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Tania

Tania Murrell [pronounced Tohn-ya Murl] was a six-year-old Edmonton girl who vanished on a bitterly cold January 20, 1983.

No one has heard from Tania since. No sightings, phone calls, nothing. Zip.

No one has been charged in connection with her disappearance either. 

But as you’ll discover in this post, there is a prime suspect. At the time of Tania’s disappearance, the ‘person of interest’ was a middle-aged man who not only knew the child’s mother and father, he hung out with them and made their tiny bungalow his second home.

The man was a drunk and a dope-head who struggled with a vice that was far more destructive: sexual deviancy. 

Let’s call him ‘PS’ [prime suspect].

From the get-go, Edmonton Police had PS on their radar, interviewing him twice. The first time was at the main police station, just days after Tania disappeared. The second time — five years on — was at an Ontario Provincial Police [OPP] station close to the U.S. border. 

Two senior detectives handled that last interrogation, which was hard-hitting and dragged on, incredibly, for 11 hours.

The detectives caught PS lying and when that happened, they got their hopes up he’d confess. Spill his guts. With their man on the ropes, the officers closed in. They were oh-so-close to a tell-all when suddenly … everything went south. Bang. Just like that. The man glared at his interrogators and uttered these taunting, game-over words: “Fuck you! You ain’t got a body …”

PS was absolutely right. Police didn’t have a body. What they did have however was a firm belief — as in 99-point-5 percent firm — they were in the company of the person who had taken Tania.

When police asked PS for his thoughts on what happened to the child, his chilling response was: “Only two people know: Me and God.” If that isn’t goading, folks, I don’t know what is.

The Tania Murrell case had become ‘contaminated’ because of some major screw-ups. One was that the parents were part of the problem, not the solution. When police questioned Mom and Dad about their suspicious drinking buddy, they staunchly defended the guy. “Not X—-! Not him!” the mother pleaded, “he’s our FRIEND …!!”  

Close. But one too many letters, Mrs. Murrell. He was a fiend, not a friend. The Murrells were well aware their buddy was a deviant and a piss tank but they welcomed him to their home just the same, especially when he showed up with booze.

At the end of the day, Edmonton Police found themselves in a legal no man’s land. They had some evidence — enough to lay a charge — perhaps — but not enough to get a conviction. Officers feared that if PS went to trial, he’d get off. For that reason, police held off charging him. 

The man remains the only suspect in the Tania Murrell case. He has not been identified publicly, even as a person of interest.

The young child’s disappearance tormented not just one family and their friends, but an entire city and to some extent, a country. It has become one of Canada’s most infamous and heartbreaking missing child cases.

To this day, hundreds of thousands continue to be haunted by the Tania case. They want to know what happened to her … and those responsible for her disappearance.

The following is my account of what has gone down from the fateful day Tania disappeared … to now. It is based on interviews with:

  • Tania’s parents, Jack and Vivian Murrell
  • The child’s maternal grandmother
  • Tania’s babysitter
  • Friends and acquaintances of the Murrell family
  • The suspected abductor/killer
  • A roommate of the suspect
  • An Edmonton Police Detective
  • Two psychics

If you don’t believe in psychics, this isn’t for you. Then again maybe it is.

This isn’t a quick read … but if you’re into true crime, it’s worth your while. Portions are devoted to:

  • The day Tania vanished.
  • Hope fades; worst fears realized.
  • A special message broadcast to the abductor [unknown at this point].
  • A frustrating search: leads, teases and dead ends.
  • Psychics: hits and misses.
  • Tania’s parents set up the Tania Murrell Missing Children’s Society.
  • A psychic and a reporter team up to identify the prime suspect.
  • The prime suspect: an early 1980s photograph, his behaviour — and the poem he wrote, which police believe was about Tania.
  • Five years later, two Edmonton Police detectives pay the suspect a surprise visit.
  • 1993 CBC phone interview with mother Vivian Murrell [unedited recording].
  • Tania’s mother, father, brother … all deceased. Mom [2011] and Dad [2005] died from natural causes; the brother from unnatural causes [2015].
  • Searching for the prime suspect in Toronto – 2015.
  • Still no Tania and no resolution.
  • Where’s everyone now?

THE ABDUCTION

In the first weeks of 1983, Edmonton, Alberta’s capital, was in the middle of a prolonged cold snap. Around 11 a.m. on the 20th of January, it was a frosty minus-30 degrees Celsius or so [22 below on the Fahrenheit scale] when young Tania Murrell walked out of Grovenor Elementary School at 10345-144 Street, in the city’s west end.

Tania was bundled up and on her way home for lunch. She didn’t have far to go; her home — a small, rented bungalow at 10426-145 Street — was only a block and a half away.

At the Murrell residence, Vera Stortz was waiting to serve her little niece and Tania’s younger brother, John, 5 a hot meal. John was in kindergarten at the same school. He got out of class that morning and walked outside … but no Tania. She was nowhere to be seen.

Apparently, she’d left without him. John walked home alone.

Family photo [Edmonton Sun]

Tania and John. [Photo courtesy of the Edmonton Sun]

Tania’s mother, Vivian, worked at a bakery about a mile distant. Her father, Jack, a carpenter, built new houses for Alldritt Homes on Edmonton’s south side.

Some have described Vivian and Jack Murrell as ‘party-hard folk’ who loved their booze, pot, rock music and Harley-Davidson motorcycles. They were, as one family acquaintance gently put it, ‘everyone’s-our-friend-people.’ But to most, Vivian and Jack were simply two young parents whose hearts were ripped out when their child vanished, never to be held or seen again.

Heather Hansen, a close friend of the Murrells, described Tania as a ‘very happy kid.’ “Anyone would have loved to have her as a daughter,” she says, “… an absolute dream of a child, quiet and very content.”

And gentle, as children are. “She always wanted a hug and a kiss when I left the house.”

“Tania loved to dance, have fun with her Barbie dolls — and play in the sand box,” Hanson added. She shared that her daughter and Tania spent hours in the sand box, laughing and “talking about the weirdest things … like ‘what are you going to be when you grow up?'”

When Tania failed to show for lunch that fateful day, Vera phoned her sister at work. Right off the bat, Vivian didn’t have a good feeling. It was unusual for Tania not to head straight home from school.

Things just weren’t right …

And so Vivian began to worry. She hoped that Tania had simply gone to a friend’s house … but a mother’s intuition told her otherwise and she drove home right away. When she arrived, she learned that Vera had already been out looking for Tania and calling out her name. But there was no sign of the child. What the hell was going on?

Jack left work and rushed home as well. His gut, too, told him that something was terribly wrong.

The Murrell House at 10426 - 145 Street, Edmonton. Little had changed when this photo was taken [February 2015] Click to enlarge.

The Murrell House at 10426 – 145 Street, Edmonton. Little had changed when this photo was taken 30+ years later [February 2015]. Click to enlarge. Photo by Author.

Here’s a partial scan of Tania’s ‘missing poster’ showing key information about her, including what she was wearing that fateful morning:

Tania Info475


BAD NEWS

Tania would surely be home after school, friends assured the nervous parents. But when Vivian dropped around to Tania’s class, she got some dreadful news: Her daughter had not returned.

Tania’s seat remained empty.

There was more grim news: Not only had Tania’s classmates not seen her, no one had. It was as though the kid had vanished into thin air.

Now everyone was concerned because they could relate. Parents were thinking, there but for the grace of God … and the children were thinking, will that happen to me??

Grovenor Elementary School. Click to enlarge.[Photo taken by author in February 2015]

Grovenor Elementary School. Click to enlarge. [Photo by Author in February 2015]

Vivian phoned Edmonton Police and an officer dropped by the house. At that point, there wasn’t much he could do but jot down a description of Tania and get a search started.

Things became truly worrisome when Tania did not come home that evening. Where was she??

The parents tried to remain positive, but there were just too many red flags. Their last, faint hope was that Tania had spent the night at a friend’s house but forgot to tell her parents she wouldn’t be home that night.

Alas, that wasn’t the case.

When Tania failed to show up for class next morning, the alarm bells really went off. There was now little doubt something awful had happened.

Edmonton Police didn’t know what to make of the disappearance — and neither did most reporters, myself included. I was working for CBC Radio News in Edmonton when police fired off an alert about a missing child. It was barely a story.

Next morning, reporter Ruth Anderson was about to head out the door to cover the story. I asked Ruth to hold off until school started; my thinking was that it made no sense getting worked up over a youngster who may have slept over at a friend’s house.

I was wrong; the mother was right. Vivian said she had a ‘gut feeling’ something bad had happened when Tania failed to show up for lunch.

Both Vivian and Jack were now scared, Jack more so. Worried that somebody might recognize him from newspaper and TV stories, the Dad shaved off his beard. There were rumors that Jack, a biker — though not a ‘gang member’ — owed somebody money. An unpaid drug debt.

Maybe Jack owed someone cash — perhaps he didn’t — but it’s my belief that Tania’s disappearance had nothing to do with any unpaid bill.

Vivian began to second-guess herself. She began to say ‘what if?’ a lot. What if I didn’t have to work that day? … what if Vera had gone to pick the kids up from school? … what if …?

Vivian Murrell in the kitchen of her house on 145 Street
[Photo courtesy of Edmonton Sun]

Officers began going door-to-door. A volunteer search effort then sprung into action. The mysterious disappearance of a 6-year-old got a lot of play in the news, although some radio and TV reporters mispronounced the child’s name as “Tan-ya Mur-rell.”  Friends of the Murrells didn’t recognize the name when they first heard it on the radio.

The spelling of Tania’s name in newspaper stories was sometimes screwed up as well. One headline screamed, ‘WHERE IS TANYA?’ Even the child’s ‘missing’ poster had her name spelled wrong.

Here, the child’s name had the correct spelling …

Edmonton Sun story, early 1983

Edmonton Sun:  1983. It’s sad to think that everyone in this photo is dead — largely because of what happened to Tania. The abductor got Tania in 1983 and in the years to come, he’d contribute to the demise of three more family members. Father and mother died from natural causes; John — at the age of 37 — either hanged himself at a halfway house in Edmonton, overdosed on methane — or both. For more on John’s untimely death, scroll down to ‘CONTACT FROM THE RCMP IN OTTAWA,’ near the bottom of this post.

Police began going through a list of known pedophiles living in the area — and there was a pile of them. Vivian was shocked so many perverts lived within one mile of her house.

One deviant, in particular, was a lot closer than Mom realized.

When someone vanishes, everyone has a theory as to what went down and why. Like a fog rolling in, rumors about ‘vindictive bike gangs’ began to blanket the city. I lost track of the number of tips we received in the newsroom that Tania had been abducted by bikers.

Some bikers are drug-dealers, yes. But they don’t belong to ISIS — and they don’t execute children.


