Rhody Lake vanished into thin air on Nov. 27, 2005. The 80-year-old B.C. woman went for a walk and never returned. In the intervening years, RCMP, private investigators and community volunteers have all tried to find out what happened to the popular writer and artist.
Now Tipper wants a judge to declare her mother presumed dead.
"It's quite haunting," Tipper says. "Quite haunting and unsettling and it's never closure; even the presumption of death isn't closure to me. It's just a legal document really."
Inconsistencies lead to polygraph
Tipper's BC Supreme Court petition is one of a handful filed each year by families seeking to move forward when a loved one goes missing.
Lake was last seen at about 3:30 pm walking near the vehicle entrance to Porpoise Bay Provincial Park campgrounds, a forested and hilly area where she walked daily. She was reported missing the next day by her son, Adam Lake, who lived in his mother's basement.
According to affidavits filed as part of the petition, Tipper organized numerous search and consulted with a psychic before hiring private investigators. They focused on inconsistencies in statements around the activities of Adam Lake, who was at a Grey Cup party the evening his mother was last seen.
Adam Lake took a polygraph, which resulted in the conclusion he was not responsible for his mother's disappearance. Police concurred with that finding.
In 2010, RCMP organized a Crime Stoppers re-enactment of the case, but police came no closer to solving the mystery.
"The possibility of foul play has never been completely ruled out by the Sunshine Coast RCMP, however the circumstance support the investigational belief that Rhody Lake's disappearance was non-criminal in nature," Cpl. Don Newman writes in an affidavit.
"The possibility that she fell into the Sechelt Inlet or that an animal moved her remains is substantial."
"It's finality and people do want finality"
Estate litigation lawyer Trevor Todd says common law requires a wait of seven years before family can petition for presumption of death in the case of a missing person. But many families can't bring themselves to do it.
"It's closure, isn't it? It's finality and people do want finality," he says. "But the family is in turmoil the entire time."
Tipper says the decision to apply for a death certificate was heart wrenching, but she has to get her mother's financial affairs in order.
"I waited this long because I'd really hoped we'd have our own answers," she says.
"I have had the feeling that my mum's spirit is close by. Close to her home, which is what she loved. Sometimes I do feel her presence so that's a comfort."