by Robert A. Waters
Does Tania Murrell lie in a long-forgotten grave, her bones slowly decaying like the investigation into her kidnapping?
Or is she alive, having been raised by a family of strangers?
On January 20, 1983, at around 11:10 A.M., while walking home from Grovenor Elementary School in Edmonton, Canada, Tania vanished. Bundled inside a heavy coat, the cute blonde-haired six-year-old fought below-zero weather as she trudged along. Her school was less than two blocks from the home she shared with her mother, father, and younger brother. That day, her aunt, Vera Stortz, waited for Tania to arrive.
When she didn’t appear, Vera phoned Vivian Murrell, Tania’s mother. Soon Vivian and her husband Jack left their places of work and began scouring the area for Tania. The online newspaper Canada.com recently summed up the search: “Police and volunteers canvassed the area around the home, at 10426-145th St., by foot and car. More than 1,900 square blocks, including ravines and alleys, were searched within the next few days. At the time, it was the largest door-to-door search ever mounted in Edmonton.” Despite extensive efforts by police and the public, Tania was never found.
Today, more than three decades later, after their lives were shattered, Vera and Jack are dead. Her younger brother, John, is dead. Many of the original detectives are dead or retired. And one of the most baffling cases in modern Canadian history is still a blank page lying on the desk of cold case investigators.
So what happened to Tania Murrell?
The most prevalent theory is that she was abducted, raped, and murdered by a pedophile. A second theory is that someone who wanted a child kidnapped Tania, brainwashed her into thinking her parents didn’t want her, and raised her as their own.
When a child goes missing, parents are always scrutinized. In Tania’s case, both parents were at work, so they had alibis that removed them from suspicion. However, their hard-partying ways and suspected drug use raised the eyebrows of investigators. Because of this, detectives closely examined their associates. At least one friend was developed as a suspect, but was never charged.
Police also checked out “perverts” who lived in the area. Tania’s parents were amazed at the number of molesters, rapists, and weirdos who lived close by. Yet no one emerged as a person of interest.
One witness claimed to have seen a woman dragging an unwilling child along the sidewalk at about the time Tania vanished. Because of this, the theory developed that a woman who couldn’t have a child may have snatched the girl. Tania’s sister, Elysia, born after Tania disappeared, thinks she is still alive. “I believe she is around and alive,” Elysia said. “I figure they changed her name and she was young enough that she would forget and believe whatever they told her.”
A school-mate recently informed police that she thought Tania was headed to a nearby convenience store instead of home. The store would have taken Tania in the opposite direction from her house. This would have changed the dynamics of the investigation had it been known earlier.
After more than three decades, the question remains: where is Tania Murrell?