A PERSONAL MESSAGE TO THE ABDUCTOR

Several days after Tania vanished, I was looking for a new ‘angle’ to the story, something that hadn’t been covered. I drove around to the Murrell residence, parked out front and walked to a door at the back of the house. I knocked. Before anyone could answer, I was joined by CBC Television news reporter Warren Michaels and his cameraman.

From a back alley, the pair had spotted me standing by the door and — uninvited — trudged through the snow to join me. I thought, so much for this interview.

The door opened. Jack Murrell — his eyes red and puffy from crying — glared at the three media strangers wanting to talk to him during this most painful time. Before slamming the door in our faces, he uttered two words: ‘fuck off.’

I looked at Warren, he looked at me … and we left.

That’s how I met Jack Murrell.

I returned to my car and fired up the engine. But in 20 seconds or so, I shut it off, grabbed my cassette tape recorder and returned to the back door. The TV guys were no longer around; they had abided by Mr. Murrell’s request.

I knocked. Again Jack opened the door. “I thought I told you to fuck off!” he shouted. I shot back, “You don’t tell me to fuck off.” Jack apologized and held the door open, all the while explaining that he was distraught because his daughter was still missing.

I told him I understood, as I have children of my own.

Jack then hung his head and began to sob.

“Maybe I can help you find Tania,” I offered. “How can you do that?” he asked, looking up. I explained that if he and his wife recorded a personal message to the abductor, I could put it out on the radio and perhaps — perhaps — the person who took his daughter will hear it and set her free.

“You think that’ll work?” Jack queried. I said, “What do you have to lose, man?” I handed him my Sony 142 cassette tape recorder and a microphone. It’s against CBC policy to loan out our equipment — as one technician pointed out — but I figured what the hell. Some rules are meant to be broken.

My only instruction to Jack was that he and his wife speak from the heart and not read from a script. I told him that I’d drop by in the morning to pick up my gear.

I returned to my car and drove home. Supper was waiting.

Early next morning, when I went around to the Murrell house, Jack was waiting at the door with the tape recorder and the all-important cassette tape. I was anxious to hear what he and Vivian had to say, so I played the tape as I made my way to the CBC building on 75th Street, on Edmonton’s south side.

My God! The couple’s gut-wrenching plea left me in tears.

[I held onto the tape, but be darned if I can find it. Perhaps one of these days I will come across it — and if that happens, I’ll put it up on this site so you can hear it as well.]

Jack and Vivian spoke from the heart all right. They told whoever had Tania that they didn’t care to know who he was … all they wanted was for their little girl to be dropped off in a safe, warm place — like a shopping mall. And if money was what they wanted, the Murrells said they didn’t have much but would do their best to get some.

Jack and Vivian fought through the tears, pouring their hearts out. They also told the abductor they missed their little Tania terribly, as did her dog Harley.

Courtesy of the Murrell Family and the Edmonton Sun, here’s a photo of Tania with her pets. Harley is the black lab.

Peter Hutchinson, producer of Edmonton-AM, CBC Radio’s current affairs program, teared up when the tape was played in studio. The voices of a distraught couple pleading for the safe return of their young daughter not only shook staffers at the CBC, it stunned those who had their radios tuned that morning to Edmonton AM.

A day or so later, the Murrells followed it up with a news conference in their small living room where they essentially made the same plea, this time in front of a number of TV cameras.

Not long after Tania vanished, so did Harley the black dog. No foul play was suspected with the dog disappearing, Jack said at the time. It was just one of those things.

Even so, it was another hit for the Murrells.


THE SEARCH

Police checked out hundreds of leads, but not all were genuine or well-meaning. One man had phoned the police tip line to reveal that Tania’s remains would be found at the bottom of a certain sewer drain. Police checked it out. Notta. Officers traced the call and charged the culprit with mischief.

Another bozo later tried to extort the Murrells for money. He ended up eating prison food for a couple of years.

‘Missing’ posters went up everywhere — on telephone poles, at bus shelters, truck stops and in shopping malls. Hundreds of city blocks were searched; Edmonton Police called it the largest door-to-door search in the city’s history.

Little Tania was now on minds of many, not just folks in Edmonton but across Canada and the United States. Her story would eventually be featured on the U.S. TV program, Unsolved Mysteries.

Volunteer searchers — friends of the family and concerned citizens — searched day and night for Tania. They checked ravines, backyards, abandoned vehicles and garbage cans.

One night I was with a group of searchers when garbage cans were being searched. We wondered if we’d come across body parts or the child’s severed head. It was still bitterly cold and the feeling was that if Tania had been murdered, it would have been hard for the killer to put her body into the ground.

Edmontonians turned on the morning news hoping to hear the child had been found and was back with her family. Everyone wanted a happy ending, but it never came. Turns out, no one found a trace of Tania.

Her abductor was either lucky, clever … or both.

The owner of the Edmonton Oilers Hockey Club, Peter Pocklington, quietly offered a 25-thousand dollar reward for information leading to Tania’s safe return. Pocklington also gave the Murrells tickets to attend an Oiler game. Once the game was over, the Murrells visited with ‘Peter Puck’ and the Oilers in the dressing room.

Pocklington was never publicly identified as the businessman who’d put up the reward money. That was his choice; he wanted neither recognition nor publicity. That may cause some to say, “really?” as they may have a different impression of the Oilers’ owner.

But that’s what Pocklington wanted.

Peter Pocklington with two students from Grant MacEwan College in Edmonton. Photo taken in the early 1990s.

Peter Pocklington with students from Grant MacEwan College in Edmonton. Early 1990s. [Photo by Author.]


PSYCHICS

Shortly after Tania vanished, the Edmonton Sun published a story in which a psychic claimed that Tania had been taken by a bearded man. For a few days, every man with a beard in Edmonton got second looks.

Just an aside here, several crime reporters at the Sun covered the Tania story, but no one came close to Gary Poignant. Gary broke many elements of the Tania story.

Vivian Murrell contacted psychics in both the U.S. and Canada, desperately hoping to find clues as to what happened to her daughter. Not one medium asked for money, although some did say if they had to fly to Edmonton they’d like their airfare paid.

Vivian got information all right — but unfortunately much of it could not be verified. The mother shared with me an interesting ‘finding’ from a female psychic in the United States: that the man who took Tania had driven by the Murrell house just before he went to the school. If that was true, the abductor not only knew where Tania lived — but may have known her and her parents as well.

It made sense to go by the Murrell house first; Jack’s vehicle might have been parked there. The abductor would have been in serious trouble had he tried to scoop Tania with her biker dad looking on.


THE EX-MOUNTIE PSYCHIC

One medium — a former RCMP officer — flew to Edmonton from British Columbia to help out. For the life of me, I cannot remember his name.

I spent some time with the man and listened to what he had to say.

It was my first time with a psychic and I tried to keep an open mind about what he was ‘reading.’ I didn’t know what to believe.

About half a mile northeast of Tania’s home, the medium identified a house he claimed was ‘connected’ to Tania somehow. I checked it out. Well. It was the home of one of Tania’s friends from school … and Tania had been there a number of times. Weird. How does that happen?

The psychic said I had much to learn about the Spirit World. He criticized me for being impatient, saying the information I wanted would come in its own time. That’s all well and good, but when one is working to a deadline …

The medium also claimed that a significant amount of spilled human blood would be found in the basement of a house not far from the Murrell residence. He described the house as having a steep arch [similar to a lancet design] over its front door.

He said he didn’t know if the blood was Tania’s …

Off I went.

I located a deserted house matching the description [it was the only one like that in the area], and I mentioned the address to Tania’s father. After I left, Jack broke into the house and — what do you know? — came across a bloody mess on the concrete floor in the basement.

It was a false alarm. According to police, a former tenant had cut himself while working with a power saw and he hadn’t cleaned up the blood.

Sympathetic police made allowances for Jack’s break-in — said they understood his desperation — but warned him that he shouldn’t be doing that.

Before Tania was abducted, the Murrells had plans to move to a larger house nearby. They eventually did — to another rental, at 9913-151 Street.

The ex-Mountie-turned-psychic showed up one night at the new Murrell residence asking for keys to their old home, the one on 145 Street.

I was with the man when he unlocked the front door of the small, single-story house. We flicked on the hall light and walked around, our footsteps and voices echoing in the empty rooms.

It was especially eerie being in the kids’ bedroom, in the very northwest corner of the house. How Vivian and Jack must have wept when they packed Tania’s clothes and toys into cardboard boxes. I can’t tell you how sad I felt standing there, trying to get my head around that.

The ex-cop asked if I’d climb up and see if the attic door was sealed. It sure was — with plenty of old paint. “That’s not good police work,” he commented, as I landed on the floor with a thud. “Officers should have checked the attic ‘door,'” he said, “… but obviously, it has not been opened in a long time.”

He pointed out that immediate family members were often suspects in crimes such as this.

We then checked out the basement, flicking a light switch at the top of a flight of narrow, wooden stairs. Nothing happened. The light wasn’t working. Not to worry. Armed with a flashlight, we slowly made our way down into the dark basement … mindful of every step because the stairs had no railing.

We’d soon be in for a heart-thumping surprise …

While Mr. Psychic was shining his light above the ceiling beams, I wandered off to the southeast corner of the basement. Here was a large storage room with a door on it. The door was wide open, but I didn’t walk in because it was too dark. And so I stood with my back to the door, watching the flashlight beam flit here and there.

From just behind me, someone shouted, “Who’s there!!?” Christ. I nearly pissed myself. The Murrells forgot to tell us a boarder still lived in the basement.

Thank you, Vivian, for the near heart attack.

The ex-Mountie remained calm. In the room was a boarder, a man in his 20s, in bed with the covers up to his face. He gave his name and said he worked at Gainers Meat Packing [on 66th Street, in the east end of the city]. He answered all our questions.

The man also wanted to know if we had any news on Tania. We told him we hadn’t and we bid him good night.

Apparently, the police had already checked out the boarder. The guy had a solid alibi; he was at work when Tania vanished.

About a month after Tania’s disappearance, Vivian remarked that she felt completely at peace one night after a long talk on the phone with a female psychic in Calgary, pointing out it was the first time in weeks she didn’t take sleeping pills to get to sleep.


MEDIA ATTENTION DIMINISHES

Time moved on. The days turned into weeks and the weeks into months. It was a sad spring, a sad summer, a sad Thanksgiving and a particularly sad Christmas. Vivian and Jack still put up Tania’s stocking, however. It was a gesture of hope.

Tania was also no longer a lead story. She was no longer a story period, save for the odd update when Vivian gave a talk about missing children, or when her parents commented on the anniversary of the abduction.

