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Never-ending nightmare

The agony of not knowing what happened to Thelma Krull torments missing woman's family two years after her disappearance

JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES</p><p>A missing-person poster is taped to a pole near Kildonan East High School in the area where Thelma Krull was last seen on July 11, 2015.</p>

JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

A missing-person poster is taped to a pole near Kildonan East High School in the area where Thelma Krull was last seen on July 11, 2015.

It’s been two agonizing years for the family of Thelma Krull, as they spend every day desperately searching for answers, while also greatly fearing what those answers may be.

"Not knowing what has happened keeps this nightmare alive," said Lisa Besser of the disappearance of her mother, the grandmother to her son.

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES</p><p>“I’m brought back to that worst time of my life every time I drive past the hill where her stuff was found, or the ditches and fields we searched, or the buildings we looked in,” says Lisa Besser.</p>

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

“I’m brought back to that worst time of my life every time I drive past the hill where her stuff was found, or the ditches and fields we searched, or the buildings we looked in,” says Lisa Besser.

Tuesday marked the two-year anniversary of the disappearance of 57-year-old Winnipeg woman Krull, who went missing while out for a power walk on the morning of July 11, 2015.

"Two years is a long time and with every day I’m sure the chances of her coming home are less and less, but there is no evidence found to tell me she is not coming home, so there is no moving on," Besser said.

"There is no packing up her stuff, and there is always fear of what she could be going through if she is still somewhere.

"It’s very hard to have those ideas always in your mind."

For Besser, the nightmare is relived every time she passes the spot in Winnipeg where police believe Krull was that July morning.

SUPPLIED</p><p>Thelma Krull on a cruise with family members.</p>

SUPPLIED

Thelma Krull on a cruise with family members.

"I’m brought back to that worst time of my life every time I drive past the hill where her stuff was found, or the ditches and fields we searched, or the buildings we looked in."

Adding to the turmoil has been moments of hope, followed by moments of great despair.

"It’s the hope of finding her, and the dread of how we would find her," she said. "So many times we got our hopes up, and obviously they haven’t led to finding her yet."

Krull went missing as she was training for a hike on Vancouver Island with her older brother, Bill Therriault, later that summer.

The married 57-year-old Winnipeg woman left her home in Harbourview South and headed out for her walk while her husband Bob was asleep.

At 7:23 a.m., Krull was captured on a neighbour’s surveillance camera for 14 seconds; that footage is the last confirmed sighting of her.

'We need to know what has happened to my mom. It makes no sense why this had to happen to such a good person, to the best person I know, and why it needs to still be going on' — Lisa Besser

Winnipeg police have said they believe Krull walked from her home to Winnipeg’s Civic Park, which sits near Kildonan East Collegiate, arriving there around 8 a.m.

With her grandson’s birthday occurring the next day, Krull planned to meet her husband later that morning at Canadian Tire, and then pick up a birthday cake for her grandson.

Krull never made it to Canadian Tire, and her husband, daughter, son, grandson, and countless other loved ones have not seen or heard from her since.

On Tuesday Winnipeg police held a press conference on the two-year anniversary of Krull’s disappearance and said they have made "significant, critical progress" in the investigation.

BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES</p><p>Robert Krull (right), the son of Thelma Krull, distributes posters to members of a volunteer search party shortly after his mother went missing in 2015.</p>

BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

Robert Krull (right), the son of Thelma Krull, distributes posters to members of a volunteer search party shortly after his mother went missing in 2015.

Const. Jay Murray said police are focused on reports that came on the one-year anniversary of Krull’s disappearance about a "heavy-set male" who was reportedly seen with Krull the morning she went missing. They consider that male a "potential suspect."

"Since the one-year point, investigators have come to the conclusion she was the victim of foul play," Murray said.

The man in questions is described as heavy-set and Indigenous in appearance, with a bowl-style haircut, and approximately 5-8 and 270 pounds.

He was reportedly seen with a woman matching Krull’s description in the area of Kimberly Avenue east of Gateway Road on the morning she disappeared.

Searches of the area in 2015 eventually led to the discovery of Krull’s cellphone and her glasses.

Police say they’ve received hundreds of tips in connection with the case.

Murray added investigators might have further information to release in coming weeks, but have to be careful with what they release to the public.

SUPPLIED</p><p>Thelma Krull and her daughter, Lisa, when Lisa was a youngster.</p>

SUPPLIED

Thelma Krull and her daughter, Lisa, when Lisa was a youngster.

"The last thing we’d want to do is release any information that could compromise that investigation," he said.

He added currently the investigation into the disappearance of Krull is "far from a cold case."

Besser said she did not want to comment specifically on Tuesday’s press conference and the newly released information, but did say she appreciates the way police have worked with her and her family over the last two years, while also appreciating their honestly and candor.

"They have kept us abreast of different investigations, but tell us each time there is no certainty that path will find us that final answer, and that it may be a very long process," she said.

"The investigators who work the case tell me they pray that one day they can put an end to all of this, and be able to provide us the answers we need."

