Friday, 22 May 2009

Missing kids

When nine-year-old Colin Wilson vanished from his westend Toronto home in the 1970s, his mother, who had been raising him alone, could not be reached by the media.

For days, relatives and friends shielded her from reporters who called on the telephone or arrived at her apartment building in search of interviews.

We thought she was in isolation by choice.

Then one day, the Toronto Sun's David Somerville and this reporter were assigned to try again. We arrived at the entrance to her building, buzzed her apartment and she answered.

The blockade of friends and relatives around her had been lifted, perhaps temporarily, and she buzzed us into the building.

We arrived at her apartment, she invited us in and for the next hour, we sat at her kitchen table talking to her about Colin and her feelings about his disappearance. She thanked us for being interested in what she had to say.

Talking to us was comforting, she said. She had wanted to talk to the media, but people around her thought it best she didn't and they intervened.

Colin's mother was allowed to vent and we had our exclusive front page interview.

Her son was never found and no arrests were made. There would be more missing children, more distraught parents to approach for interviews, but Colin's mother taught us not all is what it seems when it comes to the parents of missing children.

Fast-forward to Woodstock 2009, with Victoria "Tori" Stafford's mother, Tara, holding almost daily press conferences on her front lawn and people saying that was a strange way for a parent to handle the abduction of a child.

Along the way, she told reporters without the press conferences, the media might lose interest and Tori's story would fade away. And generally, with much credit to Tara and Canadian print, broadcast and Internet media, Tori's story never faded.

Canadians and the media never lost interest in the fate of Tori, all the while hoping she was still alive because she was abducted by a woman and why would a woman want to harm a child? Killer Karla was a freakish anomaly in Canadian crime, wasn't she?

While watching TV footage today of Tori's abductor helping police locate the youngster's body, we could hear a collective gasp from Canadians saying to themselves, not again - not another Deal with the Devil that allowed Karla Homolka to see the light of day again.

That is the next chapter in Tori's abduction and murder and until it is over, we welcome every comment made by her mother and father, unedited and from the heart.

Meanwhile, Woodstock, a town of 35,000 that has been occasionally branded a Town Without Pity since Tori vanished April 8, has some soul searching to do.

Along with talk shows, Facebook and other web sites that have been fueling unchallenged gossip.

Trust us, gossip unchallenged becomes fact in the minds of the gullible.

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