John Simpson just wants to bring his daughter home.
John and Cindy Simpson are the parents of Ashley, who went missing on April 27, 2016 from Yankee Flats near Salmon Arm. She was 32.
John flew from his home in Niagara on the Lake in Ontario and met with RCMP Major Crimes officers in Kelowna Friday. He brought to B.C. T-shirts and hoodies with slightly different designs, all with a photo of Ashley, most with a message about Canada’s missing women. One of his favourites is a hoodie with the message: “And sometimes against all odds, against all logic, we still hope.”
His voice catching with emotion, John says the visit to the RCMP has changed his outlook.
He explains that, as a parent, you think of all possible scenarios: maybe your daughter was kidnapped and she will escape, maybe she’s captive in a commune somewhere, maybe she’s a victim of human trafficking, maybe she’s been taken prisoner in a prostitution ring.
Although police are tight-lipped about their investigation so as not to jeopardize it, John wanted to know if they are looking for a missing person or suspecting foul play.
“Foul play is the answer they gave me,” he says, unable to say more for a moment as he struggles to contain his grief.
“We’re setting up a memorial at home until we find her. We’re hurting as a family unit because of this, but if we can get her home, it will be better.”
So John will now focus on locating Ashley’s body.
“We hung onto the hope that maybe she was kidnapped and maybe she could break away. But it’s not an option anyone else is considering.”
He explains his wife is a believer in the power of mediums, so they have consulted two.
The mediums have twice mentioned Margaret Falls. John says he would like to search a couple of creeks in the area, conditions permitting, before he returns to Ontario.
Friday, till 9 p.m., he was holding a meeting at Silver Creek Hall so people would stop in and speak to him.
“Anybody that wants to come in they can, discuss whatever they want to discuss,” adding that he wouldn’t mind forming a search party for next week. “If I get help, that will be better, but I’m not afraid to do it alone.”
Regarding the meeting, he said that after a year, maybe somebody’s going to have a bit of remorse and say something.
“We don’t know. I can’t sit at home and do nothing.”
Finding the person or people who harmed Ashley is on the back burner for him at this point. He said he has confidence the police are doing everything they can, so he’ll leave that job to them.
“Right at the moment I need to find her.”
Last time John was here, he searched and found clothes by the side of the road, but they weren’t Ashley’s.
He found a suitcase up the mountain, but it wasn’t Ashley’s.
He spent $10,000 on that trip to the Shuswap, and he expects another $7,000 this time – “my life’s savings,” he says.
As a former military man, John doesn’t understand why the military “can send up to 6,000 troops to Quebec to handle a flood, but why they can’t send a couple hundred to come search – they have the gear – and let these families rest.”
He refers to other missing women whose families are tormented. He says the military can conduct a search much more easily than the RCMP can.
Although a year has passed, Ashley’s disappearance has left such a hole in her family members’ lives.
John talks about 10-year-old Emma, his granddaughter. She and Emma were “the best of friends” and Ashley was named her godmother.
“She said she’s not smiling ever again – and she hasn’t.”
He explains that Ashley was wonderful with children, singing to them, making crafts, entertaining them.
“She was ‘Miss Sweets’ – she dressed up for kids for their birthday parties. She was a people person and she loved kids… For my 60th birthday, she put on a big show for us, puppets and stuff. She was really, really good.”
Ashley has three sisters, two of them step-sisters; John loves them all dearly.
He and Ashley had a special bond, however. He refers to his Icelandic, Viking heritage, and how he loves adventure and travelling. As did she.
John is a cook, and Ashley would join him, working and travelling.
“Diamond mines, road crews, the lodge… She’s sort of my sidekick.”
Ashley’s disappearance has given John something of a mission. Along with finding Ashley, John wants the country to do more to find missing women and to help their families. He wants to set up a society to help families; the T-shirts and hoodies are part of that plan. He refers to Caitlin Potts and Deanna Wertz, who have also gone missing from the North Okanagan/Shuswap, Wertz from Yankee Flats.
“It’ll be a mission for me to try and accomplish and ease the pain and suffering of others. If we could find even one of the three to ease the suffering it would be great.”
John hopes that people in the community won’t forget Ashley and the other missing women.
“I hope that people will remain diligent and remember that there are missing people out there and, as a community, try to find these people. Don’t let them go by the wayside… As a community, try to find them. When you’re out on your walks… be observant.”