Michelle Pogmore, who was 14, was found dead in a bush near the Town Centre Reserve in Mount Druitt on February 22, 2004. It has been almost 18 years since then.
There is still a $100,000 reward for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the people who killed Michelle.
Michelle Pogmore was a smart, happy, and brilliant girl who loved to read and thought she lived in a fairy tale. She left a mark on the people she met. A year before she died, she was in the hospital after a bike accident and played with her two-year-old roommate. Many of the police in Mount Druitt and the community programmes there knew her, and their hearts broke when they heard about her death. Michelle also worked hard as a child. She spent time in Mount Druitt with older kids. She didn’t run away; her family loved her very much. But the people she hung out with in Mount Druitt may know how she will die.
Michelle was raped eight weeks before she died, which may have been a sign of why she died. Michelle said that the man who raped her was between 50 and 60 years old and that she didn’t know him. She was in the hospital for a long time after the attack. There’s no sign that police ever found the person who attacked Michelle, but they did look into what happened before she went missing. Michelle was well-known to regional police and community services. So many people and groups tried to help her, but she fell through the cracks and was killed there.
Michelle’s mother, Kathy Nowland, last saw her on Thursday, February 19, 2004, in the afternoon at their home in Bidwill, near Mount Druitt. Michelle was upset when she got home from school, but when her mother gave her a new pair of pink and blue running shoes, she felt better. Michelle put on her new shoes with pride and told her mother she was going to Mount Druitt to shop. When she didn’t come back, Ms. Nowland told the police that her daughter was missing. CCTV caught Michelle in Mount Druitt early the next morning. She was wearing a dark sweatshirt, white track pants, and her new shoes.
No one knows where Michelle went or what she did after she was seen in the mall on February 20.
Someone must have seen her or spent time with her, but whoever it was has never caught up. That night, Michelle was seen at a street party in Bidwill that was held to promote a Centrelink youth outreach programme. Someone wrote on Michelle’s mother’s Facebook page that Michelle got into an argument at the party. But there’s nothing else. We have no idea where Michelle went or what she was thinking. Who hurt her like this?
On Sunday morning, February 22, her body was found near the sports fields at the Mount Druitt Town Centre reserve. She was naked below the waist, and her white track pants and brand-new shoes had vanished. No one has ever found them. Over the weekend, temperatures reached up to 45°C, and Michelle’s body was too rotten to figure out how, when, or where she died. A DNA sample was taken, and it is expected that one day it will match. Police looked into it, but it was a huge job without forensic evidence or witnesses, so the trial ended up not going anywhere. Michelle’s family doesn’t blame the police for not putting a suspect in jail. In fact, Michelle’s mother brings a hamper to the Mount Druitt police station every Christmas to say thank you and follow up on any tips.
There haven’t been enough leads. We don’t know very much. Why did Michelle do what she did? Why the silence wall? What was she doing on February 20, 2004? Who saw her at the party on Bidwill? Who hurts her and whose body was left in the town reserve? Was it a person from the party, someone she knew from hanging out on the streets of Mount Druitt, or just a random person from outside? Was her death related to the rape that happened two months before, or was it caused by something else?
The Coroner didn’t rule out the possibility that Michelle’s death wasn’t caused by someone else. But common sense tells us that 13-year-old girls don’t take their clothes off below the waist, hide their pants and shoes so they can’t be found, and then lie down and die. If her injury was some kind of accident, like because she was drunk at a party, why was she half-naked? And most importantly, why hasn’t anyone come forward to end the suffering of her family by telling them?
The NSW police recently announced that they will look into all of the unsolved murders in the state. We hope Michelle’s case can be looked at again. The science of DNA is always getting better, and a match was found for the DNA that her killer left on her body. Or a big reward, or their conscience, will get someone with information about her death to tell the police what they need to make an arrest. Anyone who was keeping quiet because they were afraid of getting in trouble for things they did as a teen needs to speak up now. Michelle has been dead for more time than she lived. That’s a long time to keep such terrible things a secret. Everyone who liked Michelle, including her mother Kathy Nowland and father Gary Pogmore, deserves answers. Michelle’s right to justice is the most important thing. Who hurt a little girl this way? Something must be known by someone.