RCMP finish part of search for missing Alberta couple, now following up leads

EDMONTON — What at first appeared to be a break in an “extremely suspicious” case involving two missing Alberta seniors may turn out to be just another tip.

EDMONTON — What at first appeared to be a break in an “extremely suspicious” case involving two missing Alberta seniors may turn out to be just another tip.

RCMP in Prince George, B.C., confirmed Wednesday that they’ve received reports of an SUV belonging to Lyle McCann, 78, and his wife, Marie, 77, being spotted in the area.

But Alberta Mounties caution that’s just one of 80 tips being investigated in the complex case.

The McCanns left St. Albert, in their motorhome on July 3, and headed to British Columbia to meet relatives. But two days later their burning motorhome was found in a wooded area south of Edson while the couple and a light green Hyundai Tucson SUV they were towing were nowhere to be found.

Gary Godwin, a spokesman for Prince George RCMP, revealed Wednesday that on Tuesday afternoon a couple came into his detachment saying they had seen an SUV matching that description with Alberta licence plates ending in the numbers 289.

“Apparently it has been in town, we think, for approximately four days,” Godwin told radio station CKPG.

“We took a number of questions and asked them, but new information has now come to light and we would like very much to speak to this couple again but we’ve been unable to reach them at this point in time.”

Godwin said he was issuing a public plea for the couple to get in touch with RCMP again.

Alberta Sgt. Patrick Webb warned there’s no reason to think this tip is more valid than any of the other tips that have come in.

“We’ve also got possibilities in many other places, too,” he said. “A lot of them are dealing with, ’I think I saw the vehicle.’ Could it be Prince George? Absolutely. But it could be a lot of other places, too.”

Webb could not offer an explanation for why officers in the B.C. detachment would not have gotten enough information when the couple first came in to allow them to definitively check out the tip.

“Prince George detachment’s very big,” he said. “They probably had somebody who just grabbed the information and these people departed without giving their name. So then they’re trying to track down what to do with it, who gets it, that type of thing.

“It’s probably more of a case of not realizing the necessity to sit them down and give them everything right away, but I don’t know all the details.”

The couple’s son, Bret McCann, said Wednesday night that he had not been aware of the development.

“I’ve got a tip on my Facebook page that somebody saw an SUV like my parents’ in a junkyard or a lake, and I forwarded that on to police yesterday,” he said.

“That was in Prince George as well. It could be the same thing we’re talking about or something different.

“It makes me want to explore it, for sure.”

Mounties in Alberta held a news conference Wednesday to say they have wrapped up part of their search after scouring the bush area around the couple’s burned-out motorhome.

“Right now whatever tips and information have come in, our investigators are just finishing up on that,” said Webb.

The motorhome was found five days before the couple was reported missing by relatives on July 10. After finding the burned RV, police called on the McCanns at their home but couldn’t find them.

The McCanns were supposed to meet up with their daughter Trudy Holder in Abbotsford, B.C., for a camping trip near Chilliwack but failed to show, prompting the call to police and a ground and aerial search around the RV.

“They’re always where they say they’re going to be … early. It’s just a given that when they say they’re going to be there, they’re there,” Holder told CTV News.

She said the family has been sick with worry for more than a week now.

“Every scenario has come into my mind about what could possibly have happened. I can’t imagine. We’re so worried about them, I can’t imagine what’s going on.”

On Tuesday, Bret McCann held a televised news conference with police to publicize the case and to urge tipsters to come forward.

“We know you’re out there. You may be hurt,” said McCann, his voice quivering as he delivered a message to his parents. “But we’re looking as hard as we can for you.”

Investigators have been checking the couple’s cellphone records and financial transactions. They said there was no unusual activity, but Webb noted there were no credit-card transactions after July 5.

Mounties are also looking into how they’ve handled the case so far, given no alarm bells were set off for days after the motorhome was found and the couple couldn’t be located.

Webb has said finding burning vehicles in the bush is not unusual and that people’s schedules and routines change radically during the peak vacation weeks of the summer.