Nicola Cruickshank’s toddler daughter, Amber-Lee, vanished from her Lake Wakatipu home in 1992.
Since then, every birthday, anniversary of her disappearance and Christmas has been painful, Cruickshank told Breakfast.
“She was a joy to be around … She was challenging sometimes, a wee character. Just a beautiful, beautiful soul.”
Amber-Lee, then aged 2, was last seen on October 17, 1992, at a Cornwall Street property in Kingston. Police believe she may have been the victim of foul play, and think someone out there knows the truth.
On the day of Amber-Lee’s disappearance, Cruickshank remembered seeing her daughter’s joyful face as they went on a boat ride.
“It was a beautiful day that day at the lake until what happened, happened.”
Cruickshank said her daughter didn’t like strangers. In the three years after her disappearance, she remembered being traumatised.
There was a lot of searching that took place, “but I lost myself along the way”, Cruickshank said.
She said she got herself together with the help from her family and friends, in particular her sons who have been her “rocks right throughout this”.
“Without them, I honestly don’t think I’d actually be here. They are my rocks.”
Amber-Lee would have turned 31 years old on May 5 this year. Now, there’s hope new information will emerge that could help wrap up the cold case.
Yesterday, police announced a $100,000 reward for information about her disappearance that leads to a conviction. The offer of a reward will remain in place for six months.
Police have conducted a significant number of inquiries over the years, having "gone to great lengths to explore different scenarios and investigation leads without success", Detective Inspector Stu Harvey said.
Cruickshank welcomed the reward, and said she hoped someone would come forward.
“It would mean we could get on with our lives. It would mean that we wouldn’t have to live in this nightmare,” she said.
“We can’t move on. We can’t let it go. We need to find the answers. We need to bring Amber-Lee home regardless of who has done this. I just want Amber-Lee home.”
The Police Commissioner will determine the amount of the reward and will, if necessary, divide the payment if there is more than one claimant.
Immunity from prosecution may be considered for any accomplice — not the main suspect — who provides information or evidence to police.
Anyone with information has been urged to contact police via 105, referencing Operation Oliver and case number 921030/2144.