Jack, Vivian and John Murrell – January 1984. [The Edmonton Sun]

I dropped around to the Murrell house occasionally to see if anything was shaking, but there was often nothing newsworthy.

Vivian did mention that if her daughter was abducted, she hoped that whoever took her was wealthy and ‘spoiling her rotten.’ She wondered if Tania had been scooped by a rich man living in the Middle East. That struck me as a bit silly, but I didn’t share that with her.

Hope was keeping the mother alive … and somewhat sane.

I asked Vivian if reporters were ‘using’ them. “Yes,” she replied, “you’re trying to ‘sell papers’ — but we’re using you too … to find our daughter.”

One summer day, Vivian and I were talking in her living room and I picked up a photo album. I was flipping through it, looking for snapshots of Tania, and I came across a few ‘party’ pictures. It was either extremely warm when those photos were taken … or people had too much to drink because some of the women were exposing themselves. I thought, shit, this ain’t right. The kids can see this …

I asked Vivian, “What’s with this shit?” She walked over to see what I was looking at. “Oh,” she said, “those are just party pictures.” The point I was trying to make is that why would anyone have these photos in an album — in a living room, no less — accessible to children? I mean, shouldn’t they be hidden in a box in a basement, up near the rafters? Vivian must have picked up on what I was thinking because she looked apologetic.

People sometimes criticize me for being too negative. Trying to be more positive, I back-peddled a bit. “Well,” I added, “some of your friends aren’t bad looking …”

Just an aside, I realize there are no perfect mothers and fathers. Parenting ain’t easy, and all parents struggle to be a good Mom and Dad. Been there. Done that. However, for Vivian and Jack Murrell — high school drop-outs — parenting was even more challenging because of smoking and excessive alcohol and drug use. And that includes legal drugs.

A dysfunctional family situation made the Murrells easy prey for a party-hard outsider — a clever deviant — to be accepted unconditionally. HUGE mistake.

More on the man’s bizarre behaviour in this post.


THE TANIA MURRELL MISSING CHILDREN SOCIETY

Vivian Murrell decided to fight the problem of missing children head on and so she set up a charity, calling it The Tania Murrell Missing Children Society.

It was the first Canadian agency to deal with missing children. Child Find Alberta was launched not long after.

Above: the form letter Vivian Murrell printed about her charity, The Tania Murrell Missing Children Society. Click to enlarge.


CELINE AND JOHN

Celine Stevenson had just started elementary school when she met John Murrell. “A sturdy looking boy with shaggy blond hair, a slight lisp to his husky voice,” she recalls of the 6-year-old, “… and the saddest eyes I’ve ever seen.”

“On his very first day of grade one, our teacher made him stand in front of the class and basically had him showcase his claim to fame as the brother of a kidnapped child. It was awful.”

Turns out, the Stevensons and Murrells were close neighbours and Celine and John would eventually spend time in each other’s homes.

“John’s parents were very kind,” she recalls, “[they tried] to maintain a positive and happy home atmosphere. [However] I was aware of their sadness and could see their daughter’s disappearance had broken them.”

“They always made me promise to phone them the second I arrived home, and most times John would insist on walking me there himself.”

“The following year they moved away, and I never saw them again.”


JACK AND ME

One summer evening I had a chance meeting with Jack in Spruce Grove, just west of Edmonton. A rodeo or horse show perhaps? Not sure. I was told that Jack Murrell was there and so I went looking for him. I found him in the parking lot by himself, standing between some cars. He was crying. I said, “What’s wrong, Jack?” He swore and said he’d like to see one of my girls abducted, then I would know how it felt …

Holy shit.

Jack was different than Vivian that way. Vivian often cried — always apologizing for the way she looked, as if that was important — but she never lashed out.

To be fair to Jack, he was Tania’s father and it was clear he loved his daughter dearly. The man cried a million tears after Tania vanished. He was clearly broken.

In 1987, things went off the rails with Vivian’s charity and with her family. That year, Vivian, Jack, John and baby Elysia quietly slipped out of Edmonton. A scoop by Gary Gee and Philippa Dean of the Edmonton Examiner thrust the family back into the news again when the Alberta Government began asking questions about money raised for Vivian’s charity. Had Jack and Vivian buggered off with the cash? It sure looked that way to me.

There were now two more mysteries: where were the Murrells living … and what happened to the money for Vivian’s charity?


OFF TO BRITISH COLUMBIA

In September 1987, I received a tip the family had relocated to British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley, possibly Kelowna.

Cam Ford, the Senior Editor at CBC Radio News in Edmonton, asked if I’d fly to the Okanagan and look for the Murrells. Certainly, I said. I landed in Kelowna where I rented a red sports car.

Finding the Murrells was like trying to find a needle in a haystack; the Okanagan was a large area, spread out along Okanagan Lake. I checked out as many construction sites in Kelowna and region as I could, but no luck. No one knew of carpenter Jack Murrell.

It was damn frustrating. More than once I thought, what the hell am I doing here??

I finally hit pay dirt at a sprawling trailer park on the edge of town, where the Murrells had stayed for a week or so. Fortunately, Jack had loaned some stuff to a man who was still living in the park … and he drew a map where the Murrells could be found.

The guy was a rough sort, but he was okay. I recall him jumping from his door to the ground, a meter below, in his bare feet, landing with a thud in the dirt … and not being bothered by it. The guy owned an old motorbike and put it this way, it wasn’t a Honda Gold Wing.

I followed his directions and drove north out of town, stopping briefly to pick up ‘something’ on the way. It was pitch dark when I pulled up at a small cabin, surrounded by trees and overlooking a lake. Before I rapped on the door, I stood quietly and listened for voices inside. When I heard Jack and Vivian talking, I knocked.

Jack opened the door. “Aw fuck,” he announced, turning back to break the news to his family, “they found us.”

Initially, I wasn’t welcomed — but my case of cold beer was, and that got me in the door. I told the Murrells I would not reveal their location but that folks back in Alberta wanted to know if contributors to their charity had been ripped off.

Vivian did all the talking; just as well, because Jack was hot under the collar about being ‘discovered.’

The Murrells were making a living by picking fruit in one of the many orchards in the Okanagan.

Vivian explained that things just got too ‘heavy’ in Edmonton and her world was caving in on her. She said she couldn’t go anywhere without people asking about Tania.

The money was all accounted for, Vivian assured. “Everything is all in here,” she said, breaking away from the kitchen table to point to several dirt-covered cardboard boxes stacked on the small deck.

Vivian promised to get in touch with Harold Baker at Alberta Consumer and Corporate Affairs and explain things.

The three of us polished off half the beer that night, okay, maybe most of it, Jack cooled down, the kids went quietly to sleep and we parted on good terms.

It was the last time I saw Jack and Vivian.

According to Alberta Consumer and Corporate Affairs, Vivian kept her word and contacted them. I can’t say if the financial issues surrounding the charity were ever resolved.

Who knows? Maybe a kind-hearted government bureaucrat sat back in his leather chair, twirling a pencil and pondered … what’s really important here? … missing money or a missing child? Perhaps the Alberta Government treated the Murrells the same way it treats energy companies: with ‘special considerations.’

Was the money accounted for? Or did the Murrells use the money to pay off some debts? I didn’t know … but I had my suspicions.

I returned to Edmonton physically and emotionally drained and filed stories for CBC Radio, for both local and national news. CBC Television lugged a camera over to the radio newsroom and did a quick hit for its evening cast. The Murrells were back in the news again. Maybe this time, Jack grew a beard.

Bill Ringrose, one of the editors at CBC TV News, heard my taped interview with Vivian. He called over to the newsroom and said, “She sounds drunk!” “Bill,” I reassured him, “She was just very tired …”

The Edmonton Journal coverage of the CBC's British Columbia assignment.

The Edmonton Journal coverage of CBC Radio’s story. 1987. Click to enlarge.

What did police think of psychics? The impression I got — at least from this file — was that police looked at all evidence … but publicly, they wouldn’t admit to using mediums.

Edmonton Police would eventually get their best information on the Tania file courtesy of a psychic living in southern British Columbia.


CLAIRVOYANT [PSYCHIC] RALPH HURST

I met Ralph Hurst in 1984 at a news conference at the posh Westin Hotel in downtown Edmonton. The ‘newser’ had been arranged by organizers of a psychic fair. Hurst was one of half a dozen mediums in a conference room on the second floor.

An equal number of reporters, myself included, asked questions. We later broke up for ‘one-on-one’ interviews with the psychics.

I selected a soft-spoken man with a British accent, Ralph Hurst of Clearbrook [near Abbotsford], B.C.

Clairvoyant Ralph Hurst 

Hurst was a nervous sort and my opening comment did not put him at ease. I said his line of work sure had its share of fakes. Hurst agreed but insisted that he wasn’t a fake.

I asked, “Is it true we have ‘spirit guardians’ who look over us?’ “Yes,” the Brit answered and looking in my direction, added, “I can see your guardian, just above your left shoulder. He’s Chinese.” I said, “Didn’t know that … may I ask him something — in Chinese?” Hurst didn’t bat an eye. “Go ahead,” he said. I fired off my question: 你是如何在中国.

Hope I spelled that right.

Hurst replied, “He says his health is fine. What did you ask him?” I replied, “I asked how he was.” Without missing a beat the psychic shot back, “Well, there’s your answer. Do you have any more questions?” That one handcuffed me, and so I shut up. As far as I could tell, Hurst didn’t know any Mandarin Chinese.

As a child growing up in England, Hurst explained, he would play with kids from the ‘Spirit World’. Just as his parents were amazed their young son could see ‘ghosts,’ the child was equally amazed others couldn’t see what he saw.

Hurst once remarked that dealing with Spirits was like looking out a window at night … he could see his own reflection as well as that of the Spirits.

I asked Hurst if he could come up with information on a missing 6-year-old Edmonton girl. “Does her name begin with ‘T’?” he asked. I said, “Correct … you heard about her on the news? …” “No,” he replied, “I picked that up off you.”

Hurst went on to say he felt Tania was now in the Spirit World, meaning she had died and ‘crossed over.’

He also claimed the Murrells had two other children, not one. I shook my head and said, “That ain’t right Ralph … there’s only one other child, a boy.” Hurst stood firm. “No, I’m picking up there’s a second child.” I pointed out that I knew the family well and his claim of another child was proof that psychics sometimes screw up. Hurst stood his ground, insisting there was not only a second child but that the child was living with the family. That made his claim even more ridiculous.

In spite of our differences, we parted on friendly terms.

A few days later, I phoned Vivian to share with her my encounter with the B.C. psychic. Before I could give her an update, she exclaimed, “Byron, I’m going to have a baby!” Whoa. That hit me. I immediately phoned Hurst in British Columbia but he was not at home and so I left my apology with his wife. Hurst was in hospital suffering from exhaustion.

