What do you do when a beloved family member disappears into thin air without a trace? For one Jewish family in Vancouver’s Lower Mainland, this scenario has been a devastating reality since May 14, the day, Bernard Grempel, 28, went missing.
He was last seen at 11 p.m. on the SkyTrain and on bus 340 that evening, heading towards the North Delta/Surrey area. His disappearance has turned the lives of his parents, Ella Kizelman and Michael Grempel, and his sister, Ettie Shurack, upside down, their emotions a chaos of pain, anxiety, frustration and grief, peppered with pinpricks of immense gratitude, appreciation and, always, a glimmer of hope.
Since that time, Shurack, her husband, her parents, friends and volunteers in the Jewish community and beyond have been searching relentlessly for any traces of the young man who mysteriously disappeared. They have scoured the bus routes, knocked on the doors of strangers in those neighbourhoods, interviewed commuters on the transit system and sought out footage from video cameras in relevant areas.
Shurack has created a Tehillim (Psalms) signup sheet with the goal of having the entire book of Tehillim recited until her brother has been found. She has launched weekend searches, posted flyers and liaised with RCMP in multiple cities of the Lower Mainland. Her family is offering a $20,000 reward for anyone with information leading to his safe return home.
Shurack is also so disappointed with the RCMP’s efforts to help locate her brother that she’s launched a petition to galvanize the RCMP into resuming an active search. She says the photograph of Grempel initially used by the RCMP was more than a year old. She was also concerned that in a press release the police requested the public’s assistance in locating a missing person who, it stated, “is apprehendable under the Mental Health Act.”
“Yes, he has mental health problems, but he was living on his own prior to disappearing. I’m confused why they would state he should be returned to the hospital,” she said. “A mental health diagnosis does not equate to suicide. My brother was taking his medication daily, seeing his counsellor regularly and attending appointments with his psychiatrist. His mental health team had seen him the week he went missing.”
The petition states that “the Surrey police (RCMP) has made several critical errors during the investigation, which resulted in overwritten CCTV footage, inaccurate information in their media release, and lack of follow-up with witnesses. Bernard has been missing for more than seven weeks and the RCMP has yet to obtain camera footage from three critical intersections. At the four-week mark, despite not exhausting all options, the RCMP informed Bernard’s family that they would be entering the ‘next stage of the investigation’ which entails a Coroners Inquiry (involving DNA samples, X-rays, and dental records) and that they would follow-up on leads that come their way rather than pursue an active investigation.
“Bernard’s family, friends, and community have been searching for him 24/7, using their personal resources and networks. Due to the Surrey RCMP’s lack of follow-through on this case, the family has hired a private investigator. However, due to Canadian privacy laws, the P.I. does not have access to crucial information that only the RCMP can obtain. The family is pleading for the RCMP to resume the investigation with full efforts, in order to bring Bernard home safely and swiftly. We desperately ask the RCMP to serve and protect the community by utilizing their numerous resources on this case, and bring home a very special young man who has contributed significantly to his community.”
To date the petition has received more than 2,500 signatures.
Sgt. Elenore Sturko, media relations officer for Surrey RCMP, says the force is aware of the petition.
In an email to The CJN, Sturko wrote: “Surrey RCMP is continuing its investigation into the disappearance of Bernard Grempel. Since the onset, investigators have pursued all viable avenues of investigation. This has included reviewing hours of video surveillance from multiple locations, bank activity checks, search and rescue deployments, and multiple public appeals for information. Unfortunately, despite extensive efforts by police, volunteers, and by his family, Bernard Grempel has not been located.
“We know from the outpouring of support for Bernard Grempel, that he is loved by his family and his community. We want to assure the public that this investigation is open, and will remain open until Bernard Grempel is located. We ask that anyone with information on the whereabouts of Bernard Grempel to please contact Surrey RCMP at 604-599-7776.”
Meanwhile, if determination had a face and name, it would be Ettie Shurack. She, her husband and parents are committed to continuing the search for their missing son and brother and express deep appreciation to those who share their quest.
“Bernard is a beloved son, wonderful brother, doting uncle, loyal friend, talented children’s coach, hardworking accountant, accomplished athlete, and all-around wonderful guy,” Shurack says. “I ask the public to continue helping with our search parties and to keep their eyes out for him.”
Anyone with information or the ability to help is asked to email: [email protected] or call 778-838-5095. Shurack has a WhatsApp group at 631-320-8225, a Facebook page called Let’s Find Bernard Grempel and a GoFundMe page at https://gofund.me/19d464bf. To date the fundraiser has raised $18,000 towards its goal of $70,000.