Australian police are offering tens of millions of dollars in rewards for crucial information on unsolved murders and suspicious disappearances around the country.
Police in NSW, Queensland, Victoria, the ACT, South Australia and Western Australia all administer dedicated programs to reward those who provide the crucial information to solve prominent cold cases.
The Huffington Post Australia contacted every state and territory police jurisdiction in Australia, but most responses dodged questions on the exact monetary value of rewards on offer.
However, rewards publicly advertised show the NSW Police Force currently is offering in excess of $10 million for almost 90 unsolved cases; the ACT Police have $1 million for four cases; South Australian police are offering $13 million for 13 unsolved cases; and the Victorian Police Force have at least $18 million for information on cold cases.
The latest reward offered in NSW, announced last Monday, is $100,000 for information on the suspicious death of 21-month-old Hunter region toddler Jordan William Thompson in March 2005.
“We are hopeful this $100,000 reward offer will help them find out who is responsible for Jordan’s death,” Deputy Premier and Minister for Police Troy Grant said.
Rewards are used by police to encourage people with knowledge of unsolved crimes to come forward.
The vast majority of rewards around Australia are offered for information on murders or disappearances, but financial sweeteners are also available for information on attempted murders, arson attacks, bush fires, kidnappings, hit-and-run incidents and suspicious deaths. The alleged crimes occurred from as recent as a few years ago, to as far back as the 1960s.
"We see that over time, environment changes, friendships and or relationships can dissolve. People’s motivation for providing information can also change. Sometimes the issuing of a reward or just bringing the case back into the public conscience again can encourage people to come forward and provide information," a Victoria Police spokesperson told HuffPost Australia.
"It is our hope that as the circumstances in the lives of people who have information about these types of crimes changes, that they do come forward and provide that information to police. Rewards send a clear message that we are determined to bring those responsible to justice."
ACT and South Australian police spokespeople cited the same logic.
"Rewards [are offered in] cold cases where all other reasonable lines of enquiry have been exhausted and it is possible that a member of the public may be able to provide information leading to a successful prosecution," ACT police said.
"Police hope that the offer of these substantial rewards will encourage someone with intimate knowledge in each case to come forward with that vital information, and in turn bring some peace to the families involved," SA police said.
Each state has its own process for deciding which cases will have rewards attached to them and how much the reward bounty will be, but a uniform stipulation is that the information offered by a member of the public must be significant and help in the successful prosecution or closure of a case.
"Rewards for serious crimes can only be considered... when all other avenues of inquiry have been exhausted and the investigation has stalled," Victorian Police said.
"The criteria for a reward payment is outlined in the reward notice itself. In regards to a murder investigation it would generally be along the lines of information leading to the apprehension and subsequent conviction of the person or persons responsible for the death of these persons. Rewards will only be paid at the conclusion of all court proceedings."
Rewards range from as little as $10,000 to $1 million. NSW currently has one single reward of $500,000 for information on the 1999 death of Gulgong woman Michelle Bright, with seven rewards of $250,000 for several murders, disappearances and a kidnapping; Victorian police have a number of $1 million purses on offer for information on a range of murders down the years; while the ACT has four rewards of $500,000 for four separate murders.
In South Australia in 2014, police took the major step of assigning million dollar rewards to 13 unsolved murders and disappearances of children.
“These rewards reiterates our ongoing commitment to the families. A case is never closed until solved, and should be a warning to those responsible for these crimes," SA police said.
“Our appeal for new information remains constant."
For more information on rewards in each state, check out the websites of the NSW Police Force, the Australian Federal Police (for the ACT), Crime Stoppers South Australia, Victoria Police and Queensland Police.