Police have rubbished claims they're closing in on suspects in the unsolved Kirsty Bentley murder.
Some national media outlets have reported that police have 10 suspects on a shortlist for the cold case murder of the Ashburton teenager, who was last seen walking her dog on the afternoon of December 31, 1998.
Bentley's body was found in the Rakaia Gorge more than two weeks later, a day before her 16th birthday. It remains New Zealand's most famous cold case murder, with Christchurch detective inspector Greg Murton overseeing an unsolved killing that has had police stumped for nearly a quarter of a century.
Police dismissed national media suggestions that a suspect list had emerged since they offered a $100,000 reward in July for any information that would lead to a prosecution.
"Police have not confirmed or commented on the number of persons of interest relevant to this case and will not be doing so at this point," Murton said.
But he did confirm they had received 80 pieces of information from the public since the reward was made. Of those, 10 have been prioritised for follow-up and 40 more pieces have been marked as requiring additional information.
"Police have been extremely heartened by the response from Canterbury and the wider community in relation to this investigation," said Murton, who in 2014 became the third inspector to lead the case.
"We know how much Kirsty's family and the wider Ashburton community want answers as to what happened to her."
The reward was still valid until at least December, and Murton wanted anyone with information to come forward.
"We again urge anyone in Ashburton with information that may assist to come forward.
"Information can be provided anonymously if needed via Crime Stoppers, either online or by calling 0800 555 111.''
Police are banking on the reward incentive to help crack the case open, with a sizeable cash offering not being a new murder-solving ploy by New Zealand police.
In 2019, $100,000 was also offered for information about the notorious unsolved murder of Christchurch mother Angela Blackmoore.
She was 10 weeks pregnant when she was stabbed 39 times in her home in 1995, while her 2-year-old son Dillon slept in the next room.
A year later, after reward information came forward, an amateur contract killer was jailed for the horrific murder.
Police are yet to decide on whether the reward for Bentley would be extended beyond the original six-month period.
Catching Kirsty's killer:
What: Police are desperate for help to solve the longstanding murder of Ashburton teenager Kirsty Bentley.
The story: Kirsty's body was found 18 days after she disappeared while walking the family dog in Ashburton on New Year's Eve 1998. It is New Zealand's most famous cold case murder.
If you have information: Contact the police via its 105 non-emergency number and reference Operation Kirsty. Or call Crime Stoppers anonymously on: 0800 555 111.
Reward: A $100,000 was issued in July and would remain in place for at least six months. Immunity from prosecution may be considered for any accomplices should they come forward.