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Father suspected in B.C. wife’s disappearance regains custody of children as investigation stalls

A man who has been suspected of being involved in his wife’s disappearance has regained custody of their two children, after three years passed with no major movement in the investigation.

A Vancouver police officer at an active scene in January 2020. After no arrests in a years long investigation, a man who was suspected in his wife’s disappearance has won back custody of their two children. (Gian-Paolo Mendoza/CBC)

A man who has been suspected of being involved in his ex-partner’s high-profile disappearance has regained custody of their two children, after three years passed with no major movement in the investigation.

A B.C. provincial court judge granted custody on Friday, saying he had no evidence to justify keeping the kids away from their father any longer since the man has never been charged.

“The continued removal of the Children was due to the expectation that the police would charge the Father in relation to the Mother’s disappearance. It has now been three years and there is no indication that charges are imminent,” Judge Wilson Lee wrote in his judgment. 

The children, then nine and 11, were placed in foster care after their father was detained and questioned in relation to their mother’s disappearance three years ago. The mother had vanished two weeks earlier.

CBC News is not naming the father or mother to protect the identities of the children.

The custody order keeping the children in care was extended twice. A provincial court judge who extended the order in 2019 found the children needed to be protected from their father based on evidence from police and the seriousness of the allegations still being investigated.

According to the judgment, a detective-constable with Vancouver police told the court that year that the father “was suspected of being involved in his wife’s disappearance and was likely to be charged.” There were also concerns about what the father might do if the children were called to testify in a trial against him.

The custody order was continued and another year passed.

The director of child, family and community services applied last February to extend the custody order again, saying nothing had changed since 2019 and concerns still stood.

Lee disagreed.

“In my view, the passage of time itself with no Criminal Code charges does represent a change in circumstances. At the … 2019 hearing, Judge MacLean was dealing with a somewhat dated allegation against the father. That allegation is now three years old with no new information from the police or Crown Counsel,” Lee wrote in his judgment Friday.

“As the evidence makes clear, there are no current protection concerns aside from the suggestion from the police that Criminal Code charges are imminent. However, there is no indication that charges are, in fact, imminent.”

Court documents said there has been no serious history of physical violence that would suggest the children were at risk of harm if they lived with their father again. The children’s social worker told the court she had no concerns after watching supervised visits between the father and his children in recent years.

“She said that the Children ‘light up’ when they see the Father,” the judgment read.

With no sign of movement in the investigation and without any other evidence to support keeping the children in foster care, the judge returned them to their father. They will be under the director’s supervision for six months and the director will be allowed to check in on the children any time, unannounced or not.

If the father does not let the director see the children, now 12 and 14, the director will be able to remove them from the home again.

The father did not testify during the hearings. Police knew about the custody hearings but did not participate — likely, the judge said, since the investigation is ongoing.

A police spokesperson confirmed to CBC on Monday that no arrests have been made in connection with the woman’s disappearance.

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