Search for missing woman 'very active' investigation, Edmonton police say

Sgt. Kevin Harrison from the Edmonton police missing persons unit told a news conference on Thursday that a large team of investigators continues to work on what he called a "very active" case.

Husband speaks to media, while son in his arms calls 'Mommy! Mommy!' into the microphones

Nadia Atwi, 32, has not been seen since she left her home early on Dec. 8. (Atwi Family)

Ali Fneich's voice quavered when he spoke about his missing wife Thursday before the public and the media at Edmonton police headquarters.

Nadia Atwi, a 32-year-old kindergarten teacher, was last seen by her husband at around 6:30 a.m. on Dec. 8 at their home near 48th Street and 146th Avenue.

"I'm begging you, Nadia, to come home today," Fneich said. "Everybody in Edmonton, everybody in the world [is] waiting for you."

While Fneich spoke, his son began to cry in his arms, calling, "Mommy! Mommy!" into the microphone.

Sgt. Kevin Harrison from the Edmonton police missing persons unit had little new information about the ongoing investigation.

Item found Tuesday, says searcher

On Thursday, searcher Brent Koe with Gerhard Disaster Animal Rescue Services told CBC News that volunteers with the non-profit emergency response group found an item of interest near one of the bridges in Rundle Park Tuesday.

Koe said he could not discuss what exactly was found but said it was later provided to police.

"That's up to the detectives to disclose," Koe said. "It's definitely a lead that hopefully is promising and it will take us further into finding her." 

Emergency services and police are still focused on the Edmonton area, Koe said, because there have been no relevant leads outside city limits. 

'Very active' case

At Thursday's news conference, Harrison said a "large team of investigators" is working on what he called a "very active" case.

Ali Fneich begged his wife to come home at a Edmonton police news conference on Thursday.

Randa Atwi told CBC News on Tuesday that her sister had said she was leaving home to pick up their mother for their daily carpool to work. Later, when their mother arrived at Nadia's home, her husband said she had already left.

Nadia Atwi never made it to work that day. She stopped answering calls and text messages.

'We will do everything in our power to bring her home'

Her black Chevrolet Equinox with Alberta licence plate BWR 6282 was found later that day in a ditch at Rundle Park, Edmonton police said Thursday.

The police have conducted several co-ordinated searches in the city. Another aerial search is planned for Friday, Harrison said.

A poster for Nadia Atwi is taped to a lampost on 104 Street. (Anna Desmarais/CBC )

"We will do everything in our power to bring Nadia home," he said.

She has been reported missing before, but not for a lengthy period of time, Harrison said.

Police encourage public to keep searching 

Harrison urged the public to continue actively looking.

"Time is of the essence in any missing persons investigation," he said. "It is critical if you spot her to contact us immediately. We encourage you not to wait."

As many as 20 volunteers heeded Harrison's message and handed out flyers a few blocks away from Rogers Place to Oilers fans heading to Thursday night's game.

Nada Awwad was one of the volunteers standing on the side of the street Thursday night.

Nadia's mother Salwa Atwi taught at Glengarry School, where Awwad's younger siblings went to school.

Nada Awwad said Nadia's disappearance hits close to home for the Lebanese and Palestinian communities. (Anna Desmarais/CBC)

Awwad said she has never met Nadia but heard about her from other people in the city's Arab and Muslim communities.

"It hits very close to home," Awwad said. "We're a very safe, close community. Everybody knows everybody everywhere and for somebody to go missing, it really makes you think about your own family."

The investigation has been focused in several areas in recent days. It started in Rundle Park with a team of 200 volunteers, then quickly expanded to small towns around Edmonton.

More than 8,000 people from across the province have now joined a Facebook group to help with the search.

Posters with Nadia Atwi's photograph have been put up at Edmonton LRT stations, on people's cars and on billboards across the province.

"We are doing our best to find you, wherever you are," Fneich said. "We look forward to having a happy ending for everybody."

Anyone with information about the disappearance is encouraged to contact police.