Just days after police suspended the search for an Australian woman who has been missing for nearly three weeks, a tip from the public led investigators back to the site where some of her belongings had been found.
But in a puzzling case that has offered more questions than answers, police hit yet another impasse in the search for Alison Raspa, who was last seen leaving a village bar Nov. 23.
A dive team from the Whistler Fire Rescue Service scoured Alpha Lake on Sunday, Dec. 10 after police received "a specific tip" from the public, noted Staff Sgt. Paul Hayes. The search turned up no sign of the Perth native. It was just the latest in a series of five dives members of the RCMP and fire department have carried out at the lake near where Raspa's cellphone was recovered the morning after she was last seen. Her backpack, wallet and jacket were also found nearby at the intersection of Highway 99 and Lake Placid Road in Creekside.
"We do not know where Ms. Raspa is; however, due to the close proximity to the lake where some of her personal belongings were found, we will continue to consider the lake as a possibility," said Hayes in an email.
Last Saturday, Dec. 9, about a dozen members of the public searched Alpha Lake Park and the Nordic Estates neighbourhood, where Raspa is said to reside, and also turned up no clues. It was the second public search that was organized and the first since the RCMP suspended the two-week ground search for the 25-year-old hotel worker.
"Some people who I think were not able to join the previous search were really keen to go out there again. That was my reason for coordinating it," said the search organizer, who wished to remain anonymous to avoid being contacted by other media outlets reporting on the case. "It was more to give people the opportunity —even if we didn't find anything — to feel the community was coming together and to be sure we looked literally everywhere."
Raspa was last spotted leaving the Three Below Restaurant just after midnight on Nov. 23. Investigators have pieced together that she spoke with a friend on the Village Stroll before getting on a Whistler Transit bus to Creekside. At approximately 1:15 a.m., she texted friends she was lost.
It's unclear what Raspa's mental state was the night of her disappearance. One media outlet reported that family members had heard rumours she was upset by something that happened at work that day, but police said they were not aware of such an incident. It's also unclear whether Raspa was intoxicated at the time: Three Below owners declined an interview, and Hayes would only say "the RCMP has not made a comment with respect to alcohol consumption."
Both Pique and police have received separate reports that Raspa had a habit of sleeping in Alpha Lake Park during the summer months, although these claims have not been confirmed.
Investigators have traced Raspa's route after getting off the bus, saying she walked westbound towards the park, but they are unsure why she discarded her personal belongings.
The file will remain open until Raspa is found, and "all investigational avenues and tips will continue to be looked at," added Hayes.
Anyone with information on Raspa's whereabouts should contact the Whistler RCMP detachment at 604-932-3044.