Grief turns to rage as Jennifer Hillier-Penney's disappearance marks 4th anniversary

·4 min read
Grief turns to rage as Jennifer Hillier-Penney's disappearance marks 4th anniversary

The daughter of Jennifer Hillier-Penney, the St. Anthony woman who disappeared without a trace four years ago, isn't giving up her fight for justice even as time passes with little closure or a breakthrough in the RCMP investigation.

Hillier-Penney was last seen Nov. 30, 2016, at her estranged husband's home, where she spent the night to look after the younger of the couple's two daughters. That teenager woke the next morning to find her mother gone, but personal items like her coat, keys and passport all left behind.

On Monday, the fourth anniversary of her mother's disappearance, the couple's eldest daughter, Marina Penney, posted a scathing message on Facebook, writing openly of her and her family's hurt and lashing out at police as well as a person Penney doesn't name but who she believes killed her mother.

"I'm angry and I'm tired. I'm tired, and we are just full of rage," Penney told CBC News in an interview Monday

"Nobody thought this would go on this long."

RCMP labelled Hillier-Penney's disappearance as suspicious early on in the case. Documents show police believe she was kidnapped and killed, but no suspects have ever been named.

Submitted by Marina Penney
Submitted by Marina Penney

Frustration with police

Penney won't put a name to her suspicions of who may have killed her mother, fearing legal repercussions, and says she and her family have kept quiet in efforts to co-operate with the police.

"There's a lot of stuff that we do know, that we have been silent about, because ultimately we know that we gotta put a lot of pressure on police to ensure they're doing everything that they can," she said.

I can beg and plead all I want, but I don't think her killer is gonna come clean. - Marina Penney

But co-operation has turned to frustration, and Penney said she has in the past dropped out of contact with police. She and her family did meet with officers in August, she said, and was told there would be more legwork done in St. Anthony that she says never happened.

Penney says her family is approaching a breaking point.

"How long do they expect us to be silent when we don't see progress?" she said.

"There's going to come a time when we are going to tell the world everything we know, without fear of being sued. Because this is what's happening, we're being pushed to our breaking points, and I'm not prepared to go longer without these answers."

One family member is not included in these sentiments. Penney said it has been 2½ years since she last spoke to her father, Dean Penney. Hillier-Penney took her estranged husband off her life insurance policy two weeks before she vanished, and friends of hers told CBC's The Fifth Estate in 2018 she feared him.

Reluctance to come forward

In a statement, RCMP said the Hillier-Penney case remains "an active investigation and a priority," although it wouldn't elaborate further in order to protect "the integrity of the investigation."

Police also reiterated to CBC News what it has said in the past — that the RCMP "continues to feel there are people who may have information relevant to the investigate who have not come forward."

That doesn't come as a surprise to Hillier-Penney's daughter.

"The people in the town who might know things, aside from the guilty, are living in fear because they know now how easy it is for someone to get away with murder," Penney said.

Garrett Barry/CBC
Garrett Barry/CBC

From the beginning, Penney said, police didn't take the case seriously or link it to a possible homicide soon enough.

"It was neglect. There were mistakes made," she said.

In her Facebook post, Penney wrote blisteringly about the person she thinks killed her mom: "I hope one day you're capable of feeling an ounce of guilt and remorse, and I hope that ounce grows. I hope it grows so big it eats you alive."

Penney said she realizes that as strong as her feelings may be, they may be futile — but continues to hope the police investigation, entering its fifth year, may finally yield some answers.

"I can beg and plead all I want, but I don't think her killer is gonna come clean. But I need the cops to do something. They need to do something," she said.

Read more articles from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador