"You would think it would be easier after 30 years but it's definitely not."
Friday, September 10 marks 30 years since 22-year-old nurse Nina Nicholson was brutally murdered on the back verandah of her Suburban Street home in Clunes.
It will be a particularly challenging anniversary for her grieving parents, whose hopes for answers that might have come through the coroner conducting another inquest into the 1991 death were dashed.
Nina's mother, Ann Jones, is desperate for her daughter not to be forgotten and still prays that she will receive answers.
Despite three decades passing since her daughter was killed and a $1 million reward for information, nobody has ever been charged with the crime.
"I get very angry because 30 years ago Nina was taken from us and this person is still walking around. It's not right," she said.
But Ms Jones said she and her husband, Spike, were still holding onto hope that justice would be served in their lifetime.
She detailed waking up every single morning with the hope the day ahead would bring a break in the case.
Nina's parents have continued to live in the small town of Clunes since the murder, but it has been exceptionally difficult for them as the streets spark memories of their daughter and her tragic death.
"It has affected our life. It changed our lives all together," Ms Jones said. "It's not easy but we are still here.
When you lose a child, it's like someone takes a great big heap out of your insides. There is a big hole left.Ann Jones
"When you lose a child, it's like someone takes a great big heap out of your insides. There is a big hole left. We find it very, very hard."
Nina lived with her husband Robert - known as Nick - in Clunes. Nick was a truck driver at the time, meaning he would often be away from home.
So when Nina started to get the eerie feeling that somebody was lurking in her garden on the nights he was away, the normally happy and bubbly young woman was filled with fear.
Nina did not wish to unnecessarily worry her loved ones with the information so kept it to herself - until one night when she was physically shaken, waking her parents in the middle of the night with a frantic phone call.
From then on, when Nick was away, Nina stayed with her parents and younger brother Andrew.
September 10, 1991, was a cold and stormy night. Nina had eaten dinner at her parents' house ahead of a night shift at the children's ward at St John of God Hospital in Ballarat.
She left the family home around 8pm to make the short two minute drive to her own home to get changed into her uniform before her shift started at 9.30pm.
While her parents worried about their daughter travelling in the storm, Nina reassured them that she would be fine.
So when a worried friend called Nina's parents not long after her shift had started, expressing concern that the usually diligent Nina was not at the hospital, her parents feared she had been in a car accident.
Her father and brother Andrew, then 17, immediately jumped in their car to search for Nina. Driving past her home, they saw her white Nissan was parked in the driveway.
It was then the headlights lit up Nina lying face down on the porch. She was dressed in her nurse's uniform, with her keys in her hand.
With Spike unable to find a pulse on Nina's battered body, he instructed Andrew to unlock the house and phone for the police and an ambulance, while he sped home to pick up Ann.
Arriving back at Nina's house, Ann pulled her daughter into her lap. Nina took her last breath, cradled in her mother's arms.
Arriving at the scene, a neighbour and the local policeman attempted CPR but Nina could not be saved.
Related coverage: Campaign calling for further investigation into cold case murder
Related coverage: Hope endures for parents of slain nurse Nina Nicholson
Ms Jones tries to remember her daughter as the generous, loving and caring person she was. She tries to remember her during "the happy times", such as when she graduated from her nursing course and the day she was married.
"But I'm afraid all I can think of is the last moment, when she was lying dead in my arms. I can't get that out of my mind," she told The Courier.
"The only thing that keeps me going is praying each night that God gives me enough strength to get through the next day. That's what I've been doing for 30 years."
Ms Jones believes the perpetrator stalked her daughter for some time before she was murdered.
"I feel he was infatuated with her and he took the opportunity that night and things got out of control, but she fought."
She strongly believes there are people who know what happened that night and have the evidence which could be used to charge the perpetrator.
She hopes they will come forward to give the family long-awaited answers.
"It's all I can hope for - I just want to know why," she said.
I know who's responsible for it and so do other members of the homicide squad. There must be someone else in the community who has the evidence that can come forward.Ron Iddles
Speaking on Australian True Crime Podcast, veteran detective Ron Iddles said that failure was "not an option".
"I know who's responsible for it and so do other members of the homicide squad. There must be someone else in the community who has the evidence that can come forward.
"When I say failure is not an option, they will continue to work on the murder but there are people in the Clunes community who hold the key to it."
No new inquest
Nina's second cousin, Alice Mitchell, ran a campaign for justice for Nina for about two years.
After combing through the documents from the 1993 inquest, speaking with community members and others connected to the case, she lodged an eight page document with the Coroner's Court requesting a new inquest in April 2020.
In this application, she listed all the reasons she felt a new inquest should be undertaken.
"It was a combination of me hitting the pavement and speaking to people who had been involved in the case or local people who had heard things. I'd been given access to the original coronial inquest and had noted inconsistencies and unfollowed leads.
"It made me strongly feel that another inquest would have been able to change the findings to a particular person who most likely did it," she said.
"Even if there is not enough evidence to result in a conviction, I strongly feel there is enough to change the outcome of the coronial inquest, which would at least provide some answers."
But in July last year, she received a call from the homicide squad saying they had received the request but had advised the coroner they don't believe it was in the best interest of the case to conduct a new inquest.
"It took a lot of energy, time and money to collate that information and it was a huge blow. I was quite gob smacked."
She has not yet received an official letter from the Coroner about the decision.
A spokesperson for Victoria Police said that "despite an exhaustive investigation, Nina's murder remains unsolved".
Homicide Squad detectives reiterated the $1 million reward announced in 2016 was still on offer and encouraged anyone with information to come forward.
"A reward of up to $1 million dollars 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 Nina Nicholson.
"The Director of Public Prosecutions will consider, according to established guidelines, the granting of indemnification from prosecution to any person who provides information as to the identity of the principal offender or offenders in this matter."
They said the investigation was ongoing and would continue until those responsible were identified and brought to justice.
"Any new pieces of information provided to police will be thoroughly investigated.
"While any further inquest is ultimately a matter for the Coroner, while the matter remains within the criminal jurisdiction the integrity of that investigation will always be our priority.
"Police are mindful that once information from an active investigation is raised in an open forum such as court, it can potentially have an impact on our ability to resolve the criminal case down the track."
Anyone with information is urged to call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or visit www.crimestoppersvic.com.au"