A body found Wednesday evening by Comox Valley RCMP at the base of Mount Washington near the car of missing Saanich woman Shirley Burstall is believed to be her body.
RCMP Staff Sgt. Andrew Isles said around 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, RCMP were temporarily shutting down their command post before resuming the search for the 75-year-old, when their police dog picked up a scent. That led to the discovery of an elderly woman about a kilometre from where her car was located.
Isles confirmed Thursday the case is now in the hands of the coroner.
“We got a lot of information after talking with the family (Wednesday night) and have some information about the jewelry (Burstall) was wearing and some personal items she had on her,” he said. “We’re pretty certain, as much as we can be without a formal autopsy, that it is Ms. Burstall.”
Burstall’s car was found April 23 in the early-afternoon hours afternoon on a road off of the Strathcona Parkway leading to Mount Washington, prompting an extensive search for the woman, who was last seen April 5 at a Ladysmith gas station. She had spent the previous five days in Chemainus.
Tuesday, Paul Berry, manager/president of the Comox Valley Ground Search and Rescue team, said a team of searchers scoured ground and water to determine Burstall’s direction of travel.
“It is not uncharacteristic for her to hike, but it’s not the sort of area she would have hiked in,” he said.
Burstall was described as an active hiker and traveller and very fit for her age. Her family said she had decided to get away for a few days, and had mentioned to her daughter that she may head to Tofino.
Saanich Police confirm the 2002 Mazda Protégé had been on the logging road for some time. They added the car was locked and Burstall’s personal belongings were found locked in the trunk. There were no obvious signs of anything suspicious to investigators.
Comox Valley RCMP added Wednesday their initial investigation indicated no foul play, yet the investigation is ongoing.
Isles said the area where the body was discovered was part of the search area, although difficult terrain made searching difficult.
He added it is too early to tell how long the body may have been in the woods.
“Our investigators have been in contact with the Saanich police who have been in contact with the Burstall family in Victoria. Again, we’re not able to make a positive identification, but wanted to alert them that we had found a woman that could possibly be their loved one,” he said.
— From the Comox Valley Record