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Aunt of missing woman says niece hasn't been heard from in weeks

Since her disappearance was reported last week, a heavy presence has remained in the small township east of Thunder Bay with police offering limited details.
Alyssa Turnbull
Alyssa Turnbull (OPP handout)

THUNDER BAY - The aunt of a woman reported missing more than a week ago says prior to police putting out a missing persons report last week, her family hadn’t heard from her in quite some time.

Cyndi Otway said her nephew was first alerted to the possible disappearance earlier this month of troubled 26-year-old Alyssa Turnbull, when he received a text from an acquaintance in Nipigon, Ont.  saying they hadn’t seen the missing woman in weeks.

Turnbull, whose disappearance appears to be the focus of a sizable police presence in Nipigon for the past week, was reported missing on April 14 and Ontario Provincial Police say she was last seen in Nipigon on March 23.

Police on Friday confirmed they were still looking for the missing woman, who called Gillies Township, Ont. home.

Otway, reached by phone on Friday, said it was that text that led them to phone police.

 “They were worried for her and thought something had happened to her and that’s what spurred us to realize that she was missing,” Otway said.

It was unlike her to disappear for that long.

Turnbull also has a close relationship with her younger sister and would often communicate with her through text messaging.

“She always, always gets back to (her sister) so that’s when we realized something was wrong,” she said. 

Otway described her niece as a passionate and outspoken person who likes to play the guitar and loves her siblings.

Over the years, however, she has struggled with addictions issues.

“She was drinking and doing heavy drugs, I couldn’t tell you exactly what they were doing but she certainly was involved with heavy drugs the last couple years,” Otway said. “We were always trying to get her away from that but the addictions are hard to get out of.”

Otway says her niece was in Thunder Bay in January picking up some of her belongings before moving to Nipigon with a boyfriend.

“She had moved there with a fellow who was in the drug trade and we always worried about her,” she said.

Members of the Ontario Provincial Police emergency response team, forensic identification unit and the underwater search and recovery unit have all been deployed to the small community recently.

OPP have remained tight-lipped about their presence in the small community and have given few details regarding her disappearance only stating they continue to search for her.

Otway said the family has also received little information from the police.

“They are not telling us a lot but they have not found her body,” Otway said, adding there have been false rumours circulating online about this.

Otway said police did recover three garbage bags filled with Turnbull’s clothing and belongings.

Otway, who last saw Turnbull last December at a family gathering, said her family is preparing for the worst considering the amount of time that has passed by since the missing woman was last seen or heard from.

“I think we are kind of worried with all of the police presence and all of the people that are involved in the investigation,” she said. “If it was someone just running away and didn’t want to be found, why would we have all the police?’

 “Something is going on and certainly we hope it’s not true but we are trying to be tough in case it is true,” she said.

The Mayor of Nipigon, Richard Harvey, was also unable to provide details of the heavy police presence in his community.

"At this point, the municipality is asking the public to allow the police to do their job trusting they will share more as more information becomes available," Harvey said in an emailed statement.

Turnbull is described as 5-foot-3, 100 pounds, with shoulder-length blonde hair and blue eyes. It's possible she may have changed her hair to purple or red.

Anyone with information on her whereabouts should contact the OPP  at 1-888-310-1122 or 1-807-887-2637.

Karen Edwards, Local Journalism Initiative reporter

About the Author: Karen Edwards, Local Journalism Initiative reporter

Karen Edwards reports on court and crime under the Local Journalism initiative, which is funded by the Government of Canada.
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