The editor of Gawker, the U.S. gossip website that has led efforts to purchase and bring to light a purported video of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford smoking what appears to be crack cocaine, now says its main contact fears the footage is "gone."
"At the end of last week, after a long silence, the video's owner reached out to the intermediary we have been dealing with. [The owner] told [the intermediary] the video is 'gone,'" wrote John Cook in an update posted Tuesday.
Cook said the message from the video's owner, conveyed to Gawker via the middle man, was: "'It's gone. Leave me alone.'"
In his online post, Cook also said the media attention may have scared the owner of the alleged video.
Cook also said the owner was worried about being identified after the Toronto Star published details about the alleged video's possible location.
Cook added that he does not know if it has been bought or destroyed, or if it is now missing.
Ford dismisses 'ridiculous' allegations
Ford has been under intense media scrutiny since allegations about the existence of a video began to swirl last month.
Both Gawker and the Star claim some of their staffers have viewed the video, which allegedly shows Ford smoking what appears to be crack cocaine.
Ford initially dismissed the allegations as "ridiculous," and later denied that the video even exists.
On Wednesday, Ford refused to comment about the alleged video again while speaking to the media outside a Tim Hortons location, where he was supporting a charity event.
He admitted the situation has been stressful and said, "I’ve said everything I have to say," when asked about the alleged video.
Ford was also again asked if he has ever used crack cocaine, prompting the mayor to respond, "Anything else?" before abruptly leaving.
CBC News has asked Toronto police if they have come into possession of a video as part of any ongoing investigations, but they have declined to say whether or not they have it.
The RCMP recently arrested a man in Fort McMurray, Alta., in connection with a March killing outside a downtown Toronto nightclub. Anthony Smith, the victim in that slaying, appears in a photograph beside Ford that appears on Gawker's website.
Six media organizations, including the CBC, are also asking the courts for a look inside sealed police documents to find out if the RCMP seized a cellphone or computer that may contain video evidence connected to the Ford affair.