DETAILS OF CASE
There are many different facets to this case and this investigation. On this page, we lay out facts and suppositions which make this case compelling and one which should be reinvestigated.
Durham Regional Police Service (DRPS)
The DRPS had jurisdiction over this case. It has been stated by very many persons that DRPS has a very spotty record, with a number of charges brought against members over the years. It is rumoured that they had some harsh encounters with one or more of the missing youths just prior to the disappearance.
DRPS had many encounters with this group of youths and as a result, it is suggested that their shoddy approach to this case was based on “payback”.
The missing persons
It has been stated, by persons close to Danny Higgins, that Higgins was not a member of the group of friends who make up the missing persons. All the friends lived in Pickering except Jamie Lefebvre, who lived in Scarborough.
A videotape was secured following the disappearance. We requested a copy of the tape. The tape, as we received it from DRPS, had been edited down to about 3 hours.
We first analyzed the images to determine the vantage points of the cameras in 1995. By taking the Google Earth image of the marina area and regressing the image through historical views, certain clues indicated that camera one (an inset view on the tape) was mounted on an admin building near Wharf Street. The white house, seen on the right side of the image, still exists today. Camera two was viewing the service yard near the docks from a small building near the docks. From these views, it was determined how vehicles entered and exited the site.
The tape also reveals additional information not reported by DRPS.
There are a number of persons and vehicles which show both before and after the boys’ appearance. None of these were investigated by DRPS as far as we can determine. Also, many vehicles were seen to come and go between 00:30 and 03:00.
Three persons are seen on the tape during the time that the youths were supposedly in the area, but no one came forward to testify that they saw or heard anything, and they were not sought for or identified by DRPS that we can determine.
The Boston Whaler
The vessel purported to have been stolen by the missing youths was described as a 4 meter long “imitation” Boston Whaler. The missing vessel has never been identified or recovered, in whole or in pieces, to this date.
The Boston Whaler was reported to be well built but in rough condition (with a pin sized hole in the bottom, a cracked back seat and a bow in rough shape – DRPS Report #125) The same report stated that the boat “would not sink right away but over time, as air escaped from the hull, the boat could sink.” The Boston Whaler boat was powered by a 25hp motor with a red gas tank purported to contain 3 gallons of gas. (It was estimated that the gas would run out within an approximate distance of 25 miles.) The evidence suggests that police did not know if gas had been stolen from other boats at the marina, which could have extended the range of the vessel.
Further to the situation of the “imitation” Boston Whaler, there are a number of statements made by DRPS officers which bear mentioning. On 18 March 1995, an officer (name cannot be made out but badge # is 830) stated that the “boat we are looking for is serial # 31E22065, Grey, 14 ft, fibreglass, Boston Whaler”. On 23 March 1995, Officer Morash reported that he/she talked with the Yard Manager at Eastshore Marina, who stated the following:
“the… imitation Boston Whaler was supposed to be unsinkable.”
“the 14 ft boat was stuffed with Styrofoam and was supposed to be unsinkable.”
“did not feel that the weight of the outboard would sink the boat.”
DRPS Staff Sgt Tom Cameron, in an interview for the 1995 documentary, Vigil of Hope (at 02:20), stated that the DRPS believe that some of the youths went out on the water cycle and the rest in the Boston Whaler. We know now that the water cycle was not a direct part of the disappearance.
In interviews carried out by us, it was determined that at least two of the youths were experienced boaters.
The red gas tank
On 20 March, almost two weeks following the disappearances, a U.S. Coast Guard Boatswain (DRPS Report #163) spotted and retrieved a “24 litre orange Yamaha gas tank” along the shore of Lake Ontario at a spot near the end of Dickerson Road nearby Wilson, NY. The writing on the tank was in both English and French so the U.S. officials informed the DRPS. The tank was found inverted and without a cap. The tank was brought back to Canada and identified (not 100% sure as per DRPS Report #163) as from the missing Boston Whaler. (more details on the gas tank controversy can be found here.
It is note-worthy that the Swan Marina, next to the East Shore Marina in Frenchman’s Bay, from where the water tricycle was purportedly stolen, had a sister marina (same owners) in Wilson, New York, directly across from Pickering and near to where the gas tank was found. While there is no allegation made here, it is something that could have been considered during the DRPS investigation.
Sidescan Sonar cancelled
During our investigation, we contacted Ed Burtt, the founder of Ocean Scan Systems in Belleville Ontario. Ocean Scan Systems are experts in the use of sidescan sonar technology. In our conversation with Mr. Burtt, we learned that in 1995 he was contacted by DRPS to perform a sidescan search, of the area off Pickering, to determine if the Boston Whaler had sunk. Before he could mount the search, DRPS cancelled the contract. A lake bottom search using sidescan sonar was never performed. (more details of the sidescan sonar controversy can be found here)