Manitoba

'She would have been 30': Jennifer Catcheway's family prepares for another summer of searching

Jennifer Catcheway's family is fundraising as they embark on another summer of searching for any trace of the Portage la Prairie woman, who disappeared in 2008 at age 18.

'Leave a note somewhere, leave a map, anything,' mother says as she pleads for answers in 2008 disappearance

Jennifer Catcheway went missing on June 19, 2008. (Submitted by Catcheway family)

The Catcheway family would typically be getting ready right now to host a fundraising barbecue to help pay for the summer search efforts to find their missing daughter, Jennifer.

This year, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the fundraiser has moved online and the barbecue will be small — just for family.

Bernice Catcheway, Jennifer's mother, says it will be more of a birthday party.

"She would have been 30," she said. "It's a sad day because she's not home and we continue our search for her."

June 19 is Jennifer's birthday, and is also the date she went missing in 2008, when she was 18 years old.

Every year, the family embarks on a summer-long search for Jennifer's remains. 

Photographs last place her at a house party in Grand Rapids, Man. in June 2008 — more than 400 kilometres north of her family's home in Portage la Prairie.

Photos of Jennifer Catcheway are seen in the family's Portage la Prairie home in a 2018 photo. Jennifer was last seen on June 19, 2008. She was 18 when she disappeared. (Jill Coubrough/CBC)

Jennifer was seen getting into a truck and reportedly dropped off along rural Highway 6, the family has previously said.

RCMP later ruled the case a homicide, but her remains have never been found.

The Catcheways have travelled throughout Manitoba, following up on every tip they have received. They have combed forests, fields and bodies of water with the help of volunteers. 

Their annual fundraiser — this year in the form of a silent auction on Facebook — helps fund the ongoing search efforts.

New tips lead the search north

On Monday, Catcheway and her husband will head north. 

"Over the winter months we've received some calls to some areas we need to search," she said, being deliberately vague to protect the integrity of the case.

They plan to search some areas they have visited in the past and a few new spots, she added.

Jennifer's parents, Wilfred and Bernice Catcheway, in a 2018 photo. Bernice says the lack of closure is painful and she urges anyone with information on her daughter's location to come forward, even anonymously. (Jill Coubrough/CBC)

The family has not received any recent updates on the case from the RCMP and their relationship with police remains fraught, Catcheway said.

"It shows me, 12 years later, they still don't care," she said. "To them it's just another Indigenous woman gone missing.… That's what it makes it look like for me, in my eyes."

In an email statement sent to CBC Friday, Manitoba RCMP spokesperson Robert Cyrenne said over the past 12 years, police have "conducted a number of searches, thoroughly reviewed the investigative file multiple times," and  "never stopped trying to find the person or persons responsible for [Jennifer's] death."

Cyrenne said the 12 years since her disappearance is "far too long for her family not to have answers and not to have someone held accountable for her death."

He also said RCMP investigators have spoken several times with the Catcheway family within the last two years.

RCMP believe someone has answers about what happened to Jennifer, "and we continue to ask anyone who may have information to come forward," Cyrenne said.

Bernice Catcheway said anyone with information on the case can contact her directly on Facebook or contact Manitoba RCMP.

She said the lack of closure is painful and also urges anyone with information on Jennifer's location to come forward, even anonymously.

"You can leave a note somewhere, leave a map, anything," she said. "Help us bring Jennifer home."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jill Coubrough

Reporter, CBC News

Jill Coubrough is a video journalist with CBC News based in Winnipeg. She previously worked as a reporter for CBC News in Halifax and as an associate producer for the CBC documentary series Land and Sea. She holds a degree in political studies from the University of Manitoba and a degree in journalism from the University of King's College. Email: jillian.coubrough@cbc.ca.

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