An agony of waiting: Still no answers in woman’s mysterious disappearance


ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — A Newfoundland family’s agonizing wait for answers was prolonged without explanation Monday as police abruptly cancelled a public update on their investigation into the presumed murder of Cortney Lake.

The 24-year-old mother of a young son vanished June 7 after getting into a truck near her home in Mount Pearl, near St. John’s.

The haunting case gripped the province and inspired total strangers to help look for the missing woman over the last five months, amid a social media campaign hashtagged #HelpFindCortney.

Her ex-boyfriend was found dead last week.

Lake’s relatives led extensive ground searches but her body has not been recovered.

The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary said June 30 it was treating Lake’s disappearance as a homicide.

“Our family met with Sgt. Tom Warren and members of his team this morning,” family spokeswoman Glenda Power said Monday in a statement. “At his request, the news conference planned for today has been postponed. Please respect that we are unable to answer any other questions.”

Warren is a senior member of the constabulary’s major crime unit.

Lake’s loved ones were seen leaving police headquarters in St. John’s with a large photo of her just before the news conference was to begin. Her mother, Lisa Lake, was to make a statement to media as part of the now-delayed event.

RNC spokesman Geoff Higdon said no other details were available. It wasn’t clear when the update may be rescheduled.

The body of Lake’s ex-boyfriend, 25-year-old Philip Steven Smith, was discovered last week in the woods near Bellevue Beach, about an hour west of St. John’s. Sources quoted in local media reports indicated Smith took his own life but RCMP have only confirmed a sudden death.

Smith was never named by police as a suspect in Lake’s assumed murder — which the force said was an isolated incident —nor was he charged in connection with it.

Police said they found no clues about Lake during a search of the area after Smith’s body was recovered.

Investigators had earlier said they believed Lake was driven to a secluded, wooded area close to the residential neighbourhood where she was picked up, but did not know where.

“Our hearts are forever broken,” the family said in a statement after police announced their belief last summer that Lake had been murdered.

“Cortney has been taken from us in the worst way imaginable. We are horrified and devastated as we think of what her last moments on this earth might have been.”

The family put out another statement last week after Smith’s body was found.

“Our condolences go out to the family of Philip Smith,” it said. “We understand too well the heartbreak of sudden and tragic loss of a loved one.

“We acknowledge that no one has been charged in connection with Cortney’s disappearance and murder. However, if Philip Smith was in fact involved, we hope he left information that will lead us to her.”

The family also reiterated its plea that anyone with information about what happened to Cortney Lake contact police or Crime Stoppers.

Sue Bailey, The Canadian Press