IT’S New Year’s Eve – the one-year anniversary of her son’s disappearance – and Rachel Penno is on a remote dirt road outside Charters Towers chasing up leads, knocking on doors, leaving no stone unturned.
Far from giving up hope or the search for answers to solve the case of her missing son, Jayden Penno-Tompsett, Ms Penno is “rocking up on people’s doorsteps”, climbing fences, walking down long driveways into vast properties and asking questions.
She wants answers and figures that if she just keeps asking, never gives up, eventually she will find what she is searching for. And, besides, she says she has nowhere else to be at this time of year.
So while other people celebrate, gather with families, make road trips up north to attend parties like Jayden planned to do 12 months ago, she searches.
“The last known place my son was alive was here in Charters Towers,” Ms Penno wrote on the Facebook page created to help find her missing son.
“I’m here because I’ve got no other place to be on Christmas and New Year’s except here with my son.”
And when reached by phone on Sunday afternoon, Ms Penno is in the passenger seat of a car on a remote dirt road.
“I’m following up on information that has been forwarded from people and I am just rocking up at people’s doors,” Ms Penno told the Newcastle Herald.
“People have forwarded a lot of information concerning certain people.”
And she is also trying to stay level-headed, impartial, with a huge volume of information and misinformation swirling around since Mr Penno-Tompsett, of Birmingham Gardens, vanished during a road-trip from Newcastle to Cairns on New Year’s Eve, 2017.
“There is a lot going on up here,” Ms Penno said.
“A lot of rumours and vendettas, a lot of fighting. I”m trying to remain neutral.”
Mr Penno-Tompsett vanished in rural North Queensland on his way from Newcastle to a New Year’s Eve party in Cairns with his mates. He was travelling with Lucas Tattersall in the early hours of December 31, 2017, when an argument broke out after the pair stopped at the Puma roadhouse on the Flinders Highway at Charters Towers, about 130 kilometres inland from Townsville.
Police have been told the pair then travelled about 20 minutes further north-east before Mr Penno-Tompsett left the vehicle near Stockroute Road, in a quiet rural area near a property with a red steel fence.
Mr Tattersall continued on to Cairns and Mr Penno-Tompsett was reported missing four days later.
In the days after his disappearance, police released CCTV images from inside the Charters Towers roadhouse where he was last seen.
They appealed for information, began a massive air and ground search of the surrounding area and Mr Penno-Tompsett’s family raced to the area to help in the search.
But there has been no sign of the now 23-year-old since then. No bank transactions, no contact with friends – nothing.
A Queensland police spokesman said on Sunday that the investigation into Mr Penno-Thompson’s disappearance was still ongoing, but there were no real updates. In July, Mr Tattersall spoke to News Limited about what happened before Mr Penno-Tompsett’s disappeared.
He reportedly said that during the long drive both men were using drugs, which he said contributed to an argument spiraling out of control.
“Things just got heated when there was no intention for that, then once he escalated he wouldn’t calm down,” Mr Tattersall said.
He said Mr Penno-Tompsett had lost the drugs and was deeply concerned because they had been purchased on credit.
“He started freaking out badly about what these people would do to him if he wasn’t to pay the money,” Mr Tattersall said.
Mr Tattersall said Mr Penno-Tompsett stopped the car, threatened him and then walked off. He was never seen again.
Mr Penno-Tompsett’s parents, Ms Penno and Brendan Tompsett, have struggled with his disappearance.
On Sunday, Ms Penno posted a photograph of flowers tied to a signpost on Stockroute Road, her son’s last known location.
And then it was back to knocking on doors, asking questions. “I don’t know what I’m coming up against,” Ms Penno said on Sunday.
“But I’m not trying to be aggressive. I want to know if they know anything, what they have heard. I just want answers.”