Marianne Schuett was 10 when she disappeared. 55 years later, police and family are still searching

·4 min read
The Ontario Provincial Police's 'Missing Person' poster distributed after Marianne Schuett, 10, disappeared on April 27, 1967. She was last seen in Kilbride, a village near Burlington. (Supplied by Steve Schuett - image credit)
The Ontario Provincial Police's 'Missing Person' poster distributed after Marianne Schuett, 10, disappeared on April 27, 1967. She was last seen in Kilbride, a village near Burlington. (Supplied by Steve Schuett - image credit)

Ten-year-old Marianne Schuett was walking home from school wearing a red, reversible jacket, plaid skirt and blue running shoes.

She stopped just a short ways from home to talk to a man sitting in a small, European car.

The date is April 27, 1967. Marianne hasn't been seen again.

"The child had only 400 yards to go to her home, but she never arrived," reads an Ontario Provincial Police "Missing Person" poster from that time.

The poster offers scant details of the day Marianne disappeared. Police say they believe the man in the car abducted the small girl with ear-length brown hair and greenish-blue eyes.

The suspect is described as a man in his 40s, with a thin face and glasses. Fifty-five years later, no one has been charged and Marianne has never been found.

Bells to mark 55th anniversary of disappearance

On Wednesday, church bells will ring in Kilbride, a village near Burlington, Ont., where Marianne was taken — marking her memory and reinforcing the fact the little girl hasn't been forgotten.

"Just picture all of a sudden somebody in your life is gone and you don't know why, where, how, are they dead, are they alive?" said Steve Schuett, Marianne's brother.

Schuett was five the day Marianne went missing. Her being gone has been part of his life nearly as far back as he can recall.

Now 60, he remembers his sister as a shy, slightly awkward kid. The OPP poster says Marianne was "very mild-mannered."

"It's baffled us forever," said Schuett, about the question of how Marianne ended up in the man's car. "Even back then, we were told, 'You don't go with strangers.'"

Supplied by Steve Schuett
Supplied by Steve Schuett

The loss of Marianne left its mark on the family, he added, saying his mother suffered bouts of depression.

They had hoped to learn what really happened to Marianne to give their mother some peace, but she died in February.

"That was the big hope, but we still want to continue … just so we can have closure," said Schuett.

Retired police officers still searching

Now, long after the helicopters, dogs and thousands of volunteers have stopped searching, a small team hasn't given up.

Gord Collins is a retired Peel Regional Police officer who spent much of his career working in forensic identification.

He's teamed with Linda Gillis Davidson, a retired RMP inspector, to continue investigating what happened to Marianne.

Collins grew up in the Burlington area and said he can remember when she was abducted.

"I saw her picture in the paper and it kind of burned into my brain," he recalled.

"I never forgot about it. When the opportunity came, many years later … to assist in trying to locate her, I just jumped at the opportunity."

The team began searching in the summer of 2019 by scanning old articles and reports to build a timeline and determine whether there were other, similar cases in the area at that time.

They've focused their attention on an area north of Milton where they believe Marianne and possibly others might have been taken, said Collins.

Cadaver dogs have indicated a body may have been left there and a team of anthropologists have taken samples at the site, though the retired officer said there wasn't enough to develop a DNA profile.

Supplied by Mike Griswold
Supplied by Mike Griswold

Undeterred, they plan to go back when the weather improves to use lasers that can detect bones and other body samples.

Collins said the search isn't about proving criminality.

"What we're attempting to do here is identify, if we can, where Marianne was left and potentially find her, find a DNA profile that matches her, to bring some closure to the family," he explained. "That's all we're after."

Milton-area location might be the last gasp

Halton police said the investigation remains open and they're "hopeful" someone with information will come forward so Marianne can be found.

"We will thoroughly investigate all tips received," police stated in an email to CBC.

Schuett said police have, understandably, shifted their focus to more recent investigations, but the family and team searching for Marianne are asking to look over the service's records.

"Let us have access — maybe there's something in there that will give us some information to narrow it down even more."

The Halton Regional Police Service did not directly respond to that request, but a spokesperson told CBC the investigator assigned to the case would be happy to speak with them.

"The lines of communication have always remained open and we encourage the family to reach out to discuss," said Const. Steve Elms.

Supplied by Steve Schuett
Supplied by Steve Schuett

Schuett said that after all these years, he's an "optimistic pessimist" who hopes for the best, but prepares for the worst.

He said if the location in Milton doesn't reveal anything, it would likely spell the end of the search.

"Unless something jumps out from somewhere, if somebody speaks up and says something, this will probably be the last real, hard effort anybody puts into it."

When the bells ring at 4 p.m. Wednesday — around the time Marianne was taken — their sound will be a reminder of the young girl and those still looking for her.

"She hasn't been forgotten," said Collins. "We're still trying."

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting