One month ago, Amber Manthorne of Port Alberni failed to show up to work, and her family has not heard from her since then. Now, Manthorne’s mysterious disappearance is part of the Island Crime podcast series.
Podcast host Laura Palmer on Monday, Aug. 8 released three episodes relating to Manthorne’s disappearance: Empty Cottage, Amber’s Heart of Gold and On Edge. The first episode lays out the timeline of Manthorne’s disappearance, the concurrent disappearance and reappearance of her ex-boyfriend Justin Hall, and the massive public search effort that “Amber’s Army” has undertaken.
This podcast season is a departure for Palmer: her previous three seasons have featured people that have been missing for years, including a number of men from around Vancouver Island, Michael Dunahee, who disappeared from a Victoria park in 1991, and Lisa Marie Young, a 21-year-old Indigenous woman who went missing from Nanaimo on June 30, 2002.
Palmer initially declined a request to create a podcast episode about Manthorne’s disappearance, explaining that she doesn’t work on breaking news anymore. A former CBC producer, Palmer was out of the country when Manthorne first went missing.
“Then I came home and these posters were popping up everywhere. I was at the lake with my daughter and she pointed to one of them and said what is this about,” Palmer said.
As she began reading more news coverage and posts on the Finding Amber Manthorne Facebook page, she reconsidered her initial decision. “I felt maybe there is a way I could be of help,” she said. “I began with the idea I would just pull something together quickly and get it out there.”
The more she talked to people “the more it seemed like she was a well-loved person and contributed a lot to the community,” Palmer added.
She typically spends six months or more researching a season prior to releasing the first episode. In this case she gathered information and released the initial episodes in about 10 days, family spokesperson Kristie St. Claire said.
St. Claire, who grew up with Manthorne, speaks in the first podcast episode, filling in a picture of who Amber is and what she means to her friends, family and broader community.
St. Claire had originally forwarded the Finding Amber Manthorne page to every media outlet she could think of, as well as to Palmer. She stayed in touch with Palmer, whose work she was familiar with through the Lisa Marie Young season. When Palmer agreed to move forward with some research, St. Claire received permission from Manthorne’s mother to go ahead.
“The point with this is there’s so many people who have so many questions for us, we can’t possibly answer them,” said St. Claire. She felt the podcast would be the best way to share factual information—not rumours—to a broad audience.
“Right now, it’s a huge puzzle with pieces scattered all over the place,” she says of the case. She is hoping the podcast will generate discussion and stimulate people’s memories in the days surrounding Manthorne’s disappearance. “We do not have Amber back, but we’re doing anything and everything we can.”
Palmer has released three episodes but is unsure at this time how many episodes Season 4 will entail. “I will add to it if I can advance the story,” she said. She has been receiving calls from her public post on the Finding Amber Manthorne page as well as St. Claire’s private appeal, and expects she will have material for additional episodes.
“I think it’s likely more is going to happen,” she said, however, “I don’t want to commit to it.”
She said she hopes her podcast will prompt movement in the case; perhaps leading to charges.
“Or finding Amber.”
Do you have a tip about the search for Amber Manthorne? Call the tip line at 250-730-1544, email email@example.com or call the Port Alberni RCMP at 250-723-2424. To reach Palmer, email firstname.lastname@example.org or go online to islandcrime.ca.