It was her 28th birthday, a day she should have spent with those who loved her, but instead those gathered remembered a girl conspicuous by her absence.
A vigil to mark missing Renwick woman Jessica Boyce’s birthday was held in Seymour Square in Blenheim on Sunday evening.
People gathered to remember the young woman they all know as Jess, to share stories about the “bright and bubbly” girl they all loved.
And as the chime of the last bell rang out from the clock tower at 7pm, a rendition of Happy Birthday filled the air, followed by a minute silence.
Her close friend and cousin, Aaron Goodwin, says the event was a chance for people to reflect and share.
The family wanted members of the public to be able to attend as they have been “so helpful and supportive”, since Jessica’s disappearance in March last year.
Jessica went missing on March 19 last year. Her disappearance was upgraded to a homicide investigation in October.
Her case is now being treated as a homicide by Blenheim detectives in charge of the investigation.
Detective Senior Sergeant Ciaran Sloan says those responsible were likely acquaintances of Jessica’s.
Aaron, who grew up alongside Jessica, returned to live in Blenheim on Friday, moving back to the town he grew up in from Dunedin.
It’s been a “confronting” few days, with memories everywhere he looks, he says.
It was her friends who came up with the idea of marking her birthday.
Amid the stories shared and fond memories of the bright-eyed blonde, were tales of parties past.
Speaking to the Marlborough Weekly last year, Aaron described Jess as very sociable and easy to get on with.
The Help Find Jess website started by her family is now named Remembering Jessica Boyce.
She always believed the best in people, says Aaron.
“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.”
Her friends spoke of her fun-loving nature, her kindness and willingness to help. Her absence is felt by all who know her, Aaron says.