Manitoba

New information in Jennifer Catcheway case has family searching Duck Bay

After eight years of tips, rumours and conducting dozens of his own interviews Wilfred Catcheway is zeroing the search for his missing daughter Jennifer in Duck Bay, Man.
Wilfred Catcheway dips an underwater camera fixed to a plastic pole beneath river waters in Duck Bay on Friday. (CBC News)

Jennifer Catcheway's family says they feel closer to finding answers in her disappearance.   

After eight years of tips, rumours and conducting between 50 and 100 of his own interviews Wilfred Catcheway is zeroing in on the search for his missing daughter in Duck Bay, Man.

"For the most part I believe that it happened here," Catcheway said. "I think that it's possible that she may have been murdered here."

He has been back and forth to the small community, 450 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg, over the past few months searching for evidence and urging police to join him. 

Jennifer disappeared in June 2008 just before her 18th birthday. Through photographs, RCMP were able to place her at a party in Grand Rapids, Man. Family members say Jennifer was last seen getting into a truck. 

"It's possible that she made it this far and that's why we're searching the area, searching the river and hoping that we will find her," her father said.

Wilfred Catcheway and a group of searchers comb a river in Duck Bay, Man. New information about his daughter's disappearance has led them to search the community. (CBC News)

Catcheway is keeping the details of the information that has led them to Duck Bay private to protect the integrity of the case. However, he does confirm a relative of Jennifer's, who was arrested and released without charges in the weeks following her disappearance, is from Duck Bay. The 45-year-old man was killed in 2015.

CBC News joined Catcheway and a small group, including Kyle Kematch with Drag the Red, for the latest search in the area. 

The group set out down a reedy river channel using the Pine Creek chief's aluminum fishing boat, underwater cameras attached to long plastic poles and hooks to drag the river bottom 

'I feel very close'

Plastic drink bottles worked as make-shift markers squaring off search areas as Catcheway dragged the bottom of the river with hooks. The underwater cameras acted as eyes for anything the hooks might miss.

"You can actually feel the bottom. You can feel if the hook catches something," Catcheway said. "I brought up logs up here, 10-foot logs and those times your heart tends to start pumping."

Jennifer Catcheway has been missing since June 19, 2008. (Family photo)

Catcheway said he feels "very close" to finding answers in this community but he wishes police were alongside him. 

"I don't have the proper equipment like they do," he said. "I find it difficult to understand. They should be out here not me, as a parent, I mean it's their job."

A lack of police action from the beginning is the reason Catcheway took on his own investigation, he said. 

When Jennifer's mother initially reported her missing, Catcheway said an officer told them to 'give it a week, she'd be back' implying she was out partying.

"There was no investigation and so I just kind of felt that she's just another Aboriginal. And I asked my wife, I said, 'Is that what's going on across Canada?" he said. 

Catcheway has shared the information he's collected with the RCMP hoping they will conduct a dive and search Duck Bay before the snow flies.

The RCMP declined an interview with CBC News regarding the case.

Wilfred Catcheway has interviewed dozens of people for information on Jennifer's disappearance. This man offered information in Duck Bay on Friday. (CBC News)

"We evaluate all information that is brought to us," a spokesperson said in an email. "Further to that, we cannot speak to an ongoing investigation."

While the family waits to learn if RCMP will join their efforts, Catcheway is leaving nothing unturned.

In recent weeks, he used a bulldozer to search a burned down home in the community. He also pulled the lid off of water wells to check inside.

Tips, sightings from community members

While CBC News was in Duck Bay three people approached Jennifer's father with information.

One man provided a small map of an area he thought might be worth checking. Another woman told him she believes she drove by Jennifer walking down the street with a man and woman the summer she disappeared.

She said the possibility something happened to the teen in Duck Bay or that those involved may live in the community makes her afraid.

Back in Portage La Prairie, Jennifer's mother Bernice is feeling positive about the search in Duck Bay and the new information.

"I feel closer this time," she said. "The circumstances and the situation has changed over the last year and it's a different area and different people coming forward, so we're hopeful."

Jennifer's mother Bernice said she's feeling hopeful about the search in Duck Bay. (CBC News)

She said it's not one new tip that's led them to Duck Bay but rather all of the pieces of information that have been provided over the years.

"Every little bit of information is just another piece of the puzzle," she said. "And soon enough, we're getting a picture of, possibly, where Jennifer is."

Family photos of Jennifer growing up, dress the walls and the shelves of the family's Portage La Prairie home. 

Outside, a large poster with her picture hangs just below the front window. The Catcheway family is offering a $10,000 reward to find her. That's what matters now, more than justice, her mother said.

"We just want to bring her home," she said. "It's been eight years and someone out there has the information we're looking for."

While her husband's search this past weekend did not yield any material evidence, he's keeping positive.

"It gives me hope that there's a chance that we will find her," he said. "It's better that I'm out here than at home, wondering."

Missing woman's family feels 'very close' to answers 8 years after disappearance

6 years ago
Duration 2:48
After eight years of tips, rumours and conducting dozens of his own interviews Wilfred Catcheway is zeroing the search for his missing daughter Jennifer in Duck Bay, Man.

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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