Modern scientific advances have helped crack a cold case, and given answers to the family of a Kamloops man who was last seen more than 50 years ago.
In 1967, a 41-year-old Kamloops man went missing. His family reported the disappearance, as well as the fact that he had last been seen in Coquitlam on May 27 of that year.
Despite a lengthy investigation into the disappearance, there were no leads. In August 1972 the remains of a human male were found washed up on a beach on Saturna Island in the Strait of Georgia, nearly 100 kilometres from Coquitlam. An autopsy was conducted, but the remains could not be identified, and the man was buried on nearby Salt Spring Island.
In 2014 the case was transferred to the Coquitlam RCMP. The RCMP Southeast District Missing Person Coordinator reviewed the investigation, and obtained a DNA sample from the missing man’s daughter. In September 2020 the remains were exhumed and a DNA profile of the man was obtained; a task made more difficult by the decomposition of the remains. The two DNA samples were compared, and established the man’s identity.
“Through scientific advancements in identification processes, we are now able to solve such historic cases,” said the director of the BC Coroners Service Special Investigations Unit, Eric Petit, in a written statement. Police have stated that no criminal activity was suspected in the man’s death.
The family have asked to remain anonymous, but in a written statement thanked “all RCMP members, the coroners, and the team involved in dedicating their time and efforts to bring this missing persons case to a close.”
There has recently been a renewed focus on solving cold cases in B.C., many of them going back decades. As of early 2020, there were 179 unidentified human remains investigations open in the province, and more than 700 unidentified remains in the RCMP’s national database of missing persons and unidentified remains.
In January 2020, a partnership between the BC Coroners Service, the RCMP, and the New York Academy of the Arts gave police a new tool to help them in their investigations: 3D facial reconstructions using the skulls from 14 unidentified human remains investigations in B.C.
Among the sets of remains was one from near Lytton: a Caucasian male aged 25 to 40 whose skull was discovered in a forested area northeast of Lytton on March 8, 2016. It is estimated that the remains had been there for between five and 10 years. While the identity of the Lytton man has not yet been determined, the reconstructions have led to the identification of at least one set of previously unidentified remains.
In 2019 the BC Coroners Service released an interactive map giving details of almost all the unidentified human remains across the province. Among the cases listed is that of an unknown male between the ages of 30 and 50 who was found near Cache Creek in 1994 and who had been dead for approximately 10 years when his remains were discovered. Another case involves a man whose remains were found near Boston Bar in December 1989. He was between 30 and 50 and had been dead no longer than three months, allowing police to release details about his clothing and belongings — which included British coins and a CP train ticket stub — and a sketch of his appearance.
“By reaching out and engaging members of the public with the launch of this innovative tool, it’s our hope to gain new investigative leads that will lead to the identification of these unidentified individuals and bring closure to their families,” chief coroner Lisa Lapointe said in a statement in 2019.
View the interactive map at http://bit.ly/2U2TvkX.