Thompson river search finds no trace of Dianne Bignell

There were more helping hands than Clara Bignell expected out on the waters of the Burntwood River on Wednesday, but searchers were unable to turn up any sign of her missing mother.

Bignell, 60, disappeared in May; her jacket was found near the Burntwood River in June

Volunteers drag the bottom of the Burntwood River in Thompson for signs of Dianne Bignell, who has been missing since May 17. (Supplied by Clara Bignell)

There were more helping hands than Clara Bignell expected out on the waters of the Burntwood River on Wednesday, but searchers were unable to turn up any sign of her missing mother.

"Very happy and grateful for the [volunteers] that did come out, but never got any answers," she said in a text Thursday.

Clara and other family joined forces with volunteers and members of the RCMP and Manitoba Hydro out on five boats on the river in Thompson Wednesday morning to look for signs of her mother Dianne Bignell. They failed to find anything.

Bignell, 60, was last seen by a cousin the morning of May 17 before heading into Thompson to meet friends on her birthday. Her jacket was found near the river near the end of June, according to her daughter and RCMP.

RCMP say Dianne Mae Bignell was last seen on the morning of Thursday, May 17. (Supplied by Manitoba RCMP)

The searchers dragged the river bottom with large metal grates suspended from their boats hoping to churn up fresh evidence of Bignell.

Hilda Anderson-Pyrz with Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak was among the searchers and helped co-ordinate the effort.

Clara Bignell holds up equipment before heading out to drag the bottom of the Burntwood River Wednesday morning. (Supplied by Clara Bignell)

"There was an atmosphere of hope — hope for the family, that they would have closure and that they would find their loved ones," said Anderson-Pyrz​, missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls liaison with MKO.

"But for the family to know that didn't happen, for me that was really difficult. There's not a lot you can say to them except just to continue supporting them and continue lobbying for resources for continued search efforts."

Anderson-Pyrz​ repeated a previous call she made for a government-funded search-and-rescue team centred somewhere in the north that would marshal the experience and knowledge of rural and First Nation people in remote communities.

RCMP and Manitoba Hydro crews helped family and volunteers during the search Wednesday. (Supplied by Clara Bignell)

She says northern landscapes and waterways are vast and present barriers to search efforts for missing persons, and so there should be a team in the north dedicated to helping unite families with lost loved ones or otherwise bring closure to families.

"I would encourage the public to continue supporting the Bignell family because it's important for them to have that closure," she said. "It's really tough emotionally on the family and you see their heartbreak."

MKO will be holding a meeting next week to determine when to co-ordinate another search for Bignell.

Anyone who wants to volunteer or make a donation should contact Hilda Anderson-Pyrz at 1-204-307-5919 or via email at

Dianne Bignell is five feet four inches tall with a heavy build, shoulder-length grey hair, brown eyes and wears glasses. (Supplied by Clara Bignell)

About the Author

Bryce Hoye


Bryce Hoye is an award-winning journalist and science writer with a background in wildlife biology and interests in courts, climate, health and more. He recently finished up a stint as a producer for CBC's Quirks & Quarks. He is the Prairie rep for OutCBC. Story idea? Email