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RCMP offer tentative apology to mother of decades-old missing child

“We have every reason to believe, at this point, the likelihood that Jeff is still alive.”

While admitting to possible lapses in communication with the family of an Alberta boy who went missing decades ago, Mounties say they haven’t given up on the case.

RCMP Chief Supt. Gary Graham, officer in charge of the Mounties’ eastern Alberta district, said at a virtual news conference Wednesday that police are still investigating the nearly 43-year-old disappearance of Jeffrey Dupres from Slave Lake, a town about 240 km northwest of Edmonton.

“We have every reason to believe, at this point, the likelihood that Jeff is still alive,” Graham said. “We’re hoping that keeping Jeffrey’s disappearance alive in the media and in the community will jog or generate some new tips.”

On April 24, 1980, three-year-old Dupres vanished shortly after leaving home to visit his friend next door. His mother, Denise McKee, has since criticized the initial search effort and recently commissioned a forensic artist to create an age-progression image of her son at 43 years old, prompting RCMP to circulate the image and breathe new life into the investigation.

Initially, Mounties sent an officer to respond 30 minutes after the boy’s mother reported her son missing to RCMP at 1:15 p.m., and dispatched a second officer at about 4 p.m., Graham said, adding that a subsequent search effort for the child that fateful day and the next saw a “significant response” from neighbours.

Two suspects in the wind

“We had the help of civilians, community members, aircraft, helicopters, fixed-wing pilots — even members of the local citizens’ band radio club,” Graham said, adding that the effort involved five systematic searches in the first nine days. “Every resident, every building, every vehicle that we could find — that entire town was scrutinized and reviewed.”

During initial door-to-door inquiries, multiple people believed they saw Dupres approached and picked up by a female passenger of a blue and then-newer model Chevrolet or GMC pickup truck driven by a man, Graham said.

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