The Editor’s Desk: Armchair experts not wanted

In the wake of the disappearance of two teens wanted for murder, lots of people are expert trackers

You seem like a person who knows things about the wilderness and police and stuff, so why haven’t police been able to find those two teens who are wanted in connection with three killings in B.C., and were last seen in northern Manitoba? Welcome back, my friend! And before I go any further, I’ll say as a disclaimer that while I’ve read a lot about these things, I have about as much practical experience and knowledge as most of the thousands of armchair experts who have been weighing in on the subject, seemingly confident that if they had been in charge of the search, the two teens would have been found before they left Port Alberni.

What do you mean? It’s easy to pontificate from the comfort of home with no pressure to get results and no consequences if you don’t get a result. Facebook fire chiefs, my son dubbed such people in the wake of the 2017 wildfires.

Someone commented that the police don’t seem to have any trouble finding a Tim Hortons. Hilarious. Let’s treat that as if it’s a serious contribution to the discussion, and not a cheap gag. Tim Hortons restaurants are generally located in places called cities and towns, on things called roads, and feature highly visible signage. There’s also an app you can download which shows you the location of all the Timmies in your area. They are not, in my experience, located in remote, bug- and animal-infested wilderness which features lots of dense undergrowth, bogs, and swamps, but few if any roads. Even if they were, your app would be useless, since there is no internet or cellphone coverage.

Fair point. But with all the resources police have available, like thermal imaging equipment and planes, shouldn’t the pair have been found by now? No. As anyone knows who has, say, flown over the area in question, or any other remote area in Canada, there’s a whole lot of “there” out there. People searching for someone who has gone missing in a clearly defined location — while on a hike, say, having left behind information about where they were going, and when — often can’t find them. In this case searchers know where the pair were two weeks ago, but no idea where they went after that.

Gotcha. And even if they were still in the area where they were last seen, it seems pretty clear they don’t want to be found, which makes the searchers’ task even more complicated.

So if they wanted to be found that would have happened by now? Not necessarily. Maclean’s magazine recently featured an article ( about two German men who, two years ago, were canoeing in the area and had an accident that left their canoe unusable. The men decided to leave a note and hike the 120km to Gillam, Manitoba, where the two teens were spotted in July.

What happened? They figured they could walk 30km each day and make it there in four days. Instead, they made 7km the first day and were soon exhausted. Their shoes were completely torn apart, their feet were always wet, they got soaked when it rained, and they had to ration their food. At one point a helicopter flew overhead, but even though they waved and tried to attract attention to themselves, they were not spotted.

Wow. Indeed. It took them 10 days to finally get to a road about 15km from Gillam and flag down a vehicle. By that time they had run out of food and were constantly on the verge of giving up. This is two men who wanted desperately to be found and knew they wouldn’t be arrested as soon as they were spotted. The B.C. teens clearly don’t want to be found.

Thanks for putting things in perspective. Always happy to help. And a word to the wise: the Tim Hortons/doughnuts/police thing gets really old, really fast.

10-4. Thanks.

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