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P.I. hunting down witness in Shaganash disappearance (VIDEO)

'It appears he's intentionally avoiding communication, potentially influenced by his mother's recent health concerns,' says private investigator hired by woman's family
This screenshot from a surveillance video obtained by BarrieToday shows a man who was with Autumn Shaganash shortly before she disappeared in Barrie on June 10, 2023. He is carrying a backpack with his right arm, and with his left arm what appears to be one of a pair of skis. It has been reported that Shaganash and the man were discarding the skis.

A private investigator hired by Autumn Shaganash’s family is chasing down leads and hopes to speak to a witness — the last person known to have seen her — as he continues his sleuth work into her sudden disappearance last summer.

It has been 10 months since the 26-year-old woman "vanished into this air," according to one Barrie police official.

City police have said there has been no activity on her social media.

Her family has also said there has been no banking activity recorded anywhere and no health card records generated by any kind of medical visits.

Her family has since hired Present Truth Investigations to work independently of local police in an attempt to find her.

Derwin Johnson, president of Present Truth Investigations, initially met with Shaganash’s sister, Lili-Anne Moore, on Jan. 23. He had also discussed the missing-person case with BarrieToday on Jan. 26.

Barrie police have released several photos of Autumn Shaganash in hopes of finding the missing woman. She has been missing since June 2023. | BarrieToday files

“In terms of recent updates, there hasn’t been any noteworthy advancement to share at this point,” Johnson said in an email to BarrieToday.

He said his company remains actively engaged in the investigation and is doing the best it can with the available funding.

One aspect of its investigation revolves around a man Shaganash was last seen walking with while on her way to the city waterfront to watch the Barrie Airshow on June 10, 2023 — two days before she was reported missing to police by her family.

Johnson said his company’s attempts to speak to the man who was with Shaganash have so far been unsuccessful.

“It appears he’s intentionally avoiding communication, potentially influenced by his mother’s recent health concerns,” Johnson said.

“Additionally, we’ve been informed that he utilizes pay-as-you-go cellphones and frequently changes his number, which complicates our efforts further," he added. "Nonetheless, we’re steadfast in our commitment to eventually establish contact with him.”

When asked by BarrieToday about the man in question and his relationship to Shaganash, police declined to comment, citing the ongoing and active investigation.

In cropped surveillance video obtained by BarrieToday, which was recorded on the morning of June 10, 2023, and with a timestamp showing 10:02 a.m., the pair can be seen walking on the sidewalk of a street, each carrying what appear to be skis. The man is walking ahead of Shaganash and is also carrying a dark-coloured backpack.

Johnson said they were supposedly discarding the skis. No additional information about the video was offered, however.

Earlier this week, Barrie police officials announced they had partnered with an advertising company to post signs on Barrie Transit buses and local billboards in an effort to locate Shaganash.

In what is being called an investigative first for Barrie police, which began on April 1 and continues for the entire month, five Barrie Transit buses are carrying the message to “all corners of the city,” reminding residents and transit riders the investigation into Shaganash’s disappearance remains active and ongoing.

City police say they are using all available means to reunite her with her family.

In addition to the buses, four digital billboards in Barrie will carry a message police hope will generate tips from the public that could bring resolution to the investigation, which has “stymied detectives” for months, police say.

On Feb. 8, Police Chief Rich Johnston announced on behalf of the Barrie Police Services Board that a $50,000 reward had been approved for information confirming her whereabouts.

Anyone with information is asked to call the Barrie police major crime unit at 705-725-7025, ext. 2160.

Timeline of events

  • June 9, 2023: In the evening hours, Autumn Shaganash leaves her sister’s home in the Allandale neighbourhood, near Burton Avenue and Frank’s Way. She was wearing a black hoodie, shorts and Puma sandals. She was also carrying a black and tan purse.
  • June 10, 2023: Between 9:30 a.m and 9:45 a.m., Shaganash’s sister receives a text message asking to be picked up. Only three minutes had passed when her sister tried to respond to the message. But Shaganash’s phone went to voicemail and appeared to have been turned off, according to police. (In January 2024, the private investigator hired by the family noted that, in an effort to unearth potential clues, he had gained access to her “digital footprint” and discovered a message sent in the early-morning hours of June 10, which “alluded to her presence at an unspecified location.”)
  • June 10, 2023: Police say Shaganash was making her way to the city waterfront to watch the Barrie Airshow with a male friend who was walking ahead of her when she vanished. At the same time, an ALS fundraising event was taking place in Sunnidale Park. She was seen in the Kozlov Street area near Sunnidale Park, and in the Sunnidale Road and Letitia Street area between 10 a.m. and noon. Police have said they have video evidence of this.
  • June 12, 2023: A missing-person investigation is launched after local police are notified of Shaganash's disappearance. Sunnidale Park was subsequently searched numerous times using police drones and canine teams, but to no avail. Police had also searched downtown Toronto, without any positive results.
  • June 21, 2023: Police are asked if the case is being treated as an abduction or possibly linked to human trafficking. “There is no evidence that human trafficking is involved, but we obviously are going to look at every possible angle here,” says a police official. “There has been no confirmation that she is being held against her will.”
  • June 27, 2023: Barrie police make a public appeal to people who were in attendance at the ALS fundraiser for potential photographic/video evidence that could help in the investigation.
  • Aug. 2, 2023: Investigators release new photos in hopes of jogging people’s memories and generating new leads in the search for Shaganash.
  • Sept. 19, 2023: Shaganash’s 27th birthday.
  • Nov. 14, 2023: Shaganash’s sister pleads with the public for information. “We really miss her. It’s been too long,” she says.
  • Jan. 23, 2024: Shaganash’s family announces they have hired a private investigator, Derwin Johnson, of Toronto-based Present Truth Investigations.
  • Jan. 27, 2024: The private investigator tells BarrieToday the family has provided evidence to him that they had obtained independent of the police investigation. This includes video surveillance footage from a residential home showing Shaganash walking with the male friend, mentioned above, but the family has also acquired additional video that “they are kind of holding close to their chest,” Johnson says. “They’ve shared (it) with us and we are analyzing that video now.”
  • Feb. 8, 2024: Almost eight months after Shaganash was reported missing, Barrie police hold a news conference to announce a $50,000 reward for information that helps locate the missing woman. During the question-and-answer period with reporters, police say they have had “numerous” leads.
  • April 9, 2024: Barrie police announce they have partnered with an advertising company to post signs on Barrie Transit buses and billboards around the city in an effort to locate her.