Monday, April 13, 2009

Ground Search Called Off


WOODSTOCK — While the extensive ground search for Victoria “Tori” Stafford ended Monday, the Oxford Community Police Service (OCPS) indicated this missing persons investigation was still its priority.

The OCPS investigation is now focusing on the evidence collected during the five-day search of the city. Officers from the OPP Behavioral Sciences Section are now assisting the investigation into the disappearance of the eight-year-old and are examining the “variety of items” discovered during the ground search.

OCPS spokesperson Const. Laurie-Anne Maitland said the items collected during the search did not include any of the clothing or belongings reported as being with Tori when she went missing from Oliver Stephens Public School Wednesday afternoon.

“We’re investigating every lead possible with every resource we have,” said Maitland, adding the end of ground search did not mean that investigators had “given up hope.”

“I believe she’s alive,” Maitland said.

Despite the completion of the ground search, Maitland encouraged the public to continue to remain vigilant and contact police with any relevant information. As of Monday afternoon, the OCPS had already received more than 300 telephone tips from the public about the disappearance.
Maitland, though, said the OCPS had no “specific suspects” in the case.

“Anyone you’re thinking of, we’re investigating,” she said. “Our absolute priority is to find Tori and find her well.”

With the help of officers from the Waterloo Regional Police Service, the London Police Service search and rescue team, and the OPP, the OCPS combed the entire city during the roughly five days of the search. Maitland said the search teams, which included hundreds of community volunteers, scoured the business areas, open fields, construction sites, lakes, wetlands and other regions. With experts on hand from the different police services, Maitland said the ground search had been thorough.

“They conducted the search of the city the way they know how … in their area of expertise,” she said. “Everything has been done.

“The search has concluded because the areas around here have actively been checked.”

Victoria Stafford was last seen Wednesday afternoon while leaving Oliver Stephens Public School at approximately 3:30 p.m. Shortly after, a security camera at College Avenue Secondary School captured footage of Tori apparently walking with an unidentified woman, who is described as white, between 19 and 25 years old, and roughly five feet two inches (157 centimetres) and 125 pounds (56 kilograms). The woman in the video footage was wearing a white parka and tight black jeans.

Maitland said police were keenly interested in identifying this “person of interest.”

At the time of her disappearance, Tori was wearing a green shirt, a denim skirt, black and white shoes, and a black Hannah Montana jacket with a white fur-lined hood. She may have been carrying a purple and pink Bratz shoulder bag. The Grade 3 student is four foot five inches (134 centimetres) tall, weighs 62 pounds (28 kilograms). She has blue eyes and blonde hair cut just below her ears.