Victoria Police is today announcing a $1 million reward as part of the investigation into the death of Janita McNaughton on Western Port Bay in 1983.
Janita, then 23 years old, was on board a boat along with four other people on 27 December 1983.
About 5pm, Janita was shot in the head and subsequently died as a result of her injuries in hospital later that evening.
Police were told the gun belonged to one of the other passengers, who was trying to shoot a floating beer can in the water when the gun was dropped to the boat deck, discharged, and the bullet hit Janita.
Homicide Squad detectives have spoken to all those on board the boat with Janita that day, however they are still seeking answers into her death 36 years on.
They are hoping today’s reward announcement will assist with solving the case, and lead to the conviction of the person responsible.
Officer in charge of the Homicide Squad, Detective Inspector Tim Day, said the exact circumstances around Janita’s death remained unclear.
“For the past 36 years, investigators have reviewed the case a number of times,” Detective Inspector Day said.
“Initially, police were told the shot was fired by somebody from the shore. However, investigators were then provided with a second version of accounts, including that the shot was fired on the boat after the gun was dropped.
“The investigation was then re-opened in 2015 and police are absolutely keeping an open mind with regards to this case.
“The one thing we do know is that someone out there will know who is responsible for shooting Janita and the exact circumstances in which she died.”
A then 20-year-old man was charged with perjury 2016 after admitting he lied to police in his first statement.
In 1983, police charged a then 29-year-old man with manslaughter, however these charges were later dismissed by a coroner at inquest in 1984. That man remains a person of interest in this investigation.
Det Insp Day said after almost four decades, he was hopeful that those on the boat were ready to be honest with police about what happened that day.
“Janita’s family have suffered heartache for 36 years without knowing why Janita was killed.
“We’re hopeful that someone out there will be able to provide us with information about her death.
“It might be that one of the people on the boat can come forward with the truth, or it might be someone that they’ve spoken to over the years, such as a family member or friend, who can provide us with information.
“We know that circumstances change with time and we hope this reward will encourage someone to come forward and give her family some deserved justice.”
A reward of up to $1 million will be paid at the discretion of the Chief Commissioner of Police for information leading to the apprehension and subsequent conviction of the person or persons responsible for the murder.
In appropriate cases, the Director of Public Prosecutions may consider, according to established guidelines, the granting of indemnification from prosecution to any person who provides information as to the identity of the principal offender or offenders in this matter.
Anyone with information about the death of Janita McNaughton is asked to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or submit a confidential crime report at www.crimestoppers.com.au