by Andru McCracken
The BC Coroners Service has launched a new interactive map showing key information on active unidentified human remains cases in British Columbia, with an aim to generate new leads to help close these investigations.
The interactive online map from the Coroners’ Special Investigations Unit provides a summary for each unresolved case in B.C. You can visit the site here: tinyurl.com/unidentifiedremains
BC’s chief coroner, Lisa Lapointe, said she hopes the tool will help them close cases for about 200 unidentified people.
“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,” she said.
In the Canoe and Robson Valleys there is a single unsolved case that shows up on the database, but the case might better be described as uncertain, rather than unsolved.
A foot was found in a size 7 brown leather cowboy boot on the banks of the Fraser River. The boot had the inscription ‘Neolite’ on it.
Corporal Kyle Ushock of the McBride RCMP said they believe they know who it belonged to: Merle Fuglem went missing on May 28, 1972 on the Morkhill River near Crescent Spur.
“Given the location and the narrative of our file, it is likely the same. But there was not enough evidence to say conclusively,” said Ushock. “Forensics in 1983 is not what it is now.”
Andy Watson, the Manager of Strategic Communications for the BC Coroners Service, said as much.
“Based on our understanding, and while the size of the boot is roughly consistent with the same missing person, a conclusive confirmation could not be made at the time,” said Watson.
“It’s possible it’s linked to this individual, but in 1984 a decision was made to destroy the boot and remains when a comparison could not be made – this was before the sophisticated DNA analysis available to agencies today.”
Anyone with information or questions about any of the investigations displayed on the Unidentified Human Remains interactive viewer should contact the Special Investigations Unit using the case number provided in the viewer at: [email protected]
In addition to remains, there are two other missing persons files open at the McBride detachment, both involving water.
A 1999 incident involved two men. Two males were kayaking on the McKale River while being spotted from the shore by a third male. The two kayakers became stuck in a hole and could not get out, the spotter went to retrieve a throw line and both kayakers were gone from the hole upon his return. One of the kayakers was able to self rescue and swam to shore and observed the other kayaker’s empty kayak floating away. An intensive search occurred, but the kayaker was never located and is presumed to have drowned.
Another incident was from 1972. RCMP were contacted by the department of highways in regards to a collision near Slim Creek. A vehicle had skidded off the roadway and rolled down an embankment and into the river, coming to rest upside down and fully submerged. The registered owner of the vehicle was believed to be the only occupant in the vehicle and has never been located, and is presumed to have drowned as a result of the incident.