In August of 1996, when he was 34 years old, Bruce Berthelot asked his mother for $1,000, said he was “going away for a while,” called some friends in Manitoba, and without explanation, walked out the door of his family’s home in Leamington, Ontario, and was never heard from again.
Bruce grew up in Leamington, played hockey in his youth, and lived in Manitoba for a period of time. He was a skilled carpenter who enjoyed boating and fishing. He eventually returned to Leamington to work as a bartender at the International Hotel, a neighbourhood bar in a two-storey brick building on the corner of Erie Street South, owned by the Berthelot family.
At the time of his disappearance, Bruce smoked cigarettes, drank beer and had been unemployed for several months due to his struggles with bipolar disorder.
After Bruce left home, his family initially believed he may have travelled west. They searched for years across Canada, focusing their early efforts in Manitoba. They attempted to locate him at fishing lodges in the northern part of the province without success.
Nearly a decade later, in 2005, Bruce’s mother was admitted into intensive care at the Windsor Regional Hospital with a lung infection, prompting his family to intensify their search. His brother, sister and cousin shared Bruce’s story and details with the media, concentrating their efforts in the Winnipeg area. His family placed several ads in the Winnipeg Free Press and detailed their efforts to find him. These stories led to four tips from callers in Winnipeg who said they had seen a man who looked like Bruce living on the streets in in the city; he was seen near liquor stores, shelters, bars, and around the Winnipeg legislature. In February 2005, Winnipeg’s Salvation Army also initiated a search. Bruce’s photo was featured on every bus in the city.
Bruce Berthelot’s sister, brother and cousin also travelled to Winnipeg around this time. For five days, they searched the streets, bars, homeless shelters, and welfare offices of Winnipeg. They hoped to give Bruce a chance to get medication, a chance to come home, or set up a place for him wherever he was.
“If he’s homeless and out in the cold and sick, we have to find out,” his sister told the Windsor Star.
They also hoped to bring Bruce home to his worried mother.
In March 2005, after following up on the reported sightings of Bruce in Winnipeg, his cousin said the family was confident that Bruce was not living on the streets of Winnipeg. His brother said Bruce “might not be in Winnipeg,” and if he was, that he probably didn’t want to be found. Det. Henry Ingratta of Leamington Police told media that Bruce was listed as missing on a nationwide police database, and that if he was ever arrested, police would check the database and notify the family, but could not force Bruce to return home.
The family continued their search. They planned to send posters to Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver, and attempted to access Human Resources and Development Canada to see if Bruce had received any employment insurance benefits.
In the 24 years since Bruce walked out the door of his family’s home, he has never contacted his friends or family, and no trace of him has ever been found.
His family has never given up hope of finding him, and have now expanded their search oversees. In 2019, posters of Bruce were shared in Singapore.
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Essex OPP: OPP MPUB 1-877-934-6363; 1-705-330-4144; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org
Reference Case#: 120193-6
Crime Stoppers: 1-800-222-TIPS(8477) or online at https://www.canadiancrimestoppers.org/tips
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