AIRDRIE — Organizers say they’ll continue their civilian search for signs of a missing five-year-old Calgary boy and his grandparents after earlier calling it off because of a social media backlash.
Matt Forseth says organizers decided to cancel the search when some questioned whether they might actually be hindering the police investigation.
But he says they changed their minds Wednesday after more than 100 people showed up to help and investigators OK’d their efforts.
The volunteers have been scouring rural areas near the community of Airdrie for any sign of Alvin and Kathy Liknes (LIHK’-ness) and their grandson, Nathan O’Brien, who disappeared in late June.
Douglas Garland, who lived on an acreage near Airdrie, has been charged with three counts of murder, even though the bodies have not been found.
Forseth says the angry backlash came when a news report was posted on the group’s Facebook page that said police were upset with the volunteer search.
“People were calling us media hounds, selfish, that we were looking to post selfies on Facebook,” Forseth said. “It became so overwhelming.”
But Forseth says police have always been supportive of what they’ve been doing and he says Calgary police and RCMP both reiterated that support on Wednesday.
“Then we had 112 people sitting there, not including ourselves, saying we’re not going anywhere. We’re supporting you guys. We came out to do something good for the family.”
The group’s Facebook page has been taken down, but Forseth says the volunteers will continue to search ditches and other areas for clues.
Police have been asking rural residents to check their property for anything unusual.
Kevin Brookwell, a Calgary police spokesman, has told local media that investigators appreciate the public’s help, but searchers have to follow certain protocols.
Forseth said the volunteers are not searching areas where police are focused. They’re also staying off private property unless they’re specifically invited by landowners .
“Our intentions aren’t to solve this case. I hope nobody finds anything of a graphic nature. But we might find a simple piece of paper, the tiniest piece of evidence that might open up a new area for the Calgary police services to start looking,” Forseth explained.
“Ultimately, we want to adhere to their wishes. And if they ask us to stop everything, then it’s done. We’ll set up a barbecue and invite all the volunteers down and say thank you to everybody who did help.”