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Frozen in Time – Marianne Schuett’s memory kept alive in Kilbride

February 2023

The unincorporated Village of Kilbride, is now a tranquil residential community, found in the rural north end of Burlington, Ontario. Founded in 1854, it was named after a town in County Wicklow Ireland.

Like most small towns, where everyone felt safe and knew everyone else, little of any consequence happened in Kilbride. All that changed on 27 April 1967, 10-year-old Marianne Schuett was abducted from the village, while walking the five-minute walk from her school to her home at 2291 Kilbride Street. She was never seen again.

A massive search by police, volunteers and members of local militia regiments was launched. It was one of the largest in Ontario’s history, with an estimated 18,000 people involved.

To this day, despite repeated searches over the years since, no trace of Marianne has ever been found. Only a single blue running shoe was ever found, near the Village of Speyside, around 14 miles to the north-east of Kilbride, the day after she vanished. Her seemingly random abduction terrified the residents of the village, shattering the safety they’d felt for generations.

Witnesses who came forward, told police that they had seen her talking to a man in a dark-model European vehicle facing east, not far from the school exit. One of the witnesses, a teacher at Kilbride Public School, told police that she had seen Marianne walk around to the passenger side of the door of this same vehicle and get in. The driver then drove east, past Marianne’s home, without stopping. Artist renditions of both the man and vehicle were produced and circulated, with police believing that the vehicle was most likely a Renault.

It wasn’t until 1972, when a suspect was brought to police attention after he attempted to abduct a 14-year-old girl from Burlington, but nothing came of this information.

As described in an article published in The Hamilton Spectator on 16 February 1991, the suspect, described only as Mr. X, had purchased a 1967 Renault three days before Marianne went missing, one of only three such vehicles in Ontario at the time.

The Spectator further reported, “police received new information that Mr. X had repeatedly sexually assaulted two young girls over a seven-year period.”

Frustratingly, police would never get a chance to question or arrest Mr. X, as he committed suicide the month prior to The Spectator article being published. A suicide note was found, but it made no reference to Marianne, or more importantly, if Mr. X had any knowledge of what happened to her and where her remains could be found. He was married with children and seemingly living a double life.

The Schuett family had only lived in Kilbride for two years, having moved to the village from Hespeler in 1965, but her memory lives on in the minds and hearts of the residents.

In many ways, her disappearance continues to haunt the village. The mood in Kilbride changed after Marianne’s disappearance, with the feeling of safety and innocence of the village forever shattered. Life goes on, however.

Naturally, there exists suspicion of a connection with other unsolved cases of missing and murdered young girls in southern Ontario in the late 1950s and 1960s. Noreen Anne Greenley, 13-year-old who disappeared from Bowmanville on 14 September 1963, and 12-year-old Lynn Harper, who was abducted near the now-closed Royal Canadian Air Force Station Clinton on 9 June 1959. Harper’s body was found two days later. Her classmate, 14-year-old Steven Truscott was convicted of her murder and imprisoned for ten years, before being released on parole.

Truscott was formally acquitted of the charges on 28 August 2007, by the Ontario Court of Appeal, after having lived in anonymity for four decades, thereby officially throwing Harper’s murder back into the unsolved category.

Memorial bench dedicated

On 2 October 2021, almost 55 years after Marianne vanished, a black iron memorial bench was placed at the corner of Kilbride and Panton Streets, in front of the Kilbride Public School property, near where she was last seen. Dedicated to the memory of Marianne Schuett, it was formally unveiled at a private ceremony lead by Helen Callaway of the Kilbride History Group, who noted it was a long time in coming.

The cost of the bench and the memorial plaque attached to it was covered through funds raised by the Kilbride History Group and numerous community donors, including Marianne’s brothers, Dave and Steve Schuett.

This bench, like the photos, will age with the passage of time, unlike Marianne, who will always be a 10-yer-old girl. It will also keep Marianne’s memory alive.

The search for Marianne continues to this day

Several searches have been organized over the five decades since she vanished. A renewed search for Marianne in September 2021, brought forward many people who had either been involved in the original search, or who were children at the time of her abduction and clearly remembered the desperate search for the missing girl.

The most recent searches have been led by two retired police investigators, Linda Gillis Davidson (retired RCMP Inspector), and Gord Collins (formerly a forensic detective with Peel Regional Police), who have brought the search for Marianne Schuett back to the headlines. Amongst the volunteer searchers was Steve Schuett, who was just six-years-old when his big sister went missing, and Bev Mehlenbacher (nee Jackson), a schoolmate of Marianne, who still lives in Kilbride.

So far, the search hasn’t come up any conclusive answers, with “…no remains found. Soil samples taken from an area where canines indicated the human odour of decomposition. No fragments that can be positively attributed to Marianne Schuett were found,” advised Linda Gillis Davidson. “Fact is, human putrification was found and marked for soil samples which is hoped contains DNA. Who the DNA belongs to is another part of the investigation to be followed up on. We hope due to evidence, that it is where she was secreted.”

Sadly, both of Marianne’s parents have since passed away. Her father, Milton Schuett, passed away in 1999, and mother Ethel on 1 February 2022, never knowing what happened to their daughter. In addition to younger brother Steve, Marianne’s older brother, David, who was fifteen when his sister went missing, continue to hold out hope that they can finally find their long-lost sister.


Also read:

Case not closed: The enduring tragedy of the Harper – Truscott murder case – Canadian Military History (militarybruce.com)


Sources: https://www.insidehalton.com/news-story/10491442–never-be-forgotten-bench-in-burlington-dedicated-to-girl-missing-for-over-50-years, https://www.insidehalton.com/news-story/10475649–i-never-forgot-that-little-face-forensic-dig-underway-in-hunt-for-rural-burlington-girl-missing-since-1967, https://www.mississauga.com/news-story/9209395-ontario-cold-case-parents-beg-abductor-to-phone-or-write-us-after-daughter-disappears/?fbclid=IwAR3P2rJF51NSCc9k9I8ONQ1Nc9AL9LoqLPooMVcZUFZpNPwlFXddJfSDgo0, William Panton – Kilbride History Group, 161 Years in Kilbride – Kilbride History Group, What happened to Marianne Schuett? | TheSpec.com, What really happened to Marianne Schuett? (insidehalton.com), Hunt for Halton’s Marianne Schuett yields human remains – The South Bayview Bulldog (bayview-news.com).

About the author

Bruce Forsyth

Bruce Forsyth served in the Royal Canadian Navy Reserve for 13 years (1987-2000). He served with units in Toronto, Hamilton & Windsor and worked or trained at CFB Esquimalt, CFB Halifax, CFB Petawawa, CFB Kingston, CFB Toronto, Camp Borden, The Burwash Training Area and LFCA Training Centre Meaford.

Permanent link to this article: https://militarybruce.com/frozen-in-time-marianne-schuetts-memory-kept-alive-in-kilbride/

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