Missing couple's SUV found near Edson, Alta.

The RCMP said Friday they have found an SUV belonging to an Alberta couple who were last seen on July 3 and they are hunting for a man with a long criminal record.

Police suspect foul play as man, 38, sought in case

The Hyundai Tucson SUV belonging to the McCanns was discovered close to the campground where the missing couple's burned motorhome was found July 5. ((CBC))
The RCMP said Friday they have found an SUV belonging to an Alberta couple who were last seen on July 3 and they are hunting for a man with a long criminal record.

The SUV was found in an area near Highway 16 and Range Road 144, about 30 kilometres east of Edson, Alta.

The scene is close to the Minnow Lake campground where the missing couple's burned motorhome was found July 5.

Police have cordoned off the area and investigators are conducting a forensic examination of the Hyundai Tucson vehicle. They released an aerial photograph early Friday evening that shows the back of the vehicle in the trees.

"We consider this foul play," RCMP Assistant Commissioner Peter Hourihan said Friday afternoon about the disappearance of Lyle McCann, 78, and his wife, Marie McCann, 77.

RCMP call Travis Edward Vader, 38, a person of interest in the case of a missing couple from Alberta. (RCMP)
The McCanns left St. Albert, Alta., on July 3 headed for British Columbia and have not been seen since.

The discovery of the SUV was announced a couple of hours after police said they were looking for a specific "person of interest," considered dangerous, in the case.

Police said they want to know the whereabouts of Travis Edward Vader, 38, originally of Niton Junction, Alta., but currently of no fixed address. His Facebook page lists his hometown as Summerland, B.C.

Police are not calling him a suspect and say they just want to talk to him.

Vader has multiple outstanding warrants on unrelated matters and is known to have used firearms illegally, Hourihan said.

Hourihan said Vader should be considered dangerous and people should not approach him. He said they should simply contact police if they have information about Vader, who also has a history of drug abuse.

Family encouraged by progress in case

CBC News has learned Vader has a long criminal history dating back to 1995 in Barrhead, Alta., when he was convicted of stealing a vehicle.

Marie Ann McCann and Lyle Thomas McCann were last seen July 3. (RCMP)
In August 2009, police laid 13 charges against him, including possession of break-in tools, driving a motor vehicle while unauthorized, operating an irregular motor vehicle and trailer, as well as a couple of weapons charges.

Last December, Vader was charged with stealing and burning a pickup truck.

He failed to appear in court on June 21 on the August 2009 charges and a warrant was issued for his arrest.

On June 25, more charges were laid in Barrhead, including careless use of a firearm and unauthorized possession of a firearm.

Police said Vader only came to their attention within the last 24 hours.

The McCanns' son, Bret McCann, said the fact police now suspect foul play in his parents' disappearance is "pretty scary," but he was encouraged by what investigators have been able to uncover.

"This has certainly given us new hope that there is some progress being made on this case," he said.

Couple have 7 children

Vader's ex-wife, Victoria Vader, who lives in Summerland B.C., said she didn't know her former husband was being sought by police.

"I have no idea what he's doing or where he's at," she said, adding she thought he was in Alberta.

According to court documents obtained by CBC News, the Vaders have seven children between the ages of seven and 18. The couple stopped living together in May 2004.

In an affidavit in support of a restraining order filed in June 2005, Victoria Vader alleged her husband kept trying to reconcile with her, and called her constantly, sometimes as often as 16 times a day. He even called her parents' house asking where she was, she alleged.

In the court document, she said that her then-husband's behaviour was becoming "increasingly bizarre." 

On Friday, Vader said Travis was a heavy drinker who loved to party.

A family member who corresponded with CBC News through Facebook on Friday said she didn't know where Travis Vader was.

"I am unsure of his whereabouts as myself and my family have not heard from him, nor do we expect to," his sister, Alicia Vader, wrote. "Our hearts go out to the McCann family and we hope these developments lead to finding them.

"We can only hope and pray that he is just a person of interest at this point, and that the McCanns will be found safe."

RV found on fire July 5

The McCanns were using a 1999 green-and-white Gulf Stream Sun Voyager recreational vehicle and towing the SUV. They intended to be in Abbotsford, B.C., to meet their daughter at the airport on July 10 but never arrived.

The RV was found on fire at the Minnow Lake campground on July 5 but their SUV, bearing Alberta licence plate ZPK 289, was missing.

Hourihan also addressed criticism about the RCMP, who didn't launch an investigation into the McCanns' disappearance until five days after the burned RV was found.

It was revealed Thursday that the RCMP didn't take contact information from a father and daughter from Prince George who reported seeing a Hyundai Tucson SUV in the B.C. city on July 8.

"A couple of mistakes have been made, I acknowledge that." Hourihan said. He admitted police were "a bit slow in getting going" after the motorhome was found because information wasn't passed on.

An internal review is underway and one RCMP officer in Edson has been placed on administrative duties, Hourihan said. Police have received more than 100 tips in the investigation.