Alberta RCMP apologize for poor investigation into Indigenous woman’s death

EDMONTON — The commanding officer of the RCMP in Alberta has apologized to the family of an Indigenous woman who disappeared nine years ago and whose killer has never been found.

Amber Tuccaro was 20 years old in August 2010 when she flew to Edmonton from her home in Fort McMurray, Alta., and booked into a hotel near the airport.

The woman from the Mikisew Cree Nation caught a ride into the city with a man the next day and was never seen alive again.

Her skull was found in a wooded area two years later.

An independent federal review released in 2018 found that the Leduc detachment’s investigation of her disappearance was deficient.

“I fully acknowledge that in the early days of our investigation into Amber’s disappearance that it required a better sense of urgency and care,” Deputy Commissioner Curtis Zablocki told Tuccaro’s family Thursday at RCMP headquarters in Edmonton.

“Our Leduc detachment’s missing person investigation was not our best work and was not in line with our established practices, procedures and guidelines.

“At the beginning of this investigation the RCMP was not the police service we strive to be.

On behalf of the RCMP, I am truly sorry.”

After his apology, Tuccaro’s family unveiled a new poster urging anyone with information on the case to contact police.

“Today I don’t know how I feel. I really don’t,” said Tuccaro’s mother, Tootsie Tuccaro. “I’m angry. I’m hurt. I’m just messed up.

“But … like Amber always told me, ‘You got this, mama,’ and I do.”

Amber Tuccaro flew to Edmonton with her 14-month-old son and a female friend. The next day, police said, she left her hotel room to catch a ride into Edmonton and got into an unknown man’s vehicle.

In 2012, police released a cellphone recording between Tuccaro and the man who gave her a ride.

“You’d better not be taking me anywhere I don’t want to go,” Tuccaro can be heard telling the man. “I want to go into the city.”

In September 2012, a group of horseback riders discovered a skull in a wooded area in a field on a rural property near Leduc, Alta. It was identified through dental records as Tuccaro’s.

Her brother, Paul Tuccaro, testified at the national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls during its hearings in Edmonton. Sounding baffled and hurt, he spent two hours describing a lackadaisical RCMP investigation.

He said RCMP downplayed the family’s concerns about his sister’s disappearance. Police wouldn’t list her as a missing person until she had been gone 24 hours.

“They’re like, ‘Oh yeah, maybe she’s out partying or something. She’ll come back.’”

Tuccaro’s name was wrongly removed from the missing persons list and it was a month before she was put back on. No apology was made, her brother said.

He also said RCMP told the family that investigators had had the cellphone tape for a year before releasing it.

RCMP didn’t keep in touch during the investigation after her remains were found, he said. The family was passed around from officer to officer.

Her belongings sat in a hotel room for months before police took them and eventually threw them away.

Tuccaro said his mother would have liked to have had her daughter’s possessions back — quite apart from their value as evidence.

“We asked for a public apology. They said no.”

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