Manitoba

RCMP divers conduct search for Jennifer Catcheway in Duck Bay

Emotions were high this week as a dive team from Winnipeg and Saskatchewan travelled to the remote community of Duck Bay, Man. to search for evidence of Jennifer Catcheway.

Divers from Manitoba and Saskatchewan comb a river in Duck Bay for evidence of the missing woman

Wilfred Catcheway and a team of family and friends wait along a highway to meet the RCMP dive teams to show them to search site. (CBC News)

It's a day Wilfred Catcheway has been waiting months for.

He has finally convinced RCMP to dive a remote river channel in Duck Bay, Man., where he believes they may find the remains of his missing daughter, Jennifer Catcheway.

"I know the answer is here," Wilfred Catcheway told CBC News on Monday. "I was relieved that they're taking part in the search here. This is one area that I have been awake day and night [searching]."

On Monday afternoon, RCMP underwater recovery teams from Winnipeg and Saskatchewan descended on the remote community to search for evidence.

In thick rubber drysuits, two RCMP divers waded into the chilly waters. Using a "sledding technique," the pair are towed behind a zodiac as they hold on to a wooden board.

RCMP divers search Duck Bay, Man.

"It's just like flying an airplane," Const. Glen Syme explained to Catcheway and his fellow searchers.

"When you push the sled down, you go down. When you push the sled up, you go up. If you see something you let go." 

In the zodiac, Syme mans the search above water with sonar imaging. If he spots an object on his screen he will alert the divers by radio.

As they were leaving I said, 'Go and find her'.- Wilfred Catcheway

The river bottom is silty and bowl shaped with reeds on either side, but the dive team says visibility is good.

"As we do a parallel search of the shoreline it's like mowing your lawn. We're doing that type of a circuit," Syme added, assuring each sweep overlaps the last to ensure nothing is missed.

Jennifer Catcheway disappeared in 2008, just days before her 18th birthday. The Portage la Prairie teen is believed to have been last seen getting into a truck in Grand Rapids, Man. RCMP have ruled her case a homicide.

Her father has been conducting his own investigation ever since she disappeared.

The family is keeping what they have learned private to protect the integrity of the case but a series of tips and new information has led them to Duck Bay. 

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

Over the last few months Catcheway has been searching the community and dragging this river while urging police to join him. 

Watching RCMP divers finally in the water is both emotional and surreal, he said.

"As they were leaving I said, 'Go and find her'. That's what I want," Catcheway said.

The years of relentless searching are taking its toll. Since his daughter's disappearance Catcheway said he has suffered anxiety attacks and had two heart attacks.

Jo Seenies, a friend and volunteer searcher, came along to support the family. Regardless of the outcome, she said she is glad police are finally here.

"To see all the divers, they've been waiting a long time for this," Seenies said.

"Hopefully more families get the support like this that they need, especially when it comes to searching or any water search. This is the kind of thing that's needed for these families."

Rumours swirl in Duck Bay

As the the afternoon wore on, Catcheway and fellow searchers watched as cars came and went. People in the community continuously stop by for a glimpse of the police dive.

By sundown, Catcheway received word rumours were already swirling on social media that Jennifer Catcheway had been found.

At nightfall when RCMP finally emerged from the water they delivered the difficult news — they found nothing. 

"I'm used to this," Catcheway said. "I was happy that they were here and I was hoping that closure would happen today, but unfortunately it didn't happen."

Wilfred Catcheway is asking anyone with information on his daughter's disappearance to come forward.

Catcheway shook each officer's hand and thanked them for their work. As he walked up the dirt road to his vehicle, he asked his group if they're ready to search tomorrow. 

"My overall feeling? It's not over. It'll never be over until we bring her home," he said.

The family is urging anyone with information to come forward. Catcheway is also asking people in Duck Bay to check their yards for any sign of evidence.   

He is still convinced the truth about his missing daughter lies somewhere in the community.

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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