New Brunswick

Search for missing Saint John man hampered by COVID-19 outbreak

The COVID 19 crisis is complicating the search for a Saint John man who has not been seen since April 1.

Daughter needed special exemption to travel from Calgary to help look for James Garnett

Jillian Newcombe in King's Square, a place where her father, James Garnett, regularly caught a city transit bus. (Graham Thompson/CBC)

The COVID 19 crisis is complicating the search for a Saint John man who has not been seen since April 1.

James Garnett lives in an apartment on Hazen Street in the city's uptown.

His daughter, Jillian Newcombe of Calgary, returned to her hometown Saturday to try to assist in the case.

"Being 3,000 miles away, I'm not there, I'm not on the ground. I am not able to walk where he would walk," said Newcombe, who had to get special permission from Public Health in New Brunswick to be excused from the normal 14-day isolation period.

She has agreed to wear a mask and document her movements and times in case a problem develops later.

But she's still not sure what can and can't be accomplished in the middle of the state of emergency.

A police officer going door-to-door on Hazen Street on Tuesday. (Graham Thompson/CBC)

"What can we do? Can we do a search party, like what are we allowed to do? And what can I do that they haven't already done?"

Saint John Police knocked on doors in Garnett's Hazen Street neighbourhood Tuesday afternoon.

A spokesman said only that the investigation is continuing.

James Garnett has obsessive compulsive disorder. He followed strict routines, beginning each day with a visit to the uptown, tea with two sugars at Tim Hortons in Brunswick Square, and a visit to the City Market. He would take the bus from King's Square to Value Village and McAllister Place Mall on the city's east side, and was well known to Saint John Transit drivers.

Missing person James Garnett in photo released by Saint John police. (Saint John Police )

Newcombe said her father is strong-willed. She's certain he would have maintained those routines as much as possible, despite the restrictions of the COVID 19 crisis.

But there has been no sign of Jarrett since April 1. When Newcombe had a cousin break into her father's apartment a couple of days later, his cellphone and medications were found inside. Those are two things, she believes, he would not normally have left behind.

She's also certain he would have checked in with her grandmother if he was OK.

"Two weeks. It is becoming increasingly unlikely that we are going to find him safe and sound," she said. "But somebody knows something, somebody just has to have seen something. Somebody just doesn't disappear."


Connell Smith is a reporter with CBC in Saint John. He can be reached at 632-7726