Detectives investigating the disappearance and suspected murders of three teenage girls in the 1970s have made a major breakthrough in the cold case.

Police have spent the past 40 years investigating the disappearance of the three girls, all from the Lake Macquarie region on New South Wales' Central Coast.

Ivan Milat was long suspected of the 1979 disappearances and was questioned by police about it in the years leading up to his death.

A youthful Ivan Milat. Photo / Supplied
A youthful Ivan Milat. Photo / Supplied

Milat, who died earlier this year after a long battle with cancer, gave evidence at the 2002 coronial inquest where he denied being involved.

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Today they released an image of a vehicle similar to the one they believe may be linked to two of the cases and will held a press conference this afternoon to appeal for public assistance.

The vehicle is described as a distinct green-coloured, mid-1970s four-door Holden Torana sedan.

The Daily Telegraphreports police have now dropped their Milat theory and are instead focusing on a 58-year-old businessman from the Hunter region who now lives in the Gold Coast.

The publication reported that during a bail hearing on the Gold Coast last month, NSW Police revealed it had been investigating him over a 1979 cold case murder.

Robyn Hickie, 18, left her home around 7.15pm on April 7, 1979 and was last seen standing at a bus stop on the Pacific Highway, Belmont North.

Amanda Robinson, 14, was last seen a fortnight later on April 21, 1979 near a bus stop on Lake Road, Swansea, after attending a dance at her high school in Gateshead.

About 9pm on November 24, 1994, Gordana Kotevski, 16, was forced into a vehicle on Powell Street, Charlestown, while walking from Charlestown Square Shopping Centre to her aunt's home on the same road.

Despite extensive investigations at the time, and over the years, none of the girls have been located.

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A subsequent coronial inquest into their disappearances found that the girls were deceased, most likely as a result of foul play.

A strike force was set up in April to investigate the cases.

Detectives identified the vehicle they believe may be linked to the disappearance and suspected murders of Robyn Hickie and Amanda Robinson.

Lake Macquarie Police District Crime Manager, Detective Chief Inspector Greg Thomas, said this was a significant new lead.

Police have identified this car as being seen in the vicinity of the disappearances of Amanda Robinson and Robyn Hickie. Photo / Supplied
Police have identified this car as being seen in the vicinity of the disappearances of Amanda Robinson and Robyn Hickie. Photo / Supplied

"We are hoping anyone who was living in the Lake Macquarie region in the late 1970s may have a recollection of this Holden Torana, in particular in the month of April 1979," he said.

"We understand it's been 40 years since Robyn and Amanda's disappearances, however, we are seeking assistance from anyone who may even have moved to a different state or who may have some memory of this vehicle to come forward to police — you can remain anonymous through Crime Stoppers if you wish.

"It may seem like small or insignificant information from decades past but it could help investigators solve these cases."