Nova Scotia

New Glasgow mourns Amber Kirwan

People in Pictou County are mourning the loss of Amber Kirwan as police continue to look for her killer.
Mourners gather in New Glasgow on Sunday. (CBC)

People in Pictou County are mourning the death of Amber Kirwan as police continue to look for her killer.

The body of the 19-year-old was found Saturday in a wooded area off Heathbell Road, near New Glasgow. RCMP confirmed it was a homicide but didn't say how Kirwan died.

The sad news marked the end of a four-week search for the young woman.

New Glasgow resident Sherry Blinkhorn promised a $15,000 reward for information leading to finding Kirwan the same morning the body was found. She said if the reward is not claimed she will make it available for anyone providing information leading to Kirwan's killer.

"Somebody's got to step up to the plate ... so the family can at least have some peace knowing what happened that night," Blinkhorn said.

Police have not said whether the award money led to the discovery of the body.

"At one o'clock Saturday morning I had upped the award on Facebook, and it went viral pretty quickly, to $15,000 for someone to give a tip that directly leads to Amber Kirwan," Blinkhorn said.

"I was advised later that day that there was a tip given ... in some ways it seems like a coincidence ... I'm hoping it [was] a help. The flipside of it is, it's upsetting to think that somebody needed that to make them talk. Had I known that would have been the motivator, I would have done that two weeks prior to save this town the torture."

An autopsy was conducted on Monday and authorities are awaiting a medical report.

Police are still searching the scene where the body was found, seeking clues. One week after Kirwan disappeared, police searched the same property where the body was eventually found, nearly 30 kilometres from where she was last seen.

Amber Kirwan went out with friends on Oct. 9 and never returned. ((RCMP))

Police returned the second time with new information.

"It was no one single tip that caused the police to be here on Saturday with a search warrant. It is a result of tips, information provided [and] investigation," said Const. Bill Rudolph of the Pictou County RCMP.

Kirwan was last seen leaving Dooly's pool hall in New Glasgow on Oct. 9 after a night out with friends. Her boyfriend, Mason Campbell, said he was supposed to meet her but she never showed up.

Searchers spent weeks scouring the area for Kirwan or any clue to her disappearance.

For weeks, residents of New Glasgow have maintained a "wall of hope," now being called "Amber's wall," a stretch of more than 20 metres covered in hundreds of lit candles. People began gathering there as soon as news was released that her body had been found.

Flags were flown at half-mast at the Stellarton campus of Nova Scotia Community College, where Kirwan was a student.

A memorial service will be held in Truro Tuesday night in Victoria Park between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. The dress code is green, Kirwan's favourite colour.

'Worst fears'

Kirwan's family issued a statement Sunday saying their "worst fears were realized." The family also thanked police, searchers and the community for their support.

"Words cannot express the sorrow and sense of loss we feel," they wrote.

"Amber was an amazing daughter, sister, granddaughter, niece, cousin, girlfriend and friend. We cannot imagine life without her. She was so young and it breaks our hearts to think of all the good things she will not get to experience."

Wanda Sutherland, who worked with Kirwan at a local hardware store, said Kirwan was a "beautiful, wonderful" person who will be missed.

"She was just the nicest person you could ever meet," said Jesse MacDonell, another co-worker. "It's just heartbreaking."