One year on, missing girl's family won't give up
Cédrika Provencher case is still open
Jason Magder, The Gazette
Published: Wednesday, July 30
TROIS RIVIÈRES - As Martin Provencher walks down the street, a woman calls out to him from her apartment balcony: "All our prayers are with you. We wish you the best of luck."
A year after his daughter disappeared, Provencher says, so many strangers wish him well, it can take him a half-hour to go and buy a carton of milk.
"People stop me all the time," he said. "It doesn't matter where I go, people want to send good wishes. I think it helps me. I can't really get upset about people trying to cheer me up."
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Font:****Today marks one year since Martin's daughter, Cédrika Provencher, vanished from Trois Rivières, about 150 kilometres northeast of Montreal. She was 9 years old at the time.
A mass is to be held tonight at 8 o'clock at Église Notre Dame du Cap in Trois Rivières. Thousands of well-wishers are expected to attend.
Provencher says some people still call with tips about Cédrika's disappearance. Thousands of others around the world have sent their support, either through websites set up by the family and others, or by mail. Many of the letters adorn the walls of the Cédrika Provencher search headquarters, a donated office in downtown Trois Rivières, where family members go every day to work on the case.
But after a year-long investigation, it seems little new information is known about Cédrika's whereabouts.
She was last seen on Chapais St. near des Chenaux Blvd., in a residential neighbourhood of Trois Rivières, about 8:30 p.m. She was alone on her bicycle, apparently searching for a small black and white dog. Provincial police believe a man approached her and asked if she could help him find a missing dog.
The man was described as white, with brown hair, age 30 to 40. He was driving a red four-door Acura with a beige interior, chrome door handles, manual transmission and untinted windows. He was wearing Bermuda shorts, a short-sleeved shirt and sandals.
Cédrika's bicycle was found a few blocks away, propped up against a fire hydrant.
In the days after her disappearance, thousands of volunteers and about 50 police officers combed the city, nearby woods and the St. Maurice River.
Police received 15,000 calls regarding her disappearance, resulting in 4,000 tips.
While the police investigation has been scaled back and calls are no longer flooding in, the case remains open.
In recent months, Martin Provencher has travelled across Quebec, to nearby New Brunswick and even into the United States to investigate clues.
"We're all doing this full time," said Henri Provencher, Cédrika's grandfather. "We still have a lot of information coming in and people who give us possible scenarios to check. We have enough for at least the next few months, and we get new information every day.
"We treat this as a job. We have to. Otherwise, we just get too sad thinking about Cédrika."
The public's support has helped the family maintain hope, he said.
"We're pretty much certain she's still alive, and that we're going to find her," Provencher said. "Of course, we have considered the possibility (she is dead). But we feel in our hearts that she is alive and she will come back to us soon."
Police say they, too, are optimistic.
"Investigators are confident they will find her," Lt. François Doré, head of the Sûreté du Québec's media relations department, said yesterday. "We're potentially one piece of information away from finding her."
He said police don't intend to transfer the case to the unsolved crimes division, because there are still many leads to follow. A $100,000 reward offered by anonymous donors for information was withdrawn by police in May, however.
Doré acknowledged there is no way for police to tell if Cédrika is alive. "We have no facts or proof about what condition she may be in," he said.
Pina Arcamone, executive director of the Missing Children's Network in Quebec, said she also continues to get calls about Cédrika.
"Lately, we haven't had any official sightings," she said. "Most of the calls that have come lately are from psychics, or from people who have had very vivid dreams, saying they felt they had psychic connections to her."
The tremendous public sympathy expressed for Cédrika is typical of child abduction cases, Arcamone said.
"They become everybody's niece or daughter or next-door neighbour, and if the situation was reversed, you would want everybody to be turning over every stone possible and checking every alley to make sure your child is found," she said.
"I think no one is indifferent to the plight of a child, especially when we know time is a factor in those types of situations."
With Cédrika's case still garnering a lot of media attention, it will be difficult for her kidnappers to go anywhere without being spotted, Henri Provencher says.
"The person or people who did this must be tired and searching for a way for it to be over. They can call the phone numbers of the family, or police. They can leave her in a crowd, and I think she's capable enough to find us or to get help."
Anyone with information about Cédrika's disappearance is asked to call the SQ at 1-800-659-4264.