Sections

‘Cortney’s Search Angels’ help family search for missing woman’s body

By Victoria Plowman/The Telegram

Published on August 7, 2017

T-shirts given out to members of Cortney’s Search Angels.

©Submitted photo

Cortney Lake has become a household name since her disappearance on June 7 — especially to those out looking for her.

Donna Walsh, Lake’s aunt, said the group name “Cortney’s Search Angels” came to the family after a few searches had taken place.

“We started saying, ‘These people are angels to us,’ because they were walking into our lives and coming out on all these searches,” Walsh said. “But then it occurred to us, no, these are Cortney’s angels, and it just kind of evolved from there.”

Lake was last seen getting into a black GMC truck on Michener Avenue in Mount Pearl. RNC declared the case a homicide investigation several weeks later.

Nine weeks after Lake’s disappearance, searches are still being conducted anywhere from three to five days a week, Walsh says. She explained that searchers are instructed to look for anything Lake was last seen wearing, or that she might have had on her: her grey Helly Hansen jacket, plaid shirt, eyeglasses, purse, sneakers, cellphone, et cetera.

Walsh said they also warn searchers about what to expect if they do find any remains.

“It’s now been, you know, nine weeks since Cortney was last seen,” Walsh told The Telegram, “so we tell our people if they stumble upon a body, at this point, it’s not going to be as you would see normally.

“It’s a bit grim and gut-wrenching to even talk about, but I mean … sorry.”

Some of Cortney’s Search Angels.
Submitted photo

Cortney’s Search Angels aren’t just those out scouring tree lines, knee-deep in bog and sweating from the heat — behind the scenes, people are finding other ways to help the family as much as possible, providing lunches to those out searching, donating money and making ribbons that people can use to mark areas that have already been searched.

“They don’t want to go out on searches, but this is their way of helping and we appreciate all of these people.” Walsh said.

“We’re totally overwhelmed with it, but we’ve been touched by everyone’s generosity, compassion and support. It helps ease the pain.”

Derrick Kearney is a friend of Lake’s parents, and has been a part of the search group for more than five weeks. He said the family has been overwhelmed with the kindness and generosity of the community and of Cortney’s Search Angels.

“A lot of the searchers are just ordinary people that didn’t know the family and just wanted to help out. We as Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are just that kind of people — we like to offer our help in time of need, whatever the circumstances may be.”

Jim Sinnott and his wife, Kim, are also friends of the family and active search angels. Jim Sinnott told The Telegram that whatever the family needs, they get — in this case, help looking for their loved one.

“By searching for, and hopefully finding, her body we demonstrate she was valued and certainly worthy of respect. We obviously cannot bring Cortney back, but in a sense we are taking back the narrative from he or she that discarded her.”

A huge portion of Cortney’s Search Angels is made up of people who had no previous affiliation or connection to the family, including Sherry Tulk-Mills, who said she feels honoured to be able to help out and see the outpouring of support from her fellow Newfoundlanders.

Kim Kelly, another search angel who had previously been a stranger to the Lake family, said, “I will stay the course, commit to the search and continue to love this beautiful family that I have come to know so well.”

The outpouring of love and support doesn’t stop there. The Telegram spoke with several other members of Cortney’s Search Angels who told stories of tears and laughter shared amongst what can often be dozens of strangers coming together for the same purpose — to bring this young woman home and give her family closure.

“These people are mostly strangers to us,” Walsh said, “but we are all drawn together for a purpose. Cortney is out there somewhere and we have to find her. She deserves a dignified and respectful resting place.

“All of these people are special, and will remain forever in our lives and in our hearts.”