Kylie Spelde is aware people might be sick of hearing about the search for her sister, Janine Vaughan, who vanished almost 21 years ago.
But for Ms Spelde and her brother Adam Vaughan, Janine’s disappearance is a part of their everyday lives.
The “bright, bubbly, vivacious” 31-year-old was last seen getting into a red car after a night out at a pub in the central west NSW town of Bathurst.
What happened next has been a mystery for more than two decades, and the subject of a podcast, dozens of media stories and soon a documentary.
Sometimes Ms Spelde gets recognised by strangers who have seen some of the coverage, who confuse her with Janine.
She said sometimes people saw her sister as a concept, not a real person.
“A lot of the missing people that are out there, they just get labeled as a missing person, and I think people need to start realising that they are somebody’s loved one, someone’s daughter, someone’s mother, and sister,” Ms Spelde said.
She said people were often awkward and unsure how to ask about the investigation.
“It was ‘oh have you found your sister yet?’ like she was this lost dog,” Ms Spelde said.
“When it’s a missing person, it’s an ongoing uncomfortableness that people don’t want to ask.”
She said people would as “oh how’s the case going?” instead of “how are you coping?”.
Mr Vaughan said he remembered Janine as his “big, big, big sister” due to the 12 year age gap between them.
“Because she’s gone missing, we don’t know how to react, because we talk about her everyday,” Mr Vaughan said.
“It’s like she’s still here, it’s like she was just in the door yesterday.”
He said meeting new people always required him to consider how he explained Janine.
He said it was hard to know what to say.
“Do I say oh my sister died? And then it would be ‘oh, poor you’,” he said.
“Or, I’ve got a missing sister, and then the whole conversation for the rest of the night is about my missing sister.”
While the siblings have hope Janine will be found alive, that is not always the case for others.
“On one hand you’ve got the people who talk to you as if she’s just dead, and then that’s it, so they’ve got over it and they’re more worried you,” Mr Vaughan said.
“Then there’s other people that kind of forget that she’s not dead, that we don’t know that she’s dead and if she’s still missing, and they don’t really know how to talk about it, so they kind of forget about her and everything goes on to what we’re doing.”
A 2009 coronial inquest found Janine was suspected to be murdered by an individual.
Her family commissioned a billboard in 2020 which stands on the highway through the center of Bathurst.
It also features the images and information about two other people last seen in the city: 15-year-old Jessica Small, who was abducted in 1997, and Andrew Russell, last seen in 2010.
As National Missing Person’s Week came to an end for 2022, and the attention moved away from the more than 2,500 individuals not seen for at least three months, Ms Spelde said it was the hope of finding out what happened to her sister that kept her going .
“My hope is that I find Janine before I die, before something happens to me,” she said.
“So that’s my drive, that’s where I’m at, I’m like ‘I’ve got to do this’.”
NSW Police have offered a $1 million reward for information to help solve Janine’s disappearance and suspected murder.
“I would love to take that money from the government and make sure somebody’s got it, and it would also shine hope in other missing people’s families, if ours is solved, it gives other families hope,” Mr Vaughan said.
Anyone with any information relating to missing person cases can contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.