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B.C. coroner’s unit identifies body of young man missing for almost 40 years

Police tape demarking a crime scene.

JOHN LEHMANN/The GLOBE AND MAI

The B.C. Coroners Service has solved a mystery for the family of a young man who disappeared almost 40 years ago.

Alexander Gammie, 22, was reported missing in May 1975 by his family in Kamloops, B.C., but it wasn't until this year that the coroners Identification and Disaster Response Unit managed to piece together cold-case clues and identify Gammie as the man whose body was found in Vancouver later that year.

Bill Inkster, manager of the unit, said it didn't take long to identify Gammie from his dental records once they took in the file.

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Investigators matched up the time frame the body was found and the missing report and started looking for links. The unit also had DNA from family members but, in the end, didn't need it, he said.

"I quickly looked at the dental aspects of this and put it out to our dental experts," Inkster said. "I was a big day for us."

The unit, formed about seven years ago, has solved a number of cold-case files for family members but Inkster said such solutions are still rare.

"It's so important for families, it's unbelievable the relief they feel when they get these people back," he said.

He said time doesn't seem to matter for families who have been wondering what happened to their loved ones.

"You think, 'Well families moved on and it's not going to be a huge shock or a big affect on them,"' he said. "Well, it's unbelievable how they react to the news."

Inkster wouldn't say how Gammie died, deferring to the family to release that information.

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Gammie's mother didn't return a request for an interview.

When the unit first started operating in 2006, workers sifted through 20,000 files, many of which were closed missing persons cases.

Inkster said the unit consistently has about 200 files it's investigating as its members solve some and then add more cases.

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