He later called back and said, “Forget it, don’t worry about it.”

Elysia Murrell was born on November 12, 1985.

Last I heard, Elysia was living in Niagara Falls, Ontario — Jack and Vivian’s old home before they moved West.


HURST’S READINGS

Hurst then mailed a cassette tape with his ‘reading’ of the Tania case. I found little concrete information in this initial reading.

Above: Ralph Hurst Letter – 1985

Hear psychic Ralph Hurst. The reading, recorded in 1985, runs 7:15.

What was interesting was that — according to Hurst — Jack Murrell was in a ‘sticky financial situation’ and somebody wasn’t happy with him. However, he felt it had nothing to do with Tania’s disappearance.

I never did make a connection to the letter “J” or “Jacob.” Did ‘J’ stand for Jack … or John??

In a later reading — not recorded — Hurst said the suspect had killed another person. More on that coming up.

Hurst also said that Tania was not a ‘silly girl’ and that she wasn’t prone to going off with strangers. He sure nailed that one. Vivian trained her daughter not to talk to strangers specifically. The mother beat on pots and pans on the sidewalk, telling Tania, “I’m a stranger! … I’m a stranger! … run into the house!”

Let’s face it, how many parents go to those lengths? Did Vivian Murrell have a premonition that one day somebody would grab Tania?

Vivian had ‘street-proofed’ her daughter from the dangers of talking to strangers. Brenda Dawson, Tania’s babysitter, recalled a time she was driving near the Murrell house, it was raining and on the sidewalk was Tania and John. The kids were on their way home. She offered them a lift — but they refused to get in her vehicle. And she was the babysitter.

The fact that Tania willingly got into someone’s car in front of her school that fateful day in January 1983 indicates that Tania knew that person very well. The list of possible suspects was suddenly very manageable.

Dawson also revealed that Tania would sometimes run around the house in her underwear — in front of visitors, including the sexual deviant who was eventually identified as the prime suspect in the child’s disappearance.


THE PRIME SUSPECT

I spent a lot of time thinking about Tania’s disappearance.

I tried to make sense of it all but it was a bit like trying to assemble a jigsaw puzzle with many of the pieces missing. Tania probably knew her abductor, of that I was convinced. The abductor may have had a beard and worn a baseball cap, as the psychics claimed. In any case, the description matched a man — a family acquaintance — whose initials for the purpose of this story will be PS [prime suspect].

At the time of the abduction, PS was in his early 30’s.

Let’s bring him into the story …

The one and only suspect in Tania's disappearance. Photo taken at a party in Edmonton, early 1980s.

The prime suspect [born 1951] in Tania’s disappearance. Photo taken in the early 1980s in Edmonton. [Photo source confidential]

It was PS who volunteered to screen phone calls [tips] made to the Murrell house.

PS was a likable enough guy, but an asshole. When I went around to the Murrell house one evening, just a few days after Tania was abducted, he stopped me on the short flight of stairs that led up to the kitchen. He put his finger on my chest and proclaimed to everyone in the room that I was not a reporter — but a ‘fucking cop.’

There sure was a lot of cussing at the Murrell residence.

PS and I later walked out into the cold night, lifting lids off garbage cans and poking around. When I wasn’t holding the flashlight, he was. We were looking for Tania’s body — or parts of it.

His hands were freezing, he said, and so I loaned him my gloves.

PS seemed strangely disinterested in what we were doing that night. For a man who was close to Murrells, it struck me as odd. However, at that point, I did not suspect PS as a molester, abductor … or killer. I thought he was just a drunk who hung out with the Murrells.


THE POEM

I later asked Ms. Dawson if she had more to offer. She sure did, handing over a poem PS had written shortly after Tania disappeared.

I wasn’t quite sure what to make of the poem. At this point, no one but PS, Dawson and myself had read it.

PS had wanted Dawson to type it out so he could enter it in a contest.

The prime suspect titled his prose Could Never Be.

Tho the day be far away, or the night just closing in

Remembering the fun they had that day and feelings possessed within.

Gazing into the distant stars, the plans they made, so bright and new

As they walked along that deserted beach, all their problems, were so few

The time alone, just themselves, warm new feelings, so tender and strange

Nervous thoughts of love, of making love, passionately, their lives would change

Undisturbed, but for the waves, closely embraced, on the beach they lay

The summer ended much too soon and for them, their final day!

Precious new feelings that they shared, knowing soon, would have to end.

The tears flowed with their final kiss, it was their first love, they couldn’t pretend

Often they wished, to turn back time, oh, for time to have stood still!

Aye, to turn back time, but time goes on, it’s nature’s will.

To return some day, they said they would, but I knew — we never could

I couldn’t help but wonder if the poem was about Tania.

Here’s a copy of the original, handwritten document. [Last I heard, the original was on file in the Homicide Section at the Edmonton Police Service, main building, downtown]

Above: the poem a police detective believed was about Tania. [click to enlarge]


REFLECTIONS ABOUT THE PRIME SUSPECT

Brenda Dawson described PS as “very intelligent, someone who read a lot … who liked to write poems and put his thoughts down on paper.” “But when he drank,” she cautioned, “he was different … weird. And when he was drunk, he was really strange. He wouldn’t remember a bloody thing … he became ‘polarized’ and would pass out.”

Dawson said it was hard to maintain eye contract with PS because his eyes moved all over the place. She described him as “Nervous, jittery … with his fingernails bitten. He seemed kind of mellow, not feminine, not queer,” she said, “wasn’t manly, but not a wimp.”

According to Dawson, PS often slept over at the Murrell house and was quite friendly with kids.

I tried to find out as much as I could about the guy: where he worked, how he became involved with the Murrells, his lifestyle, behaviour, the car he drove, acts of kindness, acts of weirdness, anything.

I discovered it was Vivian who first met PS when the two worked for a landscaping company in the city.

Terri, a friend of the Murrells, said PS was often intoxicated. She said he occasionally passed out on the floor or on the couch … and that when he was drinking, he had a ‘split personality.’ She said PS would sit at the table drinking — calm and collected — then all of a sudden would fly into a rage … but would return later, okay. She noted he was more offensive to women than to men.

No one had much good to say about the man.

A friend of the family warned Vivian that PS ‘gave her the creeps’ and that she should keep an eye on him. Vivian assured her that he was harmless. The woman recalls she was relieved when PS left the Murrell house to go home. “He was smart,” she recalls, “but there was something creepy and manipulative about him …”

This chilling story is from Melsi, a man who shared an apartment with PS for about a year: One night the two were drinking and playing cards when, unprovoked, PS grabbed an empty beer bottle and smashed his companion in the face, knocking him to the floor. Melsi recalls, “it was like a firecracker had gone off in his head.” PS got pounded out and was told to find another place to live.

Melsi — then living in British Columbia — threw a couple of worn but effective cliches my way: “There is no light at the end of his tunnel … and he’s a man whose oars are not in the water.”

I asked Melsi if he ever suspected PS had scooped Tania. “Yes,” he said, “I always thought [he] took her.” “Did you ever tell anyone that?” I asked. “No.”

I wonder how many other people suspected PS, but kept their thoughts private. I was later to discover Melsi wasn’t the only one who feared PS had abducted Tania.

A story was that PS was driving with the Murrells — the family on an outing to a lake south of Edmonton — when he reached over and turned off the ignition, sending the station wagon off the road and into the ditch. Guess at the time it seemed like a fun thing to do.

Jack then became physical with PS.

Another disturbing story had to do with the time Jack and PS were enjoying some beer at the Murrell house one night and Jack fell asleep on the couch. Jack woke up to find PS trying to pull down the zipper on his jeans.

Other than that, PS was just another fun-loving guy who did his bit to keep beer companies in business. “Hey, PS is here with a case of beer … everyone got their zippers up?”

Perhaps the most disturbing thing is that Jack and Vivian Murrell let PS take Tania and John camping ALONE. Explain that to me.

It was Dawson’s understanding that PS had been molested as a child, but I was never able to confirm that.

Heather Hansen, a good friend of Vivian Murrell who met PS a number of times, said she was always suspicious of the guy, but Vivian ignored what she had to say. “He could out-manipulate a manipulator,” Hansen says.

Had PS avoided the scrutiny of the Edmonton Police? No. He was given a truth-verifier [lie detector] — and he was told that he’d passed it. Truth is, the results were inconclusive because PS was intoxicated. He was never tested a second time. Explain that to me also.

One of the detectives involved in the Tania file was a drunk too.


A PSYCHIC’S READ ON WHAT WENT DOWN

Ralph Hurst and I connected again in the mid-1980s when he was in Edmonton for another psychic fair.

We sat in a booth at a Boston Pizza restaurant near the city’s downtown core. I said, “I have something to show you” and handed him the poem — a sheet of paper inside a clear plastic sleeve. Hurst asked if he could remove it. I said sure. He turned it over and closed his eyes. “Oh,” he shuddered, “whoever wrote this has great remorse … he’s crying and saying ‘I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry’ …”

Hurst read the poem and handed it back without commenting on it.

I asked him if he could tell how Tania died. He said he could feel squeezing and pain on his throat and pressure at the back of his neck. Strangulation.

He claimed Tania’s body was fully clothed and that she hadn’t been dismembered. According to Hurst, the corpse initially had been hidden in a cool area, such as a basement or a freezer, where it remained for a number of weeks.

PS returned to Ontario in the spring of 1983, several months after Tania disappeared.

According to Hurst, the child’s fate was sealed after she told PS she was going to tell her father about something they’d done.

According to an Edmonton Police detective, just before Tania was abducted, the family was out for an evening meal at a restaurant and Tania was acting up. Police now suspect the child was out of sorts because she may have been molested.

Hurst and I then drove to the west end. I parked my car outside Tania’s elementary school. The clairvoyant asked that I not interrupt him as he ‘went back’ to the morning of January 20, 1983.

There’s a set of main doors at Grovenor Elementary School where staff and children come and go. According to Hurst, Tania did not leave by way of those doors, that she left through a door at the south end of the building. [correct, say police]

Grovenor Elementary School Showing the Door Tania Exited [Photo taken by author in September 2012]

Grovenor Elementary School Showing the Door Tania Exited.
[Photo taken by Author in February 2015]

Again according to Hurst, there was a lot of what he called smoke at the rear of the sedan Tania stepped into. The ‘smoke’ in fact was exhaust fumes that were visible owing to the extremely cold weather.

Hurst’s account is that the passenger door swung open and Tania willingly got in. He also claims PS was looking at two other children about 60 feet ahead of Tania. This was news to me. According to the psychic, the kids were on the same sidewalk, walking north on 144 Street — but they didn’t look behind them. If they had done that, they might have seen Tania and got a glimpse of her abductor and his vehicle. [correct again, say police]

The medium said PS was “shit-faced” [drunk] and that he’d driven by the school a number of times searching for Tania. Hurst also believed that PS had driven by the Murrell house just before heading over to the school.

