The mysterious disappearance of a former Saanich resident has baffled his family and those in the Arizona community where he had been living.
It’s been more than five weeks since 85-year-old Hugh Turner went missing from his East Mesa neighbourhood on Christmas Eve. Turner headed out that morning for a 20 minute walk, something he does three times a week.
When he failed to come back, his wife of 60 years, Joyce, was left to think the worst.
“The whole thing is hard to understand. It just doesn’t add up,” said Hugh’s son Steve who lives in Gordon Head.
Initial police reports in the Mesa media said Hugh had dementia but that isn’t true, Steve said.
“That isn’t accurate. He didn’t have dementia. The only thing we can think is that, perhaps, he suffered some medical event disabling him from returning,” Steve added. “Maybe he had a stroke or something, but up until he left he was quite with it.”
Hugh made the same 20 minute walk three times a week, visited the gym three times per week and golfed regularly.
“If he had just collapsed we’d have found him on the street, which adds to the (mystery).”
Hugh is 5-foot-6, 150 pounds (68 kilograms), and the retired general manager of Northwest Drug in Edmonton.
As snowbirds, Hugh and Joyce have wintered in the same area for 20 years. The long time
Edmonton residents sold their home two years ago and summered in Cordova Bay.
All four of their children have been instrumental in a massive search.
Steve and his sister Janice McCaffery arrived in Mesa on Christmas day. McCaffrey helped ogranize the search effort for the past five weeks. Steve stayed for three weeks and returns Thursday (Feb. 3). Sibilings Mark and Sue have also taken shifts at the house.
“The dining room has so many maps with search grids it looks like a war room,” Steve said.
On New Year’s Day, the weather dipped to one degree Celsius. Word got out in the community there’d be a search for Hugh. When Steve and his family opened the garage door at 7:30 a.m., 180 people were standing in the driveway and on the street.
“We knew about 20 of them,” Steve said.
It was the one of the larger searches conducted by the family and volunteer search team AZ STAR (Arizona Search, Track and Rescue) has made.
“A lot of sightings came out during that push, unfortunately they were a week late as they were unaware my dad was missing,” Steve said.
One lead lasted for days as the dog tracking team had a high level of confidence in their dogs but ended in a subdivision, based on a jogger who said she saw Hugh at 8 p.m. on Christmas Eve.
There’s also been some bad luck.
A clerk working at a nearby Circle K convenience store on Christmas Day said someone matching Hugh’s description came in confused, used the phone but didn’t talk to anyone, then left saying he was going to stay with friends.
Unfortunately, Circle K’s in store surveillance video wasn’t operational and that clerk wasn’t aware Hugh was missing until four days later, Steve said.
Hugh’s family have distributed 17,000 flyers and there’s been five helicopter searches, mountain bike and ATV searches, dogs and countless searches on foot.
Psychics working independently of each other even came up with similar grid points to search in the nearby desert but to no avail.
Hugh’s disappearance is a long way from Saanich but if anyone here has information they can contact Kristi Smith form AZ STAR at 1-(623)-695-3926 or e-mail Steve at email@example.com.