By Kate Leaver
Last year WA Police said several new persons of interest had been identified in the Gerard Ross case. (Supplied: WA Police)
Schoolboy Gerard Ross was abducted while on holiday in Rockingham on October 14, 1997. The 11-year-old’s body was found dumped in a pine plantation two weeks later.
A murder investigation at the time, and a cold-case review launched in 2014, have yet to see anyone charged despite police saying in 2017 several “persons of interest” had been identified.
But today — on the 21st anniversary of his disappearance — the WA Government has announced an overhaul of its rewards system that it is hoping could lead to a breakthrough.
Police Minister Michelle Roberts said $250,000 was now being offered to anyone with information that leads to a conviction in the case.
The overhaul has also seen rewards increased in relation to 10 other cold case homicides or suspicious disappearances.
These include the shooting murder of Shirley Finn in 1975, the disappearance of 20-year-old Sarah McMahon in 2000, and the suspected murder of Collie schoolgirl Lisa Mott in 1980.
Rewards need to be ‘life-changing’
Ms Roberts said the changes were necessary as the rewards on offer in WA had fallen behind other states.
“There were a variety of rewards in place from $20,000 up to $250,000 … and we’ve come up with a broader policy of posting them all at $250,000,” she said.
“We need that amount of money on offer to be a life-changing amount for someone to provoke someone to come forward.
“I think this will provide a bit of comfort to some of those families that have a lost loved one.”
Community ‘sickened and saddened’ by boy’s murder
She said rewards were valuable tools in cases where investigators believed new witnesses could come forward.
“I’m keen to support police with the offer of rewards to help apprehend offenders and bring justice to grieving families,” she said.
“The hotchpotch system of disparate rewards we inherited needed review and I wanted to ensure we kept pace with other jurisdictions.
“Hopefully the offer of a quarter-of-a-million-dollar reward may be incentive enough to get someone to come forward with information that leads to an arrest in the Gerard Ross case.”
Ms Roberts said the Gerard Ross case had “sickened and saddened” a lot of people over the last 21 years.
She said there was also scope under the changes for larger rewards.
“We’ve signalled as a Cabinet we are prepared to accept rewards of up to $1 million, for particularly shocking crimes where police believe that a significant amount would make a difference,” she said.
A local business printed hundreds of missing person flyers that volunteers distributed. (ABC News)