Calgary police questioning man in case of missing boy, grandparents

Airdrie, Alberta — The Globe and Mail

Calgary police investigators check out the home where five-year-old Nathan O'Brien and his grandparents Alvin and Kathryn Liknes disappeared, in Calgary, Alta., Wednesday, July 2, 2014. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

Calgary police are questioning a man as part of an investigation into the disappearances of a five-year-old boy and his two grandparents.

Police did not identify the man they describe as a “person of interest” in the case, and said he is co-operating "to a degree." He was taken in Friday evening from a rural residence outside Airdrie, a bedroom community about 36 kilometres north of Calgary. Police are searching that property now, including a grid search on field overgrown with wild oats.

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Duty Inspector Joel Matthews would not say whether the person police are questioning is a suspect in the disappearance of five-year-old Nathan O’Brien and his grandparents, Alvin Cecil Liknes and Kathryn Faye Liknes. The officer said it is unknown whether the trio is still alive. An Amber Alert for Nathan remains in effect.

Calgary Police Service also collected a truck from the Airdrie residence. The truck, police say, appears to match the green Ford F-150 captured several times on surveillance video driving through the neighbourhood where Nathan and his grandparents went missing. Police on Friday said they wanted to speak with the driver of that truck, and a tip tied to the truck followed. That is why police went to the rural residence northeast of Airdrie.

Police expect to spend another 24 to 36 hours searching that property. It hosts several buildings common on farmyards, such as one that appears to look like a shop. Other farm equipment, such as an augur and a grain bin, are visible from the road. There are “tens” of officers on site, police said.

The RCMP is participating in the search. It is too early to say whether the man they are questioning, the rural property, and truck, are “linked to the file” concerning Nathan and the Liknes couple’s disappearance, Duty Inspector Matthews said.

Investigators could be seen conducting a grid search in an overgrown field Saturday. Police left at least one florescent orange flag is in the field, although Duty Inspector Matthews does not know what the flag indicates. He said he does not know if the man cops are questioning has a police history.

A person living near the property being searched said a family with the last name Garland owns the land police are interested in. The Garlands, the neighbour said, are elderly, perhaps in their 80s. They have a son, and the neighbour estimates that person is in his 40s or 50s.

Police and RCMP cars, trucks, and vans lined the laneway leading to the farmyard. An RCMP sign labeled “special tactical operations” is at the edge of the scene.

Earlier Saturday, Calgary police, along with volunteers from search and rescue, retraced their steps looking for new clues in the area where the three people went missing earlier this week.

About 20 uniformed police officers and 40 to 50 search and rescue volunteers combed over the area around the Liknes home and their neighbourhood, repeating the search conducted after the family members went missing. That search, which is standard after someone is missing between five and seven days, is now over.

Nathan’s mother last saw her son and his grandparents at the Liknes home Sunday night, after they hosted an estate sale there. By Monday morning, Nathan and the Liknes couple were gone. Police said a “violent crime” took place in the home, and someone may be in “medical distress” because of the incident. Roughly 200 people may have cycled through the Liknes home Sunday because of the sale. Police on Friday said they do not know if the person driving the green Ford went to the sale. The truck was captured several times on CCTV footage.

The Liknes couple hosted the estate sale because they intended to leave Calgary. They planned to visit Edmonton, then Mexico. After that, they planned to move to Edmonton, where they already bought a house. The couple sold their Calgary home last year and had been leasing it back.

Nathan, who adores superheros, is three feet tall with blond curly hair and brown eyes and was last seen in peach shorts and a striped blue hoodie.

Mr. Liknes, 66, is about six feet tall, weighs 200 pounds and has grey-blond hair. He had been involved in several business ventures, one of which was reported to have gone bankrupt.

Ms. Liknes, 53, is 5-foot-3, about 120 pounds, with red-brown hair and green eyes. She was a realtor before starting Website Marketing Inc.

The Liknes couple does not have any enemies, their family members told reporters this week.

With files from Anqi Shen, Toronto.

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