• Amber-Lee's mother known for drug use
• For years she's been blamed for her daughter's disappearance
• Her troubles began as a teenager
• Admits she was a "junkie" for many years

When Amber-Lee Cruickshank went missing in 1992 her mother was bleeding poppies for opium.

Since then, Nicola Cruickshank's drug use And lifestyle choices have been the focus of much criticism and judgement.

Some have even suggested her life choices were behind the disappearance of her young daughter.

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In episode three of Chasing Ghosts, a new podcast released by the Herald this week, she speaks candidly And in enormous detail about her battle with drugs, her links to gangs And sex work And her spiral into an even darker place after Amber-Lee went missing.

Chasing Ghosts is a six-part podcast series examining the 25-year-old cold case.

CHASING GHOSTS: FULL FEATURE AND SHORT DOCUMENTARY HERE

Amber-Lee vanished on October 17, 1992 at Kingston, a small town at the southern end of Lake Wakatipu.

She was there with her mother Nicola Cruickshank, stepfather James Gill And baby brother Danny.

Despite exhaustive searches of the lake, town And surrounding bush, there has never been any sign of Amber-Lee.

Chasing Ghosts is the first serialised podcast produced by NZME And was released this week.

Comprising of six episodes, it tells the story of Amber-Lee, what happened to her that day at Kingston And how her disappearance impacted on her family.

In episode three Nicola Cruickshank talks about her life in unflinching detail - from childhood to her current life in North Canterbury And all of her battles, struggles And bad choices in between.

When Nicola learned she was pregnant with Amber-Lee she intended to give the child up for adoption.

She was already a single mother to her son Harley And did not think she could provide for another child.

The first photo taken of Amber-Lee after her birth. Photograph supplied
The first photo taken of Amber-Lee after her birth. Photograph supplied

But when she gave birth to her rosy-cheeked little girl, her mind was instantly changed.

"It took 10 days to give her her name," she said.

"The Rose was because she was like a little rosebud. From the day she was born she always had red cheeks And the older she got they continued to stay red And I don't what that was about..."

You can listen the six-part series by clicking on the embedded audio files below. Alternatively you can listen on newstalkzb.co.nz,

iHeartRadio or download the episodes via iTunes.

In episode three of Chasing Ghosts Nicola Cruickshank also opens up about being sent to prison.

She was the first woman in Canterbury to be convicted of making methamphetamine - the result of a growing addiction she used to numb the pain of losing her daughter.

"That was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do," she said.

"For the first time in, crikey, I was 40, so in 20 odd years, had I been clean And I had to learn how to live life without drugs.

"I'm just grateful to the judge that he gave me jailed because those tools that I learned helped me in these last 10 years to survive how other people survive.

"And I feel the emotions now, And they hurt. They hurt like f**k.

"You've gotta understand, junkies are not very nice people. I mean, I wasn't a very nice person for a very long time."

At her home near Christchurch, Nicola Cruickshank and her oldest son Harley, go through clippings and photos related to Amber-Lee's case. New Zealand Herald photograph by Mike Scott
At her home near Christchurch, Nicola Cruickshank and her oldest son Harley, go through clippings and photos related to Amber-Lee's case. New Zealand Herald photograph by Mike Scott

Police also spoke about the troubled mother And whether her lifestyle was connected to Amber-Lee going missing.

Chasing Ghosts was researched And written by senior crime reporter Anna Leask.

Visual journalist Mike Scott did the field recording And produced the mini-documentary.

Leask And Scott had unprecedented access to Amber-Lee's mother, Nicola Cruickshank, And others closely connected to the case.

They also spoke, for the first time, the people considered of interest to police.

Chasing Ghosts tells Amber-Lee's story in unflinching And enormous detail.

Amber-Lee Cruickshank vanished in October 1992. Photograph supplied
Amber-Lee Cruickshank vanished in October 1992. Photograph supplied

Leask said the project aims to bring fresh attention to case in the hope that someone comes forward with information that could help bring Amber-Lee home.

"At the very least, I wanted to make sure everyone knew about Amber-Lee And what happened to her, dispel some of the myths around the case And hopefully encourage the people with answers to come forward."

Help bring Amber-Lee home

If you know what happened to Amber-Lee, or have information you have never shared with police that could help the investigation - please come forward.
Contact Detective Sergeant John Kean at the Invercargill police on 021 191 5321 or email john.kean@police.govt.nz.

To pass on information anonymously, contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or fill out their online form here.

This service is completely confidential And you do not have to reveal your identity. Police have no way of tracing who passes on tips to Crimestoppers.
You can also email anna.leask@nzherald.co.nz.

LISTEN TO THE PODCAST HERE:

• iHeart Radio

• iTunes