Winnipeg woman with dementia found safe after apparent random abduction: police

A Winnipeg woman with dementia who was abducted early Saturday morning was found safe and unharmed inside a vehicle that had been stolen nearly 10 hours earlier.

Around 12:20 p.m. on Saturday, Winnipeg police confirmed 63-year-old Sandra McLaughlin had been located. Winnipeg police had issued an emergency alert after McLaughlin who lives with dementia was abducted in what police described as a ‘completely random incident.’

Police said it was reported that McLaughlin was in the rear of a blue 2012 Jeep Patriot that was parked at a gas station in the 3600 block of Portage Avenue. While the Jeep was parked, police said a man came up and stole it shortly before 2 a.m.

Video surveillance shows a man walking up to the Jeep, get in the passenger side and slide over to the driver seat. Police said a family member who had been driving the vehicle with Sandra is then seen walking up and attempting to stop the theft, but the Jeep drives away.

Winnipeg police issued an emergency alert shortly after 11 a.m., asking people to be on the lookout and to call 911 if they saw anything.

Police said soon after issuing the alert, someone called 911 to say they believed they saw the Jeep in the Charleswood area. Though it turned out not to be the stolen Jeep, police said officers stayed in the area and kept searching.

Shortly before noon, officers came across the stolen Jeep abandoned in the Glendale neighbourhood.

“Sandra was found alone and physically unharmed inside the vehicle,” police said in a news release.

Earlier in the day, Winnipeg police also issued a silver alert, which is issued when a vulnerable adult is reported missing. Const. Jay Murray with the Winnipeg Police Service said the fact McLaughlin lives with dementia added to the seriousness of the situation.

He said while car thefts are fairly common in Winnipeg, for someone to be inside the vehicle when it is stolen is unusual.

“It is an unusual incident. We have nothing to indicate that these parties know each other,” Murray said. “At this point, it appears to be a completely random incident and a crime of opportunity.”

Police said no arrests have been made at this time and the suspect has yet to be identified. However, the major crimes unit is investigating. Murray said it is unknown if the suspect knew Sandra was in the Jeep before or during the theft.

Police said the suspect is described as being about six feet tall, with dark hair. He was seen wearing a grey jacket, dark-coloured shorts, a hoodie with white writing, sandals and white gloves.

Anyone with information is asked to call investigators at 204-986-6219 or Crime Stoppers at 204-786-8477. 

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