RCMP ignored tip about missing couple's SUV

Two people who told police they saw an SUV matching the description of a vehicle belonging to a missing Alberta couple in British Columbia say RCMP initially weren't interested in the information.

Hyundai Tucson reportedly seen in Prince George, B.C.

Marie Ann McCann and Lyle Thomas McCann were last seen July 3. (RCMP)

Two people who told police they saw an SUV matching the description of a missing Alberta couple's vehicle in Prince George, B.C., say staff at the local RCMP detachment weren't interested in the information when they reported it Tuesday.

"They said, 'Well, that was last Thursday' and we came in on Tuesday and they said it was irrelevant because it was four days ago, five days ago," Diana Bjorklund told CBC Radio in Prince George.

Bjorklund went to the detachment with her father, Evert, to report seeing a vehicle matching the description of the Hyundai Tucson, belonging to Lyle and Marie McCann, who haven't been seen since they bought gas in their hometown of St. Albert, Alta., on July 3.

Bjorklund said they had written the licence plate number down on Thursday, July 8, because the vehicle was moving so slowly. She said she was insulted at how she was treated at the detachment on July 12 and almost didn't go back.

"They never asked our names, our phone numbers or nothing," she said.

On Wednesday, RCMP spokesman Gary Godwin said police were looking for two people who showed up at the detachment and provided good information.

"This couple sounds very credible and the fact that they saw it and they had the plate number leads us to believe that they actually saw the vehicle," he said.  

More witnesses come forward

Mounties in Prince George say more witnesses have now reported credible sightings of a vehicle belonging to the missing Alberta couple in the central Interior community.

A man resembling Lyle McCann is shown on surveillance video taken at a Superstore Gas Bar in St. Albert, Alta., on July 3. ((RCMP))
The information puts the SUV in the city on Monday and Tuesday, RCMP said. But police later backed away from stating that the SUV was actually in Prince George, since the vehicle hasn't been stopped or seen by RCMP.

"While we believe the witnesses to be reliable, we cannot say that this vehicle was ever actually in Prince George," Godwin said in a news release Thursday night.

Lyle McCann, 78, and his wife, Marie, 77, left St. Albert on July 3 headed for British Columbia.

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

On Thursday, Alberta RCMP released security video taken at a Superstore Gas Bar in St. Albert on July 3. In the video, a man resembling Lyle McCann is seen putting gas into the motorhome.

McCann then leaves, presumably to pay for his gas. The motorhome towing the Tucson SUV is then seen driving away.

Burned motorhome found

A multi-jurisdictional search has been underway for the vehicle since police found the couple's burned motorhome at a campground near Edson, Alta.

RCMP confirmed Monday that the McCanns' RV was found on fire at the Minnow Lake campground near Edson on July 5. Their SUV, bearing Alberta licence plate ZPK 289, has not been found.

Police said the motorhome and the Hyundai were seen in that campground just hours before the fire was reported. Sgt. Patrick Webb said they don't know who drove the vehicles there.

The McCanns' Hyundai Tucson SUV, bearing Alberta licence plate ZPK 289, has not been found. ((RCMP))
"The manager apparently tried to get ahold of people that may have been in it, but there was no answer to the door, and after a couple of attempts then, the vehicles left after that," he said.

Family trying to generate leads

The RCMP have come under increasing criticism for not launching their investigation into the disappearance until the McCanns' daughter called police on Saturday, July 10, five days after the RV was found burned at the campground.

"I think from the get-go this has been a botched investigation," said Bill Pitt, a criminologist and former RCMP officer in Edmonton. "I think five precious days have been lost. I think the lives of two people lie in the balance."

The scene of the burned vehicle would have been "forensically compromised" by weather and wild animals by the time police combed through the site looking for clues, he said.

PItt calls the current investigation "too little, too late" and can't understand why a probe wasn't launched immediately after the motorhome was found.

"If I looked at a $155,000 vehicle being burned in the middle of nowhere, I'd start asking some pretty pertinent questions ... and I don't think that happened in this case," he said.

Since July 10, the RCMP have performed an air search of 259 square kilometres, interviewed witnesses and searched the couple's cellphone records and bank accounts.

Police in two provinces are now tracking down leads and acting on tips as they try to find the McCanns.

Meanwhile, family members are trying to stay positive as they wait to find out where the couple is.

"We're keeping busy, and we're only trying to think optimistically," said son Bret McCann.

The McCann family has set up a Facebook group, hoping to get information from the public. The page has more than 17,000 members.

The family has also set up its own website in hopes of generating more tips.

With files from the CBC's Wil Fundal, Janice Johnston and Briar Stewart