A MAN who partied with teenager Cheree Richardson just an hour before her murder says he is still haunted by that night, 23 years after she was murdered.
Gavin Seib told the Daily yesterday that he believed the man convicted of Cheree's rape and killing, Bevan Meninga, should never be released from prison.
Mr Seib spoke for the first time about his deep feeling of regret after going home early that night rather than staying around to make sure his new friend was safe.
He said he has battled to suppress his deep guilt for more than two decades.
His emotional problems erupted in stress and mental difficulties last year.
He decided to finally speak publicly about that horrific time in his life after reading reports that Meninga, who was jailed for life over the murder, may be released on parole - possibly as soon as today.
"I was talking to a girl who was brutally murdered an hour later," Mr Seib said about that night in Mooloolaba.
"It has affected me my entire life.
"She was a lovely person, me and her got on like a house on fire, and over the years this has mentally stuffed me up."
Mr Seib was 22 and out on the town when he met Cheree.
They chatted, laughed, he bought her drinks, they had a great time.
They even talked about his girlfriend, who Cheree had wanted to meet.
"We made plans to catch up after that night, but we never had the chance.
"I just want to say what a wonderful person she was.
"She'll always be in my heart to the day I die."
Cheree's mutilated body was found two days later in dense parkland at Alexandra Headland.
Mr Seib, now 46, said he regrets leaving early that fateful night.
He believes he should have ensured his new friend's safety before he left.
"I blamed myself," he said of the death.
"When I left, I turned around to see her and I saw she was with him and he would look after her.
"I put my trust in him."
"(I should have asked), 'Are you right? Do you need a lift home?'
"She was a nice, lovely, happy-go-lucky woman and for someone to do that to her was horrific."
Mr Seib, a prawn fisherman, is adamant that Meninga should remain behind bars for the murder.
"He got a life sentence, doesn't that mean life?"
"It's about time they stopped all this.
"People who murder people should get what they were sentenced."
He also advised anyone who was struggling with deep guilt or anxiety to seek help soon from a doctor.
"It'll do (them) a world of good to speak to someone about it."