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How a volunteer search group brought closure to the family of missing woman Melissa McDevitt

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It’s a story of perseverance and dedication: A small group of volunteers who formed an unbreakable bond, spending countless hours away from their own loved ones to bring closure to the family of Melissa McDevitt, a family thousands of kilometres away in another country.

“We got involved after the snow had started to melt significantly in February,” said Marsha van Rhyn Henderson, a volunteer searcher with the group Finding Melissa.

She is part of a small group of five original searchers that has spent the last nine months trying to find McDevitt.

“We just had to get out there,” said van Rhyn Henderson.

The 39-year old McDevitt last spoke with her family on Dec. 8 of last year. On surveillance video captured Dec. 9, she was seen on heading out for a hike in the vast network of trails in the Sooke hills.

When she failed catch a flight from Vancouver to the U.S. the next day, an extensive search ensued. Her father flew out from North Carolina to assist, but the effort was unsuccessful.

“We began by going out once or twice a week,” said van Rhyn Henderson, adding that Finding Melissa started as a small group of two or three.

By the summer, the group would often grow to between five and 10 volunteers, searching three to four times a week.

“We’ve spent hundreds of hours,” said van Rhyn Henderson.

“This is a very tough place to navigate if you ever get off trail,” said Clive Webber, another searcher, who became involved with the group in late April.

“I thought I might be able to add a little bit of technological experience and abilities,” he said.

With thousands of kilometres of trails to potentially search, Webber began creating a map from GPS tracking data on searchers phones.

“It would give us a better idea of where we’ve been and where we haven’t been,” said Webber.

On Tuesday, all that hard work finally paid off.

After hundreds of hours of searching, covering thousands of kilometres of trails, the remains of Melissa McDevitt were found.

“As almost unthinkable as the task ahead of us was, we did keep the perspective that we had a 100-per-cent greater chance of finding her if we were looking,” said van Rhyn Henderson.

After an entire year, the find finally brought closure to the family of Melissa McDevitt.

“We are just glad it’s done,” said van Rhyn Henderson.

“I’m very happy that I could help and I think all of us would feel the same way,” said Webber.  

Marsha van Ryhn Henderson and Clive Webber were members of the volunteer search group Finding Melissa. (CTV)

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