Eight years after she disappeared without a trace, the members of the RCMP's historical case unit are still working to find out what happened to Courtney Struble.
The anniversary of her disappearance came and went Monday and although they are moving closer to learning what happened to Courtney on the night of July 9, 2004, they are not yet ready to go public with their findings.
In an interview with The Mercury, Cpl. Rob Zentner of the HCU admitted the case has moved slower than he and his fellow officers would have liked, but said they remain determined.
"Sometimes we are a slave to the speed at which information comes into our office," Zentner said. "But we have been working at it pretty heavily over the last six months or so. We have probably conducted in excess of 35 to 40 interviews over the last six months just in relation to Courtney's investigation."
Zentner added that of the 40 people they interviewed, some of them were people they hadn't spoke with before, while others were people who they had previous contact with but might be able to shed some new light on the investigation as it evolves.
"We are definitely learning more with each interview we do," he said. "Sometimes people will think that the information or whatever knowledge they have might seem insignificant, but a lot of times it is maybe one of the smallest, most insignificant things that ends up being one of the most important.
"But we don't obviously know the location of Courtney yet."
That very question, the location of Courtney, has been on the minds of many Estevan residents since the then 13-year-old went missing that fateful night.
As has been well documented, Courtney was watching a movie with friends at the Estevan Veterinary Clinic on July 8, 2004. Shortly after midnight she left the business on the west edge of the city, presumably to walk home.
However, that was the last time Courtney was ever heard from.
In the first few days, months and years after she went missing, Courtney's disappearance was treated as a missing person's case. But in 2010 the Estevan Police Service brought in the RCMP with the hope that a fresh set of eyes and the time to fully pursue the matter might lead to some answers.
Not long after taking over the case, the HCU went public with the word that they were now treating the case as a homicide. In a previous interview with The Mercury, Zentner said that in their experience it is highly unlikely that a 13-year-old would have been able to survive on her own for that long without contacting a friend or family member for support.
Since taking on the case, the HCU has made numerous trips to Estevan to interview anyone who might have information on the case. They have also followed up on any tips they've received and Zentner noted there have been many.
"I think its 54 or 55 tips," he said. "Some of those are like 'I saw a person that looks like Courtney and then I saw the missing persons poster.' Some of those are hard to substantiate because it is that person's recollection of somebody that they saw in a particular location and in many of those cases there may not be video surveillance at that location.
"It's a wide variety of things. Some are things from psychics that say 'I have a feeling that Courtney may be at this location.' We don't discount any information that comes across our desk. We look into everything and see if we can substantiate what that information is using other sources and obviously the more we can substantiate it or the more that it is able to be verified through other means, we put more stock in that."
Zentner added that while they were hoping to have an answer for Courtney's family and friends by this time, the slow process of their work is not frustrating or discouraging him and the other officers working the case. In fact, Zentner noted there have been cases where the passage of time has helped them find crucial information.
"Sometimes time is a benefit to us," he said. "We may not realize it right at the moment while we are working, but six months down the road there may be something that had happened previously that if that wouldn't have happened certain information would not have come to us.
"That could be relationships breaking up, it could be someone else passing away and now someone else is willing to come forward with information; Even just advancements with technology. We try to do investigations, especially missing person investigations, for the sake of the family, we like to try and get them the answers as fast as we can, but obviously keeping in mind that we don't want to rush things or miss things."
Asked if they have a suspect or suspects they are investigating, Zentner said he cannot comment on that specifically, but added they are looking at a number of different possibilities.
As for the future of the investigation Zentner said there are people out there who have shared what they know with the police and others who have not. With respect to those who have yet to come forward, Zentner said he hopes with the passage of time those people might be more willing to speak with investigators, in particular anyone who could help them solve this case and bring some level of closure for Courtney's family.
"We definitely hope that we will be getting the answers for Courtney's family and the community of Estevan."