The case of a man missing from Quesnel-area since last summer is getting renewed public interest after help from a private investigator who runs a popular podcast.
Donald Preston, who was 57 when he disappeared, was first reported missing in Aug. 2021, by his roommate after last being seen July 31, at his home on 7321 Alexandria. RCMP issued a formal request for information from the public Aug.27.
Despite extensive search efforts by the Quesnel RCMP and search and rescue members, no trace of Preston was found and it was not until March this year that the family’s hope for closure was revived following the intervention of private investigator Ellen White, who runs the podcast Whereabouts Unknown.
Preston’s older sister, Marilyn Bond, said the family approached Toronto-based White, unhappy with what the RCMP are doing to solve the mystery of his disappearance so far.
The family’s unhappiness now includes what they call a “haphazard” response to information provided to the RCMP by White.
According to White’s information, there was allegedly foul play involved. White also claimed that she has reasons to believe Preston might be dead with his remains buried in the Quesnel area.
Bond said her family reached out to White after seeing her on a news channel. White runs Pulse Private Investigations in Ontario and started Whereabouts Unknown as a pro-bono initiative to help families of individuals who have gone missing in Canada and the U.S.
The group has a wide follower base on social media and describes itself as a volunteer team of private investigators, retired police detectives, researchers, cyber security and digital media specialists assisting the families of the missing in bringing attention and awareness to their cases.
White told the Observer that her team started investigating this case on March 19, and soon multiple tipsters (all from Quesnel) came forward to relay the same information – indicating foul play.
“I think initially, there might have been a presumption that it was suicide because of the circumstance, or might have been a person who just went off to start a new life,” White said.
She said her team arrived at the conclusion after following several threads and eliminating a bunch of possibilities.
“We don’t believe Donnie’s [death] was a suicide. We don’t believe he has just moved on to start a new life, although we would have loved to have found that to be the case. But we do believe from our years of experience that there was foul play involved in the situation.”
White also said that she believes it was a targeted incident and not a community safety issue.
The tipsters were encouraged to pass along the information to the police or Crimestoppers.
“Ultimately, everything needs to go to the police,” she said, adding, “Our function is just to gather information and submit it.”
While she believes that while they might have uncovered a lead on where Preston’s remains might be, it can only be exhumed by the police forensic team.
White did not disclose more information related to the circumstance of Preston’s alleged death or where his remains might be, saying it could compromise the investigation, compromise safety of the tipsters or result in a culprit or culprit moving the remains.
Preston’s family said they passed along all the information to the Quesnel RCMP in April.
“When they finally acted on it and took a helicopter out and said it was too dense to see. So that was the end of that,” Bond said.
Police later told her that they did take the dogs out and the dogs found nothing.
She said that her brother was not listed in the RCMP’s missing person’s (Canada-wide) database and until this June, the police had not collected DNA from the family as procedure would require.
When asked, the police said their investigation is active and ongoing and to date they have not found any evidence of foul play.
Quesnel RCMP spokesperson Sgt. Clay Kronebusch said the police have been in contact with the family and have followed up on the information they received.
“The only issue with the information is, it was anonymous and (there) was not a lot of details,” Kronebusch said, adding, “We still don’t have any evidence that suggests that it is foul play.”
Kronebusch did not divulge details but said the police also looked in an undisclosed location for Preston’s remains based on the information his family provided. He also said police began the investigation as soon as it was reported.
“We have continued to follow up with it and the investigation does remain open and we will continue to follow up with any information we have on it,” Kronebusch said.
If anyone has information regarding Donald Preston they are encouraged to call their local RCMP detachment or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 (TIPS).