McCann family searches for answers -

McCann family searches for answers

Family hasn’t lost hope after elderly motorhome-driving couple go missing


Chris Schwarz/Edmonton Journal

Since his parents went missing, Bret McCann has had his hands full fielding media inquiries and making broadcast appearances on behalf of his family. “For a while there we were going to studios almost constantly,” says the St. Albert, Alta., engineer. “We had to be up at 5:30 in the morning to do Canada AM.” The McCann family has also been busy creating a Facebook page and a stand-alone website devoted to the search for Lyle, 78, and Marie Ann, 77, who were last seen on a security-camera video fuelling up their motorhome in St. Albert on July 3.

Sorting out possible tips from well-intended messages of support is time-consuming, and every word from soft-spoken Bret testifies to his exhaustion. “But what I’m kind of dreading,” he admits offhandedly, “is the day the reporters don’t call.”

The McCanns’ planned journey was one that Lyle could probably have captained in his sleep. He spent most of his working life as a long-haul trucker, and the roads leading over the Rockies to the coast were his bread and butter; he had an archaeologist’s knowledge of the year-to-year changes along the Yellowhead Trail. Lyle and Marie Ann, who have lived in St. Albert since 1964, intended to meet daughter Trudy Holder at the airport in Abbotsford, B.C., on July 10.

No one thought there was a need to keep tabs on the independent, healthy pair while they were in transit. But the McCanns are meticulous and considerate, so their daughter immediately sensed trouble when they missed their rendezvous. The children—Trudy, Bret, and Lance, who inherited his father’s St. Albert-based trucking business about a decade ago—made a call and discovered that Lyle and Marie Ann had also failed to make a planned stopover with older friends in Kelowna the previous day.

Unbeknownst to the trio, there were already much more disturbing signs of trouble. The McCanns left St. Albert towing a Hyundai Tucson SUV behind their 1999 Gulf Stream Sun Voyager motorhome. On July 5, the larger vehicle was found on fire in a forest cutline not far from a campground near Edson, about 200 km west of St. Albert. Firemen arrived too late to save the Sun Voyager, but an RCMP officer was able to retrieve the registration card. According to initial reports, that officer tried to call the absent McCanns, and, on getting no answer at their residence, handed the file over to the St. Albert detachment for further investigation.

The manager of the campground told police that he had seen both the motorhome and the SUV pull into his facility, and had knocked on the door of the RV but had gotten no answer. Before long, both vehicles had moved on. The immolated Sun Voyager—towed to a police impound lot in Edson—remained in administrative limbo for a heartbreaking five days until the McCanns contacted the RCMP about their vanished parents. The force, unusually quick to acknowledge the possibility of carelessness, says it is conducting an internal review of the handling of the case, and that an Edson officer has been limited to desk duty in the meantime. More than mere time was lost as a result of the error; the removal of the vehicle from the clearing also compromised a possible crime scene.

Still more eyebrows were raised later in the week, when it transpired that Prince George resident Diana Bjorklund had gone to her hometown local RCMP detachment with her father on July 12 to report a sighting of the Tucson, complete with licence-plate number. The Bjorklunds were brushed off (supposedly by a civilian employee) without having their contact information taken down, and the Mounties were forced to put out a humiliating public appeal for the tipsters to come back. Ms. Bjorklund did so, reluctantly, telling CBC Radio that she felt “insulted” by the indifferent treatment she received: “They said [our sighting] was irrelevant because it was four days ago, five days ago.”

The RCMP, left to atone for its early blunders, gradually responded with a display of its historic strengths—knowledge of western communities and sheer manpower. The McCanns’ SUV was recovered on July 16 near Carrot Creek, 30 km east of Edson. On the same day, the Mounties announced that they had identified a “person of interest” in the case—38-year-old Travis Edward Vader. Vader was already wanted on outstanding warrants after a sequence of arrests, bailouts, and missed court appearances on matters involving drugs, stolen property, weapons, and arson. The RCMP described him as dangerous, and quickly focused their search on a cluster of Yellowhead County hamlets east of Edson—including Carrot Creek, MacKay, and Niton Junction—where Vader had grown up and had been spotted recently.

Area residents concurred with the police’s evaluation of Vader, painting a complex picture of a hard-working, intelligent kid from a good family who had gone on to become a successful drilling consultant. With the downturn in the Alberta oil patch, Vader was forced to sell his equipment and had become an ominous, short-tempered presence haunting the hotel bar in Niton Junction. When the police held a Friday night community meeting in MacKay to discuss the hunt for Vader and to share information, Vader’s own father, according to the Edmonton Journal, warned attendees that “if you tried to corner [my son] out here, you would be dead.” But this proved false: when the police located Vader at a rural residence near Niton Junction on Monday, RCMP and Edmonton Police Service tactical units swooped in, arresting him and another individual without incident.

