The family of a murdered grandmother hope that Wednesday's announcement of a $1 million reward for information will lead to a break in the case, ending more than 30 painful years without answers.
Kathleen Mary Severino, 70, lived alone in a rented weatherboard home at 113 Drummond Street South in Ballarat Central.
On December 31, 1987 - New Year's Eve - Mrs Severino was spotted by her neighbour as she sat on a deckchair on her front porch polishing brass before 8pm.
That was the last time the much-loved community member, mother of three and grandmother was seen alive.
The following day her daughter Glenda, who asked for her surname to be withheld, and her husband Ron arrived at Mrs Severino's home for lunch about 12.30pm.
Walking into the house and looking in the bedroom, they were confronted with a horrific sight.
Glenda discovered her beloved mother, wearing her nightgown, lying on her bed in a pool of blood. Ceramic remnants were scattered beside it.
It is a scene she has never been able to forget.
"It was unbelievable, unimaginable, horrific," Glenda told The Courier.
While the house Mrs Severino had lived in for many years was ransacked, nothing appeared to have been stolen.
Glenda remembers calling out to her husband to call the police but desperate and recalling that time was passing too slowly, she ran down the passageway and picked up the phone herself.
"I remember saying to Ron, 'the phone is dead.' He looked down the side of the wall and saw it had been disconnected," Glenda said.
Reconnecting the phone, Ron called the police. After the first knock on the door - paramedics - the rest is a blur for Glenda.
Murder weapon discovered
As emergency services streamed in and out of the house, she remained in the loungeroom - in complete shock and disbelief at what was unfolding around her.
Investigators believe the murder occurred at some point between 10.30pm and 11.30pm the previous evening, with a witness reporting seeing a male and female in the vicinity of Mrs Severino's home around that time.
An autopsy later revealed Mrs Severino had died from multiple skull fractures, with the murder weapon a ceramic jug that had been a Christmas gift.
Glenda, the youngest of her siblings, had only moved out of her mother's house when she had married several years beforehand.
"We were extremely close and got on so well together. I loved listening to her stories about growing up," she said, adding her mother was born in Clunes.
While remembering her mum as much-loved, kind, generous and funny, the horrifying murder marked the beginning of more than 33 long years of grief and a search for answers for Glenda and her family.
"She was a great mum. She was always there and did anything you asked of her," she recalled.
Mrs Severino's death was distressing for everyone - including her siblings, children and the wider community.
"She was an innocent person sleeping in her bed. There was no reason for anybody to enter that house - she didn't have anything. But she was obviously the unlucky person to be at home that night."
Mrs Severino was mostly deaf and relied on a hearing aid, though she was adept at feeling vibrations in the house.
It is for this reason that Glenda feels her mum wouldn't have heard if somebody entered the home, unless they tripped up the passageway or entered the bedroom where she was sleeping.
"I still don't understand how someone could do this to such a lovely person," she said, adding that her family had never had anything to do with the law prior to the murder.
More than three decades have ticked by, and milestones such as the birth of her son, which she could not share with her mum.
"It has actually been 33 years of hell on earth," Glenda said.
"I couldn't say that I've fully lived and neither have my sister or my brother. [The person/ persons responsible] has completely broken, completely shattered, our family. We still miss mum terribly to this day.
"Every happy event is not as happy as it could be because you feel disrespectful when you smile."
In articles written in this newspaper at the time, police stated that they believed Mrs Severino could have been murdered during an attempted burglary, with a possible link to three other burglaries in the Drummond Street South area that same night.
In all three of these burglaries, the offender had attempted to gain entry through a window and police found similar evidence of attempted forced entry at Mrs Severino's house.
An attempt had been made to force open a side window. Police found the rear door of the house unlocked.
Charges laid in 1990
Over the years, Glenda has learned more about a suspect and co-suspect in the case.
The main suspect at the time, Craig Edward Meizys, then 17, had been at the Langi Kal Kal Youth Training Centre, but had been transported to a hospital in Ballarat for medical treatment for an arm injury, she said.
It was from there, Glenda believes, he escaped to a flat. Seeking drugs and alcohol, it is believed he ventured out with the intention to burgle houses around the area Mrs Severino lived.
It is believed Mrs Severino's home was one which was targeted. Returning to the flat, it is believed he then headed out to bring in the New Year in the central business district.
In the weeks after the murder, police released an artist's impression of a youth they were looking to question, aged 17. He had been seen in the area on the morning of New Year's Day.
In July 1990, the then 19-year-old Meizys was charged with Mrs Severino's murder.
After being arrested in Melbourne, the former Haddon man was charged and remanded.
Alongside the murder charge, he was also charged with three counts each of burglary and theft.
In October that year, the Pentridge Prison inmate was further remanded in custody after appearing at the Melbourne Magistrates' Court.
It came after police applied for more time to prepare their case, with Meizys ordered to return to court on December 4.
However police say the charges were withdrawn before the matter went to trial after a witness revoked their evidence.
Meizys died in 2017 as a result of what police have described as "a medical incident" but investigators are still determined to uncover the full picture of what happened that New Year's Eve.
Meizys and one of his former associates remain people of interest in the investigation, which the Homicide Squad has reviewed several times during the past three decades.
Detectives are also keeping their lines of enquiry open and believe it is possible that those responsible for Mrs Severino's death may not yet have been identified.
Noting that she is sure police tried their best, Glenda said the fact the man charged with her mother's murder was able to walk out of the courtroom "really hurt".
"It was unforgivable at the time," she said.
Fresh appeal for information
While the case has been passed from detective to detective and nobody has yet been convicted of the crime, Glenda said she would continue to push for justice for her mother.
"She was a beautiful person, the kindest, law abiding person you could possibly get and to have this happen is just so unjust.
"There's no way mum could be at peace - we won't get closure, we'll never get that, but we just want some sort of justice."
Glenda has made numerous appeals during the course of the investigation for anyone with information to share it with police and hopes the reward will be some incentive.
"We just want to know. We just want answers so we can live our lives and remember the beautiful times that we had with mum, but every memory, it's always in the background, always there."
Police have issued a fresh appeal for public assistance in an effort to gather more information.
On Wednesday, detectives will announce a $1 million reward in exchange for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for the murder.
Detective Inspector Andrew Stamper said the reward was being put on the table to help detectives identify, arrest and convict those responsible.
Despite more than 30 years passing since her murder, he said it was not too late for Mrs Severino's family to get the justice they deserved.
Detective Inspector Stamper said people who committed or were involved in horrific crimes often disclosed their actions to someone and he urged them to come forward.
"Despite the decades that have passed there is every reason to believe someone out there today knows what happened to Kathleen and who is responsible."
"Police will not stop until we get closure for Kathleen's family, which can only be achieved by holding the individual or persons responsible for the brutal death of a much-loved grandmother to account."
Mrs Severino's home was demolished in 1988 to make way for a playground extension to St Patrick's Primary School.
Anyone with information that could assist investigators is urged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or submit a report online at www.crimestoppersvic.com.au