Edmonton

'Not our best work': RCMP apologize to family of murder victim Amber Tuccaro

The RCMP's initial efforts to find an Alberta woman who went missing in 2010 were "not our best work," the force's commanding officer in the province said Thursday, in a public apology to the family of Amber Tuccaro.

'I am truly sorry,' says head of Alberta RCMP; family rejects apology

Alberta RCMP deputy commissioner Curtis Zablocki apologized to the family of Amber Tuccaro, whose remains were found in 2010, two years after she vanished, on Thursday in Edmonton. (Travis McEwan/CBC)

The RCMP's initial efforts to find an Alberta woman who went missing in 2010 were "not our best work," the force's commanding officer in the province said Thursday, in a public apology to the family of Amber Tuccaro.

"Our Leduc detachment's initial missing persons investigation was not our best work," deputy commissioner Curtis Zablocki said in Edmonton. 

"The early days of our investigation… required a better sense of urgency and care," he said. "On behalf of the RCMP, I am truly sorry."

Tuccaro's remains were found two years after she vanished. Her family rejected the apology.

"As of right now, the apology doesn't mean anything to me," said her mother, Tootsie Tuccaro. "They did it because they were told to."

She reacted angrily when Zablocki left the news conference early, pleading a pressing meeting.

"An apology needs to be heartfelt," she said. "They're the ones apologizing, yet they can just get up and walk away."

The RCMP later said in a statement Zablocki had an unmovable appointment and "would have preferred to stay."

Tuccaro's mother, Tootsie Tuccaro, rejected the apology and reacted angrily when Zablocki left the news conference early. (Travis McEwan/CBC)

Amber Tuccaro was 20 years old in August 2010 when she flew to Edmonton from her home in Fort McMurray, Alta., and booked into a hotel near the airport with her 14-month-old son and a female friend.

She was never seen alive again. Her skull was found in the bush two years later.

In 2012, police released a cellphone recording between Tuccaro and the man who gave her a ride.

"You'd better not be taking me anywhere I don't want to go," Tuccaro can be heard telling the man.

'I'm angry. I'm hurt'

 An independent federal review released in 2018 found that the Leduc detachment's investigation of her disappearance was deficient.

Her brother, Paul Tuccaro, testified for two hours to its lackadaisical nature at the national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls during its Edmonton hearings.

RCMP downplayed the family's concerns and wouldn't immediately list her as a missing person. Her name was then wrongly removed from the list for a month.

He said Mounties later told his family that investigators had the cellphone recording for a year before releasing it.

Amber's remains were found in September 2012 in a farmer's field near Leduc, Alta.

The family was passed from officer to officer and RCMP didn't keep in touch after his sister's remains were found.

Her belongings sat in a hotel room for months before police took them and eventually threw them away.

Tootsie Tuccaro said she would have liked to have had them back — quite apart from their value as evidence.

Tootsie Tuccaro, shown at a Leduc rally in her daughter's honour, in 2016. (Zoe Todd/CBC)

After the apology, Tuccaro's family unveiled a new poster urging anyone with information on the case to contact police.

"Today I don't know how I feel. I really don't," her mother said. "I'm angry. I'm hurt. I'm just messed up.

"But ... like Amber always told me, 'You got this, mama,' and I do."

The family's lawyer, Patrick Stratton, said the family is seeking compensation.

Consequences for officers

Zablocki said the force has brought in procedures to ensure families are kept in the loop during investigations. The force has also increased its oversight of investigations and developed risk management to prevent cases such as Tucarro's from falling by the wayside.

Officers have felt consequences, he said.

"Some are no longer with the organization," he said. "Many of them received ... a remedial approach to managing performance."

That offered little comfort to Tootsie Tucarro, who wept in her son's arms for a full minute Thursday after her initial statement.

"I've talked to mothers where it's always the same thing. You report your daughter missing [and it's], 'Oh, she's out partying. She'll come back.'

"That needs to stop. That is not right."

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