NEARLY 21 years after the death of a young nanny found “horrifically bashed” on the side of a northern NSW road, a second inquest has failed to shed light on her attacker’s identity.
Deputy State Coroner Sharon Freund apologised on Wednesday to the parents of 20-year-old Penny Hill as she handed down an open finding on her 1991 death.
“You sought answers any parent would seek after the death of a child,” Ms Freund told Glebe Coroner’s Court.
“Unfortunately we couldn’t (find answers). And for that I am truly sorry.”
The young woman was working as a nanny for former rock band drummer Col Baigent and his then wife, Barbara Baigent, at the Black Stump Motel in Coolah when she was discovered unconscious on the side of the road on July 8, 1991.
She never regained consciousness and died two weeks later in hospital. The inquest heard allegations Mr Baigent had a “shocking temper” and was “sexually predatory” towards “vulnerable women”.
Mr Baigent is a former drummer with the Australian rockers Billy Thorpe and the Aztecs.
His ex-wife, Barbara Baigent, told police in 2010 she had suspicions about his involvement in Ms Hill’s death and she said she could no longer be sure of his whereabouts the night before Ms Hill was injured. But during the inquest – the second into Ms Hill’s death – Ms Baigent said she now did not believe Mr Baigent could have been involved in the nanny’s death.
“I said what they (police) wanted me to say,” she said. “I was rattled.”
The inquest heard Mr Baigent had physically abused his first two wives and Ms Baigent during their 23-year-marriage, even bursting her ear- drum on one occasion.
But Ms Baigent said that was her fault because she “triggered” his temper outbursts.
“I put to you a young, naive girl like Penny Hill, who was possibly unaware of his triggers may have provoked him,” Ms Freund said to Ms Baigent.
“I don’t think so,” Ms Baigent said.
Ms Baigent said she had “never known (Mr Baigent) to be violent outside a marriage” and she denied she had spent the past 21 years protecting him.
“There is no way I would protect Col or
anyone else,” she said.
“(Especially) after reading the autopsy report and reading how badly Penny was attacked and damaged.”
Ms Baigent threatened to leave the courtroom several times during heated exchanges with both the coroner and counsel assisting the coroner, Warwick Hunt.
At one point, Ms Freund ordered Ms Baigent to look at a photo of Ms Hill which had earlier reduced her to tears.
“This inquest is into the death of a young woman who was most horrifically bashed,” Ms Freund said.
“The evidence you have given so far can only lead to one conclusion ... Mr Baigent’s propensity of violence to individuals, known individuals, young adults, is highly relevant to this inquest.”
Ms Freund found Ms Hill had died from septicaemia and pneumonia brought on as a result of massive head injuries.
But she delivered an open finding on how she sustained those injuries and referred the case to the unsolved homicide unit.
Speaking outside court, Ms Hill’s mother Jeanette Hill said she was unhappy with the findings.
“We haven’t got the answers that we wanted,” Ms Hill told reporters.