Public search in Calgary murder case ends following request from police

The Canadian Press
July 17, 2014 11:58 AM

Nathan O'Brien and his grandparents Kathy and Alvin Liknes are shown in Calgary Police Service handout photos. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO

AIRDRIE, Alta. - Organizers are calling off their civilian search for signs of a missing five-year-old boy and his grandparents after police said they no longer need the help.

Matt Forseth had said the search would continue, despite a social media backlash, until investigators asked them to stop.

Calgary police issued a news release Thursday afternoon that thanked the searchers for their efforts, but said that public assistance searching public property was not needed.

Forseth said his group will respect the wishes of police.

"We will cease our search," Forseth said.

The volunteers had been scouring rural areas near the community of Airdrie for any sign of Alvin and Kathy Liknes and their grandson, Nathan O'Brien, who disappeared in late June.

Douglas Garland, who lived on an acreage near Airdrie, has been charged with three counts of murder, even though the bodies have not been found.

Police said in their news release that they have a 30-day search plan that's "intelligence driven." They said the plan "cannot be shared outside of law enforcement in order to protect the integrity of the investigation."

They said the places they are searching have a "high likelihood of locating evidence."

Police are still asking landowners and businesses to check their properties for anything suspicious.

"At this time we do not require assistance from the public in relation to searching public property, however we appreciate the outpouring of community support," the release stated.

Forseth said the volunteers hadn't been searching areas where police were focused. He said they were staying off private property unless they were specifically invited by landowners.

While the police news release didn't specifically ask the volunteers to stop, he said it seemed to suggest it.

"It leans towards them having their plan in place and they don't need the public," he said.

The group had called off the search Wednesday following negative social media comments.

Forseth said the angry backlash came when a news report was posted on the group's Facebook page that said police were upset with the volunteer search.

"People were calling us media hounds, selfish, that we were looking to post selfies on Facebook," Forseth said. "It became so overwhelming."

Forseth said organizers resumed it Thursday morning after more than 100 people showed up and pledged to keep looking anyway.

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