On Tuesday night detectives arrested Craig Henry Rumsby, 53, in Mudgee following a lengthy re-investigation by detectives attached to Strike Force Mitcham II.
When he was asked by Nine News whether he murdered Michelle, Mr Rumsby replied “no”.
As he was led away in handcuffs he also claimed he had known Michelle’s mother Loraine “for years”.
He was charged with murder and refused bail in the early hours of Wednesday morning and he is expected to face Mudgee Local Court later on Wednesday.
Speaking on 2GB on Wednesday morning, Michele’s mother, Loraine Bright, said Rumsby was her neighbour when she first moved to the Gulgong-Mudgee area.
“He was about two houses down from us, so our kids went to school together,” she said.
In recent years, Mr Rumsby has been living in Sydney near Windsor but lists the suburb of Kings Langley as his fixed address.
Mr Rumsby’s arrest comes after NSW Police offered a million-dollar reward for information and Loraine begged the public for help on Monday.
The reward for information in the case was previously at $500,000, based on a recommendation by a 2009 coronial inquest into the girl’s murder.
Loraine told 2GB on Wednesday she had no idea someone would come forward with information so quickly and was shocked to receive the news on the phone last night.
“I screamed, and I cried, and I had to compose myself before I got back on the phone,” she recalled, describing the news as “so surreal”.
On Monday, she described her daughter as a “joy” and the “glue of the family”.
“It’s the most unbearable pain that we have to live with every day of our life and we miss her so much,” she said on Monday.
It is the first time a person has been charged in relation to the death.
“After two decades of unanswered questions, Michelle’s family deserve to know who took the precious life of their much-loved daughter and sister,” NSW Police Minister David Elliott said on Monday.
Emma Partridge is a Court Reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.
Mary Ward is a reporter at The Sydney Morning Herald.