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Northern Peninsula community leaders say towns still wondering one year after woman’s disappearance

This Thursday, Nov. 30, will mark the one-year anniversary of Jennifer Hillier-Penney's disappearance. - Submitted
Jennifer Hillier-Penney disappeared on Nov. 30, 2016.

Still on their minds

ST. ANTHONY/ST. LUNAIRE-GRIQUET, NL – One year after Jennifer Lynn Hillier-Penney went missing, two communities are still seeking answers.

While locals have been forced to adapt to a new normal, the nagging question remains in the back of everyone’s mind: what happened to Jennifer Lynn Hillier-Penney on Nov. 30, 2016?

In St. Anthony and St. Lunaire-Griquet, municipal and community leaders repeat the same theme: everybody wants closure.

St. Anthony Mayor Desmond McDonald, who was a councillor at the time of Hillier-Penney’s disappearance, says while people go on with their everyday lives, it’s still a subject of discussion in town.

St. Anthony residents get questions from people outside the community as well.

“Everybody is still concerned with it and are looking for answers,” McDonald told the Northern Pen.

But after a year, people doubt there will be a happy resolution.

“I’m always hopeful there’ll be a positive outcome, but you never know,” he said. “But I hope for the family’s sake and for everybody involved that there’s a resolution of some kind, so they can move on with their lives and not have to be wondering what happened.”

Sad commentary

Jeff Bessey, Bethel Pentecostal Church pastor in St. Anthony, says when Hillier-Penney disappeared people turned to the church to pray for her family and her safe return.

Now, people just want closure.

“It went from trying to find someone to (hoping) we can find out what happened so there’s closure,” he told the Northern Pen. “That’s a sad commentary a year later, since people seem to suspect she’s not coming back.”

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Bessey has two teenage daughters and says thinking about what happened not far from his own home in St. Anthony can make you feel anxious at times.

“What happened? This is my town, across the street from me, so whatever went on, you got that thought in the back of your mind,” he said. “You wonder, ‘can I disappear? Could my daughter disappear?’ That’s some of the questions you’re left with.”

Since 2002, there have been four missing persons cases in St. Anthony.

But McDonald says most people believe the cases are not related.

“We will never get over it,” St. Lunaire-Griquet Mayor Dale Colbourne told the Northern Pen.

Though she lived in St. Anthony, Jennifer Lynn Hillier-Penney grew up in St. Lunaire-Griquet and that’s where most of the Hillier family still resides today.

It’s a small town and it’s a large family.

Colbourne sees members of the Hillier family every day and she knows the community feels Hillier-Penney’s absence.

“A part of your community is missing and the big mystery is we don’t know what happened to her,” she said. “I can’t imagine never knowing what happened to one of my family members.”

stephen.roberts@northernpen.ca

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