Sheila Cooper spent July 4 putting up posters around central Labrador. The posters showed a picture of her brother, Luke Cooper, with the word MISSING printed in red ink at the top.
It’s been almost a year since Luke Cooper vanished from his hometown of North West River. For the Cooper family, it has been a year or heartache and mystery.
“The past year has been every single day trying to figure the mystery out,” said Sheila. “Trying to find the missing pieces for the time gap. It’s like constant turmoil, and even feeling angry sometimes.”
“You go through all the emotions; the anger, the sadness, and everyday it’s on your mind.”
According to the RCMP, Luke Cooper and a woman went canoeing in the waters between North West River and Sheshatshiu in the early morning hours of July 15, 2018. After the canoe capsized, the woman was able to make it to shore, but Luke hasn’t been seen since.
To this day, Sheila and her family are frustrated and perplexed by a time gap from when Luke was believed to have fallen out of the canoe and when police were notified. According to an RCMP press release back in July, Luke and the other woman went out in canoe “around 5:00 a.m. (on July 15) when it capsized.” In the same press release the RCMP say they weren’t notified of the incident until 6:30 am, an hour and a half later.
In a follow-up question related to this time discrepancy, an RCMP spokesperson told The Labrador Voice in an email that “The investigation shows that the other person in the canoe alerted other individuals after making it ashore, and initial search efforts were undertaken by these individuals prior to police being called.”
On the weekend of July 13-14, the Cooper family are asking the people of central Labrador to gather, once again, to help search for Luke’s body.
Last year, countless people volunteered throughout the summer to search the waters. This year, the Cooper family is hoping to search the land and the lake for Luke.
Over the past year, Sheila and her family have received tips from the public; people claiming to have heard that Luke met with foul play and knowing where his body might be. Some said Luke could be found underneath the ground, others have said he is somewhere in the water.
It has been difficult for the family to try and figure out which leads may have some truth, and which ones are based on gossip or nonsense.
“It’s like a big uplift, then it’s like a kick in the guts,” said Sheila.
“You get so many that are useless, from people who are just hearing gossip, that when you do hear something, you’re skeptical. Even when you hear (the same story) multiple times, you’re still skeptical.”
As of right now, The RCMP says they do not suspect foul play in Luke's disappearance.
“At this point in the investigation, foul play is not suspected,” said a spokesperson in an email. “The investigation is ongoing and new information continues to be assessed and investigated as it is received.”
Sheila says all tips are passed on to the RCMP, and sometimes the family investigates themselves.
“We just plan out a search ourselves. And sometimes we do search for ourselves. Ann (Cooper) and I have already been to one area ourselves, but it’s a vast area. So, it would be good if it was more than us searching. At the same time, we’ll still go and search.”
An RCMP spokesperson said the law enforcement agency does not plan to do any further searches at this time.