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Sister contends police not taking leads seriously
Sheila Cooper, the sister of Luke Cooper, has officially filed a complaint with the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP over the handling of her brother’s missing person’s case.
Cooper says she is disappointed with the response from the Sheshatshiu RCMP ever since her brother, Luke Cooper, went missing a year ago. She has accused investigators of not following up on leads given to them by the family, and of being disinterested in collecting evidence.
“Every time I speak to the RCMP, I may as well bang my head up against the wall and not even bother talking to them," she said. "There is no relationship with the RCMP. If there was a relationship with the RCMP, I would say it’s a very negative one.”
The commission received the complaint from Sheila Cooper on August 7, according to emails obtained by The Labrador Voice.
“The commission empathizes with your family with respect to the uncertainty you are facing concerning the circumstances of your missing brother,” states a commission email sent to Sheila Cooper.
According to the RCMP, Luke Cooper went canoeing in the waters between North West River and Sheshatshiu in the early morning of July 15, 2018. The canoe capsized, and Luke Cooper has not been seen since.
The Cooper family says they’ve received tips from the public suggesting Luke might have met with foul play and that his body is somewhere on land, and not in the water at all.
The RCMP has said they don’t believe there was foul play. Through an emailed statement, a spokesperson said the RCMP has conducted a detailed investigation into Luke Cooper’s disappearance.
“The investigation into the death of Mr. Cooper is currently ongoing. The RCMP considers all information obtained, and has conducted a comprehensive investigation to date. We empathize with the Cooper family during this difficult time. At this point, criminality is not suspected in the death of Mr. Cooper.”
The RCMP declined The Labrador Voice’s request for an interview.
Sheila Cooper contends the RCMP doesn’t seem to take leads seriously.
On July 6, a member of the Cooper family was fishing near North West River in the sawmill area and found a paddle not far from shore that was similar to one of Luke Cooper’s paddles. Sheila Cooper says that after Luke went missing, one paddle was found but the second one was missing.
Cooper and her sister called the RCMP about the paddle that was found, believing it to be Luke’s, but says the RCMP weren’t interested.
“We wanted it documented exactly where the paddle was found. We want it so the RCMP has all their ducks in a row,” she said. “We want them to have the evidence, but they’re not interested in collecting anything.”
Sheila Cooper recorded the phone call with two RCMP officers, which she provided to The Labrador Voice. One of the officers can be heard saying: “I’m just going to ask you, Sheila, what do you expect us to do? Like, what do you want us to do with the paddle? We could take pictures of where it’s at, but that’s about it. It’s not possible to test it for any fingerprints or DNA or anything like that.”
The second officer commented that a year has gone by and anyone could have put that paddle there.
"There is no relationship with the RCMP. If there was a relationship with the RCMP, I would say it’s a very negative one.” — Sheila Cooper
According to Cooper, two officers came and took pictures of the paddle after she called a dispatcher in St. John’s, but they didn’t take it with them. She now has the paddle and says after taking a closer look, she’s not convinced it is Luke’s.
The morning Luke went missing, his canoe was found nearly five hours later near One Tree Island. She said the family had to press the RCMP to treat it as potential evidence.
“There were brown spots in the canoe, and we thought it could be blood,” she said.
When it started raining that night, Cooper said she pleaded with the RCMP to collect the canoe before any potential evidence was washed away. They did, and the family was told the brown spots were paint and not blood. The canoe was returned to the family.