RCMP are calling the mysterious disappearance of an Edmonton-area couple "extremely suspicious" after the pair's motorhome was discovered engulfed in flames earlier this month.
Investigators said Tuesday they are rechecking a campground area west of Edmonton where the burned motorhome was found July 5, hoping for clues as to the whereabouts of Lyle McCann, 78, and his wife Marie, 77.
The wreckage was found two days after the St. Albert couple had left on a trip to B.C.'s Fraser Valley. It wasn't until July 10 that relatives called police, saying the two seniors had failed to turn up as expected, Sergeant Patrick Webb said.
"Right now what we're doing is [re-examining]the scene where the vehicle was found burned," he said. "We're working with the family trying to determine all the possible stops the people may have made."
After finding the burned RV, police called the couple's home repeatedly and officers knocked on the door of their home, but couldn't find them, he said.
It wasn't until the missing person's report came in several days later that police connected the RV to the couple's disappearance. What made the case even more suspicious was that a light green Hyundai Tucson sport utility vehicle the couple had been towing was also gone.
"A missing person report is simply that; we would take steps to find them. But at the same time, as soon as you put that together with a burned vehicle and another missing vehicle, the seriousness of this investigation raises quite a bit," Sgt. Webb said.
"That's why we have our serious crimes unit working on it, that's why we've got investigators from two detachments working on it."
Fire officials say when they arrived at the burning motorhome, the flames were intense and only the RV's frame remained. There's no record that the couple stayed at the campground where their burning motorhome was found.
Police want to hear from people who may have seen the couple, Sgt. Webb said. The license plate on the missing SUV is ZPK 289.
RCMP in Prince George, B.C., said Wednesday that they've received reports of the SUV being spotted in the area.
Gary Godwin, a spokesman for Prince George RCMP, said Wednesday that on Tuesday afternoon a couple came into his detachment saying they had seen an SUV matching that description with Alberta licence plates ending in the numbers 289.
"Apparently it has been in town, we think, for approximately four days," Mr. Godwin told radio station CKPG.
"We took a number of questions and asked them, but new information has now come to light and we would like very much to speak to this couple again but we've been unable to reach them at this point in time."
Mr. Godwin said he was issuing a public plea for the couple to get in touch with RCMP again.
But Sgt. Webb warned there's no reason to think this tip is more valid than any of the other tips that have come in.
"We've also got possibilities in many other places, too," he said. "A lot of them are dealing with, 'I think I saw the vehicle.' Could it be Prince George? Absolutely. But it could be a lot of other places, too."
Sgt. Webb admitted that there was a miscommunication among police on the case during the weekend. On July 11, a day after RCMP investigators had linked the burned vehicle to the missing couple, a police press release was issued asking the public to be on the lookout for the couple's RV. Sgt. Webb said officers working on the release didn't have the most current information on the case.
"Some of the RCMP investigators knew that the vehicle had been found. Other ones were working on just getting the release out."
Neighbours of the couple say they're stunned by the disappearance and police investigation.
"That was very sad. I'm still in shock, I just couldn't believe it," said Gottfried Rohmkopf, 78. He's lived next door to the McCanns for 45 years and his birthday in August is just one day apart from that of Lyle McCann.
Before they left, Lyle McCann was talking about the impending trip with his motorhome and expected to be gone for about three weeks, he said.
Mr. Rohmkopf didn't want to speculate on what may have happened to his long-time neighbours, but admits he's worried.
He said he is trying to stay positive.
The couple's son Bret, put out an appeal on Facebook to help find his parents and by noon Tuesday the group had about 800 members.
Those who left messages offered support for the family.
"I don't know you, but my parents are 70 and 71 and this story just breaks my heart," wrote Heather Kazimir. "I live in southern Alberta and will write down the licence plate and keep looking for the vehicle. My thoughts and prayers are with you."