I told Hurst I’d take him to the Murrell house, one street over. He said, “Just drive to the street, I’ll find the house.” He did. “That’s it,” he said, pointing to a small white bungalow on the west side. I stopped the car and Hurst asked that I pull ahead a bit. “At the back, on the right,” he said, pointing, “… that was Tania’s bedroom.” Correct. “Wow!” I said, “that’s crazy, how the hell do you do that?”

Hurst claimed that Tania’s body was stuffed in three garbage bags and buried about two feet down in a ‘soggy area.’

He had three ‘signs’ where the body would be, but even that was just a general area, not a specific location. The signs:

  1. →  a broken-down fence
  2. →  a large letter ‘A’
  3. →  a small body of water

While it’s interesting, it’s not a lot to go on. I pulled out a map of Edmonton showing the North Saskatchewan River and some man-made lakes. Hurst said the body of water he ‘saw’ was much smaller than anything on the map.

Frustrating.

We then drove to an area where PS had lived, which, turns out, wasn’t all that far from where Tania was scooped. We headed south on 149nd Street and turned left into a ‘well-to-do’ neighbourhood. We were now on Summit Drive, a quiet road that snakes along the southern edge of MacKinnon Ravine Park.

Near 143rd Street, Hurst shouted, “Stop! There’s the broken fence!” To our left was the railing of a wooden fence that had fallen down. Sign #1. Hurst was pumped.

We climbed down into the ravine at the 142nd Street bridge, a structure supported by a number of massive concrete pylons. At the very top of one of the pylons [at the southwest corner] was a spray-painted, large letter ‘A’, more than 4 feet tall with a circle around it. How the heck anyone got up there to do that is beyond me. But who cares. Sign #2.

Where the pylon was buried in the ground was a large depression, perhaps 20 feet across, filled with water. “There’s the water,” announced an excited Hurst. Sign #3.

I was worked up too. But my excitement quickly diminished when Hurst said he wasn’t very good at locating dead bodies.

I had no idea where to start looking on the heavily treed ravine, though I did return, finally, in the summer of 2012 with a metal detector and a shovel, hoping to pick up a metal zipper, buttons or metal clasps on the child’s winter boots. I was assisted one day by two private detectives from Calgary, Bruce Dunne and Shelly Nowell.

I returned three more times to the ravine, once with reporter J.T. Lemiski of CFCW Radio. We found buried cans, nails, an old ax head, the frame of a very old bicycle … but no clothing or skeleton wrapped in garbage bags. Frustrating again. And I took a few spills to boot.

I figure that only 10-15 percent of the area was scanned with the metal detectors.

Is the body there? Be damned if I know. Everyone has an opinion where Tania’s body might be. Another psychic said the child’s remains are not in the ravine.

Edmonton Police Detective Ian Shoaf felt that Tania’s body might be in Strathcona Country, immediately east of Edmonton. That’s because the prime suspect had worked there and was familiar with the area. That too makes sense.

One final comment about medium Ralph Hurst. One evening we were driving in my car, just rounding the corner at Stony Plain Road and turning south on 142nd Street, when he said if his readings led to the discovery of Tania’s body he did not want any of the $25,000 reward money.

“Christ,” I said, “just give the money to the parents, they could use it.” “No!” Hurst shot back. “None of that money should go to them.”

He felt Jack and Vivian were partly responsible for what had happened to their daughter.


ZEROING IN ON THE PRIME SUSPECT

In 1987, I tracked PS to a city in Southern Ontario, thanks to a phone call to his mother, also living in Ontario. I asked where I could find her son. She sounded worried. “This is about Tania, isn’t it?” I said, “Yes it is.”

It was no surprise perhaps that the mother of the prime suspect knew exactly why I was phoning. How I wished I had talked to her more. I got the sense she either knew or suspected something.

From time to time, I met with an old school chum who had joined the Mounties after high school. Ken Chambers worked out of RCMP K-Division in Edmonton. Ken was sincere, thoughtful and thorough. One day over lunch at Pizza Hut, just south of the CBC Building, I brought up the Tania Murrell case. I shared with Ken some findings that might not have been known to police, certainly information that wasn’t public.

It wasn’t long before Ken got on the blower to Edmonton Police. That prompted a phone call to the CBC Radio Newsroom from Edmonton Police Detective Ian Shoaf who wanted to talk about Tania Murrell. I said, “Okay, but let’s share information.” He agreed.

We met on a Saturday afternoon at Shoaf’s office in a secure part of the second floor of the main police building downtown.

Shoaf was the lead detective on the Tania file, having taken over from two other detectives. I found him to be upfront and cooperative. Shoaf went through my notes, and I poured through his files on Tania, all neatly contained in a four-drawer metal filing cabinet. The officer’s notes were well organized.

After we traded information and chatted for a while, Detective Shoaf leaned back in his chair and announced, “He’s our man.”

A few days later, I drove out to the ravine with Detectives Shoaf and John McLeod, the first officer on the Tania file. We went there in an old, unmarked police cruiser. McLeod seemed disinterested, not so Shoaf. McLeod remained in the cruiser while the younger Shoaf and I scampered down the embankment.

Back in the cruiser, the officers talked about the possibility of having a sniffer dog help locate human remains, then wondered that owing to the passage of time if there would be anything for the dog to find. I sat in the backseat, listening to the two men talk.

Neither officer was overly keen on searching the ravine including Shoaf, who had a hunch that Tania’s body was buried somewhere in Strathcona County, an area PS was familiar with.

According to Shoaf, they had located the vehicle PS owned at the time of Tania’s abduction … but too much time had passed and they couldn’t get any evidence from it. They had found his old car in a wrecker’s lot.


THE INTERROGATION

Police made plans to fly to Southern Ontario to confront the suspect.

I suggested to Detective Shoaf that if he and PS were to play a game of chess, he’d get his ass whipped. PS was a piss-tank, but he was no dummy. A police check indicates that PS had a high IQ.

Detectives Jim Cessford and Ian Shoaf met with PS on the fifth anniversary of Tania’s abduction, 20 January 1988. According to Shoaf, they went around to the suspect’s house very early in the morning … and were surprised when he opened the door and greeted them. “Was he tipped off you were coming?” I asked. The detective didn’t know if he’d been warned. I told him that I hadn’t told a soul.

PS accompanied the two detectives to an Ontario Provincial Police building nearby where the cops went at him non-stop for 11-hours. According to Shoaf, PS initially denied writing the poem [‘Could Never Be’], then owned up to it.

He also downplayed his association with the Murrells, saying he barely knew them … and that he couldn’t remember the name of the Murrell’s missing girl. “Really?” said Shoaf, “then why did you name your own child ‘Tania’?”

The bottom line is that the detectives could not crack PS.

 Police suggested a second-degree murder plea [and therapy while in prison], but the response was “fuck you … you ain’t got a body.”

If PS was an innocent man, his comment was sure interesting.

What threw off the interrogation was a phone call that was mistakenly put through to the interview room. The officers had instructed reception that NO calls were to be put through. For the detectives to take the call, they had to hit a mental pause button on the interrogation. [The call was about a pizza delivery] The interruption came at the absolute wrong time because PS was on the ropes and the call — which surprised everyone — gave him time to regain his composure.

Shoaf says his last words to PS were that he didn’t want him to kill himself [“you fucker”] because he wanted him alive.

I was at the Edmonton International Airport to meet the two detectives when they returned home on a late flight. I watched the pair ascend the escalator, side by side. Their eyes shouted what their lips feared to say. There would be no breaking news on  CBC Radio that night.

What it came down to is that police had enough on PS to charge him, but not enough to convict him. What was especially frustrating for the officers was that the suspect did not deny killing Tania.

In a 20th of January 1993 interview in the Edmonton Sun, Shoaf told reporter Tom Olsen “He [the suspect] was associated with the family and was in Edmonton at the time. Those people who were close to the family have identified him as the fellow.”

Shoaf went on to say that more than 20 people suspected the individual.

“The absence of a body points to the theory Tania knew her abductor,” wrote Olsen. Shoaf added, “A stranger has no feelings towards the victim, they’ll just dump the body.”

Finally, police could not determine if PS was working that day. In other words, he had no alibi.

If Jack Murrell had come across PS, he’d have no life either. The Murrells — who by now had begun to put the pieces together — figured that their old friend was likely Tania’s abductor and killer.

Jack indicated to police that if he ever caught PS, no one would ever find his body.


A CONNECTION TO THE KEVIN REIMER MYSTERY?

Was PS a predator?

In one of his readings, Clairvoyant Ralph Hurst “read” that PS had taken another life, a boy whose name began with ‘K.’ Hurst thought the name might be ‘Kevin,’ but wasn’t sure.

That name rang a bell because of Kevin Reimer, the 9-year-old lad who mysteriously vanished in June 1979 from Elk Island National Park in Strathcona County, just east of Edmonton.

At the time, PS worked in Strathcona County.

The boy’s remains were eventually found in woods not too far from where he was last seen. My friend, Ken Chambers of the RCMP, part of the initial search, swore the body wasn’t there when they looked.

Chambers — then stationed at the RCMP Detachment in Sherwood Park — said he and many other officers walked nearly shoulder to shoulder, poking the ground with long sticks … and no way was that body there. His conclusion was that the child’s body was dumped in that location after the police search.

Detective Shoaf said he called the RCMP for more information on the Kevin Reimer file. He says Mounties ruled Reimer’s death accidental. Don’t know if I buy that.

According to Shoaf, the ‘Good Samaritan’ who notified police that people were frantically searching for a missing boy was not a family member, but none other than PS. I haven’t seen the RCMP file to confirm that. But if the information is correct, so much for Kevin’s death being an accident.

As one can imagine, Kevin’s death had a massive impact on his family. For years, the boy’s bedroom remained just as it was the day he left. Kevin’s bed was made and his clothes, toys and books were neatly placed, as though waiting for him to walk in the room again.


PHONE INTERVIEW WITH VIVIAN MURRELL: January 1993

The mother touches on her recollections of the day Tania vanished, some private memories of her child, the controversy surrounding the Tania Murrell Missing Children Society, how her family was doing at the time of the interview [1993], her shame of knowing the prime suspect; her frustration with the Edmonton Police … and a message to the people of Edmonton.

Click on the small arrow to hear a 21-minute telephone interview with Vivian recorded in January 1993 — 10 years after her daughter disappeared.

In August 2010, long-time family friend Heather Hansen visited Vivian Murrell at her home in Peachland, British Columbia. Heather was also a volunteer with Vivian’s charity. The two talked about old times and shared some laughs, as old friends are prone to do.

