TRIGGER WARNING: This article contains references to sexual assault and murder.
On February 27, 1999, 17-year-old Michelle Bright left a birthday party with a friend. At 12.45 am, she was dropped off outside the town’s Commercial Hotel on Herbert St, Gulgong, near Mudgee NSW. This was the last time she was seen alive.
Three days later, Bright’s body was found with her handbag nearby, in the long grass near train tracks on Barney’s Reef Road, less than a kilometre from her own home. She had been sexually assaulted and murdered.
An inquest into her death in 2014, heard that she was probably “suffocated or strangled” and her bra, which had been found near her body, had ‘clearly been both cut and torn”.
Detective Inspector Cameron Whiteside led the inquiry into her death and believed that someone in her home town knew the identity of the killer.
On August 10, 2020, NSW police declared a $1 million reward for information that would lead to the capture of Bright’s killer.
According to 9News, a red XF Falcon wagon known to be in the area at the time was placed as an item of interest, with NSW homicide detectives also concluding that her murder could be linked to other unsolved sex crimes around the area.
On August 17, police offered a $1 million reward for anyone with information to come forward and Michelle’s mother, Lorraine Bright, made a public plea for her daughter.
Saying that she had lived a “nightmare” for the past 21-years, she recalled the night her daughter went missing.
“That night I sat out in the drizzly rain in the driveway, waiting for her to come home,” she said at a press conference. “I knew then that things weren’t good. I knew then in my heart I had lost her because it’s a small country town.”
“She was a beautiful kid … she was my soulmate. We were very lucky to have her for 17 years. I personally, in my own heart, think that she might have known him.”
A lengthy re-investigation had taken place as part of Strike Force Mitcham II, to find Bright’s attacker and on August 11, 2020, detectives arrested former abattoir worker, Craig Henry Rumsby, 53, in Mudgee.
Rumsby, who denied murdering Bright when asked by Nine News, was charged with murder in the early hours of August 12 and will face Mudgee local court that same day.