Ashley Simpson

COLUMN: Sad anniversary for Ashley Simpson’s family

Woman has now been missing for one year.

I think most parents have that moment.

They are in a mall or at a playground and all of the sudden you look around and your child isn’t there.

Mine was at the Calgary Zoo. One minute my daughter was playing in front of me and I was chatting with my parents, the next minute she was nowhere in sight.

After what was probably minute or so of looking, I couldn’t find her. Panic set in. My heart raced and I got sweaty with a sick, sick feeling in the pit of my stomach, as I began to run around the play area calling her name. No response.

But suddenly she appeared, her head popping out of a play tunnel she had previously rejected as being too scary. My relief was overwhelming.

I thought of this as I pondered the case of Ashley Simpson, the 32-year-old woman who, as of this week, has now been missing for a year. Her family has lived with that feeling of fear, dread and not knowing for all this time. It is hard to imagine many things worse.

I have spoken many times with Ashley’s parents, John and Cindy Simpson, as they have tried to keep attention focused on Ashley’s case. They believe someone, somewhere knows something about what has happened to their daughter. And while the chance she may return to them is dwindling, they still hold onto hope.

She is their daughter after all. They are not giving up.

In the early days, they and other family and friends came to Salmon Arm to help with a search, to put up posters with Ashley’s image, to try and talk to anyone who might know anything about her mysterious disappearance after being last seen on Yankee Flats Road on April 27.

In May, John announced that investigators suspected foul play in his daughter’s disappearance and were treating the case as a homicide investigation.

There has not been much since. The RCMP conducted an intensive search of the area and have interviewed all the people who last saw Ashley. Months later, another ground search was conducted. But as far as anyone knows, nothing was found.

John has taken up the cause of missing and abused women and has taken part in public events in their Ontario hometown of St. Catharines. He has walked in high heels in the “Walk a Mile in her Shoes,” and marched in Take Back the Night and Sisters in Spirit events. They have consulted psychics in a desperate bid for any lead.

Now John will be returning to Salmon Arm in May to continue to search for answers. He is planning to hold an open house-style community meeting on May 12 for people to come and share information, questions or support from 3 to 9 p.m. at the Silver Creek Hall.

“I’ll leave you with that,” he writes me in a message, as he speaks of the tears that catch up with him regularly. “I’m now having a tough time and can’t see much of the keyboard now. That usually happens when I talk about my daughter.”