Unless Vader has answers, the vigil will continue for the McCann family. The police, though suspecting the worst, have not specified why they want to question Vader. There have been no confirmed sightings of Lyle and Marie Ann since July 3, and no physical trace of them was found in either vehicle. “We’re trying to focus on the chance that my parents are somewhere out there, maybe in the bush,” says Bret. “My dad is in his late seventies but he’s very vigorous. He’s getting a bit frail, but just a couple weeks ago he was here cutting down trees in my yard. He’s resourceful. If he’s out there, I’m confident he can take care of Mom.”


McCann family searches for answers

  1. The RCMP have botched this from dayone. Now it seems they have not gotten anything from Vader who will probably get off easy on the stolen goods charges in our current justice system.
    Too sad.

    • It seems Canadians have discovered a new blame game when answers are not immediately available. Blame the RCMP.
      What happened to blaming the perpetrator .This seems to no longer happen. The police are not usually in a position to stop a crime before they know it is going to happen. They do not have extrasensory powers. The police usually are in a position to investigate a crime after it occurs. People have to start blaming the criminal who actually committed the crime, not the police that are trying to solve it.

      • Agree with you wholeheartedly Ed — Good Post.

      • Great post. I could not agree more. Do you think the police don't feel like they could read minds and get there before the tragedies happen? Granted, mistakes were made in this investigation. One cannot deny that. But that does not place blame on the RCMP. I also find that people are so quick to criticize the justice system in Canada. I'll be the first to admit that it isn't perfect, but I also truly believe that we live in a great nation in which we try to uphold justice as best we know how. If you can come up with a better system of justice, I would love to hear it! I should not go on so long about these matters, when the only comment this story truly deserves is this: My thoughts and prayers are with the McCann family for the safe return of these beautiful human beings. Porch light is on for their safe return home.

  2. Such a sad story. I do wonder why everything I read is about pleas for info regarding where the SUV has been. Maybe the pleas should be for info on where the RV was before it was destroyed. Still puzzled about why the RCMP announced Vader as a "person of interest" two hours before the SUV was found. And why although the SUV was all over the news, the locals didn't bother to report that they saw Vader driving the SUV, sounds like tall tales to me.

    • yes there was over 130 tips that came in supposedly reporting that Vader was driving the SUV,,, and reports that the locals didnt want their name or face shown due to being scared of the POI

  3. A slight correction: I'm a crime Reporter at the Edmonton Journal and the source of the "if you tried to corner him…" quote. I was the only media member at that meeting in MacKay.

    RCMP did not call the meeting. They weren't even there, at least before I was asked to leave. It was actually a community meeting called in response to an increase in brazen thefts and crimes in the area, not specifically the McCann case. The citizens wished to set up a community watch: increasing signage, recording license plates, keeping communication lines open.

    Ed Vader made his comments in reaction to events of that day (the identification of Travis Vader as a person of interest). His warning was against the idea of vigilante-styled responses to the thefts, using the example of his estranged son (and tacitly identifying him as one of those responsible for crime in the area).

    It was a pretty explosive quote, but I want to ensure that it's in context.

    • Thanks, Brent. The Journal has done an outstanding job on this story, which is all happening pretty far from headquarters.

  4. Yes, Brent, thank you for still taking an interest in a story that still keeps people on the edge of their seats with great concern. I hope you keep reporting on this matter because many of us are looking for updates on a daily, even hourly, basis even though almost a month has gone by. Slowly but surely, the media is losing interest in this case as time goes on. This is a very sad result, but even though the reporting has dwindled, probably due to lack of information, the Canadian public's concern has not dwindled. Not a day, even hours, go by where I do not think about the McCann's. In every 70 year-old face, I see the face of Mr. and Mrs. McCann and my heart breaks a little more thinking, "How? How could someone do this?" What a dark, dark, day for Canada and society as a whole. This horror story touches many of us deeply in the most private and vulnerable places of the heart. I shall never rest fully until the McCann's are found safe and sound. Wishing the McCann family a "peace that transcends all understanding".

    • It is so true that this story has touched he heart of Canadians from coast to coast and so deeply. Like you, I think about the McCanns constantly, praying they are found and soon. What I can't help wondering is if someone may have taken them hostage enroute to the park where the Motorhome was found? Did the RCMP try to search the route they most likely would have taken? Could they be somewhere other than where they are searching? Even if the motorhome was in the place they told their family they would be, perhaps they told someone (the one that possibly has them) where they were headed, so that person drove he motor home to the location, then torched it. Ok, so I read a lot of crime stories, but it's a thought. I can't help but wonder if they are looking in the wrong spot. The news doesn't give one much to go on. What is everyone elses thought on this?

      • Hi Katherine, from my understanding, the McCann's had no intention of being where the motorhome was torched, nor the campground which was near it?

        My guess is that perhaps when they stopped for gas, or stopped elsewhere, the criminal jumped into the back of the unlocked RV and went from there. Just a tip, I have heard that if ever carjacked, you are to crash your vehicle into something, never go to a second location. I know it might not always be possible, but if you can, crash the vehicle or anything else, but do not go to a second location.

