Even 20 years on, the pain never subsides for Tracey Howard's family.
Each day is a constant reminder for Janiece Mccarthy that her little sister was taken in the prime of her life.
Now, over two decades since Tracey's brutal murder, Mrs Mccarthy has returned to Ballarat in search for answers.
"I'm not going to sit quiet any longer," she said.
See the emotional interview with Tracey Howard's older sister, Janiece Mccarthy here:
It was a Saturday night like any other on November 21, 1998 for a 33 year-old Tracey and her friends.
After an evening of drinks at her and her partner's home with friends, the group made a spur of the moment decision to head out on the town.
They departed her Brown Hill home at 11pm, en route to The George Hotel. After leaving The George at 1am on Sunday morning, they next headed to Cheers Nightclub (now the Miners Tavern).
At 3.08am Tracey left the nightclub alone and walked to the nearby taxi rank on Lydiard Street. She was picked up and subsequently dropped off in the vicinity of her home that morning.
Her friends never saw her again. Tracey’s naked body was found 17 hours later, strangled and face-up – though not sexually assaulted – in long grass besides Clarkes Hill Road, Pootilla.
The police have yet to charge anyone with her murder.
Janiece says she will never be able to shake the extreme feeling of sorrow she felt on that day.
"It was just devastating, it's not a thing you could ever believe could happen to you," she said.
The two had a very close relationship, even after Janiece moved to Queensland. Being separated by only four years, they shared friends and would spend a lot of time together.
"We had the same friends, we went out together to pubs and parties because there was only four years difference.
"She was actually a bit protective of me, she was a bit tougher than me," Janiece laughed.
"If I was ever in any trouble she'd come to the rescue, those are the sort of things I remembered about her, she was very fun, she loved life and lived it to its fullest."
Her death had an indescribable impact on the family, affecting her mother, her brother and Janiece in different ways.
"My mum had a heart attack not long after it, her health just began to deteriorate straight away. My brother closed himself off to life in general.
"The impact has been very strange on me, I've got a big family and so I've probably just closed it off and dealt with it personally, just by myself."
It was months following her sister's death that Janiece felt the full emotional and physical effect hit her.
"I didn't deal with it for about six months after it because I felt as though I had to be strong for the family and I remember one day at work just collapsing.
"I couldn't drive, I couldn't walk, I couldn't talk and that's how long it had taken to surface for me because I had just been trying to look after everyone else."
It's hard to even believe, even now, 20 years after it's like yesterday, there's no time barrier there, she's just gone and there's nothing left.Janiece Mccarthy
In the years after Tracey's death, her family remained quiet as per the wishes of their mother. Janiece had seldom returned to Ballarat since she lost her sister, however it was a November 2018 visit to the Ballarat General Cemeteries that has spurred her on for answers.
"I've been up to the cemetery quite a lot and when I came back in November for the anniversary I made a promise to myself and to Tracey that now that's it - I think we can't wait any longer, I feel like there's something behind me, I feel like it's Tracey saying 'come on, get off your backside and do something'."
Another major motivator has been getting answers for their mother before she passes away.
"Mum's sick - before anything really bad happens to her I feel like she should know what happened to Tracey."
Now making her visits more frequent, Janiece is ready to leave no stones un-turned in her search for answers.
"It's hard to know where to start. There are a lot of things that police told me at the time but then when I've talked to other people they haven't said the same thing, so nothing is matching which is really weird. I want to do this right."
In her initial searches, she discovered a lot of people involved in the case had died over the 20 years, which was a cause for worry. However, one piece of information circulated by police and media outlets has continued to not sit right with Janiece.
"When I got back and started reading all of the papers and reports, what really got me going was that the police believed that she was murdered in her home, well who was in her home? Why didn't they arrest someone in her home? I imagine that there was only one person there so I think why was (an arrest) left undone?"
While the investigation into the death of Tracey remains unsolved, police are still confident her murder can be solved.
"Despite the passage of time, Homicide Squad detectives are of the belief that her murder can be solved and encourage anyone with information to come forward," a Victoria Police spokesperson said.
"A reward of up to $1 million will be paid at the discretion of the Chief Commissioner of Police, for information leading to the apprehension and subsequent conviction of the person or persons responsible for the death of Tracey Howard."
Anyone with any information is urged to call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or the Homicide Cold Case and Missing Persons Squad on 8690 2606.