British Columbia

B.C. boy's fate still a mystery 20 years later

The parents of Michael Dunahee say someone, somewhere, knows something about what happened to their son, who disappeared exactly 20 years ago at the age of four.
Twenty years after Michael Dunahee of Victoria, B.C., went missing, his parents have not given up hope, the CBC's Alan Waterman reports 2:53

The parents of Michael Dunahee say someone, somewhere, knows something about what happened to their son, who disappeared exactly 20 years ago at the age of four.

Crystal and Bruce Dunahee appeared at a press conference Wednesday to mark the anniversary of Michael's abduction from a playing field in Victoria.

They say they haven't given up hope he may be found one day and are calling on anyone with information about what happened to come forward, adding that Michael's bedroom is still ready for his return, including wrapped Christmas presents.

"We hope for that one tip, [from] somebody that knows what happened … We want that person to come forward and tell us so that we can put an end to this chapter in our life and move on," Crystal Dunahee said.

Police say they continue to receive tips and continue to investigate each one. Just last month, they gathered DNA from a young man living in Chase, B.C., who many in the community believed looked like a grown-up Michael Dunahee.

But police said that although there was a striking resemblance, DNA evidence ruled out any chance that the young man was Michael, who would now be 24 years old.

The Dunahees spoke to media hoping to jog memories, shake loose tips and remind Canadians to keep watch on their kids. They were planning to attend church on Thursday, the anniversary of Michael's disappearance.

Parents momentarily distracted

"I wouldn't wish this on anybody," said Bruce Dunahee. "Twenty years is way too long."

Michael vanished while Crystal Dunahee was playing a flag football game and Bruce was getting ready to watch from the sidelines.

Michael Dunahee, then four years old, vanished March 24, 1991, in Victoria. ((Victoria Police Department))
"I believe somebody took him," said Bruce. "For what reason, we don't know. We just want our son back."

Victoria Police say that over the years, they have received 10,000 tips on the case, and they still have an active investigation.

Deputy Chief John Ducker said the disappearance haunts the department, individual officers and the Dunahee family, which includes a sister who was just a baby when Michael vanished.

It has remained one of the city's darkest unsolved crimes, he said, one that he has lost sleep over since he was a junior investigator two decades ago. Ducker recalled the massive police investigation that had him working 15 days straight, with no clues.

"I've never seen an effort like that in my history in policing," said Ducker. "That was a very frustrating part of it. We didn't get that one piece of information we needed to go the distance on it."

Sgt. Grant Hamilton said the recent DNA investigation that led police to the B.C. Interior shows that police will never give up on the case.

$100,000 reward

"The Chase community was quite insistent the boy was Michael, and with his consent a DNA sample was obtained as recently as late February 2011," he said.

Crystal Dunahee said she's had her hopes raised and dashed on several occasions, but she now tries to rely on her senses about her son.

"They do their DNAs, and I say, 'Show me a picture and I'll tell you,"' she said. "They did have one like that [Chase] one, another one case of similarity [to Michael], and they were adamant that this was Michael, and I said, 'No. Don't waste your time."'

Hamilton said the case is not closed. There is still a $100,000 reward for information leading to information about Michael's whereabouts.

"It's an open and active investigation," said Hamilton. "Our goal is to bring Michael home."

He said he hopes publicity around the 20th anniversary could shake loose more tips.

"I don't know how we get by," Crystal Dunahee said. "It's just a matter of instinct. You don't give up. You continue going forward until you have the right answer."