Heather says one thing that wasn’t funny was that Vivian was not able to retrieve the manuscript she wrote [‘Where Is Tania?’] and loaned to the Calgary-based Missing Children Society of Canada. Vivian hoped her manuscript didn’t end up like her daughter: missing.

It’s not known what became of Vivian’s document. Chantal Bazinet, who works in media relations for Missing Children, in a sing-songy sort of voice, said she was “looking into it” and promised to get back to me. The pledge made on 12 February 2013. As of 26 September 2015 no one has phoned back. Guess they’re very busy at the Missing Children Society of Canada.


TANIA NOW HAS COMPANY?

Vivian Murrell died on New Year’s Day, 2011 at her home — a story broken by CFCW Radio in Edmonton. According to other media reports, Vivian’s boyfriend came home and found her dead on the couch. Heather says Vivian had suffered a brain aneurysm in 2005, the same year Jack Murrell died from kidney failure.

I tried contacting Ralph Hurst recently to give him an update on the Tania Murrell file … but learned that Hurst had died from cancer. I hope my old friend is still following the case from the ‘Other Side.’ Come on Ralph, get off your butt and give me a sign … do some ‘nudging.’

Hurst once said he did not want a dime of the reward money, but he also didn’t want any of the money to go to Tania’s parents. He felt they were partly responsible for what happened because it was they who brought PS into their lives.

Last I heard, Detective Ian Shoaf had retired from the Edmonton Police Service after some serious medical issues. He once told me that the Tania file would haunt him for as long as he lived. If there’s any police officer who needs closure to a case, it is Detective Shoaf on the Tania Murrell file. That man put his heart and soul into solving this mystery. I tip my hat to him.

[If you gain one nugget from this post, it’s this: look beyond the news release and the news stories. Police officers and reporters went beyond the call of duty to get to the bottom of a child’s disappearance. Because we “fell short” doesn’t mean the mystery cannot be solved.]

Shoaf did say that police questioned the Murrells about PS — but the Murrells defended him, saying [I hope I have the quote right] “Oh no, not – -! he’s our friend!!” No, Vivian, he was your drinking buddy … and a sexual deviant. Police — and a number of people — suspect he killed your daughter.

But is he the culprit? At this point, it’s really hard to say definitively because not enough facts are known.

Vivian Murrell – August 2006         [Photo courtesy of the Edmonton Sun]

Vivian Murrell with her boyfriend in Peachland, British Columbia in August 2010. A year and a half later, Vivian was dead.[Photo courtesy of Heather]

Vivian Murrell with her boyfriend in Peachland, British Columbia in August 2010. Half a year after this photo was taken, Vivian was dead. Click on photo to enlarge.
[Photo courtesy of Heather Hansen]


CONTACT FROM THE RCMP IN OTTAWA

What prompted this ‘update’ on Tania Murrell wasn’t so much that the 30-year-anniversary is in January 2013. It was a message on my Facebook page in the spring of 2012. The note was from Bill Brown, a special investigator working with the RCMP in Ottawa. Brown, a former City of Edmonton policeman, was looking for information on the Tania case.

In a phone call and some emails, I shared with him what I knew.

Now you know all this as well.

When I phoned Brown a month or so later to see what was up with Tania, he said nothing was happening — that it was an EPS [Edmonton Police Service] file. That’s the last I heard from him.

I don’t know what became of PS. That story is for another day.

It’s my understanding that police may know where the prime suspect now lives.

Following her mother’s death, Elysia Murrell told reporters she believed her older sister is still alive, that she was abducted and brainwashed into thinking her parents didn’t want her anymore. Elysia also revealed that her brother John had been in and out of jail, and that she had little contact with him.

Actually, Elysia Murrell hasn’t even had contact with her two small children for seven years. Dysfunctional family, to say the least.


JOHN MURRELL DIES

In a story dated 20 January 2015, the Edmonton Sun reported that John, 37, was now ‘clean,’ working full time and living at a halfway house in Edmonton. John Murrell told the newspaper he’d turned his life around, vowing not to go back to jail.

Less than a week later, there was a tragic update to the story: Murrell died by his own hand on Sunday, 25th of January 2015.

According to a police source, John Murrell was found hanging by a white electrical cord at his halfway house. According to a story in the Edmonton Sun on Sunday, 29 March 2015, the man died from a methadone overdose.

http://www.edmontonsun.com/2015/03/28/missing-edmontons-girls-brother-died-of-methadone-overdose

John Murrell outside Grosvenor Elementary School shortly before he died. [Photo courtesy of the Edmonton Sun]

John Murrell outside Grovenor Elementary School shortly before he died. [Photo courtesy of the Edmonton Sun]

Family friend Heather Hansen wonders if John returning to Edmonton didn’t open up old wounds for him. Hansen says Tania and John were “inseparable.”  “Went Tania went missing,” she recalls, “John was scared shitless … and lost. The kid was devastated …”

For the complete Sun story on the 20th January 2015 by Gary Poignant, including a short video clip of John Murrell, click here: http://www.edmontonsun.com/2015/01/20/brother-of-abducted-edmonton-girl-tania-murrell-says-hes-turned-his-life-around-misses-his-best-friend

Police photo of John Murrell.[Photo courtesy of the Edmonton Sun]

Undated police mugshot of John Murrell.
[Courtesy of the Edmonton Sun]

On 21 January 1983, Photographer Dean Bicknell of the Edmonton Journal captured a distraught Vivian hugging her son John after she just answered the phone. She was hoping someone was calling with news about Tania, but it wasn't to be.

On 21 January 1983, Photographer Dean Bicknell of the Edmonton Journal captured a distraught Vivian hugging her son John after she just answered the phone. Vivian was hoping someone was calling with news about Tania, but it wasn’t to be. Click to enlarge. [Note misspelling of Tania’s name]


HOW THE MEDIA WORKS …

Since this blog story was posted on 10 October 2012, no ‘mainstream’ media outlet did an update on the Tania Murrell mystery — until the 30th anniversary of the abduction rolled around. Suddenly, Tania was back in the news again.

All along, the media outlet with perhaps the best coverage of Tania’s disappearance has been the Edmonton Sun. What’s surprising and disappointing is the Edmonton Journal’s coverage this time around. Zip! Like, what’s with that? It looks like the Journal couldn’t come up with anything original, so it simply ignored the story.

Back on Friday, 18 January 2013 reporter Gary Poignant did an update for the Edmonton Sun. Poignant’s story was based on interviews with Vivian Murrell’s sister, Vera [mentioned earlier in this post] … and Brandy-Jo Ewashko, a playmate of Tania.

What’s new in the Sun story is that 30 years after the fact, Brandy-Jo Ewashko now reveals that when Tania was abducted she was on her way to a 7-11 convenience store, in the opposite direction — and not to her home. At the time of Tania’s disappearance that critical piece of information wasn’t mentioned to police, certainly not to the news media because we would have put the story out there.

The new information, like a lot of stuff on the Tania file, is of course “un-verifiable.” Given Tania’s character and training by her mother — and the freezing temperature at the time — it’s hard to believe the child would suddenly head off to a convenience store instead of going straight home, where a hot meal was waiting for her. Then again, who knows? Only two people know the answer, and one is likely now in the Spirit World.

Melanie, who says she worked at the 7-11 at the time of Tania’s disappearance, writes, “Nobody came to the store for information, or to see if any of us saw anything or anyone on the day of her disappearance.” Melanie’s letter is listed in the ‘Comments’ section at the end of this post.

Here is a 23 January 1983 story by Gary Poignant of the Edmonton Sun, featuring an interview with then 6-year-old Brandy-Jo Ewashko [click on ‘I think Tanya got stealed’  to read the story]:

Sun - Tania M. 23 January 1983

Edmonton Sun : 23 January 1983. Click to enlarge.

Notice there’s no mention of Tania on her way to a convenience store.

The most recent Sun coverage prompted this critical yet diplomatic response to the Sun website from Tania’s younger sister, Elysia Murrell. Click on the image below to read Elysia’s note.

Posted 21 Jan 2013

           Correspondence from Elysia Murrell dated 21 January 2013. Click to enlarge.

The gist of what Elysia Murrell is saying is that the new information on Tania wandering off to a 7/11 is likely bull … and it’s ticked off her family.

The next mainstream media outlet to do a story on the 30th anniversary of Tania’s abduction was CFRN Television, CTV’s Edmonton affiliate. Without source attribution, CTV’s website story reads:

“The little girl had gone to school with her brother, and was supposed to go home with him for lunch that day, but it’s believed that she headed in the opposite direction instead towards what was a convenience store …”

“Believed?” By using believed, CTV avoids giving credit to the Edmonton Sun. That’s not unusual. By not giving credit, the public may think CTV actually got this information on its own. Smoke and mirrors.

It gets worse. On 22 January 2013, the Vancouver Sun [not affiliated with the Sun Media chain] published a Canadian Press story on the 30th anniversary of the abduction of Tania. Notice how unconfirmed information has suddenly morphed into a fact. Again, click on the image to enlarge.

Vancouver Sun - 22 January 2013

“But for some reason she headed in the opposite direction instead, toward what was a convenience store …”

Here’s a summary of the latest events:

a) a new twist to the Tania story — 30 years later, a child’s memory is jogged with information that has Tania’s relatives raising their eyebrows as to its credibility;

b) a TV station grabs the Sun information — without giving credit — and does its own story;

c) another news organization rewrites the TV copy, but passes off the new information as “fact” …

d) yet another news outlet prints the new information as if it were gospel.

And that folks, is why the public does not — and should not — have complete faith in the mainstream news media.

The Edmonton Sun has updated its story on Tania Murrell — “30 years later, tips in Edmonton case of missing 6-year-old Tania Murrell becoming very rare” — with a good portion of the story devoted to the prime suspect. Information on the prime suspect was first made public in this post on October 10, 2012.

Sun website story headlined,

From an Edmonton Sun website story headlined, “30 years later, tips in Edmonton case of missing 6-year-old Tania Murrell becoming very rare.” Retrieved 25 March 2013.


SEARCHING IN TORONTO – 2015 

It was a long shot, at best.

In the spring of 2015 I got word that PS might be homeless and living on the streets in Toronto, and so I traveled to Ontario to check out some shelters. Considering the hundreds of hours I’d invested in the Tania story, I figured, what the heck.

I spent the better part of June 17th and 18th going from shelter to shelter downtown — including the large Salvation Army complex at 167 College Street — asking anyone who’d listen if they knew the whereabouts of PS.

Some wanted to know why I wanted to see the guy. I explained there had been three deaths [mother, father, son] in a family he knew very well when he lived in Edmonton … and that he should know that. Of course, PS already knew about a fourth death [Tania], but I didn’t bring that up.

