Not a day goes by for Kevin Docherty when he does not think about his twin sister Kay who went missing more than 40 years ago.
Missing Persons Week, from August 2 to 8, is particularly tough for the Warilla resident but he knows if he wants to keep Kay's case alive then he needs to talk about the pain of her disappearance, and likely murder.
Despite being only 16-years-old at the time, Mr Docherty has a very clear memory of the events of that fateful day and the lasting impact it had on his heartbroken parents.
It follows him where ever he goes.
He sometimes looks at people and thinks, 'was it you?', 'did you do it?'.
But he tries not to dwell on his loss, rather preferring to lead as normal life as possible.
Mr Docherty tries to be thankful for every day as he knows how easy it is for everything to change.
Kay Docherty, then aged 16, and Toni Cavanagh, then aged 15, were last seen on July 27, 1979 around 7.30pm.
There was a sighting of the schoolgirls at Bulli Tops, shortly afterwards and no confirmed sightings since.
"We came home from Lake Illawarra High School and Kay asked Mum if she could stay with a friend Toni, who was more of an associate, that night to help her babysit," Mr Docherty said.
"Mum said no. We weren't allowed to stay out anywhere.
"My sister went into her room and started crying.
"Mum told Kay she could go for only two or three hours while I was at band practice. I was to take her and pick her up on my pushbike.
"It was the first time she was allowed out on her own. She was scared of the dark."
Mr Docherty said he finished band practice about 8.30pm and rode to Toni's place where, to his surprise, her stepmother told him the girls had gone to the movies.
"I only found out last year that Toni had spoken to her friends at school and asked them to go out that night but none of the girls were allowed," he said.
"She had asked Kay to help babysit, that was all she knew because if it was anything else there was no way would my sister would have gone. She wouldn't have gone to Wollongong or a disco."
Police believe the girls were on their way to the Wollongong CBD to attend a dance, but it's not known whether they ever made it.
"We had a good home life and she didn't run away," Mr Docherty said.
He stayed in the area looking for Kay, hoping she would appear but that never happened.
"I kept thinking, 'how am I going to tell Mum?'," Mr Docherty said.
The teen broke the news to his Mum, Jean, when he arrived home and she immediately panicked.
She started calling the mothers of Kay's friends before they walked to the police station a few hours later, where they were told to come back in 24 and 48 hours.
"Mum didn't sleep that night. She left the outside light on. That stayed on for years," Mr Docherty said.
"We were sitting around waiting. It was eerie in the house.
"I struggled to sleep for weeks after she disappeared. I had nightmares that something bad had happened to Kay.
"At no stage did I think she was safe."
"Until we get a resolution or answers I will continue to ask 'why?'"Kevin Docherty
Mr Docherty believes his sister was likely murdered, which is what a Coroner ruled during a 2013 Coronal inquest.
The days and weeks that followed were incredibly hard for the Docherty family, who searched for around the Wollongong area, called every community organisation, charities and friends before Mr Docherty's father went to Sydney to put up posters.
Then a glimmer of hope appeared in the form of a handwritten note sent from Darlinghurst that said Kay was staying with friends in Sydney, would be "home soon" and that she loved her family.
However, after studying the letter, the family knew it wasn't written by Kay as the handwriting was different and there were spelling errors.
"Kay was regarded as a runaway. Nothing happened with the police for years. That was terrible," Mr Docherty said.
"That was the way times were. Now looking back, they could have done more if they acted earlier.
"Who knows, she could be alive today.
"Until we get a resolution or answers I will continue to ask 'why?'"
The family tried to return to as normal life as possible but it was never the same. They would always hope she would come home one day.
"There was nowhere we could go where people weren't talking her disappearance," Mr Docherty said.
"Still to this day, especially during Missing Persons Week, people stop me in the street."
"We always tried to remain positive. My job at 16 was to console my Mum.
"For years after, I didn't want to leave Mum alone. For many years I didn't leave the house."
Mr Docherty promised his mother while on her death bed that he would always hold out hope Kay, who would now be 57-years-old, would return and he would always "keep looking".
He wishes he has a resolution so he can finally move on and lay his sister to rest.
"If she had been murdered and there was evidence and a body then we could have accepted it but that was never to be, especially never for my Mum and Dad," he said.
"For a parent to lose a child and not have any answers is the hardest thing a parent could ever go through."
Mr Docherty said he still gets contacted up to six times a year from people who may have information or believe they have seen Kay, but no report has been credible.
The South Coast Martial Arts Centre owner said he was glad a new Missing Persons Registry had been created last year. The investigative team have been digitising old case files.
He was told his sister's case would be the number one priority however that was four months ago and he has not heard from the team since.
"Missing Persons Week is always hard to get through," Mr Docherty said. "I don't dwell on it. I know it is always coming but it is hard to prepare for.
"There is never day I don't think about her but I don't dwell on it because otherwise I would be in an early grave like my Mum and Dad."
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