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This article was published 28/8/2019 (660 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The same day the RCMP announced it is searching for army reservist Patrik Mathews, who was reported missing by his family Monday, the Free Press learned an account belonging to him appears to have recently resurfaced on a social media platform popular with far-right extremists.
Mathews, 26, was last seen by his family in Beausejour Saturday evening, five days after the Free Press exposed him as the man behind a recent recruitment drive for a neo-Nazi group in Winnipeg.
"(His disappearance) could be happening for a number of reasons and none of them are really any good," said an acquaintance of Mathews, whom the Free Press has agreed not to identify.
"There are a lot of people who are still hoping he can turn this around."
As a result of his disappearance, his family and friends are concerned for his safety and well-being. They have reportedly gone to his Beausejour home hoping to find him or see his truck parked outside, and have been unable to reach him on his cellphone.
In a written statement Wednesday, the RCMP said its attempts to contact Mathews have also been unsuccessful.
Experts on extremism say The Base — which was founded in the United States in 2018 and is actively recruiting in Canada and Europe — represents the most violent, radical fringes of the far-right hate movement.
An account under Mathews’ full name on the social media platform Gab — a website popular with right-wing extremists due to its policy on free expression — appears to have been reactivated within the past week, according to a source who tracks such groups.
The source said as recently as last week, a search for Mathews' name turned up nothing on the site, but as of Tuesday his account — created in November 2017 — surfaced again, suggesting it was recently reactivated.
In addition to the account being listed under his full legal name, the handle associated with it — similar to what one would see on Twitter — is "@Arctorum," which is part of the pseudonym Mathews was using in The Base.
The acquaintance who spoke to the Free Press said friends and family have tried to rally around Mathews and offer support since he was publicly outed as a neo-Nazi.
"Everyone is stressed out about this. We’ve just been trying to make the best out of a bad situation. We’ve been trying to keep an eye on him, working with him a little bit. Everyone wants the best outcome here," he said.
"His opinions are extreme. They’re outlandish and I don’t support them. But he hasn’t hurt anyone. I think that point should be made, because it hasn’t been said yet."
The RCMP said they are handling Mathews' disappearance as an active missing-persons case. He has not been charged with a crime, there are no warrants for his arrest and no charges pending against him, the Mounties said.
There are now two distinct RCMP investigations: one into Mathews' disappearance, the other into his membership in a neo-Nazi paramilitary organization. The Canadian Armed Forces is also investigating his links to the hate group.
Earlier this week, the Forces confirmed it had stripped Mathews — a combat engineer with the rank of master corporal — of his uniforms and relieved him of his duties, and would formally release him from the military within weeks.
On Wednesday afternoon, the Forces released a written statement acknowledging Mathews' disappearance and stressing he does not possess any military weapons.
"As MCpl Mathews is in the process of releasing from the Canadian Armed Forces, he has returned his military equipment. This includes all field training equipment such as his rucksack, sleeping equipment, load-bearing vest, canteen camouflage uniforms, cold weather gear, etc.," the military said.
"As this is a civilian police matter, the CAF is not currently assisting with the RCMP’s search. However, we will fully co-operate with the RCMP’s investigation in any way we can, and we hope for the safe return of MCpl Mathews to his family."
Mathews was exposed as a member of The Base after a Free Press reporter went undercover to infiltrate the organization as it conducted a recruitment drive in Winnipeg.
After posters emblazoned with fascistic imagery and bearing the phrase "Save your Race, Join The Base" began popping up around the city, the reporter reached out to the group posing as a white nationalist interested in joining.
The reporter passed through a multi-tiered vetting process that included email and encrypted messaging exchanges, a voice call with the group’s founder in the U.S., and an in-person meeting with its local activist, before being invited to join.
After an initial feature article on The Base entitled "Homegrown Hate" was published Aug. 16, the Free Press named Mathews as its local recruiter in a followup story Aug. 19. Hours later, the RCMP raided Mathews' home and seized several firearms.
Mathews is described as 5-10, 180 pounds, with blue eyes and short blond hair. He was last seen clean-shaven. He is believed to be driving a red 2010 Dodge Ram 1500 SLT with Manitoba licence plate number HXJ 806.
"Family members are concerned for his well-being and are asking Patrik to contact them or the RCMP immediately," the Mounties said in a press release.
Anyone with information on his whereabouts is asked to call Beausejour RCMP at 204-268-1234.
Ryan Thorpe likes the pace of daily news, the feeling of a broadsheet in his hands and the stress of never-ending deadlines hanging over his head.