Nfld. & Labrador

Bellevue search ends with no clues to Cortney Lake homicide, after ex-boyfriend found dead

Police and search teams scoured the area until Wednesday night, but didn't find anything connected to Cortney Lake, missing since June 7.

Searchers leave empty handed Wednesday night after Philip Smith's body found near family cabin

The Rovers search team and RNC set up a command centre in woods near Bellevue Beach, where sources say Smith's body was found. (Meghan McCabe/CBC)

Police and search and rescue teams didn't find anything Wednesday after scouring the wooded area where the body of Philip Steven Smith, an ex-boyfriend of missing woman Cortney Lake, was found. Smith took his own life.

The RNC spent the day searching the Bellevue Beach area — about an hour's drive from St. John's — where the 25-year-old's body was found near his family's cabin. 

They were looking for any evidence connected to the Lake homicide investigation, but came up empty-handed and did not resume any searches Thursday. 

Philip Smith was released from prison in August. A friend says he took his own life. (Glenn Payette/CBC News)

Police were joined by the Rovers, the Avalon North Wolverines and Central Avalon search and rescue teams throughout Wednesday's search. 

Searchers told CBC that Smith called his family yesterday to say he was going to kill himself. His family called the RCMP, who put searchers on standby around midnight. A police dog found Smith's body around 3 a.m. Wednesday.

The RNC said that area had not been searched before, nor had any part of Long Harbour, where Smith's father lives.

RCMP and RNC officers were on the scene Wednesday in the woods near Bellevue Beach where Philip Smith's body was found. (Eddy Kennedy/CBC)

Earlier Wednesday, Lake's family has issued a statement sending condolences to Smith's relatives.

"We understand too well the heartbreak of sudden and tragic loss of a loved one," the family wrote, expressing hope for clues that would help find Lake.

Lake has been missing since June 7. Police have classified her disappearance as a homicide. Her family continues to search for her body. 

Police have never identified Smith — nor anyone else — as a suspect. No arrests have been made in the case. 

The RNC said it is still an active file and are still appealing to the public for information and tips.

Cortney Lake, 24, was last seen June 7. (Aamie Gillam Photography)

Smith had a volatile relationship with Lake. 

Hours before the 24-year-old mother of one was last seen, Smith was at provincial court in St. John's, where he pleaded guilty to assaulting her, distributing intimate images of her, and breaching prior orders to stay away from her and her mom, Lisa Lake. 

Smith was released from custody that afternoon. Three weeks later, he was arrested for failing to comply with the conditions of his release.

On Aug. 9, when he was in court on that matter, he pleaded guilty to breaching the condition to stay away from Lake by picking her up June 7, the night she disappeared. 

No further information has been revealed as to where Smith and Lake went or where he last saw her. 

'Our condolences go out to the family'

"Our condolences go out to the family of Philip Smith," the Lake family wrote in a statement issued Wednesday afternoon.

"We acknowledge that no one has been charged in connection with Cortney's disappearance and murder," the statement continued. 

Lisa Lake, Cortney Lake's mother, is comforted by her sister, Glenda Power. (Cal Tobin/CBC)

"However, if Philip Smith was in fact involved, we hope he left information that will lead us to her. We continue to plead with those who have information pertinent to Cortney's disappearance and murder to please contact police or Crimestoppers. Our family needs to honour Cortney with the dignity of a proper goodbye."

Smith's truck seized

Police seized Smith's truck from his home on Alice Drive in St. John's on June 27. It was later returned. 

Surveillance video of Lake's last known location in Mount Pearl showed her getting into the same type of truck as Smith's. 

Cortney Lake is seen in this dashcam footage getting into a black GMC pickup truck at 7:54 p.m. on June 7, the last day she was seen. (RNC)

Smith was never charged in connection with Lake's disappearance. 

Lisa Lake, Cortney Lake's mom, posted on Facebook on Tuesday evening that Smith had been served documents to appear in court in order for her to obtain a peace bond against him, as the previous bond had expired. 

Sheriff's officers had trouble locating Smith over the last several weeks. 

Relieved of military duties

Smith was also relieved of his duties in the military reserves in September in relation to a series of criminal convictions involving actions against Lake.

"Sexual misconduct and harmful and inappropriate sexual behaviour of any kind is abhorrent and has no place in our Canadian Armed Forces," Capt. Karina Holder, public affairs officer with 5th Canadian Division Headquarters, told CBC News on Friday.

A friend of Smith told CBC News he saw the man in St. John's on Tuesday, hours before he ended his life, but there was nothing different about Smith's behaviour.

The friend said Smith has been feeling troubled all year and that he attempted to end his life in May, but police were able to intervene. 

"I just hope it comes to light someday what really did happen to Cortney," the friend added.