CALGARY — Police say a suspect in the disappearance of a five-year-old girl whose mother was found dead has an extensive criminal history and is giving "zero co-operation'' to investigators.
Insp. Don Coleman says the man is believed to be the same one witnesses saw Monday with a girl matching Taliyah Marsman's description. They were in the same Calgary neighbourhood where Sara Baillie's body was discovered Monday night in the basement suite she shared with her daughter.
Police believe the man and the girl left a black car belonging to Baillie, got into a grey sedan and drove off. Coleman says the sedan was seized in a strip mall parking lot on Wednesday night and the driver was arrested. The car was being examined by the forensics unit.
Surveillance footage shows the dark-grey sedan around the time Taliyah Marsman is believed to have gone missing. (Photo: Calgary Police Service)
Coleman says Baillie, 34, knew the suspect, as did Taliyah's father, Colin Marsman. He also says the suspect is known to police and has a violent background.
Police have not closed their eyes to the possibility of other suspects, he said.
Meanwhile, between 50 and 75 city police and RCMP officers were searching for clues in a rural area east of Calgary on Thursday.
The officers, wearing bright yellow vests, were trudging through canola fields of the same vibrant hue and combing through tall grass with poles.
The groups made their way deliberately along gravel side roads, stopping to talk to property owners and lingering when they came across a culvert or bridge.
Five-year-old Taliyah Marsman went missing from her home in Calgary. (Photo: Calgary Police Services)
Coleman acknowledged that the rural search "does have a more ominous tone to it" but added it shouldn't be viewed negatively.
"Information that comes to light through several investigative strategies led us to believe that this individual was briefly in that area," he said.
"We've searched other premises in the last few days. This rural area is no different."
A stuffed animal was found by searchers, but police have no idea if it's significant.
Police search a rural area near Chestermere, Alta. for missing five-year-old Taliyah Marsman. (Photo: Jeff McIntosh/CP)
Margaret Orr, who lives on a rural property on the edge of a golf course, said police came by and asked how long she and her husband have been living there and if they'd seen or heard anything suspicious.
Orr said she had looked through her barn, greenhouse and other buildings on her property and would continue to keep an eye out.
An Amber Alert was still in effect Thursday and Coleman said police expect to find Taliyah alive. "There has been nothing to indicate the status of that has changed."
On Wednesday, Coleman said the girl seen by witnesses around midday Monday had a reddish suitcase, suggesting whoever had her intends to look after her.
CCTV footage shows Sara Baillie and Taliyah Marsman at a Dairy Queen the night before Baillie was found dead in her home. (Photos: Calgary Police Services)
Investigators have also said footage from a closed-circuit camera shows Baillie and her daughter at a Dairy Queen around suppertime Sunday. Baillie appears to be speaking with a man and a boy. Police have yet to identify the people in the footage and have posted still photos of the exchange on the City of Calgary's website.
Taliyah's family was "doing exactly as expected," Coleman said.
"They are very ... upset. They want Taliyah safely returned. They've lost their daughter, their niece, and they're just hoping that at least Taliyah can be returned safely."
Her father has also put out a plea for whoever has Taliyah to "do the right thing."