By SCOTT INGLIS



Kevin O'Loughlin had finished dancing and left the nightclub alone.



It was about 3 am Sunday and the last songs of the night could be heard around Nelson's central city drinking holes.



Dark-haired 1.83m (6ft) tall Kevin walked along Halifax St and into Montgomery car park, where he strolled past the public toilets.

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He had had a few drinks, but was not inebriated. He was probably heading to Hardy St, the next road over, to grab a burger or some chips from a popular takeaway bar there, or catch one of the taxis queued up in the rank.



But 30-year-old Kevin never made it. Instead, a taxi driver found his lifeless body near the car park's Hardy St entrance. He had been stabbed up to seven times in his back and shoulder and had a laceration across his forehead.



As dawn arrived on May 2, 1993, detectives had already started hunting his killer. But they never found him, or her.



Instead, the murder of Kevin James O'Loughlin became the second of 14 murder inquiries of the past decade, up to February this year, to go unsolved.



Mr O'Loughlin, a Maori and the third of four boys, was born and raised in Te Anau and attended Fiordland College. His mother, 78-year-old Elsie, remembers him being "a mouthy person, but he was never a person who got into fights."



Like his father Terence, he became a builder, and also played rugby and squash. He got married and had two girls - now aged 17 and 11 - before splitting with his wife.



He had his third child, now 9, with his de facto partner Leeanne McLeod. They lived in Nelson but separated just before his death.



On that fareful Saturday night, Mr O'Loughlin called a taxi, which picked him up about 8 pm from his Titoki St home and took him into town, where several hundred others were also having a night out.

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He first went to the Metropolitan Hotel and met with some friends and had a few drinks. About 9.20 pm, he went to the Wakatu Hotel, ran into more friends, and stayed there until 1.40 am. Then it was back back to the Metropolitan before moving on to Horatios nightclub in Halifax St. He then walked to his death.



Detective Richard Lowe, now in charge of the case, said police were unable to find a motive or any suspects. They were also unable to find the small, easily hidden, knife used to kill Mr O'Loughlin.



Police do not know if he knew his attackers, had an altercation with strangers or was ambushed from behind because they do not know which of his wounds was inflicted first.



His partner Leeanne said at the time that Kevin was a hard worker with lots of friends, and she knew of no one who would want to kill him.



For up to six weeks, a murder squad interviewed more than 1000 people, hunted for the murder weapon and other clues, desperately searching for the one lead that would help them nail the case. But the trail became colder, and the inquiry was scaled down.



While the whodunit did not attract consistent national attention like that of Kirsty Bentley or Kylie Jones, Detective Lowe says the police received strong support from the community and media.



The case is now contained in up to 20 ringbinders shelved at the Nelson police headquarters.



There had never been a similar unsolved whodunit before Mr O'Loughlin's death, or after. Once a year, local radio stations and other media report an anniversary story.



Occasionally, someone rings Detective Lowe with some information, but never enough to put an end to the disappointment he feels over the case.



"I never give up hope. Imagine what the perpetrator should be feeling. He's the one who should be tossing and turning in bed."



Leanne McLeod has tried to move on. She has married, and has a new surname, but has kept a scrapbook full of clippings and memories.



Mr O'Loughlin's mother, Elsie, has most weeks since her boy's murder visited his Te Anau grave, which is next to a mate, Trevor Beange, killed in a car accident about 12 hours after Kevin died.