The two-year anniversary may have brought the story of the Krull investigation back into the public eye, but for Besser she is forced to live it every day.

SUPPLIED</p><p>Thelma Krull with her sisters, Charlotte and Jean, and her sister-in-law Lillia, while on a family cruise in 2015.</p>

SUPPLIED

Thelma Krull with her sisters, Charlotte and Jean, and her sister-in-law Lillia, while on a family cruise in 2015.

"For everyone reading this article being reminded of what happened two years ago and thinking ‘Wow it’s been two years and she’s still missing,’ I don’t need this anniversary to be reminded," she said.

"I think of and miss my mom all the time. Holidays, birthdays, milestones, family gatherings, school concerts, there is so much that she has missed over two years."

Along with hoping the public has knowledge about the high-profile investigation, Besser also wants people to understand the kind of person her mother was.

"My mom was all about family and friends, and has so many people wondering, worrying, not forgetting," she said.

"While we try to live our days to the fullest because that is what she would have wanted, she’s always on our minds and in our hearts, and we do our best to be strong for our families and for her."

Krull’s older brother, Bill Therriault, never got to go on the 75-kilometre hike on Vancouver Island he and his sister had planned for the summer of 2015, as she went missing just weeks before it was scheduled to begin.

SUPPLIED</p><p>Thelma Krull and her brother, Bill Therriault.</p>

SUPPLIED

Thelma Krull and her brother, Bill Therriault.

Therriault now lives trying to balance living his life, while wondering what happened to his little sister.

"We live every day in limbo for so many reasons, and yet we have no sense of what actually happened," 72-year-old Therriault said.

"If it is something bad that happened we don’t want to know what it is, yet we need to know."

Therriault who lives in Penticton, B.C., with his wife of 52 years, got a phone call on the afternoon of July 11, 2015, telling him his sister had gone missing.

He was on a plane to Winnipeg the next day.

"It’s something you read about in newspapers and see on TV, but until you’ve experienced it you have no sense of what it really is," he said.

"It’s a truly horrific thing."

In the two years she has been gone, late at night, when he is trying to avoid the constant thoughts of his sister, is often the hardest time for him.

"For me the worst times are when you wake up in the middle of the night and your guard is down, and that’s always been hard for me because you wake up and your mind gets roaming" he said.

Along with those thoughts comes the pain of not having an opportunity to properly say goodbye to the little sister who 52 years ago was the flower girl in his wedding.

"There’s been no funeral, so there’s no opportunity to grieve," Therriault said.

As a way to remember his sister and enjoy the fond memories Therriault and his wife embarked on a project that eventually turned into a 75-page book filled with stories and pictures telling the story of the life of Krull from the day she was born, to the day she went missing.

The cover of a book commemorating the life of Thelma Krull, it was put together by her older brother and other friends and family.</p>

The cover of a book commemorating the life of Thelma Krull, it was put together by her older brother and other friends and family.

The book was eventually made into a hard-copy version and given to all of Krull’s family members as a way to honour and remember her.

"We did it at the one-year mark as a way of remembering her, and members of the family all have it now," he said.

"With no opportunity to grieve, this was our way to capture those memories and make sure we don’t ever lose the memories."

A passage from the book talks about how Krull’s husband Bob wanted to ask Thelma to marry him years ago when they were living in Saskatchewan, but wouldn’t pop the question until the woman he loved gave up one bad habit.

"Bob hated that Thelma was smoking and upon settling in Regina, made her an offer she couldn’t refuse," a passage from the book reads.

"When she quit smoking, they would get married. In spite of this great challenge, Thelma drew on her inborn determination and spirit, gave up smoking and they set a date in June of 1986 for their wedding.

"With family surrounding them, including little Lisa, they were married in Cambridge, Ont., then returned to married life in Regina."

Therriault talks regularly to Bob, and knows how difficult the last two years have been on him.

"It’s been just horrible for Bob," he said. "He’s a very quiet guy anyways and he’s not always comfortable in social situations, but those two had a great marriage."

Besser is the person who has held the family together since Krull’s disappearance, Therriault added.

"Lisa has been a rock," he said. "She’s been the rock in all of this. She has looked out for her dad and her brother, and been the one communicating mostly with the police.

"And she’s been able to hold herself together and keep on going. She’s a strong girl and she takes after her mother who was very strong."

For Besser every day still brings hope answers will come, but she believes she needs others to help lead her and her family to those answers.

"People just don’t disappear," Besser said. "We need to know what has happened to my mom. It makes no sense why this had to happen to such a good person, to the best person I know, and why it needs to still be going on.

"There has to be someone out there that can help towards ending this nightmare. We need someone to help end this nightmare for us."

Anyone with information about the disappearance of Thelma Krull is asked to call the Winnipeg Police homicide unit at 204-986-6508, or Winnipeg Crime Stoppers at 204-786-TIPS (8477)

— with files from Ryan Thorpe

Dave Baxter is a freelance reporter, photographer and editor who writes about Manitoba crimes for the Sunday Special.

crimefilesmanitoba@gmail.com
Twitter:@davebbbaxter

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