‘A place that nobody wants to be:’ Police search Saskatoon landfill for missing woman

The father of a missing woman looked out over the Saskatoon landfill Wednesday, as police wearing white chemical-resistant suits scoured through piles of debris looking for evidence of his daughter.

“It’s a cold morning,” said Paul Trottier. “This is a place that nobody wants to be.”

Mackenzie Lee Trottier was 22 when she was last seen in December 2020. She said she was going to get a lift with a ride-booking service when she left her family’s home. She was in good spirits, said her father.

More than three years later, Paul Trottier looked on as officers accompanied by dogs specialized in searching for human remains began examining a specific area of the landfill.

Officers went in and out of a large white tent, moving wheelbarrows of waste, as dozens of birds picked at scraps on a nearby hill.

“Emotionally, it’s difficult,” Trottier said.

Staff Sgt. Corey Lenius with the major crimes unit said the search was preceded by months of planning that began after police collected evidence from electronic devices that indicated there was merit to searching the landfill.

Investigators, working with landfill engineers, used global positioning system data on garbage trucks to narrow the search to the specific area about 930 cubic metres in size and one metre deep.

Each day, 14 officers, also wearing protective footwear and puncture-resistant gloves, are to be assisted by two dogs to meticulously scan the material, Lenius said. Some officers will have respirators to protect them from hazards, chemicals and toxins.

Officers are looking for any evidence of the missing woman, Lenius added, and also items with dates and addresses to make sure they are honing in on the right location.

“Having to just reset and refocus their eyes and their brain for that next load that comes in — it’s not an easy task,” Lenius said.

Police have said Trottier is considered a missing person until direct information indicates otherwise.

Michelle LeClair, vice-president of Métis Nation-Saskatchewan, said in a news release that while a landfill search is disturbing, she’s encouraged the case has not been forgotten.

Landfill searches have been in the national spotlight recently, following a push to find the remains of two slain First Nations women in Winnipeg.

Police in Manitoba’s capital have said they believe the remains of Morgan Harris and Marcedes Myran were taken to a landfill north of the city in 2022.

Winnipeg police rejected the idea of a search, in part because of the potential danger from toxic substances and the large volume of material at the landfill.

After facing public protest, the federal and Manitoba governments committed in March to jointly spend $40 million to conduct a search.

Story by Kelly Geraldine Malone

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