Shelter administrators were friendly and polite — but declined to provide any information. Wherever I went, the answer was the same: “Sorry, but owing to privacy regulations we can’t tell you anything.” Fair enough. The law’s the law.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to determine if the elusive PS was staying at any of the shelters in downtown Toronto —  or even if he’d been there.

I dropped off my business card at a few places in the hope that if somebody knew his whereabouts, they’d give me a call. Like I say, a long shot.

DSC01997

The street people I met were somewhat suspicious, understandably — although fairly talkative, especially if they wanted money or favours.

One old guy in a beat-up wheelchair [he had both legs amputated], who seemed like he hadn’t shaved in three days and showered in five, asked if I could go in the dollar store and get him some rubbing alcohol. “I’ll pay you,” he said, his shaking, nicotine-stained fingers clasping a crumpled $5 bill. He assured me it was for ‘medicinal purposes.’ I said, “No thanks, buddy.”

A slim man in his mid-70s got my attention. He had a trimmed, white beard and a somewhat officious look about him that suggested he had been ‘somebody’ back in the day. I told him I was looking for [PS].

The man took a puff on a short cigarette and as the smoke curled up around his face, he flashed one of those plastic smiles. You know the kind. In a proper British accent, he asked, “And why should I be helping YOU?” He maintained a fake smile until I said, “You’ve just shown why you ended up here.” That’s not kind, I know, but I’m not very gracious to dicks.

Outside another shelter, on George Street, just south of Gerrard, I spotted four men sitting around a picnic table in the shade of a big tree, chatting and smoking. Just some old-timers on the street passing the time of day.

I was a short distance away, on the sidewalk. Separating us was a tall fence made of black steel bars. I gripped the bars — getting the attention of the men at the table — and to the eldest of the four men remarked, “Bud, it’s like you’re in jail!” Quick as a whip, he shot back, “From where I’m sitting, it looks like YOU’RE the one in jail!” He laughed. I laughed. Well, everyone laughed. It was kind of funny. A nice little ice-breaker.

We chatted a bit and I brought up PS’ name. Turns out, they didn’t know him. I told the old guy at the table that I’d been looking for PS for decades. Just before I pulled away he gave me some free advice: “Can I tell you something?” he said and without waiting for an answer, continued, “… if there’s one thing I’ve learned in life, it’s NEVER GIVE UP!!”

The meeting ended with smiles all around. And to the four strangers at the picnic table, I tipped my hat and went on my way.


WHERE’S EVERYONE NOW?

More than 30 years later, there’s still no sign of Tania Murrell … and her disappearance has landed no one in court.

Yet, a lot has happened in three decades. Tania’s parents, Jack and Vivian Murrell, have both died. So has Tania’s younger brother, John Murrell. Dead, too, is one of the early police detectives on the Tania file, John McLeod. Psychic Ralph Hurst has also crossed over.

Elysia Murrell is living in Niagara Falls, Ontario. The media had portrayed Elysia as a single mother, but she hasn’t seen her two young boys in SEVEN years. Happy Mother’s Day, Elysia. Last I heard, Mr. PS was somewhere in Ontario … though I’m not even sure if he’s still alive. He did have a criminal record, with his earliest known conviction in 1978 [Alberta] and his last known brush with the law in 1996 [Ontario]; Edmonton Sun reporter Tom Olson was doing communications work with the Alberta Government; reporter Gary Poignant was released by the Edmonton Sun-Edmonton Journal as part of their cutbacks in early 2016; he has written a book [on an unsolved double homicide] and plans to move to British Columbia; CBC-TV reporter Warren Michaels was working communications for “Cold-FX” [where a judge gave him a fine for “insider trading”]; CBC Radio Senior Editor Cam Ford moved to Melbourne, Victoria, Australia where he became a lawyer; CBC Radio reporter Ruth Anderson was news director at CTV Barrie, Ontario; CBC Radio Producer Peter Hutchinson was station manager at CBC Radio in Victoria, British Columbia; RCMP officer Ken Chambers is retired and living in the Maritimes; Edmonton Police Service Detective Ian Shoaf works in law enforcement for the Alberta Government; according to Lance Beswick — Edmonton Police Communications official when Tania disappeared — Jim Cessford was Chief of Police in Delta, British Columbia … he retired in January 2015 after two decades as Chief; Vera Stortz is in Edmonton; Peter Pocklington is in California where he was in and out of jail; Heather Hansen and her husband live in Leduc, south of Edmonton … and yours truly is semi-retired and living in Edmonton.

It is my belief that Tania Murrell is deceased and that she was murdered on the 20th of January 1983, the same day she vanished on her way home from school.

Depending on the psychic consulted, Tania is either dead or alive. Most say she’s now in the Spirit World, reunited with her mother, father, and brother.


HOW TO CONTACT THE AUTHOR …

https://wordpress.com/stats/post/2/byronchristopher.org


CARE TO COMMENT?

Feel free to comment on the Tania story — or if you have information that would help locate either Tania or her remains … or the whereabouts of the prime suspect. I’d love to talk to the guy.

Some readers say they can’t easily leave a comment through the WordPress system. If that doesn’t work for you, just send off an email: click here 

When comments are posted, only a first name is displayed [unless you specifically want your full name used] … and no email address or location is displayed. It’s anonymous.

101 thoughts on “Tania and that ‘Family Friend’

  1. I just have to say that was a great read! It was very well-written and had me captured right from start to finish.

    I am honestly surprised I had never heard this story before reading this article and it’s crazy and sad something so intense can happen so close to home!

    Like

  2. Very well written, I was enveloped throughout the entire read.

    I’m so sorry that you’ve invested so much without much return. I agree with the old-timer, never give up, not that I think you will but I do believe that you will get answers someday because of your perseverance and determination.

    Did anyone check for a body at the place where PS took the kids camping? The poem mentions Summertime (camping season) and the body may have been moved there (from the ravine?) once the frost thawed … perhaps the place had meaning and PS wanted her to rest there (perhaps where the ‘romance’ began/ended/could never be). A mountain or lake? Not sure if that location was ever disclosed but might be worth looking into.

    Good luck and I will also continue to follow this story until its solved.

    Thank you for raising awareness of child abduction, it’s real, it can happen to anyone, and it makes me put more attention towards safety for my own children.

    Like

  3. I have lived in and around Strathcona County and the Edmonton area my whole life and I remember hearing the updates on this story. I was born two days before Tania’s disappearance and this story has struck a chord with me.

    It brings to mind an incident that happened to me when I was six years old. My mother and aunt were shopping at an old IGA on the north east side of the City of Edmonton. My mom and aunt were in the checkout aisle and I was playing around near the doors. I was minding my own business when a man attempted to grab me. I held on tight to the metal bars that people tied their bikes to and he couldn’t dislodge me. Eventually he gave up and because he tried to grab me from behind I turned to see who it was and it was a man that I didn’t recognize. He gave me a dirty look and went on his way.

    I’ve never told anyone about this except my wife. Not even my mother knew.

    I didn’t know of there is a connection to Tania’s story, but it goes to show that it can happen to anyone.

    Like

  4. My husband and I had a company in the 1980’s and 90’s and we hired two people who were friends of Jack and Vivian. The wife told me she knew who killed Tania and that his name was Lloyd something … that he had moved to Ontario and named his daughter Tania.

    It has always haunted me.

    Like

      • The entire family died without any closure. Friends won’t tell police? You will have your turn.

        RIP to the family, what a sad story and, all the pain they always had to go through not knowing.

        Sad reading people knew what happened but, never had the courage to tell. Remember, what goes around comes around.

        Like

  5. I have wondered for many years about this little girl.

    I was a young mother getting ready to return to England when she was taken. I lived quite close to the school and my daughter who went to Glenora School was the same age.

    It was — and still is — a heartbreaking story. You have written a very interesting and compelling article.

    Thank you for sharing it in this way.

    Like

  6. Well, I lived in Edmonton that cold day. I remember being upset as I myself had and have a Daughter by that special name Tanya even thou it’s spelt different. She was just 6 at the time.

    I can’t believe after all this time Tania has not been found.

    From time to time I usually type in Tania Murrell to see if there is any news. Sorry to hear that her mom, dad and brother are gone. I feel so bad for her younger sister who still would like to know her sister.

    Tania , you have been truly missed and will always be by everyone who knows your story. God be with you.

    Like

  7. I am curious to know who the lead detective you say was drunk at the time of PS’s lie detector was?

    I am the daughter of John MacLeod, and I can tell you first hand that this case haunted my father every single day of his life. I was the same age as Tania when she disappeared and recall helping put posters out not only throughout the city but everywhere our family travelled though on holidays.

    He worked tirelessly on this case, and to say he was disinterested is not knowing the way my dad worked his cases and took the time to think, ponder and weigh all the facts and details.

    His passion for his work, Tania’s case amongst others, took a toll on all of us but it also made him one hell of a Detective.

    Like

    • Hi, I believe the article said it was PS that was drunk at the time of the lie detector test, not the detective.

      I would expect the intoxication would play a role in the inconclusive results of the test.

      Like

  8. Great read. I went to school with Tania. There’s a few of us who keep in touch.

    I still get weirded out about it. I will never forget that day.

    Like

  9. This little girl lived 12 blocks from us in Edmonton.

    Joe, our son, went to a different school but was in the same program called “Early Birds”. It was a program for kids that didn’t seem to be quite ready for grade 1.

    It was a time that those little ones could get more teacher time. They went to school on a different time frame so they were pretty much alone going back and forth. When this happened, it was a game-changer for my [late] husband John and I.

    Joe walked to school with a neighbor’s granddaughter who was in grade 5, I think. One day Joe said that whatever her name was, stays after school for some sport. Well I immediately called my neighbour and friend Marion and said no more walking anywhere off that school property for Joe. If Marion couldn’t go to the school and walk with him, she was to call either John or I and we would leave work and be at the school.

    She would go and walk with him on the days that her granddaughter was staying after school from then on. One day, when the kids got to Marion’s, they told her about a van that had followed them home. Holy cats! that was even scarier.

    The day we left Edmonton for the last time was when I finally relaxed about Joe’s safety. I was bad about being so watchful and fretting when we would be shopping in North Battleford as I was big city-minded.

    I read about Tana Murrel’s family history as I have never ever forgotten her name or that picture of her that shows her even after all these years.

    I always maintained I would be able to handle Joe’s death by accident but if I never knew where he was, I would not be able to cope and would end up at a psychiatric facility.

    Yep, was ecstatic that last day we left Edmonton for good.

    Like

  10. This was a very good read.

    I was a young, new mom at the time of Tania’s disappearance and could not fathom what the parents were going through.

    I hope Karma takes care of the person responsible for her disappearance, and that some day you find your answers.

