found at the dam when Ms Hunt's body was recovered six years earlier. But the examination did not lead to any charges.
Detective Acting Superintendent Henney said on Thursday the Unsolved Homicide Unit was "a finite resource" but that NSW Police had a wealth of skilled investigators that increased the capacity to "put fresh eyes on cold cases".
"We are committed to ensuring the most effective and efficient allocation of resources in order to maximise our capability to provide justice for victims and answers to their families," he said.
Mr Hallett said it "seems impossible" that there was not someone in the Hunter who knew something about his sister's murder.
"We encourage the police to look at what they've done in the past and if they've left lines of enquiry unfinished that they pick them up," he said.
"It's incredible that we don't know the location where she was killed... I think there's plenty to investigate, even though it's been 25 years."
Mr Hallett said his family lived with a sense of blame that they could not help Melissa more.
"My dad used to say we couldn't love her enough, she was always looking for something else," he said.
"Her lifestyle didn't cause this. It may have contributed, but it was a person that caused this. This was an illegal act that someone did in a monstrous way. They need to be held accountable."
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