Who killed Gerard Ross? 20 years on, his killer is still out there

Twenty years ago, an 11-year-old boy on his way to a comic book shop on a sunny Monday morning was snatched from a Rockingham street and murdered.

What makes the case of Gerard Ross all the more tragic is that police believe there are people in the WA community who know what happened, who hold vital information, but have remained silent.

Saturday, October 14 marks exactly 20 years that Gerard's young life was taken away.

Two decades on, the person or persons responsible are still evading justice for their heinous crime.

To mark the 20-years, WAtoday has spent the past several weeks speaking to a range of people in an effort to jog memories, but also to encourage those who do know what happened to finally come forward and clear their conscience for good.

They could hold the vital and final clue to catching a child killer. All they have to do is speak up.

Those who agreed to share their painful memories of the tragic event are former police officers, as well as local Rockingham residents and politicians, including Premier Mark McGowan.

It was on the morning of October 14, 1997 that Gerard was abducted near Kent Street in Rockingham as he walked to a comic book store.

His brother, who was on roller blades, went ahead having agreed to meet Gerard there.

But Gerard never arrived.

His body was found in Karnup, not far from Rockingham, on October 28, 1997.

A small amount of money given to him by his mother was reportedly still in his pocket.

The only personal item never found of his was his New York Yankees baseball cap, similar to the one pictured below. It remains a key line of inquiry for police.

A replica of the baseball cap Gerard was wearing.

Gerard and his family lived in the Pilbara town of Newman but were on holidays in Rockingham, staying at 105 Kent Street.

The last confirmed sighting of Gerard was "in the vicinity" of 99 Kent Street, just a few doors down.

'I did hear a story and I did pass it onto police'

At the time of Gerard's murder, Mr McGowan was living in the Rockingham suburb of Safety Bay.

He'd been in State Parliament for less than a year after being elected to the seat of Rockingham in December 1996.

In an interview with WAtoday, Mr McGowan revealed how he received information about Gerard's murder, which he had cause to pass onto detectives investigating the case at the time.

Mr McGowan said about 18 months after Gerard's body was found, a "version of events" about what may have happened to the youngster was passed onto him by a local constituent.

"I did hear a story and I did pass it onto the police," Mr McGowan said.

"It was about some fellow.

"It was a version of events, a story given to me by a constituent and I then passed it onto the police.

"They did follow up the story that I had heard.

"They (the police) rang me back to say that they followed it up."

Mr McGowan said the atmosphere in the town at the time of Gerard's murder was a mixture of shock and fear.

"My recollection was there was a bit of shock something like that could happen in Rockingham," he said.

"There was a bit of fear and sadness.

"It was traumatic."

Mr McGowan recalled how he briefly met Gerard's distraught parents at a church service in Rockingham, a few days after his body was found.

"I said my name and I said how sorry I was, I shook their hands, the mother didn't say anything, the father just said 'thank you'," Mr McGowan said.

"It was one of those occasions where you meet people and you sort of try and think of things to say, but whatever you say really doesn't make much difference.

"I was a relatively young guy then, so it was all new to me having that senior community role."

Mr McGowan said he was confident police were still doing everything they could to solve the case.

"I do have confidence that everything that can be done, will be done," he said.

"Whoever did this, deserves to be caught and deserves to spend the rest of their life in jail."

'It was almost someone had just spirited him away'

Ex-cop and former Labor minister Bob Kucera was the Commander of the Fremantle police district in 1997, which at the time took in the Rockingham area.

Although he was not in charge of the day to day running of the original investigation - codenamed Operation Shoalwater - he had overall supervision of the inquiry for a period of time.

"It was a unique case in that it was something that hadn't happened before, a young boy going missing," Mr Kucera recalled.

"It was almost (as if) someone had just spirited him away.

"We put a big team down there and they did a lot of intensive investigating.

"They spoke to virtually everybody that lived in that entire area.

"It had a profound effect on all those detectives who had kids around the same age."

'Why would you want to do that to a wee boy?'

When WAtoday visited Kent Street several weeks ago many residents could remember the day the 11-year-old went missing just like it were yesterday.

A couple who have lived on the street since 1994 recounted how they went out for a morning walk on the day Gerard was taken.

Tragically, they believe they missed seeing him by a matter of minutes on their return home.

The couple, who did not want to be named, said they still thought about the 11-year-old and his family constantly.

"It was just terrible, just horrendous," the woman said.

"It just devastated everyone down here.

"We were walking back home on the day he was taken and we must have just missed him.

"We just wish we had seen something.

"I think about them (the family) all the time.

"Why would you want to do that to a wee boy?"

City of Rockingham mayor Barry Sammels described the case as a tragedy.

"I encourage anyone who has any information about what may have happened all those years ago to contact Crime Stoppers and help bring closure to this tragic event," Mr Sammels said.

Gerard had been a student at South Newman Primary School.

A painting entitled "Gerard's Flowers" - pictured below - was erected in the school's reception area.

A plaque in his memory was also installed in the school's playground.

It reads: "Quiet place. Sit in the shade of the mango trees and enjoy the fruits they bear."

A painting dedicated to Gerard at South Newman Primary School.

In January this year police held a press conference in Rockingham to announce they had new leads in the case.

Detectives from the Cold Case Homicide Squad said they had carried out a comprehensive review of the case file which had given them not only new lines of inquiry but also several "new persons of interest."

"Whilst police have spoken to almost 1200 witnesses during this investigation we believe there are others with information who have not yet come forward for their own reasons," Acting Detective Inspector Jon Munday said in January.

"We ask those people to re-consider their position given the passage of time and potential changes in allegiances and circumstances."

The fresh appeal resulted in a positive response from the public and within two days more than 70 calls were made to Crime Stoppers.

However the ultimate breakthrough of charges being laid against someone for the crime still eludes police, for now.

A police poster with information about Gerard's murder.

Acting Detective Inspector Quentin Flatman told WAtoday Gerard's murder still remained an "open and active" case with the Cold Case Homicide Squad.

He said the new lines of inquiry which came about from the 2014 review continued to be followed up.

"A public appeal for information in January this year also generated a number of calls to Crime Stoppers. Investigations arising from the review and the calls to Crime Stoppers continue," he said.

Detective Flatman reminded people who have information about Gerard's abduction and murder could remain anonymous.

"Their information, however insignificant it may seem may help bring Gerard's killer or killers to justice," he said.

Anyone with information regarding Gerard's abduction and murder should contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

A $100,000 reward for information leading to a conviction still stands.

The story Who killed Gerard Ross? 20 years on, his killer is still out there first appeared on WA Today.

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