Ten-year-old Marianne Schuett was walking home from school wearing a reversible red jacket, plaid skirt and blue running shoes.
She stopped a few steps from her house to speak to a man sitting in a small European car.
The date is April 27, 1967. Marianne was not seen again.
“The child was only 400 meters to get home, but she never arrived,” read a “Missing Person” poster from the Ontario Provincial Police at the time.
The poster offers few details about the day Marianne disappeared. Police say they believe the man in the car abducted the little girl with shoulder-length brown hair and greenish-blue eyes.
The suspect is described as a man in his 40s, with a thin face and glasses. Fifty-five years later, no one has been charged and Marianne has never been found.
Bells to mark the 55th anniversary of the disappearance
On Wednesday, church bells will ring in Kilbride, a village near Burlington, Ont., where Marianne was taken, marking her memory and reinforcing that the little girl has not been forgotten.
“Imagine all of a sudden someone in your life is gone and you don’t know why, where, how, are they dead, are they alive?” said Steve Schuett, Marianne’s brother.
Schuett was five years old the day Marianne disappeared. His leaving has been part of his life for as long as he can remember.
Now 60, he remembers his sister as a shy and somewhat clumsy kid. The OPP poster says Marianne was “very sweet.”
“It baffled us forever,” Schuett said, when asked how Marianne ended up in the man’s car. “Even back then we were told, ‘You don’t go with strangers. “”
The loss of Marianne has left scars in the family, he added, saying his mother suffered from depression.
They had hoped to find out what really happened to Marianne to give their mother some peace, but she died in February.
“That was the big hope, but we still want to keep going…just so we can wrap it up,” Schuett said.
Retired police still on the hunt
Now, long after the helicopters, dogs and thousands of volunteers have stopped searching, a small team hasn’t given up.
Gord Collins is a retired Peel Regional Police constable who has spent much of his career working in the field of forensic identification.
He teams up with Linda Gillis Davidson, a retired RMP inspector, to continue investigating what happened to Marianne.
Collins grew up in the Burlington area and said he remembers when she was abducted.
“I saw his picture in the newspaper and it kind of burned my brain,” he recalled.
“I’ve never forgotten her. When the opportunity arose, many years later…to help try to locate her, I jumped at the chance.”
The team began their research in the summer of 2019 by analyzing old articles and reports to establish a timeline and determine if there were other similar cases in the area at that time.
They focused their attention on an area north of Milton where they believe Marianne and possibly others could have been taken, Collins said.
Dead dogs indicated a body may have been left behind and a team of anthropologists took samples from the site, although the retired officer said there were none not enough to develop a DNA profile.
Undeterred, they plan to return when the weather improves to use lasers capable of detecting bones and other body samples.
Collins said the search was not intended to prove criminality.
“What we’re trying to do here is identify, if we can, where Marianne was left off and potentially find her, find a DNA profile that matches her, to bring the family back together,” he said. -he explains. “That’s all we’re looking for.”
Milton area location could be the last gasp
Halton Police said the investigation remains open and they hope someone with information will come forward so Marianne can be found.
“We will thoroughly investigate any advice received,” police said in an email to CBC.
Schuett said police have naturally focused on more recent investigations, but the family and team looking for Marianne are asking to see department records.
“Let us have access – maybe there’s something in there that will give us information to refine it even further.”
The Halton Regional Police Department did not respond directly to the request, but a spokesperson told CBC the investigator handling the case would be happy to speak with them.
“The lines of communication have always remained open and we encourage the family to reach out to chat,” the Constable said. Steve Elms.
Schuett said after all these years he is an “optimistic pessimist” who hopes for the best, but prepares for the worst.
He said if Milton’s location didn’t turn up anything, that would likely end the search.
“Unless something pops up from somewhere, if someone stands up and says something, it’s probably going to be the last real, difficult effort anyone puts into it.”
When the bells ring at 4 p.m. on Wednesday – around the time Marianne was abducted – their sound will be a reminder of the young girl and those still looking for her.
“She hasn’t been forgotten,” Collins said. “We always try.”