British Columbia

Michael Dunahee disappearance: 25 years later, his family still wants answers

Michael Dunahee, 4, disappeared from a Victoria, B.C. park 25 years ago today, and his family is still pleading for answers.

4 year old disappeared from a Victoria, B.C. park 25 years ago today, and the case is still open

A family photo of Michael Dunahee rests at the front of Our Lady Queen of Peace Church in Victoria on Wednesday, for a service marking 25 years since his disappearance. (CHEK)

Twenty-five years ago today, at about 12:30 p.m., Crystal Dunahee pulled up her son's hood against the wind, and let him play in the park at a Victoria, B.C. elementary school.

Michael Dunahee was four, and never seen again.

His disappearance, believed to be an abduction, sparked one of the largest police investigations in Canadian history — a case that remains "active" at the Victoria Police Department today.

His mother has relived that day for a quarter century.

"It still feels like yesterday. Wounds are still there, they haven't healed yet. Who knows if we'll ever heal?" she told CBC News.

Two photos of Michael Dunahee. At left, as he appeared in 1991. At right, an artist's image of what he might have looked like in 2012. (

'This was a big deal'

Former deputy police chief John Ducker also remembers March 24, 1991 — and still wonders what might have gone differently, if Michael's disappearance happened today.

Ducker was a junior detective in the Victoria Police Department's sexual abuse unit at the time, called in from a day off.

"They wanted all detectives brought in," he remembers. "I could tell by the faces and the tone of the senior people that they were very concerned ... this was a big deal."

With Michael disappearing so quickly from a public place, police believed he was abducted.

Tips began pouring in, from across B.C. and North America. Each had to be written on carbon paper, and go into an inbox.

"People would literally sort them by hand," said Ducker.

"If you can imagine, all the hundreds of tips that were coming in by the hour and by the day, had to be run down manually."

Rollercoaster of emotion

Ducker remembers 30 days of nonstop work, a roller coaster of emotions even for hardened investigators.

Someone would come running in with what looked like the lead, "then it would quickly evaporate when we put investigators on it."

What if, he wonders today, there had been video surveillance back then — a glimpse of a vehicle — modern DNA techniques — even a computer system to collate tips?

"I think those things back then would have probably cracked the case for us."

Ducker, who retired in 2013, shares the family's hope that they'll get answers one day, and says it's still frustrating to investigators that they haven't come yet.

"It certainly wasn't for lack of trying. Everything the department had was put into that investigation."

A missing poster that was circulated after Michael Dunahee disappeared in 1991. (CBC)

The brother that wasn't there

Michael's sister Caitlin, just six months old when he disappeared, wonders what she missed out on, never knowing the older brother she saw snuggling her in family photos.

"My mom says he was really good with me ... I just have to hold on to that," she said.

Michael Dunahee home movie

7 years ago
Duration 0:26
Video was shot months before his disappearance from Victoria

"I just always knew I had a brother that wasn't there."

She felt it, starting school, when everyone asked her about her missing brother. "That's when I realized that it wasn't normal," said Caitlin.

Her parents were, understandably, more protective. She had to call home before leaving a friend's house.

"I had an earlier curfew than all my friends," she said.

Michael Dunahee's younger sister, Caitlin, was just six months old when he disappeared. (

Hoping for that one tip

Now 25 years old, Caitlin helps organize the annual "Keep the Hope Alive" 5K run in her brother's name, that will be held next week to help raise money for Child Find B.C.

"Just every year waiting, hoping, one day we'll have an answer."

Victoria police continue to investigate, following up on the tips that tend to come in around the anniversary of his disappearance, hoping for the one tip that will solve the case.

The family believes that someone knows something, and Michael's father, Bruce, urges them to come forward.

"It's been 25 years. Enough is enough. Have some closure, help us find our son."

Bruce and Crystal Dunahee, Michael's parents, sit in mass at Our Lady Queen of Peace parish in Victoria, B.C, Wednesday, at a service marking the 25th anniversary of his disappearance. (CHEK)

With files from Briar StewartChris Corday and CHEK


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