Jane Furlong's family thought they would never see her again.
Yesterday her ghost returned, reigniting investigations into a 19-year-old cold case murder after police identified her skeleton pulled from sand dunes.
Furlong, 17, a part-time sex worker, went missing from Auckland's Karangahape Rd in 1993. Her remains were found on Sunset Beach at Port Waikato, south of Auckland, last month by a woman walking her dog.
Yesterday police revealed DNA tests on the skeleton had linked to Furlong.
Detective Inspector Mark Gutry said her family were devastated.
"We notified the next of kin first and obviously that's a sad day for them today, that last bit of hope has been taken away from them.''
Her family include son Aidan, only six months old when his mother disappeared.
Warwick Furlong, Jane's uncle, said the family did not think police would ever find her.
"We didn't really think that anything would ever happen. She'd gone and that was it."
Furlong's half-brother Dean Tooman said he was happy at the news his sister had been found.
He said his father Michael Furlong died in 2009 after turning to drink and depression following his daughter's disappearance.
Not being able to find Jane had "pissed him off even more'', he said.
Furlong wrote an autobiography at age 15 in which she described her parents separating and being given up to child care when she was aged five.
She wrote of suicide attempts and binge drinking to escape her demons, but said she had ambitions to better herself: "I think everyone should have dreams and goals which they can work for, however high they may seem.
"My main ambition in life is to become a child psychologist. It's something I know I'll do well at and I'm willing to work hard to achieve my goal.
"I feel better now that my attitude has changed. I no longer want to die, I want to live and fulfil my every dream and hope."
When she disappeared, Furlong was due to testify as a witness for the prosecution in two separate cases - one involved gang members accused of an assault, the other a businessman charged with brutal attacks on sex workers.
She was preparing for her court appearance with police the day before she disappeared.
Police declined to comment yesterday on whether her skeleton showed any signs of physical trauma, and would not give descriptions of items found with the remains.
The cause of death was "inconclusive".
They said their investigation was re-examining suspects they had identified in the crime in the 1990s.
Detective Inspector Mark Benefield said: "Police have always believed she disappeared in suspicious circumstances.''
Police were concentrating on whether Furlong died soon after she disappeared.
He said the investigation was also trying to establish the significance of Port Waikato.
"It's a lovely area and a long way out from where Jane was last seen," he said.
"We've got a team today walking around in the rain trying to find who lived here and the history around the area."
Benefield said since Furlong went missing police had carried out hundreds of inquiries during two main investigation phases, the first in 1993 and again in 1996.
- © Fairfax NZ News
Should we raise the retirement age?