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Disappearance of B.C. cowboy Ben Tyner 'likely' criminal, say RCMP

Last Updated Mar 19, 2019 at 12:15 pm PDT

Ben Tyner is shown in an RCMP handout photo. Tyner was the manager of the Nicola Valley ranch in B.C.'s southern Interior but has not been seen since Jan. 26 when he rode out of the ranch, possibly to search for cattle in the surrounding hills. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-RCMP MANDATORY CREDIT)

Investigators believe Ben Tyner 'did not go missing of his own volition,' say RCMP

Ben Tyner, 32, suddenly went missing near Merritt in January

SURREY, B.C. — The case of a rancher who has been missing in B.C. since January is being treated as a suspicious disappearance.

The sudden disappearance of 32-year-old Ben Tyner near Merritt has switched from a missing person case to a criminal investigation.

RCMP Sgt. Janelle Shoihet says she can’t share why, but police now believe the manager of the Nicola Ranch could have been a targeted victim.

“After having taken a good look at all the pieces of the puzzle — two months of investigation — pieces are not quite fitting where they should fit.”

Tyner was last seen on Jan. 26 as he rode out on horseback, possibly to search for cattle in the surrounding hills. He was reported missing two days later when his saddled horse was found wandering on a logging road off Highway 97 northwest of Merritt.

An extensive search that included RCMP and volunteers on foot and horseback, as well as in helicopters, vehicles and snowmobiles, found no trace of Tyner.

RELATED: RCMP looking for dash-cam footage in search for missing cowboy

Shoihet says early on, investigators requested assistance from major crime detectives, but until this week police had said their was no indication of foul play.

“Initially, there was nothing that was definitive in determining that it was criminally related — just out of character. But now, after putting all the pieces of the puzzle together … the investigators in the Southeast District can now say that they believe that Mr. Tyner did not go missing of his own volition. It is suspicious and likely, there’s some criminality related to his disappearance.”

Officers are asking people who may have information but haven’t spoken to police to come forward.

“That one missing piece might be something you think is insignificant, but could really be the turn-key piece of information for an investigation like this,” Shoihet said.

RELATED: Family of missing B.C. cowboy makes emotional appeal for information

Before they left for their home in Wyoming in mid-February, Tyner’s family renewed their plea for any tips that might help the police investigation into his disappearance.

“Our hearts are shattered and our lives have been thrown into turmoil,”Tyner’s mother Jennifer told a news conference at the time.

“To think that I will never again see his smile, or hear his infectious laugh, never see him realize his dreams, never have him wrap his arms around me again, is unthinkable.”