Police search wooded area in northern Ontario for clues in 1996 missing person case

Twenty-five years after teenager Mélanie Ethier went missing in northern Ontario, police are searching a wooded area in Temiskaming District this week after getting a fresh tip about the case. 

That’s thanks to the CBC podcast The Next Call by journalist David Ridgen, who this summer focused on the cold case dating back to 1996.

“We were not aware of this particular witness. The witness heard the podcast, we spoke to him and we are here today searching the area of Larocque field,” said Robert Matthews, a detective inspector with the Ontario Provincial Police.

Mélanie’s face has not faded from the Temiskaming landscape over the past 25 years, with posters and billboards like this one Highway 11. (David Ridgen)

Matthews said he can’t get into what exactly officers are searching for in the wooded area in North Cobalt, about 10 kilometres from where 15-year-old Ethier, of New Liskeard, was last seen as she was walking home from a get-together.

Matthews, who took over the Ethier case in 2019, co-operated with Ridgen on the podcast series in hopes of getting fresh tips like this one.

OPP officers combed through the brush on foot and used search dogs and drones. 

Difficult search

Matthews said on Thursday the wooded area police are searching has proved to be challenging terrain.

“As the officers began to search the forested area, it was very, very thick,” he said. “The progress was slower than we thought, so we will have to schedule another few days to to continue the search.”

 He added that anyone with new information about the case should contact OPP.

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