The husband of one of two women stabbed to death in a Victorian hair salon has emerged as the prime suspect, 23 years on.
Claire Acocks and Margaret Penny were killed at a Portland hairdressers in 1991, about 350km west of Melbourne, in a crime that rocked the rural town of 9000 people.
Both women’s husbands were ruled out as suspects early on.
But now Margaret Penny’s husband, Robert, has emerged as a key suspect, the Nine Network’s 60 Minutes program reported on Sunday.
Local schoolteacher Leonie Wallace, who has investigated the case for several years, says Mr Penny told others what the murder weapon was before it was determined in an autopsy.
“He told three people she’d been killed with a special tail comb,” she told the program.
“That wouldn’t have been known until the autopsy, which was conducted a couple of days later.
“It seems unusual that he would be in possession of that information at that stage.”
General store owner Shaun Smith says a man his wife identified as Robert Penny came into the store the weekend after the murders asking for something to remove bloodstains.
“I thought it was very unusual for somebody that had just had their wife murdered to come in and act the way he did,” he said.
Mr Smith said he called police 10 minutes after the man left his store but they did not act.
“I thought that was pretty valuable information. It got lost in the system, I suppose.”
The program reported that police took a DNA sample this month from Mr Penny, who is now 82 and living in Melbourne
Mr Penny told the program he was “absolutely shattered” he was a suspect.
He denied being the killer and dismissed a claim he was shopping for bloodstain remover after the killing.
“We were very much much in love,” Mr Penny said.
“We’d gone up to Portland for some peace and quiet, a lovely life which we’ve always had.
“Please now leave me alone.”
Mrs Acocks’ son Tim said he was encouraged by the new inquiry.
“But it’s just a wait-and-see game,” he said.