Elections Canada's hunt for the elusive Pierre Poutine has led investigators down a blind alley.
Investigator Allan Mathews sought computer records from a Saskatchewan-based website that lets people surf the Internet anonymously.
The agency believed the company, Free Proxy Server, might have information that could lead investigators to the person behind misleading and harassing calls during the last election campaign.
But a newly released court document shows the company told Elections Canada last month that Internet records that might help identify Poutine no longer exist.
"No documents or records seized from Marc Norris or freeproxyserver.ca," says a court order which sought company documents.
"Records no longer exist."
Poutine used Edmonton-based RackNine Inc., to make thousands of robocalls on election day directing voters in Guelph, Ont., to the wrong polling stations.
RackNine turned over computer records showing someone going by the name Pierre Jones paid for the robocalls with a PayPal account.
IP address concealed
From there, Mathews was able to trace Poutine or Jones' Internet Protocol, or IP address, to Free Proxy Server. The website conceals someone's real IP address by acting as an intermediary, or proxy.
That led Mathews to Conquest, Sask., where Norris runs the website out of his home.
Mathews obtained a court order for Free Proxy Server's computer records, but it turned out to be a dead end. Norris no longer had records that might identify Poutine.
Norris told The Canadian Press it is standard practice to get rid of old records after a certain length of time.
"It would be like you, say every day you fill up a notebook with whatever story you're writing on, and you keep piling up these notebooks," he said.
"And eventually you fill up your office, you fill up the building, you know, it's not reasonable (to keep them)."
He says he complied with the production order and spoke by phone with Elections Canada last month.
"I satisfied the production order," Norris said. "After that, I haven't heard anything."
Robocalls linked to Guelph campaign computer
The trail hasn't gone completely cold. Elections Canada believes that whoever is behind the Poutine persona used the same IP address as a worker from the campaign office of Guelph Conservative candidate Marty Burke.
Court documents released last week say Burke campaign worker Andrew Prescott's RackNine account was accessed from Rogers IP address 126.96.36.199 in Guelph. Around the same time, someone using the same IP address logged into Poutine's RackNine account.
The court documents do not say that Prescott himself logged on to RackNine as Poutine or Jones. Mathews says he was supposed to speak to Prescott on March 8, but Prescott's lawyer cancelled the day before the interview.
Prescott has so far declined comment. He referred The Canadian Press to his lawyer, who has not returned a telephone message.
Meanwhile, two Tory campaign workers told Mathews in the presence of a Conservative party lawyer that they overheard another Burke staffer named Michael Sona talking about American-style politics and about making misleading or harassing calls to non-supporters.
Sona resigned from his job in the office of Conservative MP Eve Adams after his name started circulating in connection with the robocalls.
No evidence has emerged yet to suggest Sona was involved and he has insisted he had nothing to do with alleged voter suppression when he worked on the local campaign.