Mystery over teen shot dead during botched robbery nearly 30 years ago as cops still hunt killer after pal walked free | The Sun

THE heartbroken parents of a boy who was shot dead almost 30 years ago hope a $1 million reward will finally bring them closure.

Michael "Billy" Hegedus, 17, was gunned down in cold blood at his mum and dad's service station in Inverell, Australia, in October 1996.

A gunman burst into the shop at around 9pm and murdered Billy in a botched robbery.

Billy took a bullet to the chest and stomach, with the thug stealing around $36,000 AUD (£18,500) out of the family's safe.

He was rushed to hospital, but died from his injuries – sparking 27 years of heartache for his family as his killer has never been hunted down.

Billy’s mum Patricia Page said: "Billy was taken from us a week before his 18th birthday.

"I remember waking him up that day, hassling him to get on with studying for his HSC, but he just fluttered his big, beautiful eyes at me and told me not to worry.

"We buried him before he turned 18, the day before. He didn't deserve it. He was only 17. He hadn't lived.

"He had the most beautiful smile, lovely blue eyes. He was everybody's friend."

Cops revealed aspiring teacher Billy had been shot with a pump-action .22 calibre rifle, but have never been able to unmask the gunman.

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Desperate for answers and justice, New South Wales police offered up a $100,000 (£52,000) reward in 1997.

It led to one of Billy's friends Justin McInerney being charged and hauled before the courts the following year.

But in a further blow to Billy's devastated mum Patricia Page and stepdad Phil, McInerney was acquitted after two aborted trials and a hung jury in the third.

A fourth trial only caused more heartache for Billy's family, as police closed the case and said it would not be reopened unless compelling evidence came to light.

As a result, McInerney walked free in 2001.

Patricia added: "While I’m thankful I know where Billy is and we got to lay him to rest, in our hearts there’s not a day that goes by we don’t ask, ‘what if?’ or ‘what happened?'.

"As a parent, you just never stop looking for answers."

More than two decades on, cops are now offering a $1 million (£520,000) reward for fresh information that leads to a conviction.

Commander of State Crime Command’s Homicide Squad, Detective Superintendent Danny Doherty, said: "Billy’s murder was a reckless and callous robbery-gone-wrong that has robbed Billy’s family of a lifetime with their loved one.

"Billy was just a kid who loved his sport and had dreams of becoming a teacher.

"While he didn't deserve what happened to him, his family deserve answers, and that's why we're appealing for help."

Detectives are convinced someone who knows a crucial piece of information had so far failed to come forward.

Minister for Police and Counter Terrorism, Yasmin Catley, said: "The NSW Government pledges our ongoing support for this investigation and the detectives working tirelessly to find answers for Billy's family.

"We are asking people to cast their mind back to Inverell in the year 1996, and to reconsider anything you may have seen or heard that might help detectives.

"No piece of information is too small, and something you might have previously disregarded may just be the missing piece in this puzzle."

Patricia has implored people to come forward to save her family suffering even more years of

The grieving mum added: "Inverell is such a small town that I truly believe someone must know something about that night.

"And if you know something, please say something to help find justice for our Billy.

"With the family, we keep in alive. All the new grandchildren I have, they all know Billy,they call him Uncle Billy.

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"And when we have Christmas together he's always there."

Anyone with information that may assist investigators is urged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

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