Search for missing girl’s body takes on renewed vigour

Infatuation with TV show and search for old sets leads to hope for family in 56-year-old missing person case

Clayton Self and Dave Johnson place a marker at a hotspot in search for girl’s body

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ENNISKILLEN – Clayton Self’s usual hobby is tracking down lost and derelict TV and movie sets and abandoned, forgotten cemeteries in rural Ontario.

“I can find anything and anyone. And fast. Just have to take control and do it.”

But he’s recently taken on a new challenge which could help bring closure to a Bowmanville family which has been searching for an abducted daughter/sister/aunt since 1963.

The search for Noreen Anne Greenley, a 13-year-old abducted from a Bowmanille bus stop, has eluded authorities for 56 years and is Durham Region’s oldest missing person’s case.

Self says he has two things going for him: he knows how to do a search. And if he can’t find something, he knows someone who can.

So picture this: You’re at the busy corner of Regional Road 57 and the Eighth Concession, north of Bowmanville on a spectacularly perfect Autumn Sunday morning. Cars whizz by, barely noticing six people poking through weeds on an overgrown old road. Almost invisible are four plastic flowers affixed to trees set well back from the highway; tributes placed there by the Greenley family for Noreen.

What started as an obsession with watching the Forest Rangers show as a kid morphed into an infatuation with finding the sets for Clayton Self

And for a second consecutive Sunday morning, Dave Henderson’s Garrett metal detector is scanning this former road construction site. He conducts a grid, and after more than an hour pauses, exclaiming that he’s found his biggest hit yet. That’s his biggest hit ever.

Henderson and partner Helen Majer are here at the request of Self who was recently invited to join the Greenley family’s ‘Back To September 14th 1963, when Noreen Anne Greenley Disappeared,” Facebook page’.

What makes the search so poignant is that for three years, the family is certain they’ve found the general vicinity of Noreen’s body, believed hidden in the trunk of a 1959 Ford Prefect by a man who was a construction worker here during road rerouting in 1963 and whose son came forward to police and Crime Stoppers after overhearing his confession of faith.

A subsequent dig by the OPP turned up nothing.

But the family is convinced the OPP were within meters of the car.

Enter Self.

“It all stems back to an old TV show called The Forest Rangers,” Self says. What started as an obsession with watching the show as a kid morphed into an infatuation with finding the sets. Since the show was mostly filmed in the Kleinberg area, Self began by tracking down the farms and Muskoka fire towers where filming took place. His efforts are the basis of a website which has connected him with other aficionados. It’s grown to the point where he and other fans have reunions and help each other find sets of interest. Once during a site visit a youngster picked up a piece of debris. After cleaning it off, the name Chubb was found engraved on a jackknife. Self said he’s confirmed that character lost a knife on set in 1964.

An interest in Ontario’s abandoned places and ghost town groups has followed.

Self uses old aerial photos and maps and overlays them with new. Some he accesses though McGill University – available for Ontario but not Quebec, he told Ontario Farmer. Others he accesses through University of Toronto.

Additionally, when he’s searching for people, he accesses a whole series of obscure and known sources including the Belden atlases of Ontario, Vernon Directories (which name all males over the age of 18 at a residence, and where they work) and census records.

“You just have to know what search words to use,” he says. Use the right words and 50 per cent of the time something will pop up.

He’s found sets for The Littlest Hobo TV series; many around Courtice where he now lives and sites for many movies including Deranged, a 1974 horror flick starring Robert Blossom.

Self is also credited with finding the lost Arnold Cemetery; explaining this kind of work is best done in the spring when vegetation and biting insects aren’t an issue.

He tramps through old pioneer homesteads and can figure out what was where on the property; knows where to look by observing vegetation growth and he credits friend Greg with using the shadows on old aerial photos to help identify directions. And he contacts people still living to hear their recollections.

He’s frustrated that “ancient native sites,” even at Courtice, are being paved over for development.

As Self talks, Johnson painstakingly wades through tall weeds, continuing the grid on a peninsula of land north of the corner of RR 57 and Concession 8. This road is now a thoroughfare from Bowmanville to the Kawartha Lakes and the former roadbed was sold as a residential lot. It is this area which ‘The Tipster’, identified as the location of the car, to family.

Self says what he can’t find, he generally knows someone who can. Hence today’s trip to the road site with friends Johnson and Helen Majer and their Garrett metal detector.

Johnson explains he’s turned off all the settings except for the one which detects ferrous metal “because it would just go crazy here.”

He pauses and says he’s found something small which is throwing the detector. Helen digs and comes up with a small brass-like nub which could be a bullet casing. Later when she’s cleaned it up she’ll declare it to be a rivet imprinted with letters WCE and further investigation will reveal that among other uses, it was indeed used in the construction of a Ford Prefect car.

The declaration will send the 1,000 followers of ‘Back to Sept. 14, 1963,’ into an optimistic online uproar. Soon a flurry of emails will be sent off to all manner of municipal and regional staff and within a week the Greenley family will hear that finally, their pleas for a second site excavation have reached the ears of regional government which owns the property.

Then two hours into this trip Johnson will announce he’s hit the big one. Located between two mature maples the debris field is about the size of a car. Standing on the old roadbed it appears to be aligned to the line a bulldozer might have taken if it were dumping something off the side off the road. Self marks the location which lies ‘smack dab’ centered to the plastic flowers the family fixed to trees here; heart-broken when that first search came up empty. He declares it “Hot spot #1.”

“We begged them to do that area before,” family member Kelly Greenley will tell the group.

Co-inciding with Self’s search, Nick Oldrieve and the ‘Bring Me Home,’ crew based in Owen Sound have become aware of the Greenley case. Oldrieve says he’s in conversation with officials to do a dig, and after this visit requests that people stay away, out of respect for the process.

“The work that has been done in the last few weeks has been nothing short of phenomenal but we must respect the laws at this point,” he writes “It truly is inspiring to see what people are capable of when their heads are put together.”

Will Noreen’s body be located?

The chances are that authorities led by Oldrieve may at least get a chance to look.

“Clayton Self, I can neither confirm nor deny that what you did was or was not necessary in order to get a much closer look. This may or may not have assisted us to start a dialogue with law enforcement which may or may not finally help us get permission for the family to get back in that area. So….again maybe or maybe not…thank you,” Oldrieve said.

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