Police, family hope BBQ boosts awareness of Sask. girl who vanished from home

REGINA — Relatives of a young Saskatchewan girl who disappeared from her home five years ago say they thought they’d have answers to her whereabouts by now.

REGINA — Relatives of a young Saskatchewan girl who disappeared from her home five years ago say they thought they’d have answers to her whereabouts by now.

Tamra Keepness, 5, was last seen when she went to bed late on July 5, 2004. It wasn’t until noon the next day that someone noticed she was missing and called police.

At a barbecue held Sunday to mark the grim anniversary, Tamra’s great-aunt, Ellen Keewatin, fought back tears.

“It’s really, really hard to come here and to talk about her,” said Keewatin. “We still think of her as being a little girl, being five-years-old. I can’t imagine her growing up.”

Tamra’s disappearance sparked one of the largest searches in Regina history.

Police have probed more than 1,500 tips and have spent thousands of hours investigating the case. The board of police commissioners has also extended the offer of a $25,000 reward for information that would solve the case.

But despite the effort, there’s been no sign of the young girl whose image smiles up at people from posters across the province.

Keewatin said she hoped the barbecue would keep the case in the public eye. She’s convinced someone has the answers to the little girl’s disappearance.

“There’s got to be somebody that knows something. A person just doesn’t vanish off the face of the Earth into thin air,” she said.

“I thought we would have found something by now — even if we had to find her remains and put them to rest.”

Tamra’s mother, Lorena Keepness, has maintained her belief that Tamra was snatched by a stranger, but police have not found any evidence to support that.

Keewatin reluctantly admits that hope for a good outcome is fading as the years pass.

“But you still are left to wonder where she is, if she’s being fed, if she’s being treated right, is she being sexually abused, is she dead,” said Keewatin.

When asked if she believes Tamra is still alive, Keewatin said her feelings are mixed.

“Sometimes I do, other times I don’t. I don’t know what to believe.”

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