The RCMP have issued a Canada-wide warrant for a pedophile with a string of sex assault convictions who is believed to have abducted 10-year-old Zachary Miller in Saskatchewan.
In addition to the cross-country alert, police have charged Peter Robert Joseph Whitmore, 35, with abduction.
Investigators say Zachary was last seen Sunday afternoon near his home in Whitewood, Sask. Police issued an Amber Alert for him several hours later, releasing photos of him and Whitmore and asking members of the public to be on the lookout.
The boy is described as four feet six inches tall, 70 pounds, with red hair and brown eyes. He was last seen wearing black track pants with a red and white stripe and running shoes.
Police said Whitmore, a repeat sex offender who lives in Morinville, Alta., had been seen in the Whitewood area over the past few days.
"The suspect has also been in contact with the victim's family in the last few days, as well," said Sgt. Tammy Patterson.
Heather Russell, an RCMP spokeswoman, told CBC News the RCMP wants all police officers across Canada to be aware of the search underway. Police don't know the suspect's direction of travel after leaving the Whitewood area, Russell said.
"We do believe there is potential for harm," Russell said.
Whitmore is described as six feet tall, white, with a heavy build, brown hair and blue eyes.
The RCMP said Monday afternoon they have received 80 tips from the public so far and are following up on all of them.
May be with aboriginal teen
Police say Whitmore may be accompanied by an aboriginal youth who is about 14 years old. Investigators believe the youth is Jordan Bruyere, 14, of Winnipeg.
Al Balantyne, the boy's stepfather, said Monday that he last saw his stepson during a drive to Saskatchewan last week with a co-worker.
When their vehicle broke down in Brandon, Balantyne said he took the bus back to Winnipeg to get money, leaving his stepson with the co-worker, whom he'd known for a week.
The boy and Balantyne's co-worker have not been seen since.
When police showed Balantyne a picture of Whitmore, Balantyne identified him as the co-worker.
The teenager's grandmother, Caroline Bruyere, is wondering why an Amber Alert was not issued then.
"When we knew that my grandson was with a stranger, I don't think everybody should have assumed it's OK," she said. "I think right away there should have been proper authorities trying to know where he is."
Winnipeg police said specific criteria must be met before an Amber Alert can be issued, and it appears those guidelines were not met in the Bruyere case.
Searching Saskatchewan countryside
On Monday afternoon, police were seen searching the countryside just south of the town, which is about 175 kilometres east of Regina.
Whitewood Mayor Malcolm Green said people in town are feeling fear, anger and sadness.
"We've never had any problem, any incidents like this," he said. "With this happening, it has everybody on edge right now."
Whitmore may be driving a 1988 blue Dodge Caravan with wood panelling and an Alberta plate.
Whitmore has been jailed several times for crimes involving children. He served 16 months in custody after being convicted in Ontario in 1993 of abduction and sexual offences involving four boys.
Just nine days after he was released, Whitmore took an eight-year-old girl from Guelph, Ont., to Toronto. He received a 56-month sentence.
After his release in November 2000, Whitmore was found less than one month later with a 13-year-old boy in a Toronto motel. His sentence for that offence was one year in jail.
In 2002, Whitmore fled to British Columbia after he was accused of more parole violations in Ontario, including befriending a five-year-old boy. When he was arrested by police in B.C., Whitmore was found to be carrying latex gloves, duct tape and pictures of young children.
He was given a three-year sentence, including 12 months of psychiatric treatment at Kingston Penitentiary.