Tania Murrell [pronounced Tohn-ya Murl] was a six-year-old Edmonton girl who disappeared on a bitterly cold January 20, 1983.
No one has heard from the child since. There have been no phone calls, sightings … not a darn thing. Tania’s disappearance smells of foul play, yet criminal charges were never laid.
That doesn’t mean police don’t have a prime suspect. They do. But there’s little they can do about it now …
A BOOK ON TANIA RELEASED
An 88–page paperback on Tania Murrell [‘What happened to Tania’] is now available on Amazon.ca and, in short time, on half a dozen other Amazon sites: amazon.com / amazon.co.uk / amazon.de / amazon.fr / amazon.es / amazon.it / amazon.co.jp. In other words, the book is available at Amazon sites in the US, Germany, France, Spain, Italy and Japan.
The book sells for $6.99 US which, at publication time, was just under $10 Cdn.
Here’s how to get it … click on the link below and once that page appears, click on the book cover. That will open up, allowing for a preview of the first 10 pages of the book.
Included in this revised blog post are the prologue and the first two chapters of the book — plus an audio recording of the parents’ desperate plea to the abductor.
Edmonton Police suspect that Tania Murrell was abducted and murdered.
The prime suspect in her disappearance, a man who died in Ontario in 2016, is identified in the book. His next of kin were interviewed; their comments can be found in the chapter that deals with the prime suspect.
There are also comments by those who knew the suspect during his time at the Murrell residence, which included sleepovers. In the early stages of the police investigation, the mother described the suspect as a ‘good friend,’ although several years later, she wasn’t saying that.
Readers can draw their own conclusions as to whether the prime suspect was the culprit.
On January 20, 1983, six-year-old Tania Murrell vanished on her way home from an elementary school in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
Hundreds of searchers — police, volunteers and friends and relatives of Tania — looked high and wide for the child. But there was absolutely no trace of her. No clothing, school books … or phone calls. Nothing. Zip.
And no witnesses.
It’s as though Tania had vanished into thin air. One moment, she’s standing on a sidewalk; next moment, she’s gone.
What … happened??
The child’s disappearance smells of foul play. Police believe the grade-one student was abducted and murdered.
But by whom? And why on earth would anyone do something so cruel? A heavy-drinking acquaintance of the family would morph from suspect to prime suspect. The man never faced criminal charges because while detectives felt they had enough evidence for a murder charge, they also felt they might not get a conviction.
The book reveals the identity of the prime suspect. It also reveals what happened to him — as well as what happened to the missing child’s mother, father … and brother.
A CHILD DISAPPEARS
In the first weeks of 1983, Alberta’s capital was in the grip of a deep freeze. It was so bitterly cold that car exhaust was visible, suspended in the air. People scurried about, anxious to get to any place warm.
At around 11 in the morning on January 20th, a bundled-up Tania Murrell said goodbye to her grade-one friends and walked out of Grovenor Elementary School, in the west end of Edmonton.
The child was on her way home for lunch, and 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 house, the child’s aunt, Vera Stortz, was preparing a hot meal for Tania and John, Tania’s younger brother.
John Murrell was in kindergarten at the same school. That morning, he got out of class expecting to see his big sister waiting for him outside. The two would walk home together, like they always did. But on that fateful day, sis was nowhere to be seen. It appeared as though Tania had left without her brother … and so John walked home on his own.
The children’s mother, Vivian, worked at a bakery, about a mile distant. Her husband, Jack, was a carpenter. He built new houses for Alldritt Homes on Edmonton’s south side.
Some have described Jack and Vivian Murrell as par- ty-hard folk who loved their booze, pot, rock music and Harley-Davidson motorbikes. They were — as a family acquaintance gently put it — “everyone’s-our-friend-people.”
But to most, Jack and Vivian were simply two young parents whose hearts were ripped out when their child vanished, never to be seen again.Vivian’s closest friend, Heather Hansen, describes Tania as a ‘very happy kid.’ “Anyone would have loved to have her as a daughter,” she says. “Tania was an absolute dream of a child, quiet and content. She always wanted a hug and a kiss when I left the house.”
“Tania loved to dance,” Hansen recalls, “… to have fun with her Barbie dolls — and play in the sandbox in the backyard.”
Heather’s daughter and Tania spent hours in that sandbox, laughing and talking about the strangest things, like what are you going to be when you grow up?
After Tania was a no-show for lunch, Vera got on the blower to Vivian at work. Right off the bat, mom didn’t have a good feeling. It was unusual for her daughter not to head straight home from school.
Things just weren’t adding up and Vivian began to worry. She hoped that Tania had slipped away to a friend’s house — but a mother’s intuition told her other- wise. A distraught Vivian sped home. When she got there, she learned that Vera had been looking for Tania on the streets and calling out her name.
Jack also made a bee line for home. Same thing. His gut signalled something was terribly wrong …
When Vivian dropped around to her daughter’s school, she got some dreadful news. Tania hadn’t made it back to class. Her seat remained empty.
And there was more grim news: not only had Tania’s classmates not seen her, no one had.
