Searching for Christine Wood. Will Winnipeg Police feel the heat?
The Winnipeg Police force has managed to stay under the radar of the national news organizations for over three weeks now, but once their luck runs out the results will be incendiary.
How Winnipeg police conduct a missing persons investigation into the disappearance of Christine Wood will become the test case for the recently announced Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women Inquiry.
Winnipeg will be the stand-in for all police departments across Canada in similar investigations. And so far, the example is not good.
Here's where we would normally give the background to the case. The known facts. Except that the "known facts" in the disappearance of Christine Wood keep changing from week to week. And the police have been no help in keeping the public informed. In fact, they're partly responsible for the confusion.
Nevertheless, here's what we know culled from various news accounts.
* 21-year-old Christine Wood was in Winnipeg with her parents to accompany a relative who had a medical appointment. They were staying at the Comfort Inn, Sargent Avenue and Berry Street.
* On Friday, Aug. 19, she was getting ready to go out in the evening. Her parents left her at the hotel as they went to a nearby store. When they came back, about 9:30 p.m., their daughter was gone.
* The next day, when she hadn't returned, they became concerned, given that they were all supposed to fly home to the Oxford House reserve on Sunday, Aug. 21.
* The Woods called the police for help. They were told that Christine was an adult, she could come and go as she pleased, and what did they expect the poice to do? The answer is not surprising, given that up to 5000 people are reported missing to Winnipeg police every year.
Still, a week after Christine Wood was last seen by her parents, the police issued a missing person alert --- which could hardly have been skimpier. It had her picture, a brief description of her and what she might be wearing, And the alert said she was last seen in downtown Winnipeg.
Now this was about as useless as you can imagine. Police were asking if anyone could remember seeing a cute young woman a week earlier.
Well, yeah, maybe. Somewhere downtown. Where?
The official description of "downtown" extends from the University of Winnipeg east to the Forks and north to Higgins and Main.
That would be bad enough, but a week after that, the Canadian Centre for Child Protection issued a news release saying Christine Wood was last seen in the Polo Park area.
That's nowhere near "downtown." So why did the police say she was seen downtown?
Was it a ruse to trick a suspect? If it was, was the family told? Because if the police issued false information deliberately, they've done immense damage to the trust relationship between the authorities and a grieving family and the police and the greater public. And once destroyed, trust never returns.
So where was Christine Wood last seen? Is there no hotel security camera footage of her leaving her hotel room, in the hotel lobby, walking into the hotel parking lot?
How did she get to Polo Park? By bus? By cab? The mall would have been closed by the time she left the hotel, so where in the "area" was she seen? With anybody?
These are just natural questions. Has the police department satisfied the family with answers? Will they, as is their habit, release video of her sometime in the future long after it would be of any help jogging anyone's memory?
One news story mentioned that her husband joined her in Winnipeg two days after she and her parents arrived. There's been no further mention of the husband.
She obviously wasn't going out with him that Friday night? She didn't tell her parents she was meeting him somewhere. Her parents have been the public voices calling for help in finding her. Where is he? The spouse is always the prime suspect in a disappearance. Does he have a big police target on his back?
The public alert states "Police are concerned for WOOD’s well-being..." Is that simply because she hasn't been heard from? Or do police have information they're holding back, which seems more likely. The police department always knows more than it tells. Do they know something sinister about her disappearance?
What do we know about her? The Canadian Centre for Child Protection has provided more detail than the police department.
It said Christine is “familiar with Winnipeg, having attended the University of Winnipeg this past year. Christine ... is known to frequent the Osborne Village." So she's no stranger to the city. But her acquaintances are another matter.
Her mother says she immediately reached out to Christine's friends on social media to find out if they had heard from Christine. But nobody responded to her frantic pleas. Now that's suspicious.
The M&M Inquiry can't reopen old cases, but it could put the spotlight on an ongoing case, with the Winnipeg Police smack dab in the middle.