Calgary Herald

Excruciati­ng wait for news of missing family


“We can’t do this alone … the media is a big part of this.”

Standing outside Thursday afternoon as a storm system threatens to sweep in at any moment, Doug Andrus speaks to a crowd of reporters using words we in the business rarely hear.

Our usual stance of polite mutual tolerance — the longtime understand­ing that they’re doing their job, we’re doing ours and sometimes those roles come into conflict — melts away with the midday heat.

The temporary silo break between law enforcemen­t and media is due to the bizarre and mysterious circumstan­ces surroundin­g the disappeara­nce of Alvin and Kathryn Liknes and their five-year-old grandson, Nathan O’Brien, a triple abduction case rare anywhere in North America, let alone Calgary.

After hosting an estate sale this past weekend, where police estimate between 200 and 300 people walked through the Parkhill split level they’ve called home for more than a decade, the couple and their grandchild disappeare­d sometime between late Sunday evening and Monday morning, leaving what police have said are few traces — traces that Andrus won’t confirm involve blood when asked directly by one reporter.

More than 80 hours since Nathan’s mom Jennifer O’Brien arrived at the home to collect her little boy, the case remains unsolved — despite a thorough investigat­ion that involves 40 officers on this day and includes expanded door-to-door interviews with neighbours, liaising with authoritie­s outside the Calgary jurisdicti­on, interviewi­ng those who attended the sale at the community associatio­n a stone’s throw from their home and a nationwide Amber Alert that has stretched into a fourth day.

The unpreceden­ted situation has all in its orbit grappling for the right response.

As several billboards along busy Macleod Trail flash images of the trio, family members gather in front of the Liknes home just a few blocks away. Some sit crying on the pavement, others work their cellphones, while one or two drive slowly through the neighbourh­ood, no doubt desperatel­y wondering if those missing loved ones could be hidden somewhere nearby.

At one point, Jennifer O’Brien is seen emerging from the house, wearing police commission­ed protective blue fabric shoes as she does her best to be of service to the constant flow of uniformed officers and plaincloth­es investigat­ors inside the house and around its perimeter.

In other parts of Calgary, people are gathering outside for pancake breakfasts on Stampede parade eve, while others are glued to TVs at home and in pubs watching Wimbledon action. Many more are enjoying one of the first glorious days of summer along Stephen and 17th avenues, digging into their salads and sipping cold white wine on patios.

Still, much of the city — and country — remains gripped by a mystery that has perplexed all. A blog set up by the family (nathankath­ generates more than 1,000 messages within hours of its creation, the words of support and encouragem­ent coming from across the country.

Watching the scene from his home across the street, John Hall says he also feels frustrated and worried.

“Alvin is my kind of guy, everybody likes him,” says the retired house builder, Alvin Liknes’ neighbour of seven years.

“We were just chatting in May about him moving to Mexico. I was happy for him, but p ... ed off because I was losing a good neighbour.”

Hall is among the scores of residents who have met with police to share any informatio­n that might help in their case.

“We want to do what we can to help,” he says, shrugging his shoulders and shaking his head at the house surrounded by yellow police tape.

“This is just so sad and totally unexpected.”

At the community hall later in the day, one officer arrives with boxes of pizza for the half-dozen or so colleagues who have interviewe­d just over 30 of the people that purchased items at the Likneses’ sale over the weekend.

Andrus says most have agreed to the unorthodox request for fingerprin­t samples, so police can eliminate those prints from their investigat­ion.

For those of us charged with the duty of keeping the public informed, we wait out the day in the hot sun, also wanting to do our part to keep the missing family front and centre — and hoping that we’ll be here to hear that the family has been found alive and safe.

By dinnertime, the threatened rain doesn’t come. And despite the constant flow of people in and out of the community associatio­n, neither does the break that everyone is hoping for.

Tomorrow, though, is another day.

 ?? Christina Ryan/Calgary Herald ?? Family members wait as Jennifer O’Brien finishes a tour with police in the house from which her family members disappeare­d.
Christina Ryan/Calgary Herald Family members wait as Jennifer O’Brien finishes a tour with police in the house from which her family members disappeare­d.
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