Jonathan Jetté and Rachel Bagnall - Strange Disappearances from the Canadian Wilderness

Jonathan Jetté and Rachel Bagnall disappearance

Rachel  Bangall was a 25 year old physician and she was going to Columbia to do volunteer work. Her boyfriend Jonathan Jetté, 34,  worked for the government in Quebec as an Attaché.

On Saturday, September 4, 2010 Rachael and Jonathan left Vancouver early, before 7 a.m. for three days of hiking at Valentine Lake (Saxifrage Mountain and Cassiope Peak) near Pemberton in British Columbia, Canada. They stopped at Tim Horton's in Squamish for a coffee and a hot chocolate at 7:42 a.m. on September 4th according to a bank card statement. Then on through Whistler, Pemberton and towards Birken. On Monday, September 6th, 2010, Labor Day weekend, they were supposed to come back as this was the couple's last few days together before Rachael moved abroad.  

Valentine Lake British Columbia

Jetté parked his car at the Spetch Creek Forest Service Road and from there it was about a five-hour hike to the heart-shaped Valentine Lake, under the peaks of the Saxifrage and Cassiope Mountains. 

On September 8th, Rachel's sister, Elizabeth, notified the authorities, when she became concerned she hadn't heard from her.

Lake Valentine, BC, Pemberton

Up to 50 searchers a day searched the area around Valentine Lake and its surrounding peaks led by Sgt Steve LeClair, including police and SAR workers from around the province. There are rolling alpine meadows next to Valentine Lake, steep mountainous routes in the high alpine, complete with crevasses, which require crampons and ice picks to explore and there is dense, wooded lower mountains with hidden vertical cliff bands and overgrown bush.

Police quickly found Jonathan's car, a four door Toyota Echo, parked 1.2 km up the Specht Creek Forest Service Road. The empty cups from the Tim Horton's coffee stop were found in the car as well as a cell phone. Records show Jonathan made no calls after September 3rd. The area around their vehicle was searched, but nothing unexpected was found.

Jonathan Jetté and Rachel Bagnall car

The RCMP climbing team went in by helicopter, set some fixed line and repelled down to search the area below the tree line. At the same time dog teams searched the whole area including cadaver dogs. The official search was called off in October, more than a month after the couple were reported missing. There was snow on the ground at that time.

A few months later in December another witness in Mount Currie reported some unusual bird activity in the area while chopping firewood. After the long wait for the snow to clear, police met the witness on the ground and, in coordination with a helicopter, GPS'ed the area of the activity. It was then searched with teams. Again, nothing.

Seven years on and nothing of the couple has ever been found despite extensive searches every year by family members, friends, SAR teams and even paid professional paid mountain guides. Professional climbers like John Furneaux who has been to Mount Everest three times, were hired by the Jetté family and searched crevasses and other technical, hard-to-reach areas. Despite searching an area of 175 square kilometres, nothing came up. No equipment has ever been recovered, in fact not a trace of them ever being in the area apart from the abandoned car. It's a case that has perplexed seasoned searchers as almost always the people are found alive or the bodies are recovered. 

Lake valentine map British Columbia

A few new pieces of evidence, like some nail clippers, were found and sent off to the lab for DNA testing and an old fire pit near the Peq Creek area, which flows into the Mount Currie new site, was also discovered. They found a pair of women's sunglasses near Valentine Lake. A lead that could put Rachael at the lake at some point? But another hiker contacted the police, described the sunglasses in detail as a pair she lost while hiking in the area. Search experts from Parks Canada were called in to do a comprehensive overview of the search efforts to date to make sure nothing was missed. But these leads led nowhere.

Helicopter search

They were equipped for doing a scramble as opposed to doing any kind of technical ropework. They did not pack a map, compass or GPS. It's possible to get off track on the walk into Valentine Lake where the pathway veers sharply uphill and to the left, but the natural inclination is to continue on. That way would have led to cliffs but it would have been possible to turn around at any time.

Eventually they would have found some form of civilisation. The Duffy Lake Road runs along the eastern side of the area, the road to Birken is on the west, Cirque Mountain borders the north and the south eventually comes down to the Mount Currie new site.

LeClaire, the lead investigator said "When you ask me what my thoughts on this are, it's a catastrophic slip and fall accident, either below tree line where we have not been able to find them or they've gone into a crevasse somewhere in the alpine area."

With no physical evidence it has been speculated that they may have walked over a cliff, buried in a rock slide, were attacked by bears or other wild life  or met with foul play by someone or something sinister in the area. Some even believe that despite the car being in the area, they were abducted as the cell phone was left behind.