        • p.s. I also think that perhaps if the McCann's were murdered, it happened after they arrived at this campground. I most certainly hope they were just left somewhere in the middle of the woods to fend for themselves also as possibility. If they are being held hostage, there is no ransom demand, etc., so what would the point be? Someone would have to be providing the necessities of life and, I highly doubt that's happening. But, one never knows, anything is possible.

          • Like you, I to hope that the McCann's are ok, maybe lost in the woods, I just pray whoever did this to this family comes forward and tells them where they can find their parents. I don't like to believe that there are people out here in this world that can be so unhuman, so horrible and so callous although we have to face reality because it happens all the time, but here in Canada, you just don't hear of this. Perhaps the person who did this is not a Canadian. It's so frustrating. My heart breaks a little more each time I go to the news to check and see if there is any word. I'll keep praying, keep my porch light on and hope for a miracle.

        • In one news article the Park owner was questioned and he told police that he saw the RV pull in to the campsite but it didn't mention if he saw who was driving. He also said that he knocked on the door of the RV and no one answered. I'm not sure about this park, but do you not have to register your vehicle when you camp in a park and if so, who registered it?

          • My guess is, the vehicle wasn't registered and why the manager was probably knocking on the door of the RV though no one answered. It seemed to only be at that campground for a few hours before it was burned down. So, something happened at the campground is my guess and is why the RV was burned. Of course, this is all speculation because we have not been provided with much information.

          • yes you do…that is why he was knocking at the door…because the camper and vehicle were not registered to be in the the campground…

  5. Sad story and surrounded by mystery. I sure do hope the McCanns are found, and alive would be fantastic.

    I'm a little concerned about how quickly Vader was arrested after it became clear the RCMP had messed the case up a few times. What is printed here does not say that he's ever been in trouble with the law for violence. Break and enter is a far cry from double kidnapping; arson isn't the same as homicide.

    The fact that he didn't go anywhere but stayed around where all the action is makes me suspect he isn't the culprit here. Maybe the cops wanted to stop tongues wagging about their performance — anyway, it's been several days since the arrest (on different charges) — yet no news? How long can he be held without them pressing charges?

    Cops need to work harder and faster on this.

  6. From my understanding, the RV was found on a dead-end cut line, not in the actual campground. There were also several sightings of Vader driving the green SUV around Niton Junction area, but this was all in the five-day period between the RV being found burnt and the day the McCann's were actually reported missing. He (whoever had the SUV) had FIVE WHOLE DAYS before anyone was even LOOKING for the SUV. He could have gone a lot of different places in that five days – Edmonton (sister's to "rest") then off to Prince George, then back to Niton Junction to his "friend's" place out of town where he thought maybe he wouldn't be found?? The police really dropped the ball when this RV was found burnt!!! The police must know a lot more than they are sharing by this time, but possibly have not been able to question Vader the way they wanted to, as his lawyer dumped him, and he's keeping his mouth shut – he's been through the system and knows it well enough to keep his mouth shut.

    • i totally agree with your comment….

  7. I thought any chance that they were tourched inside the motor home i am hoping not but nothing was said f they found suitacases clothes id or anything

  8. The cops really effed up this time, and how many more as we speak?But what do we expect when the "punks" are running the show? There is a shortage of RCMP in general, and most of the "good" ones have retired or are retiring in short order. The new recruits, the young people, simply don't have the experience yet . They shouldn't be left out to rule the roost on their own. Or at least, not to be guided or mentored by jaded, damaged and/or disgruntled members. Ironically, the old effers, the so-called ones with experience who now sit behind desks waiting to cash out are the ones who are truly making a mockery of the institution. Resulting in cases such as this one.
    My heart goes out to the victims. I hope for truth and justice for all involved.

  9. from the begining , the news showed that his family lost their trailer to fire,,now i think that trailer was on the property of his exwifes mother,which is an acerage,i believe that should be a place that mccann family should request a search as he would know that land very well

  10. For all of you that are outside the case, I'm sure it's pretty easy for you to judge and critique… you have no idea what measures have been involved as it's an ongoing investigation and all the details aren't released… to say the RCMP have effed up royally here is beyond me. Everyday, they receive files of burned out vehicles, etc. The family hadn't yet been reported missing and the member was trying to obtain info on the owners of the RV.

    Talking about how long they can hold Vader.. He has outstanding warrants to be dealt with. It's not like they are just holding him against his will… he has outstanding charges and was remanded into custody until he deals with them…….

  11. If Vader is truly guilty -why haven't they charged him? We initially heard that he was a 'person of interest' and then he is a' suspect' – CHARGE HIM if you have the evidence!! This story about Vader driving the SUV for five days sounds more like a rumor than fact. Nowhere has it been reported officially that anyone saw Vader driving the car. And even if that were the case – there would be plenty of DNA residue in the car which would certainly be grounds for charging him. The fact that the RCMP have said nothing about evidence clearly shows they have noithing on him.

    Could it be they are looking in the wrong place? Maybe this sounds a little heartless – but maybe it's time to focus on the McCann family. Motive – Does anyone stand to gain from the death of the older McCanns?