    Like

  11. This is a very well written, very sad story.

    Thank you for all the time you have put in over the years.

    I wish it had a happy ending.

    Like

  12. You did a wonderful job putting this all together and made it an easy read. I am not from Canada but your recall/writing of this completely gripped me.

    I pray this child’s body will be found and her sister and everyone who lived this can find closure, reading it, I can tell for many of you, that is truly needed.

    Thanks for following through with this, God bless.

    Like

  13. Wow, always so much more to a story than one hears on the radio, which I believe was part of your point.

    So, so sad that he never got arrested. Suppose they were waiting for the break that they knew they could convict him on.

    I too remember when it happened. Do I recall that they thought they had found something by the rail road tracks at one point?

    Very, very well written and documented, thank you for sharing your caring.

    Like

  14. So PS’s name must be either Lenny, Larry, Leroy or Lance. I hate that people like him can just disappear into thin air, likely to kill again.

    Like

  15. Wow … long read but so interesting.

    I’d never heard of this case before (I’m 36 years old and I live in Ottawa) and I just couldn’t put my phone down to stop reading.

    I hope PS is found and for Tania’s sake I hope he confesses. Sounds like a real weirdo. Tania deserves justice!

    I will definitely be on lookout for more articles about this.

    Like

    • I’m a private investigator in BC and I specialize in cold cases (missing persons and homicides), I’d like to review the Tania Murrell case.

      Like

  16. A good read, thank you.

    I was a police officer in Edmonton at the time of her disappearance.

    Although I worked in a different part of the city, my crew and I were called upon to be involved in a grid search of the area near the residence occupied by this family. Because ours was a perimeter function with no results, I was not further involved, however, like so many more, I have always wondered what really happened to this little girl.

    I worked at various times during my 25 year career with each of the officers mentioned in your report, and understand completely how this case can cause sleepless nights for many years after.

    Thank you for bringing me up to date on it.

    Like

  17. Well written! Captivating story to say the least, and so very sad it hasn’t been solved.

    And tragic that her family never got to bury their child or have any final peace knowing what happened. Rest in peace angel.

    Keep searching Byron!

    Like

  18. I remember when her picture was in the paper with her red jacket and one braid. I was in high school and worked part-time in a car dealership.

    For years I wondered what had happened to all of them, where are they now. So tragic that they were so unhappy and never helped to catch PS.

    Maybe it was to awful to think one of their friends could have been involved.

    I wish the ending was so different. I thank you for writing this and bringing forth to light what had transpired. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

    Like

  19. What an amazing story! I remember this so well I was the same age as her! I lived in a small town 45mins north of edmonton and my parents were so sad and scared.

    I always search up her name just to see if there is any knew updates.

    I hope her body is found and she can be put to rest with her parents and brother. Thank you for sharing.

    Like

  20. I will never forget the day that sweet child Tania disappeared and when Kevin disappeared. I lived not far from Elk IUsland when Kevin went missing. Then, just before my oldest daughter was born, Tania vanished.

    What a horrible thing for parents, family and friends to live with. My hope is that Tania is found alive or her body found to put this child to rest.

    Like

    • I was one of the soldiers deployed to Elk Island from the LdSH(RC), at that time located in Calgary. We searched line abreast through all that swamp, all those insects etc. It had become personal for all of us.

      Sadly we never found Kevin nor were updated further.

      I will always remember the search brief. “He has been missing for 48 hours, last seen wearing a swim suit and one running shoe. Given the lack of clothing or protection from the elements we are likely looking for a body. Ensure you look under logs, probe the water and look up into the trees as children of that age will seek protection in the most unlikely of places”.

      I and my fellow soldiers had just commenced our trades training two weeks prior, it was not a happy start to our careers.

      Like

  21. Your blog on Tania Murrell was a very good read.

    I’ve followed this case since I was a child, as I was the same age as Tania when she went missing.

    However, I think you are being somewhat unfair to the Murrell family, especially Elysia. It’s not relevant or informative to mention that she has not seen her children in seven years. The family has obviously been through enough, and even if they were a dysfunctional family, it should not be implied that they were indirectly responsible for their child’s disappearance. We all make mistakes in life. However, no family deserves to go through what the Murrell’s did.

    Like

  22. We lived 17 blocks from the Murrell’s and our son was in the same type of program as Tania. I lived in fear every day even though he was never left alone after that walking to and from his babysitters.

    We left Edmonton to a rural area in Saskatchewan and I have never been more relieved in my life.

    After all these years I have never forgotten Tania’s name. I read this article some time ago and have grieved for Tania’s family. I said to my husband at the time that I could accept the death of our son in an accident or disease but to one day never know what happened to him would destroy me and I would end up in Alberta Hospital.

    Like

  23. Did anyone ever talk to the parents of the young boy that died? Nothing was ever disclosed on how he died.

    There’s just so many loop holes and this whole story is just so very sad. The whole family just fell apart after Tania’s disappearance. No counseling, no real help from anyone. Their pain was huge and just by reading it seems like they had a hard time functioning.

    We may never get closure but I’m just wondering if now with the spring weather to go back where that broken fence was and maybe something will turn up.

    The tears will continue to flow because this story is just so very sad.

    Like

  24. My belief is Tania was walking home that winter day. Her abduction was made possible by mother, dad and her brother. All knew PS and complied with him. He promised he would pick up the children from school that day.

    Both parents defended PS because they agreed with him and later were afraid to speak of the arrangement. Her younger brother, being the boy he was, walked home by himself seeing that his older sister was in a car and leaving him. The mother, hungover, had a gut feeling remembering she agreed to this arrangement with PS. The father barely remembered the arrangement but stood beside his wife in public.

    The father was only ever seen alone with teary eyes. He knew that his wife and PS made a deal that night.

    Sadly, I must say that all three family members are dead from their own demise.

    Tania was walking home by herself and remembered her parents told her to go to the PS car. Her younger brother never knew of the arrangement but may have seen her get into the car.

    PS is dead now from an overdose. He most likely was involved in the case of missing Kevin.

    Psychic people are often correct with what they see. Tania’s body thrown about Edmonton in sewers, bones worn away by sand. Her spirit is amongst us as we remember her sweet innocent smile and her loving spirit. Amen

    Like

  25. This was a fascinating read. It should be turned into a podcast.

    I would suggest much like the podcast “Missing Richard Simmons” if it were serialized and had those audio clips in it, it would have a large audience and could help to provide some closure.

    Like

  26. Excellent write-up. It must be a whole new level of frustration to experience knowing who the killer is and not being able to change him. Thank you for sharing all of this and for not giving up.

    I really like your writing style, except for the strange hostility toward Elysia. Do you know of her harming her children or are you just judging her for not seeing them? Labeling her dysfunctional without backing up the claim with evidence is not what journalists do.

    Also, the dig about the cop with a drinking problem, is it supposed to imply he related to PS and let him off easy? Or that there was incompetence on the force? It wasn’t clear.

    Like

  27. I commend you on your efforts and your bulldog tenacity on this case. Your writing and details show how far you and the rest of the people involved have gone “above and beyond.”

    It’s awful to think that someone managed to get away with this terrible crime (or crimes) … and will never have to face punishment.

    I hope that you’re able to find the answers to all the questions you pose and that the filth involved in this is one day brought to some type of justice.

    All the best.

    Like

  28. Excellent work!

    I am the same age as Tania and I remember this story. I saw her picture up on a missing poster at a Walmart in Calgary recently.

    I hope that they solve this case one day.

    Like

  29. Excellent article. Heartbreaking.

    I don’t understand why PS can’t be named as a “person of interest”. That happens all the time with homicides today. Why does he get to hide behind this veil of secrecy?

    Like

  30. Very good read. Thank you for all your hard work on this story.

    I often think about Tania, I was the same age as her. We will never forget.

    Like

  31. This story has touched me too.

    I was heading to my grandpa’s house on the Greyhound bus when police officers believed I was Tania and questioned me and my grandmother. Several times people asked me if I was Tania and needed help.

    Have you checked if there was a cemetery nearby? Possibly a burial had occurred the day she went missing or shortly thereafter, and the ground was still thawed, allowing PS to dig again and place her body in the grave.

    Like

  32. I just read your story. Spellbinding.

    I remember the case well as I am originally from the Edmonton area.

    I was living Down East when I heard about a young missing girl from Quebec and it made me think of Tania back home. At the time, I wondered if the Quebec abduction could somehow be connected to Tania. I quickly dismissed the thought.

    Now I see that PS moved to Ontario around the time I was Down East. Surely a coincidence? — his move and another missing girl?

    Just my passing thoughts that I always wanted to share with someone.

    Like

  33. Such a sad, heart-rending story with no closure.

    I could not stop reading.

    Unfortunately there are far too many tragedies of this nature across our world happening in every country. Missing persons, young and old, who disappear seemingly without a trace.

    So well written, a truth impossible to turn away from; it leaves you genuinely mourning the loss of this little girl Tania.

    Like

  34. Thank you so much for this article! I check the internet every few years to see if there’s new information, and I was so glad to find this!

    I went to Grovenor at the time this happened, though I was a few years older than her. I remember the day she went missing my family and I were walking down the back alleys and my grandpa was looking inside garbage cans, which at the time I thought was just weird. I asked him why he was doing that and I can’t remember what he said but I know I just thought it was silly. He obviously didn’t tell me what he was actually looking for.

    Sometime after this happened (probably after they left the area) a rumor began circulating in the neighbourhood that the parents had sold her into “white slavery” to a motorcycle gang. I didn’t understand that because to me a little girl seemed like she’d be a pretty useless slave. (I was just a kid.) I now realize this was based on media reports about her family, and also probably neighbourhood gossip about their lifestyle.

    I just wanted to point out that there was (and is) no 7-11 anywhere near Grovenor. At the time, there was a small family-owned convenience store that we referred to as “Fred’s” though I don’t think that was its actual name. That was very close to the school, about a block. One other thing about that – the south end of the school is in the opposite direction of where Tania’s house was located, so it is odd that she left the school from that door, if that is indeed the case (not sure what your source was on that). There was a door on the other end of the school, facing north, and it certainly would make more sense for her to have left from that door, considering how cold it was. If you’re right about the door, perhaps she WAS going to Fred’s.

    I had NO idea there had ever even been a suspect in this case and honestly, for the last 34 years, I thought she probably HAD been sold into white slavery. I really appreciate the information in this article; so much I didn’t know! And I’m also glad somehow to know that her parents weren’t the monsters I was led to believe.

    This case affected me so much that I was always in fear of something happening to my kids, maybe more than most parents. I didn’t let them walk to school alone until they were in Junior High. It’s very sad that there will most likely never be closure to this case. Even if they find her remains it’s doubtful there would be any usable evidence remaining.

    Like

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