The Coroners Service is investigating after human remains were found in the Cowichan Lake area on Dec. 23, amid speculation the remains may belong to Darreld Rayner, missing for 10 years.
Rayner, a Lake Cowichan resident and member of the Youbou TimberLess Society, went missing in 2007, and no trace of what happened to him has ever been found, although friends and family have never given up hope of finding him.
“I can tell you the Coroners Service has been called to investigate found human remains at Lake Cowichan last week but at this stage we have not determined the identity of the decedent,” said Andy Watson of the BC Coroners Service. “In order to determine the identity of the deceased, we will be doing some testing of samples (per normal procedure).”
Watson said it may take about a month for testing.
Dewi Griffiths, president and a search leader for Cowichan Search and Rescue, said “the Saturday, Dec. 23 recovery was to assist RCMP and Coroner, but I’m not sure we can comment other than to say our team performed a difficult task with professionalism and dedication in tricky, snowy conditions.”
The details of Rayner’s disappearance are sketchy.
On May 7, 2007, Rayner, who was 52 years old at the time, went missing while walking his dog.
He was last seen at about 8:30 a.m. walking along Fairservice Main logging road, roughly three kilometres from his home. Beginning that afternoon, an extensive search was conducted by RCMP and local search and rescue crews, with the assistance of family and volunteers.
Rayner’s dog, a Jack Russell terrier, was found that night by searchers, as was a coffee cup belonging to Rayner.
An intensive search, which included the use of tracking dogs and helicopters, covered that area thoroughly. The search went on for several days, and more than 3,400 search hours were expended.
Even after the official search ended, the family and other volunteers continued to search for Rayner in the area south of Lake Cowichan for several more months, never giving up hope that their family member and friend would be found.
Rick Vermiere of Lake Cowichan grew up with Rayner.
“His dad and my dad played horseshoes. And they used to go everywhere to compete. They would go to the Cowichan Exhibition and Sooke Days. At any of those fair kinds of things they had horseshoe tournaments. And my dad and his dad were the two best horseshoe players in Youbou so they’d participate. They’d either compete as a single or they’d work together in a doubles match, two against two. My dad won the Island championship one year and then when my dad retired from it, Murray took over and he won the championship.
“We were always meeting at these fairs and because there’s wasn’t anybody else, not in our town, we were the only ones who knew each other and we liked to hang around with people we knew. We’d go see the sideshows at the fairs and go on the rides and hang out together. That’s how we got together. Him and I were the same age. He had an older sister and two younger ones so my sisters used to hang around with his older sister. That’s how we got to be as close as we were.
“We both went to school together. Then we both signed up and worked at Youbou for just about 30 years each. Then, when the mill went down we were hanging out at our TimberLess meetings and protests together and stuff.
“Then one day it was: Oh, he’s missing. We were all wondering what was going on. He had his routine, I heard. He’d go out and take his dog on the trail for a walk, then come back and carry on for the day. But he didn’t come back that one day. So we were wondering what was going on. Was it an accident? Was it something more sinister? We just kept in touch through the TimberLess Society, asking each other: have you heard anything. We kept on hoping.”