Detective Sergeant Jason Darcy from the Western Region Unsolved Homicide squad, who's been running the cold case since 2008, described Penny as “a green country girl who trusted everyone”.
“(She was) as honest as the day is long,” Detective Darcy says. “She was just like anyone's daughter who has grown up and was going off to new adventures in her work and her career.”
Penny, a Narrabri local, had accepted the job as a nanny for Col Baigent – a former drummer for rock band, Billy Thorpe and the Aztecs – and his wife Barbara, who ran the Black Stump Motel, in Coolah. She was very excited about the new role.
“We interviewed all her classmates at TAFE and her friends in Narrabri.” Detective Darcy tells journalist Mary-Ann Harris on the podcast. “They all talk about how excited she was.”
Driven to her new job by her parents on a Friday, Jeanette and Felix Hill, Penny settled into her life in Coolah. But just three days later – on July 8, 1991 – Penny was found brutally bashed, less than a kilometre from the hotel.
On the Sunday night, Penny spoke to her mother on the phone. Then, according to police, she had a phone conversation with her boyfriend Shane Williams.
“Shane was probably the last person to talk to her,” Detective Darcy says. “Barbara Baigent was sitting in the restaurant area of the motel with one of the employees.
“They went and got Penny from her room, she went out and spoke to Shane. They had a conversation and then Penny spoke briefly with Barbara and then went back to her room.”
What happened between Sunday evening the and early hours of Monday morning are critical to solving Penny’s murder.