A makeshift memorial has been set up near a pond in Bradford, Ont. where police found a body on Friday that is believed to be of a missing teen boy.
South Simcoe Police said on Friday that the Ontario Provincial Police underwater search and recovery unit searched the pond and recovered the body on Friday evening. The body has now been sent to the Centre of Forensic Sciences in Toronto for a post-mortem examination.
According to a police investigation, the missing boy, Siem Zerezghi, 15, left his home at 7:45 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 24. The last known sightings of him were obtained from two security cameras in his neighbourhood.
Police have not confirmed that the body is of Zerezghi, but South Simcoe Police Chief Andrew Fletcher expressed condolences to the teen's family in a statement on Saturday. Police said they would provide an update at a news conference on Monday.
"There was an incredible outpouring of concern and support for Siem and his family during these difficult days. We join you all in your grief," Fletcher said in the statement.
"The South Simcoe Police Service used everything we had to find Siem, including assistance from neighbouring police services and other first responders, but unfortunately, the search ended in a way no one wanted," Fletcher added.
"Our team is feeling the impact of this and wish we could have changed the outcome. We are continuing with the investigation and will be supporting the family in the weeks ahead."
On Friday night, Acting Deputy Chief John Van Dyke told reporters that community members gave security camera video footage and information about sightings to police that helped officers with narrowing their search.
Searchers in the area of the Eighth Line and Professor Day Drive in Bradford found items believed to have belonged to Zerezghi at about 3 p.m. on Friday. The discovery led to the search in the nearby pond.
Police said the teen's family, new to the town of Bradford, has been notified and have requested for privacy. Through police, the family thanked the community for its support.
The makeshift memorial is set up near a grassy area and includes cut flowers and photos of Zerezghi.
'We were all hoping for him to come back,' resident says
Talieh Kentros, a Bradford mother of two, came to the memorial to set down candles, white carnations and red roses. She said she doesn't know the family but feels for them and is disturbed by the news that the boy's body may have been found.
"The thought of the family losing a loved one is just really devastating," Kentros told reporters on Saturday.
"The video of his dad and his sister calling for him to come back home, it's just killing us all. We weren't waiting for this — we were waiting for some really good news. We wanted him back."
Kentros said the family lives fairly close to where she lives and she could hear helicopters and drones and see police officers on ATVS and officers with police dogs on Wednesday morning. Bradford residents helped in the search, she said.
"We were all hoping for him to come back," she said.
More than $18,000 raised for teen's family
A GoFundMe page set up in support of Zerezghi's family, meanwhile, has raised more than $18,000. Its initial goal was $5,000.
"Rest in Peace, Siem. May God be with the Zerezghi family during this extremely difficult time," the GoFundMe page reads.
A candlelight vigil for Zerezghi will be held on Sunday at 7 p.m. in Bradford. Members of the community have been instructed to gather at the Bradford West Gwillimbury Public Library.
Police said the investigation into Zerezghi's disappearance is continuing. Investigators are still asking the public for tips and surveillance footage.
An online portal has been set up to enable the public to continue to submit information to police.