Cape Town - Lieutenant Colonel Eddie Clark promised a dying Valencia Farmer 17 years ago that he would find the men who gang raped her and left her for dead in a deserted house in Eerste River; and now he has made good on that promise.That commitment to the teen on the day she died was realised this year when the final accused was sentenced to 23 years behind bars.Clark's dedication to the case, which he describes as career-defining, saw him named the Detective of the Year at the SAPS Annual Prestige Awards on Friday.And no one could be prouder than Valencia's mother, Sylvia, who believes Clark deserves every commendation for the years he spent bringing her only daughter's killers to book.Clark has 23 years of detective work under his belt. And while he has investigated a number of high-profile cases over the past two decades, Valencia's brutal murder was his first in the Western Cape High Court.Eucalyptus Street residents found a bloody and naked Valencia in the street after she managed to crawl from a dilapidated house in the early hours of June 26, 1999.She had been gang raped and stabbed 53 times.Serious commitmentWhen Sylvia arrived at the scene, she found her daughter sitting on the pavement, holding on to her throat which had been slit.She died two days later at the Tygerberg Hospital.Before succumbing to her injuries she managed to tell the police who her attackers were."I promised her I would find who had done this to her. I didn't take that commitment lightly – I meant it," Clark told News24.The murder case was unlike any other he had investigated as he had been able to speak to her following the attack, he explained."This case was different - I had the opportunity to listen and talk to her before her death, to support her after what she went through."Life sentencesIn his office, a yellowing newspaper clipping of the 2001 conviction of three of the suspects still hangs on his wall.It details the sentencing of Glenville Faro, Russel van Wyk and Franklin Roberts, who were found to be behind Valencia's horrific death, which happened after a night of drinking at a local shebeen.Faro and Roberts received two life sentences each. They failed to get parole this year and would apply again early next year.Van Wyk, who was 16 when he was sentenced in March 2001, got 23 years in jail. Both of his parole applications, in 2013 and 2014, were rejected. A fourth man was acquitted, and charges against two men – one of them Elmario Maasdorp - were withdrawn.Last year Clark was assigned as unit commander of the newly-established Blue Downs cluster investigation unit focusing on gang violence.ConfessionAccording to the police, the team's objective was to revisit all withdrawn cases, current cases and ensure conviction of gang leaders and their runners.After hearing that Van Wyk was applying for parole at the Drakenstein Correctional Facility, Clark questioned him in a bid to link Maasdorp to Valencia's brutal murder.Van Wyk gave the detective the evidence he needed to rearrest Maasdorp, who later made a confession.He was arrested last year and sentenced in February.Although it took him 17 years to make good on his promise, Clark said he had committed to Valencia while she fought for her life that all of the men involved in her attack would be brought to book."I think this last conviction will help both me and Mrs Farmer find closure," he said.Clark had stayed in regular contact with Sylvia since being assigned to Valencia's case. He knows the names of Sylvia's relatives, her address and even her personal struggles.'Closing a chapter'"She really is like a second mother to me. I help and support her as far as I can. And I don't think that will change now that the case has been completed."He said it was momentous that he was able to close the case alongside prosecutor Advocate Louis Van Niekerk, who had sentenced three of the murderers in 2001."To me it was like closing a chapter."Sylvia, 59, praised the officer for going the extra mile in his pursuit of justice for her daughter."He deserves it. He has always been there, right from the beginning, and continues to be there for me even after the case has been closed. He is a wonderful man," she said.Provincial police spokesperson Novella Potelwa said Clark's perseverance and attention to detail in his dogged pursuit of all of the men responsible for Valencia's murder resulted in him being selected for the province's top award.Clark's win sees him automatically entered for the police's national awards, which take place later this year.