Eduardo Balaquit was 'victim of a crime,' police say as search expands to town north of Winnipeg

Police are expanding search efforts for Eduardo Balaquit beyond Winnipeg city limits to Arborg, Man., and say they believe the 59-year-old father was the victim of a crime before he disappeared.

59-year-old Winnipeg father disappeared June 4 while working

Eduardo Balaquit's family last heard from him on Monday at around 6 p.m., his son says. (Edward Balaquit/Facebook)

Police are expanding search efforts for Eduardo Balaquit beyond Winnipeg city limits and say they believe the 59-year-old father was the "victim of a crime" before he disappeared more than one week ago.

Homicide investigators and police have expanded the search for Balaquit to Arborg, Man.

Const. Rob Carver said investigators won't reveal why the search has expanded to the community, about 115 kilometres north of Winnipeg, but he isn't aware of any ties Balaquit might have in the area.

Winnipeg police and local RCMP are in Arborg doing ground searches on Wednesday.

"These are some of the most difficult cases we deal with," Carver told reporters at a news conference Wednesday morning. "These cases are painful."

Watch Carver explain more about the expanded search:

Police are expanding search efforts for Eduardo Balaquit beyond Winnipeg city limits to Arborg, Man., and say they believe the 59-year-old father was the victim of a crime before he disappeared. 1:15

Balaquit was reported missing when he didn't return home from work on June 4. He last spoke with family that day and was last seen near a business at 380 Keewatin St., in the Tyndall Park neighbourhood, between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m.

His van was found near his workplace with the passenger window broken in. His cellphone was still in the vehicle and some of his personal belongings were found on the ground outside.

On Wednesday afternoon, five volunteers, plus 10 officers from the Winnipeg police and RCMP, were searching just south of Arborg. Searchers have been going through fields, looking in culverts, opening farm sheds and searching by a pond.

RCMP have brought in ATVs, and the Winnipeg police helicopter was also seen in the area. 

Police asked people not to come to the area to avoid fresh footprints in fields. 

Balaquit's son Edward was searching near Little Mountain Park in northwest Winnipeg Wednesday morning but headed out to Arborg for the afternoon. He said he's fine with the police request to stay away from the front lines of the search.

"We're getting closer," he said.

Officials said the search would continue until dark. 

Other media have reported that a letter was found at a Keewatin Street business the morning after Balaquit went missing. Apart from acknowledging local media have reported on such a letter, Carver said Wednesday he could not confirm any details.

The homicide unit took over the investigation and a number of community and family-driven search efforts have taken place over the past nine days.

"We've moved to bring in homicide investigators which, for the elephant in the room, obviously suggests that we believe this may be a homicide," Carver said. "But we can't term the case a homicide yet, so it's right in the middle."

Eduardo Balaquit is 5-foot-4, 155 pounds and has a medium build. (Supplied by Winnipeg police)

Police are asking homeowners and businesses in Arborg and the surrounding area to check their properties and outbuildings for any signs of Balaquit.

Anyone in the area who noticed anything suspicious on the evening of June 4 is asked to contact investigators 204-986-6508 or Crime Stoppers at 204-786-8477.

"Investigators request that if anything suspicious is located that nothing be touched and the area not be disturbed," said Const. Carver.

Eduardo Balaquit is 5-foot-4, 155 pounds and has a medium build. He was wearing a black zip-up sweater, black pants and black shoes when he was last seen.

The family also encourages anyone with information to reach out to them directly at 204-298-5171 or 204-510-5170.

Homicide investigators and police have expanded the search for Eduardo Balaquit to Arborg, Man. 1:32