The picture on Kelly McLeod’s missing person poster is easy to make judgments about. And some of those judgments would be correct. In the years before he disappeared, McLeod was an addict, a petty criminal who lived under a bridge in Campbell River. Kelly’s little sister, Loral, knows it’s a less than flattering photo.
“I still see him. It’s still Kelly to me,” Loral says. “When I see his mugshot picture, family members, they don’t like it, but it’s still him, you know. I always try to post another photo along with it so people can see that this is what drugs do to you. And he might look different. He still has the same heart. Although he looks the way he does, he’s still just the same loving, broken soul inside here.”
In 2019, British Columbia had the highest number of missing adult reports per capita.
The majority of those reports involve adult males. Most, about 90 per cent, are resolved within a week, and almost all are resolved within a year.
But in recent years on Vancouver Island, some men who have gone missing, have remained missing.
Kevin O’Shea is a strategic advisor with the RCMP’s National Centre for Missing Persons and Unidentified Remains. He believes, when it comes to missing people, the public tends to focus on women and children. But the statistics tell a different story.
“There are more men missing than women and there’s more adults missing than children,” he explains. “People always think female children are probably the most likely to go missing. But in actual fact, adult males are the most common missing category. And if we look at the open cases that are there, open over all the years and still open, missing males is the largest category.”
Getting people to care about the missing men of Vancouver Island has been an uphill battle for Cowichan Tribes community organizer Monica Patsy Jones. She is auntie to three of the missing men in Duncan: Desmond Peter, Everett Jones, and Ian Henry.
“People don’t just disappear. And them being disabled is a real big thing for me because they’re like lost children out there,” Jones says. “I did the first annual walk in honor of Ian and Everett and Desmond. And it was a really big one and I did it not knowing what I was getting myself into. We just want to let the people know we’re still searching for them. We’re shocked because there hasn’t been any publicity on them. Unless we make enough. It’s really sad to see.”
Disability rights advocate Paul Gilbert is unsurprised to learn many of the missing men have a disability. He believes it may have something to do with why their stories get so little attention.
“The disabled are pretty much an invisible population,” explains Gilbert, who is the spokesperson for the BC Disability Caucus. “We’re incredibly vulnerable as a population because we have no resources. We don’t have access to the community. I’m going to say we’re pretty much ignored.
“If you look at the empirical research, the disabled sustain two to three times the level of violence. Being on the periphery of society, because we’re socially isolated, that’s part of the reason why our violence rates are so high,” he adds.
University of Western Ontario criminologist Michael Arntfield is an authority on serial killers. He says there are good reasons why an offender would focus on men like those who have gone missing on Vancouver Island.
“They target vulnerable groups,” Arntfield says. “Number one, because they’re available and vulnerable. And number two, there is a sort of a forensic countermeasure advantage whereby a, whether it be a sex trade worker, whether it be an addict, or whether it be people with cognitive-behavioral problems, offenders often know that these cases will be sort of consigned to the dustbin.”
Loral believes her brother was murdered. There is debate about drawing attention to Kelly’s story within her family, but Loral is not willing to see her brother’s case forgotten.
“I should just be quiet and have everything just be left alone, but I’m not willing to do that,” she says. “So I have to be very respectful. I’ve had lots of people message me different things, but the information I have passed everything on to Crimestoppers. I’ve tried to stress to people that they have to go to the police with this information because I can’t do anything with it.”
Anyone with information on Kelly Mcleod’s disappearance should contact the local RCMP detachment at 250-286-6221.
Gone Boys, a new true-crime podcast part of the Island Crime series, drops a new episode every Monday, starting Feb. 8. Catch them on the Frequency Podcast Network.
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