Tue, October 12, 2004
THE DISCOVERY of a woman's body in a wooded area along the Ottawa River yesterday might have ended the 18-day search for a missing government employee. Police found the body along the shoreline just east of Andrew Haydon Park at about 3:30 p.m., only hours after co-workers of missing 39-year-old Stella Chileshe discovered her black Acura parked near the entrance to a bike path on Maplehurst Ave.
While police have yet to positively identify the body, which was located about 200 metres from the car near the water, it's believed to be that of Chileshe's.
An autopsy later this week is expected to determine the exact cause of death, although foul play is not suspected in Chileshe's disappearance.
Chileshe had been on sick leave from her job with the Canadian International Development Agency since the spring when she began a new cancer treatment.
Chileshe disappeared from her Heron Rd.-area home at about 11 p.m. Thursday, possibly after receiving some bad news about her health.
While police made the discovery, it's unlikely the body would have been found if not for a civilian search party of about 30 of Chileshe's friends and co-workers who fanned out across Ottawa and Gatineau yesterday.
Some of those friends were critical of police, questioning how it took their search party about 90 minutes to find what police couldn't over 18 days.
"It makes one very angry," said justice department lawyer Florence Chumpuka, adding friends planned to do a search last weekend but were talked out of it by police.
"We hope the police will be accountable to tell us they did do a search in that area in the last 18 days," said Chumpuka.
Ottawa police said they had searched several area parks, including Andrew Haydon, but simply didn't have the manpower to search the entire city.
"We can't search every street, it's not possible," said missing persons Det. Will Barlow. "We searched all the parks, but we didn't search this particular side street."
Police said the car hadn't been ticketed and neighbours, who noticed the vehicle parked on the street, never thought to call authorities.
Soon after the car was located, hope that Chileshe would be found alive turned to despair.
"There is not much we can do than mourn her now," said Ruth Andersson, who flew from Sweden to be with Stella's mother Margaret Sendwe. "I think we now understand what happened."