Nfld. & Labrador

'We will not rest': One year after Cortney Lake's disappearance, the search goes on

Police and her family believe she was killed, but they haven’t found her body yet. Philip Steven Smith — the only named suspect by police — was found dead in November.

Family and 'Cortney's Search Angels' to resume looking this weekend

Cortney Lake, 24, has been missing since Wednesday, June 7. (GoFundMe)

Exactly one year ago, Cortney Lake went missing.

She was last seen on the evening of June 7, 2017 getting into a truck her ex-boyfriend, 25-year-old Philip Steven Smith, admitted he was driving – just hours after he was released from jail with the condition he stay away from Lake.

Donna Walsh, right, pictured with another of Lake's aunts, Glenda Power, says they haven't given up on finding Cortney. (Paula Gale/CBC)

Police and her family believe she was killed, but they haven't found her body yet, and Smith —the only named suspect by police — killed himself in November.

"It's been difficult. The grieving is ongoing, it's as fresh as day one," said Lisa Lake, Cortney's mother.

"It doesn't get any easier. The thought of her gone and not coming back is very, very difficult. It's hard to come to terms with, it's hard to believe."

Lake wanted to thank everyone who helped search for her daughter's body and phone in any information, and encourages others to provide any details they may have.

"If you know anything, no matter how insignificant you think it may be, phone the police. Phone the Crime Stoppers tip line. Anything and everything may be helpful."

"It's been a horrendous year, it's been difficult, the days and nights, the long evenings, the winter, it's certainly been hard," said Lake's aunt Donna Walsh ahead of the anniversary.

"But we remain focused, we remain committed in our attempts to bring Cortney home."

A massive search to find Lake in December came up empty. (Ryan Cooke/CBC)

Search set for weekend

The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary is still investigating Lake's disappearance, said Walsh, and the family remains in contact with police. 

She said they're still conducting interviews, and cross-referencing and gathering new information. 

Lake left behind a young son and since her disappearance, a team of people have come together to help find the young mother — searching all over the northeast Avalon in an attempt to bring her family peace.

Members of Courtney's Search Angels listen for instruction before a search in Paradise last July. (Andrew Sampson/CBC)

They've been dubbed Cortney's Search Angels, and this weekend, they'll get together again for the first major search since last December.

The group will search an area west of Whitbourne on Saturday morning, with as many volunteers as they can gather.

"They want to get out and search with us and they want to share in our sorrow and they're there with us every step of the way," said Walsh.

She never thought she'd be sitting with her sister, helping her map out new areas to search for the body of her niece, but that's exactly where she is.

A recent poster asking for help finding Cortney Lake. (Submitted by Lake family)

It's heartbreaking and "surreal" but the family is not giving up.

"It's like we're off in a horror movie or something. But the sad fact is that it's real and it's Cortney and we remain committed to this process," said Walsh.

"And we will not rest until Cortney is at home and at peace."

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With files from Fred Hutton