Community, Crime

The girl behind the headlines

Aaron Goodwin is talking about his cousin Jess Boyce in the past tense. It is a bad day; despair and grief his constant shadows.

On other mornings, Aaron is sure she will be found alive and well or come bouncing back through the door, full of apologies and breathless explanations.

But the torment of not knowing where the bright-eyed blond is, is taking its toll on all the family. It is both relentless and exhausting.

Not a day goes by where Aaron does not think of her; the girl he grew up with.

“Some days I wake up and I feel completely pessimistic, I think of Jess in the past tense and other days I can’t wait to see her and tell her about a cool spot I’ve found or something.”

The pair are very close and grew up together in the same house in Renwick. Jess’s girlhood room was decorated with Harry Potter movie posters.

She was captivated by the books and movies, her room a testament to her  love all things Hermione and Harrs. While her interests have changed and matured, the hopeful girl who loved life is still there insist her family.

“We were more like siblings than cousins,” say Aaron who oversees the ‘Help Find Jess’ website on behalf of the family.

27-year-old Jess loved life and “very social”. She was always the first person to put her hand up to help others struggling with mental health issues.

Although Jess suffered her own battle recently,  struggling with feelings of guilt following a car accident in which a friend died, Aaron is confident she did not take her own life.

“In the whole 27 years of knowing Jess, of hearing her deepest, darkest thoughts, she never spoke to me about suicide. I just know Jess wouldn’t go there,” he says.

Jess’s love of adventure would see her go off on her own from time to time; she loved to camp and enjoyed nature.

Music, says Aaron, would play wherever she went, a song accompanied everything she did.

But  no matter how far she ventured, she always had her phone with her and never let her family worry about her.

“She loved her music, you never saw Jess without her music, she always came with music.

“She was very sociable and always visiting friends, she wasn’t one of those young people who slept in during the day, she was an early riser and would always have friends around or be out visiting friends,”  Aaron says.

Rumours have been rife on social media about the former Marlborough Girls’ College student and a possible link with methamphetamine.

Regardless of what she may have been involved with, she always believed the best in people, says Aaron.

“Once the word meth pops up, people stop thinking of her as a person and instead imagine she some hard woman, someone she just wasn’t.

“She was so innocently naïve and genuinely did not understand about consequences, but she was not the hard woman that some people seem to think she was.

“We’re talking about an almost 30-year-old woman whose favourite movies were old Disney ones.

“She looked at the world through rose-coloured glasses.”

Together with Aaron, Jess attended Seymour Kindergarten. She was a pupil at Whitney Street School before moving on to Bohally intermediate and then Marlborough Girls’ College.

Her younger self peers out of an old family photo of both Aaron and Jess at preschool; a smiley, happy girl with the world at her feet.

Aaron speaks with quiet pride about how Jess went to community college to obtain further NCEA credits.

“I know she was keen on starting an alternative-style clothing line. She started practising with sewing machines and finding different kinds of fabric to use.” Aaron says.

A sausage dog called Alice was Jess’s constant companion for many years.

“Jess was into people and into animals. She really was the best of people; she had such an uplifting spirit.

Aaron says there have been no confirmed sightings of Jess since her sudden disappearance.

The close-knit pair spent almost every day together up until 3-years-ago when Aaron moved to Dunedin.

For Aaron and her family, Jess’s absence is nothing short of heartbreaking and some of the information they have received via public tip-offs has, he says, been “harrowing”.

But despite whisperings on social media about the police not doing enough to find Jess, Aaron is adamant they are working hard.

“I can see that people are getting frustrated but there’s a process and it’s been explained to us. There’s a lot going on behind the scenes that we’ve been asked not to talk about, but I know the police are working hard.

“They are in constant contact with aunty Kay and it’s a bit unfair of people to be on social media tugging their chain.

While the days where the dread becomes overwhelming are many, Aaron says he has not lost all hope.

Some of the family have prepared for the worst and are ready to accept that Jess is gone. But for Aaron, there are still days where he pictures her walking back through the door.

“We just miss her so much.”

Anyone with any information can contact Blenheim police on 03 578 5279 or anonymous tips can be passed on to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

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