The friend of a girl murdered in 1998 says she still becomes tearful.
The friend of a girl murdered in 1998 says she still becomes tearful. Crystal Jones

Victim's body still hidden, but friend will never forget

EIGHTEEN years have passed since the death of her friend, but time has done little to dull the heartache for Bec Marks.

Rebecca Richardson was last seen at the Gin Gin Santa Fair in 1998.

The 15-year-old's father had recently died, leaving her and her younger sister in the care of friends, including a man who would later be jailed for his role in her death.

Rebecca had been due to fly to England the following day to be with family, but friends, including Bec, became worried when she failed to show up to a party.

"When she went missing, me and a group of friends went to the police to say she was missing, it wasn't like her. She was meant to come to a party after the Santa Fair and never showed up. And she never claimed her ticket (to London)," Bec said.

"At the time she went missing she was staying with friends and she was going there to get the key to her father's house to go and get a few belongings from her house ... she never made it."

Rebecca's body has never been found. No one has ever been charged with her murder.

Jodie Martin Stephen Van Der Vegt pleaded guilty to being an accessory after the fact and was sentenced to eight years' imprisonment on September 23, 2002.

The sentencing judge recommended that he be considered for post-prison community-based release after two years and eight months.

The attorney-general at the time, Paul De Jersey, appealed the early release on the grounds it was manifestly inadequate.

The Chief Justice granted the appeal, with parole to be considered after serving four years.

During court proceedings, Van Der Vegt admitted to helping dispose of Rebecca's body.

During court proceedings, Van Der Vegt admitted to helping dispose of Rebecca's body.

He was also found to have given false information to the deceased's friends and of lying to police for more than two-and-a-half years, including suggesting Rebecca was still alive.

Van Der Vegt's wife initially protected him but later turned him in, telling police he told her he had witnessed the murder and helped bury the body at a local dump.

Ms Marks still thinks of her friend often and says she supports the LNP's policy to deny parole to convicted killers who fail to disclose the location of the body.

"As friends of hers you just don't think something like that can happen in your town, to your friend. It still breaks my heart, even though it was so long ago and I often get quite teary when I think about it," she said.

"It's not right that he (the killer) should get away with not letting her have a farewell."

As school friends, the two were often referred to as B1 and B2, spending weekends and holidays together. When Rebecca went missing, however, the two weren't speaking - something Ms Marks regrets to this day.

"It was quite heartbreaking when it happened because I wasn't talking to her and never got to talk to her again," she said.

Ms Marks said she felt for Rebecca's mother and sister.

"I can't imagine the heartbreak she goes through thinking about where her daughter is, the last moments of her life. It's horrible," she said.

"He (Van Der Vegt) told them that he put her here, put her there ... he was playing a game. I said to my friend before we stopped talking, be careful. Something about him irked me. I didn't like him."

Rebecca was much loved in the Gin Gin township and her murder hit residents hard.

"Everybody knew her and it sort of shook the whole community for quite some time," Ms Marks said.

"She was the life of the party, she was everyone's friend. She was a beautiful person. She worked, she loved her life, she was just the best friend you could have. And he (the killer) held no regard for her life because he took it.

"I still picture what she went through in her last moments. She would have been so terrified and she would have known it was the end and there was nothing she could do about it. She was very naive, she didn't think bad things could happen."



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