'Incredibly difficult and painful time': Missing Winnipeg woman believed dead, police say

Miranda Belle, who has been missing from Winnipeg since August, is probably dead, police say — and her family begs anyone with information to come forward so they can have closure.

Miranda Belle, 31, was last seen Aug. 17 in Winnipeg's Grant Park area

Police are searching for any evidence connected to Miranda Belle, 31, who was last seen in the middle of August. (Winnipeg Police Service)

Miranda Belle, who has been missing from Winnipeg since August, is probably dead, police say — and her family begs anyone with information to come forward so they can have closure.

"We all, as a family, want to bring my sister home … so that we can properly lay [her] to rest," said Belle's sister, Alexis Harvey.

Police first appealed to the public for help finding Belle, 31, in early September. She had been reported last seen in the evening of Aug. 17 in the Grant Park area.

On Wednesday, police made another plea, but with a grim expectation.

"We're really looking for closure for the family and we really expect to find Miranda not alive," said Const. Rob Carver. "I wish I could say something different.

"This is an incredibly difficult and painful time."

Harvey said the last call from Belle's cellphone was made at 12:32 a.m. on Aug. 18. She called a friend, asking to be picked up from an address on Dudley Avenue.

"It was a distress call asking for help," Harvey said. "She needed to leave the place she was at."

Carver said any information about what was causing Belle's distress cannot be released at this time in order to preserve the integrity of the investigation.

Police urge everyone in the city and outside of it to check their properties, fields and outbuildings for any signs of evidence or anything suspicious.

"Items that may seem insignificant to the casual observer may have significant relevance to this investigation," Carver said.

If anything is found, don't touch it or disturb the area around it, he said. Instead, immediately call the missing persons unit at 204-986-6250, Crime Stoppers at 204-786-8477, or the emergency line at 911.

Hunters asked to be alert

"The fall season brings a loss of foliage in the woods as well as a significant number of hunters roaming rural areas. Investigators want to remind people to be cognizant of any unusual items they may find," Carver said.

Asked if police believe Belle was taken out of the city, Carver said, "definitely that is one of the avenues we're pursuing and something we suspect."

However, he didn't want to identify the rural area where they think she was taken, because investigators want people to pay attention in all areas, so potential evidence isn't overlooked anywhere.

While police are nearly certain Belle is a victim of foul play, Carver would not talk about what has led them to believe that.

"I hate standing up here and not being forthcoming, but in the midst of an investigation where we aren't able to give you a conclusion that everybody wants, I'm going to respond like this.… If we have a sense of what happened, that means we have a sense as to suspect or suspects, and we have a sense as to timelines, and we have a sense as to events," he said.

"But that's as close as I'm going to be able to get."

Police say a van similar to this is connected to the disappearance of Miranda Belle. (Submitted by Winnipeg Police Service)

Investigators have identified a vehicle associated with a suspect in Belle's disappearance. It's a grey 2012 Dodge Caravan and anyone who recalls seeing it on Aug. 17 is asked to call police.

Carver said police do not think the disappearance of Belle, who is Métis, is linked to any other cases involving missing or murdered Indigenous women.

"Do we believe that there's one specific individual preying on the most vulnerable in our society? That's not the case here," he said.

"This case is not really, unfortunately, the sort of mystery that surrounds missing persons cases. Investigators have a sense as to what's happened here but we're in the stages … where we aren't able to move forward with a conclusion."

With many missing persons cases, police are trying to track down someone they believe is safe but not wanting to be found. A lot of them are chronic missing persons due to emotional trauma in their lives or for other reasons, he said.

The urgency to find them "is not the same degree of intensity or alarm that we have in a case like this, where we really believe something bad may have happened or could happen," Carver said.

Belle is described as 5-foot-6 and 100 pounds, with medium-length brown hair and brown eyes.

More news from CBC Manitoba: