Police won't release details about Saint John teen's disappearance

·4 min read
The 17-year-old disappeared after school on Monday. (Roger Cosman/CBC - image credit)
The 17-year-old disappeared after school on Monday. (Roger Cosman/CBC - image credit)

Saint John police say they won't release any details about how a missing 17-year-old was found Wednesday night after a three-day search.

Police want to respect the teen's privacy, force spokesperson Sean Rocca said Thursday.

"We are simply happy to report that he has been located," he said.

Police asked people to remove photographs of the teen from social media.

Rocca also declined to specify whether the teen had accidentally gotten lost or deliberately disappeared.

"The Saint John police can assure the public that there is no threat to public safety related to his disappearance," he responded in an email.

Roger Cosman/CBC
Roger Cosman/CBC

The teen's priest is also curious about the circumstances surrounding his disappearance.

Father Aaron Knox, of Saint-François-de-Sales church, said he was trying to give the family some time to heal from the three-day ordeal.

Knox said he was elated on Wednesday when he got a call from a friend of the teen's family, telling him that the boy had been found. He said it felt as if an "immense" burden was lifted from his shoulders.

"There's a physical reaction. Soon after I thought, 'What on earth do people do when it doesn't turn out this way?' Because I saw it for myself. A few more days of this? Are you kidding me? Or, if he's never found. Are you kidding me? Like, how do you walk with a family through that?"

He said he saw that burden when the family attended Wednesday mass at the church. He could see the physical toll it was taking on family members in the way they carried themselves and the way they sat slumped during the service.

Now that the teen has been found, Friday night's regularly scheduled mass will become a mass of celebration to commemorate his safe return.

"This is a huge joyful event," said Knox.

In addition to family and friends of all faiths, Knox said, members of the community are also invited. He said the concern for the missing teen transcended race, religion and language, and he was moved by the outpouring of support from the community.

Google Maps
Google Maps

On Wednesday morning, Knox met a man in his 60s who had walked from deep in the old north end to be part of the search.

Knox said the man, named Bill, had been part of the search the day before and received the message on his cellphone with a shattered screen about the continuation of the search on Wednesday — but he hadn't received the message that the search had been called off.

Knox said he was spending some quiet time in the sanctuary on Wednesday morning when he noticed a man outside, wearing a brightly coloured searchers vest, seeking shelter in the church's entryway from the pouring rain.

Knox invited him in to get warm. Eventually, he drove Bill back home and they got to talking about the search. Bill said he was relatively new to search and rescue.

"He said 'I've been on two others and we found them,'" recounted Knox. "And he said, 'I'm really concerned that he hasn't turned up yet.' … On top of that, he said, 'I had a really bad feeling when I was out there.'"

After two nights in the cold, wet elements, Knox was also starting to worry about the teen, who was already an altar server at the church when Knox arrived in 2018.

That's why it was such a relief when Knox received word that the teen had been found.

The 17-year-old was reported missing after he left Samuel de Champlain school in the city's north end on Monday afternoon.

The search intensified in the following days, with a ground search on Tuesday.

Police asked residents in the area to check any outbuildings on their property, and a team of investigators canvassed residences and searched shorelines in the area.

The search continued Wednesday until the teen was found.

In a news release, police said he was found at about 6:15 p.m, was treated by paramedics and returned home to family.

Police Chief Robert Bruce was quoted in the news release, thanking residents for their help.

"We are grateful to all our citizens for their genuine concern and to those who provided information that assisted us in the safe return of this young man to his family," Bruce said. "Thank you Saint John for making a difference."

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