Tania would surely be home after school, well-mean- ing friends assured the parents.
Vivian phoned city police and a policeman dropped by. At that stage, however, there was little the officer could do except get a picture of Tania, jot down a description of what she was wearing and start going door to door.
With the worst yet to come, Vivian and Jack were already paralyzed with fear. They didn’t know what to do or where to turn.
Things became even more worrisome when Tania failed to show up at the house that evening. Where the hell was she?? Every time the back door opened, hopes were raised that Tania made it home safely.
Vivian and Jack tried to remain positive — but there were just too many red flags. Their last, faint hope was that their daughter had spent the night at a friend’s house and forgot to tell her parents.
Having an unannounced sleepover was so unlike Tania — but in the midst of the worst crisis in their lives, how the parents wished that actually happened. Alas, there had been no sleepover …
When Tania failed to show up for class next morn- ing, the alarm bells really went off. There was now little doubt that something terrible had happened.
For the parents, the situation was now beyond worrisome. It was gut-wrenching dreadful.
Detectives initially didn’t know what to make of the child’s disappearance — and neither did most reporters, myself included. I was working for CBC Radio News when police fired off an alert about a missing child.
At that point, it was barely a story. Next morning, reporter Ruth Anderson was about to head out the door to cover the mysterious disappearance. I was on the assignment desk and asked Ruth to hold off until school started. She agreed.
My thinking was that it made no sense getting worked up over a youngster who may have spent the night at a friend’s house.
I was wrong. Vivian was right. The mother had been telling friends she had a gut feeling something awful had happened.
The media coverage swung into high gear. The story of a missing child was leading every newscast in the city, and it would stay like that for weeks. Both parents were now trembling and no amount of beer was going to calm their nerves. Afraid that somebody would recognize him from the newspapers and TV, Jack shaved off his beard. Paranoia was seeping in.
Rumours circulated that the father — a biker, though not a gang member — owed a small-time drug dealer hundreds of dollars for some marijuana he bought.
Perhaps Jack owed someone money — perhaps he didn’t — but it’s my belief his daughter’s disappearance had nothing to do with an unpaid debt.
Vivian began second-guessing herself. She kept ask- ing ‘what if?’ What if I didn’t have to work that day? … what if Vera had gone to pick the kids up from school? What if …? What if …? What if …
She and her husband weren’t the only ones afraid. Everyone in the city of more than half a million was now very worried — because they could relate. Parents were thinking, ‘There but for the grace of God …’ while young children were terrified a stranger was going to take them away.
Like a stone tossed into a pond, that fear radiated throughout Edmonton, the province and the country. Where was Tania? Was she safe? Was she even alive? Everyone had theories, but no one really knew.
Detectives were inundated with tips … but few turned out to be significant. According to police, their ground search was by far the largest in Edmonton’s history. Hundreds of city blocks were checked. Soon after Tania vanished, so did Harley, her black dog. Foul play was not suspected; it was just one of those things. Even so, it was another hit for the family.
People hoped to hear ‘breaking news’ Tania had been found safe and sound and that she’d been reunited with her grateful parents.
What a joyful ending that would have been. Alas, nothing like that happened.
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 suddenly vanished, never to be held or seen again.
Heather Hansen describes 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,” Hansen 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 was a no-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 … Vivian began to worry. She hoped that Tania had simply gone to a friend’s house … but a mother’s intuition told her otherwise.
Vivian drove home right away. When she arrived, she learned that Vera had already been out looking for Tania and calling her name.
There was absolutely no sign of the child. What the hell was going on?? Jack left work and rushed home. His gut, too, told him that something was wrong.
A PERSONAL MESSAGE TO THE ABDUCTOR
Here’s a recording made by the distraught parents in January 1983. It’s poor quality … but you can follow along by reading the transcript.
VIVIAN: “Hi Tania. We miss you babe, Mom is waiting for you to come home right now. I know you want to come home … and who’s got ya, you gotta tell him that you wanna come home. Just tell him he knows you’re a good girl and you gotta come home.
We gotta do ballet …
“And John wants you home.
“Mom doesn’t know what to do anymore, she misses you so much. But whoever has you, just drop her off at some place warm. We don’t want to see who you are, just bring my baby home …
“She does want to come home. She loves her Mom. She loves her Dad, her kittens, her puppers. And she’s gotta come home. She wants to come home. You know she wants to come home. Please make Tania come home.”
JACK: “Whoever you are, if you got my Tania [sigh] and you’re keeping her warm and safe, that means you must care about her. If you care about her, let her come home. Please. Please, just let our little girl come home … just take her some place where somebody can find her. [sigh]”
VIVIAN: “Okay, this is to whoever … if you need money, we don’t have any money but we can get money for you. If you need that, you just phone us and we’ll help you out, borrow money … it doesn’t even matter, we gotta bring Tania home … we’ll get you some money if you want money. We got a lot of friends that love Tania. We really miss her. We’ve been trying so hard to find her and we just don’t want her out in the cold. We just can’t have that little girl out in the cold anywhere.
We have to have Tania back because we just have to and we need her more than you need her. And I know she wants to come home …”