The mother of Tess Richey said her mind has been “playing games” with her ever since she discovered her 22-year-old daughter’s lifeless body at the bottom of an outdoor stairwell in the city’s Church and Wellesley neighbourhood.

Christine Hermeston found her daughter’s body outside a construction site at 582 Church Street on Nov. 29.

“I know how Tess was when I looked over the wall and now in my mind like in flashes very often, so often, I have intervals of 20 minutes where I’m not seeing it. But now when I see it, I see her with her coat on, as if she’s warmer and more protected,” she told CTV News Toronto in an interview Thursday.

Holding back tears, Hermeston said “there is no greater loss” than losing Richey – the youngest of her five daughters.

“Of course I love all my children but I’m just saying that she was my baby,” she said. “They knew she was my favourite and they had no problem. She was their favourite too.”

Tess’ sister Rachel Richey said even though she was the youngest, she was always very protective of their family.

“I lost my sister – my baby sister – I mean there’s eight years (between us),” she said. “I helped babysit her. I took care of her when she was little.”

“I lost my baby sister, I lost my best friend and I lost my soulmate.”

Rachel Richey said their last day together was “perfect.”

“We sang, we ate, we played games, we joked, we talked,” she said. “It was a beautiful, beautiful afternoon. I’m very lucky.”

“I remember coming back downstairs from putting my baby down and looking and seeing her walk out the front door. I saw her walk down my front path and that’s the last time I saw her. And I’ll never see her again.”

Tess Richey was last seen in the area of Church and Dundonald streets at around 3 a.m. on Nov. 25, 2017 and she was reported missing the same day.

After her disappearance, her sister said in an online post that the 22-year-old woman had gone out during the evening on Nov. 24 and never returned home.

On Dec. 1, police said an autopsy was conducted on Richey and the cause of death was determined to be neck compression. Her death is being investigated as a homicide.

Her mother said “something pulled” her to where she discovered her daughter’s body.

“There was just something very eerie about that construction site – it was drawing me,” she said. “I just think if I were to follow my gut instinct I would have found her sooner.”

“We started opening up trash cans and stuff and sadly enough in the stairwell she was found. It looked like a graveyard, like a grave plot, very narrow and I can’t imagine the nightmare that she lived.”

Hermeston said she was still hoping her daughter was alive when she found her.

“I know I’m told I did the right thing by not contaminating the crime scene but really I wish I would have just grabbed her and held her tight,” she said. “I just wanted to get an ambulance there quickly in case she was just unconscious.”

In December, police released security camera images of a man who investigators said they believe could be connected to the case.

Officers said Richey was in the company of a man when she left her friend in the area between the hours of 2 a.m. and 5 a.m. He has been described as a five-foot-seven to six-foot white man with a slim build and light-coloured hair.

Hermeston said she has been sharing the photos every day on Facebook since they were released.

“Every time I look at him I keep thinking I’ve seen this man before,” she said. “I call him a man but he’s not, that’s just loosely termed. But, it’s true, I look at him and I think I’ve seen him before somewhere. I keep going through my time here in Toronto with Tess and I met some of her friends but I just can’t pinpoint him.”

Tess’ sister said many people have been coming together in an effort to identify the man.

“Someone out there has to know him,” her sister said. “We’ve tirelessly posted all over social media and we’re still doing it, we’re still in the process of promoting any kind of posts, just trying to continue to circulate his image because someone has to recognize him.”

“The pictures are clear. Someone will recognize this person.”

Prior to the photos being released, police said the service’s professional standards unit was looking into the handling of the murder case.

Officers said there were questions surrounding how the investigation was initially carried out but no conclusions have been drawn out.

Anyone with further information regarding the case is asked to contact investigators at 416-808-7400 or Crime Stoppers anonymously at 416-222-TIPS (8477).

With files from CTV News Toronto's Tracy Tong