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Madison Scott’s disappearance haunted Vanderhoof for 12 years. Now, the community is grappling with her death

Madison Scott’s face is everywhere you turn at Vanderhoof. It is plastered on billboards every few kilometers along the highway into town. It’s on store windows and truck bumper stickers and is magnified on the side of a building.

He was last seen in his 20s, the posters say. He was five feet four inches tall, with shoulder-length ginger hair, a piercing in his left nostril, and the outline of a bird on the inside of his left wrist.

Over the past decade, these posters and billboards have been put up in the hope that Scott might one day be found alive, able to return home to B.C.

A billboard along the highway reads: Maddy Scott Poker Ride.  Walking, quadruped or horseback.  Saturday, May 27, 2023.  Along the bottom: 250-567-0923.
A billboard advertises the annual Madison Scott Search in Vanderhoof, BC. Days after this year’s event, the RCMP announced the discovery of Scott’s remains. (Andrew Kurjata/CBC)

But now friends and family and even people who have never met him face a new reality. On May 29, nearly 12 years to the day since Scott was first reported missing, the RCMP announced they had found “Maddie’s” remains. The cause of death has not been released, but police say foul play has not been ruled out and a team of investigators is searching a rural property just a few kilometers from the campsite where Scott was last seen alive.

“It’s really a state of shock,” said Mayor Kevin Mutray, speaking to CBC News in council chambers the day after the news broke. Outside, the city hall flag was lowered to half-mast, a sign of the impact this young woman’s death has had on the community.

“We are grieving,” Mutrei says. “The community as a whole is taking a step back [and] Thinking of Maddie.’

What happened to Madison Scott?

The district of Vanderhoof has a population of approximately 4,300 and considers itself to be in the geographic center of the province, 100 kilometers west of Prince George and 800 kilometers north of Vancouver.

It hosts an international air show in the summer, is home to a sturgeon rehabilitation center and a bird sanctuary, where hundreds of migrating geese and swans pass through in the spring. But for countless people around the world, it is home to the mystery of what happened to Madison Scott.

A man wearing a hat that says Nechako Valley Search and Rescue on the back looks out over a tree-lined lake.
Nechaco Valley Search and Rescue Chief Chris Mushumanski has made numerous visits to Hogsback Lake, Madison Scott’s last known location. (Andrew Kurjata/CBC)

“This story … defined Vanderhoof’s last decade,” said Chris Mushumanski, a search and rescue volunteer who helped lead the effort to find Scott 12 years ago. Her disappearance has been covered in numerous true crime podcasts, investigative documentaries on US network television, and through word of mouth campaigns, such as when a group of her friends left for the Gray Cup tournament in Vancouver hand out 6,000 flyers asking for clues.

The main outline of the story is as follows. Scott was last seen in 2011. at 3 a.m. on May 28 while celebrating a friend’s birthday at Hogsback Lake, a group campground about 16 miles southeast of the city, known by locals.

He was texting his parents at the party, but they couldn’t reach him the next day. He was reported missing on May 29 when his tent and truck were found abandoned in the camp, and an extensive air, land and water search was conducted to no avail.

Hogsback Lake, southwest of Vanderhoof, is where Madison Scott was last seen alive. Police are now searching a rural property near the camp in connection with the discovery of his remains.

Besides his iPhone, Mushumanski recalls, the only other personal items he was believed to have with him were fingernails, which would have been difficult to get through the thick brush surrounding the area. Both police and family say it was unusual for her to be out of touch with loved ones, and her disappearance has been treated as suspicious.

Hope for justice

Scott’s search also took place during a particularly dark time for the region; Vanderhoof is located along Highway 16 between Prince George and Prince Rupert, a stretch of road known to many as the road. Highway of tears Because of the number of women and girls, mostly natives, who disappeared or were killed along it, including several around the same time as Scott. And in 2014 it would be confirmed that it is A serial killer has been operating in the areakilling at least four women within two years of Scott’s disappearance.

“There was a lot of anxiety,” Mushumansky recalls.

A police car is parked in a field in the distance.
RCMP vehicle on rural property outside of Vanderhoof. Police will spend several days searching the location they say is linked to the discovery of Madison Scott’s remains. (Andrew Kurjata/CBC)

Beyond that, he was well-known in the community, described as vivacious and caring, with a talent for filmmaking and photography, as well as riding horses and playing hockey.

But despite a massive campaign to find Scott, which included a $100,000 reward and a year-long search of the wilderness surrounding his last known location, there have been few developments so far.

“No one predicted this,” Mushumanski said, adding that he had to read the RCMP news release several times before it sunk in that Scott’s remains were found.

“12 years… you had hope. And to see it extinguished now is devastating.”

Still waiting for answers

In a statement, RCMP said the family is asking for privacy as the investigation continues.

On Website MadisonScott.cawhich for years was run by one of Scott’s friends as a search information center, said in an update late Monday. really absent from our lives.”

WATCH |: Community mourns Madison Scott’s death.

Vanderhoof mourns Madison Scott

The discovery of the remains of a young woman who disappeared 12 years ago in northern BC has shocked the small town of Vanderhoof. Twenty-year-old Madison Scott went missing from a remote camp, but the search continues today. Betsy Trumpner spoke to the community.

Mushumanski says that for many, including himself, the discovery of Scott’s remains has reopened old hurts from both Scott’s disappearance and other unresolved losses in the region. But he’s also optimistic that this latest break in the case may finally provide some answers to a mystery that has haunted his community for years.

It’s a sentiment echoed by Mayor Kevin Mutray, but for now he’s asking people both in his community and beyond to be patient while police do their job.

“We have been waiting for answers for 12 years,” he says. “We can wait a little longer.”

The poster, which features a smiling woman, has Missing written in red above the photo and $100,000 below.
A Madison Scott poster in Vanderhoof, BC, out of business, advertises a $100,000 reward. (Andrew Kurjata/CBC)

The flag is at half-mast outside the City Hall office, framed by a bright blue sky dotted with fluffy clouds.
A city hall flag flies outside the Vanderhoof County offices to mourn the death of Madison Scott. (Andrew Kurjata/CBC)

A poster attached to the outside of the business advertises a Madison Scott poker walk.
A poster promoting the annual search for Madison Scott in Vanderhoof, BC. Days after this year’s walk, the RCMP would announce the discovery of his remains. (Andrew Kurjata/CBC)

Missing Madison Scott poster next to a street sign that reads Hogsback Lake Rd.
Madison Scott was last seen in Hogsbeck Lake, southwest of Vanderhoof, B.C. (Andrew Kurjata/CBC)

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