Marina Penney thought the day had come when she’d finally learn what had happened to her mother, Jennifer Hillier-Penney.
Her family heard a rumour this weekend that a fisherman had hauled up a piece of plastic, like an air mattress, in Hare Bay, about 315 kilometres north of St. John’s. It turned out to be true.
Then she heard there were bones inside, raising the possibility it was the remains of her mother, who has been missing from St. Anthony since Nov. 30, 2016.
“When I heard it was bones and I couldn’t get a hold of the police, I was like, ‘Oh my god, we’re going to find her,'” she told CBC News on Saturday night.
“This could be her. It could be over.”
Unfortunately, it turned out to be the first of many egregious rumours spread between Friday evening and Saturday morning.
“I was being too hopeful.”
Hillier-Penney disappeared from the house of her estranged husband, Dean Penney. She went there that night to stay with their daughter, Deana, while Dean said he was going hunting at their cabin 45 minutes away.
The next morning, her daughter woke to find her mother’s personal belongings and vehicle still at the house, but her mother was nowhere to be found.
‘How do people even make it go that far?’
Penney and her family were thrown for a loop this weekend. Rumours spread fast in small towns like those dotting the Northern Peninsula of Newfoundland.
It’s not the first time the family has heard false stories about their missing loved one, but it was the worst time.
“I don’t even know how stuff gets passed around like that,” Penney said.
“From just a piece of plastic being dragged up to ‘Her sister ID’d the body and the body is on the way to St. John’s.’ Like, how do people even make it go that far?”
People need to be aware that we’ve got little to no help.– Marina Penney
After hearing bones had been discovered, Penney tried contacting the officers working on her mother’s case. After a full night of not hearing back, she searched for the name of the fisherman who made the discovery.
He confirmed for her that he’d only found an old air mattress.
“When I called that guy this morning, my heart broke again.”
As for the piece of plastic, Penney said the RCMP has it now, but she doesn’t know if it holds any significance.
“That could have been garbage,” she said. “It could have been somebody with an air mattress blown up towing people around on a boat … it could be anything.”
Frustrations with police
When asked what her message to people was, Penney said she wanted everyone to know her mother is still missing, and the family needs all the help they can get.
“Everything dies down every so often and you hear nothing,” she said.
“Nothing is being said. Nothing is being talked about. She’s still missing. She’s been missing since the 30th of November, . People need to be aware that we’ve got little to no help.”
She’s growing frustrated with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, who are handling the investigation.
The family had concerns from the beginning, when they felt police weren’t treating the case as seriously as they should have. It was a week after her disappearance before the RCMP locked down her estranged husband’s house, which was a potential crime scene.
Police now consider it to be “an ongoing investigation into a kidnapping and homicide.”
Penney said contact with police is getting more and more minimal as time goes by, and the conversations are void of information.
When asked what she hears from police, Penney said, “Same old, same old, like a broken record. ‘Just have faith that we are going to end this.'”
Does she still have faith they will find her mother?
“It’s hard to say at this point, especially after all this.”
As for the rumours, Penney said she understands people want to help her find closure, but spreading unsubstantiated stories isn’t helping anyone.
“That just made things a lot worse for me.”