Few leads in Armstrong tragedy

Vernon-North Okanagan RCMP release details of travel route and Halloween costume Taylor Van Diest was wearing the night she was assaulted.

RCMP have released a photo of Taylor Van Diest in the Halloween costume she was wearing Monday before she was attacked in the hopes it might lead to some tips from the public. The 18-year-old Armstrong girl was found unconscious in a bush area near the Rosedale Avenue railway tracks

Police believe they now have a timeline of travel for Taylor Van Diest before she was assaulted near the Rosedale Avenue railway tracks in Armstrong Monday night.

They have also released a photo of how Van Diest looked in her Halloween costume as she was heading out that night, along with the jacket she was wearing in hopes the photos may spark some more tips into the death of the 18-year-old Armstrong girl.

Van Diest was found unconscious and severely injured by family members and friends around 8:45 p.m. near the tracks. She died later that night in Kelowna General Hospital.

Police have not released any details of her injuries. An autopsy was being conducted in Kamloops Thursday.

Police also said they do not have a suspect in the case.

She was reported missing by her family to police at 7:30 p.m. Monday, and discovered in a bush area about 10 feet from the railway tracks at 8:45 p.m.

“At this time, we believe Taylor left her home near the intersection of Colony Avenue and Pleasant Valley Road at 5:50 p.m., and walked north on Pleasant Valley Road for 10 minutes to the railway tracks where she was attacked,” said Vernon-North Okanagan  RCMP spokesperson Gord Molendyk Thursday afternoon.

Van Diest was dressed as a zombie on Halloween evening, and was wearing a tan-coloured jacket.

“We are hoping that these photos jog someone’s memory, that they may have seen her or anyone else walking north on the sidewalk of Pleasant Valley Road that evening around this time,” said Molendyk.

Police confirmed they had Van Diest’s cell phone in their possession.

Police have received more than 55 tips from the public but have said they do not know who Van Diest was meeting or where she was going when she left home.

“We have spoken to more than 100 people so far, and every day our officers are out and we elicit more information from the community,” said Molendyk of the investigation.

“We are not 100 per cent sure she was followed. We are appealing to the media and the public to assist us. There is any possibility someone could have followed her, met up with her or met her there by chance.

“Every little bit of information coming in, we believe, helps. No matter how big or how small or insignificant you think it is, please let us decide.”

Molendyk said the police are hoping to solve this crime as soon as possible.

“We want to solve this crime and get to the bottom of it just as bad as the people of Armstrong want this to be solved,” he said. “We’re throwing all available resources we can put into this case.”

Police on Wednesday issued a caution for residents of the community to take extra steps to ensure their safety in the wake of the Van Diest tragedy.

The warning put an already edgy community on full alert.

“There are all kinds of emotions from being scared, anger is probably the biggest one, people are so upset that things like this are happening, it’s a feeling of unbelievable,” said Armstrong Coun. Paul Britton, who teaches at Pleasant Valley Secondary, the high school Van Diest graduated from in June.

“You almost have to pinch yourself to think these things are happening in our community.”

Counsellors were brought in to help students and staff at PVSS cope with the tragedy, but principal Rob MacAulay felt the students were helping each other.

“The kids have really been great at supporting each other,” said MacAulay. “These things are really difficult but when you see students reaching out to help each other while their struggling through such a difficult thing, it’s really good to see that they help look after each other that well.”

A public gathering to honour Van Diest, as well as siblings Ava-Mae and Austin Claassen, who died in a motorhome fire Oct. 12, and Cullen Rowan, a classmate of Van Diest’s who was killed in an industrial accident in Armstrong Sept. 22, will be held Sunday.

The gathering will be held at Memorial Park at 2:30 p.m.



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