Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Brandon, 12, and Emma Millen, 6, work on a sidewalk chalk message for their missing cousin Victoria Stafford April 14, 2009 in Woodstock.

Tori's parents take lie detector
Police mum on results of polygraphs in case of missing 8-year-old

WOODSTOCK, ONT. – Victoria Stafford's estranged parents have taken lie detector tests and their previous relationships are under intense scrutiny even as a small army of friends, family and strangers continues to search for their missing 8-year-old daughter.

While Oxford Community Police refused to comment last night on the polygraph tests, friends of Tara McDonald and Rodney Stafford, Victoria's parents, said the two underwent the tests over the Easter long weekend.

But Sgt. Elaina Taylor, one of the detectives on the case, said she could not comment on "which way the investigation is going." She also refused to discuss whether former partners of the parents were under scrutiny.

Victoria, known as Tori to friends and family, vanished a week ago after leaving Oliver Stephens Public School, where she is a Grade 3 student. She was seen on surveillance video walking with an unidentified woman. Woodstock, a community of about 36,000 people 145 kilometres southwest of Toronto, has since been on edge.

Since Tori disappeared, her parents have maintained they do not know the identity of the woman their daughter seemed to willingly walk away with. Police, who released an enhanced video of the surveillance footage on Monday, have said everyone who knows or had contact with the missing girl is a potential suspect in her disappearance.

Meanwhile, about 100 people continued to search around the clock for Tori even though police called off a ground search Monday morning.

Lee Graves, a close friend of the missing girl's father, said people split up in groups of two and three and have scoured Woodstock's streets, back streets, parks, ponds, wetlands and the surrounding area for any sign of Tori.

"Yes, we are going to places again and again in the hope that we may find something we had overlooked earlier," Graves said last night as he prepared to go to the golf course in the southwest part of the city with friend Amy Peaty.

Dressed in thick jackets and boots, and carrying flashlights and sticks, they stopped to search garbage dumpsters on the way to the golf course. "Ì don't mind jumping into the dumpsters, too," said Graves, as he rummaged through a pile of abandoned bits and pieces of furniture on a sidewalk.

Peaty said they are looking for anything – a shoe, a jacket, sunglasses.

"If it was my daughter who was missing, I would expect the entire town to help look for her," she said.

The number of volunteers looking for Tori dwindled over the weekend, but Graves vowed the search will "continue until we find Tori or something. You just cannot sit back. There are all these questions and no answers."

Counsellors at Oliver Stephens Public School struggled with questions from children yesterday as classes resumed after the long weekend.

"Children are scared, stressed and anxious," said Sally Christensen, a psychologist who was at the school. "They have been asking if they can also be kidnapped. But mostly they are very worried about Tori's safety."