A TAMWORTH court will be told police have found vital DNA evidence that could lead them to the killer of a Narrabri woman who was savagely attacked and left to die in Coolah 21 years ago.
In an appeal to the public for information yesterday, senior police revealed they had uncovered the DNA profile of an unidentified man which could be linked to the death of 21-year-old Penny Hill at Coolah on July 8, 1991.
Their breakthrough comes ahead of an inquest into her death to begin at Tamworth Coroner’s Court on Monday.
Ms Hill was found unconscious next to a gate at a Coolah property with severe head and facial injuries.
She died in Newcastle’s John Hunter Hospital about two weeks later.
She’d been working as a nanny at Coolah’s Black Stump Motel at the time of her death and, despite numerous public appeals, police had been unable to crack the cold case.
In early 2011 the Western Region Unsolved Homicide Team formed Strike Force Samdon to investigate the circumstances surrounding Ms Hill’s death after a $100,000 reward for information leading to her killer’s conviction was announced in 2010.
Yesterday, Assistant Commissioner Geoff McKechnie told The Leader police will be running the new DNA evidence through a series of databases to try and establish the man’s identity, but he believes someone is still keeping valuable information about the case from police.
“We think this is a pretty major
breakthrough in the case in terms of some DNA evidence,” he said.
“Given the inquest is upon us and there is this latest development, we’re asking anyone with further information about what happened to Penny Hill to come forward and speak to us.
“In the last 21 years we’ve collected a lot of exhibits that could potentially have DNA evidence attached to them and we’ve now, through developments and technology, been able to have some of these exhibits identified.
“We’ve identified a DNA profile that we didn’t previously have and we think it will ultimately lead us to the person responsible for inflicting the injuries on Penny that caused her death,” Assistant Commissioner McKechnie said.
In 2010, police sought two men, both in their late 70s or early 80s, for questioning over her death.
Officers said while there was no evidence to date to suggest the men, Robert Cooper and Lee Thompson, were involved in the death, the two may be able to assist with inquiries.
Assistant Commissioner McKechnie would not reveal if police had spoken to the two men since their public appeal two years ago.
“At this stage we’re happy we’ve spoken to everyone that we’ve received information from to date, but there’s obviously someone out there that has an intricate knowledge of what happened to Penny and on this occasion we’re urging that person or persons to come forward.”
Police had earlier revealed to the media there were no signs of a struggle in the room Ms Hill was living in, but believed she was bashed with a blunt instrument there before being dumped on a road side 800 metres away.
“It was a tragic set of circumstances. A young girl just starting off in her adult working life and she’s found critically injured on the side of a road,” Mr McKechnie said.
“It’s obviously been very distressing for her family who have had 21 years without a full understanding of what’s happened to her.
“We need to give them some piece of mind by bringing the perpetrator or perpetrators to justice,” Assistant Commissioner McKechnie said.