Father suspected in B.C. spouse’s disappearance regains custody of youngsters as investigation stalls

A man suspected of being involved in the high profile disappearance of his ex-partner has regained custody of his two children after three years of no major movement in the investigation.

A British Columbia Provincial Court judge granted custody Friday and said he had no evidence to keep the children away from their father for longer as the man had never been charged.

“The continued removal of the children was due to the expectation that police would blame the father for the mother’s disappearance. It has now been three years and there is no indication that charges are imminent,” wrote Judge Wilson Lee in his judgment.

The then nine and eleven year olds were taken into foster families after their father was imprisoned and questioned about the disappearance of their mother three years ago. The mother had disappeared two weeks earlier.

CBC News does not name the father or mother to protect the children’s identity.

The decision on custody of the children was extended twice. A provincial court judge who extended the order in 2019 found the children needed protection from their father based on police evidence and the gravity of the allegations still under investigation.

According to the verdict, a policeman at the Vancouver police station told the court earlier that year that the father “was suspected of being involved in his wife’s disappearance and is likely to be charged”. There were also concerns about what the father might do if the children were asked to testify against him in a trial.

The custody ruling continued and another year passed.

The director of child, family and community services filed for renewal of the custody decision last February. Nothing has changed since 2019, and concerns persist.

Lee disagreed.

“In my view, the passage of time, even without a criminal code charge, is a change in circumstances. At the hearing … In 2019, Judge MacLean dealt with a somewhat outdated allegation against the father. That allegation is now three years old with no new information from the Police or the Attorney General, “wrote Lee in his judgment on Friday.

“As evidenced by the evidence, there are no current protection concerns other than the police suggestion that charges against the criminal code are imminent. However, there is no indication that charges are in fact imminent.”

Court documents said there had not been any serious physical violence in the past that would suggest the children would be at risk if they lived with their father again. The children’s social worker told the court she had no concerns after observing supervised visits between the father and his children over the past few years.

“She said that the children ‘light up’ when they see the father,” was the verdict.

With no sign of movement in the investigation and no further evidence that the children were being held in foster care, the judge returned them to their father. They are under the supervision of the director for six months and the director can check in with the children at any time, unannounced or unannounced.

If the father does not allow the director to see children 12 and 14, the director can remove them from the house.

The father did not testify during the hearings. The police knew about the custody negotiations but did not attend – probably, the judge said, as the investigation is still ongoing.

A police spokesman confirmed to CBC Monday that no arrests had been made in connection with the woman’s disappearance.

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