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Cops crack case of Christmas gift bag
PORT HARDY—It wasn't exactly the Miracle on 34th Street, but the North Island's own Christmas mystery tale turned out to be the Happy Ending on Highway 19 last week.
Five days after a unidentified bag of Christmas gifts landed on the road near Sayward — and just five days before Christmas — the bag was returned to Tiffany Charlie at her Port Hardy home.
"This has just turned out to be a positive thing," said Cpl. Milo Ramsey, the RCMP detachment commander in Sayward. "And it's just enough before Christmas that they can be wrapped and under the tree."
The return of the bag of gifts followed a concerted effort — by Ramsey's detachment, other volunteers and social and news media outlets — to find its rightful owner.
"It was awesome," Charlie, a mother of eight, said after accepting the bag from Ramsey and peeking inside to verify the contents. "It's nice to see so many people try to help. Especially at this time of year."
The saga of the mystery bag began when members of an Emcon road crew came upon a large, dark plastic bag. It was initially thought to be a bag of trash, but after hefting it and finding out how light it was, an Emcon employee opened it up and found what were clearly new, unopened purchases.
The bag was delivered to the Sayward RCMP, which promptly began efforts to track down its owner.
"One of the reason, obviously, is the time of year," said Ramsey. "Some of the items were clearly gifts for children, and it was important we saw them get back to the children this time of year."
The RCMP spread the word through its Island District media office, and CTV aired a story on the find. Meanwhile, evidence inside the bag indicated at least some of the items had been purchased from the Bargain Shop in Port Hardy, and the Sayward RCMP turned to their Port Hardy counterparts for assistance.
"At one point we had one of the corporals in Port Hardy attend the store in which they were purchased to see if we could get some video footage of the purchase," said Ramsey. "Unfortunately we were unable to do that. It was a very busy day (in the store) Dec. 15, the purchase was made with cash, and nobody remembered who made it."
As the search for the gifts' owner went on, Charlie remained oblivious while traveling up and down the Island. She bought some gifts locally before traveling to Victoria for her son's rep bantam game. After stopping to buy some more items in Campbell River, Charlie was relieved of the purchases when her sister offered to drive them back to Port Hardy.
"She offered, just to make room for the hockey stuff and everything," Charlie said.
So it was that, when the bag tumbled from her sister's truck, neither of them were aware gifts had been lost. Charlie, after all, did not have them in her possession to lose.
"And my sister didn't know, because she didn't know what I'd bought," Charlie said.
But as the RCMP report hit the airwaves, it was also picked up and shared on Facebook. Charlie and her sister both got involved in the posts before putting two and two together.
"I was going through my stuff to see what was there and thought I should check my receipts," Charlie said. "It pays to keep your receipts."
Armed with that information, she called Ramsey's office in Sayward Dec. 19 and correctly identified the contents of the mystery bag.
"I posted on my sister's Facebook page because she shared the link, and I'm like, 'Ah, that stuff was in the back of your truck.' She said, 'I'm so sorry!'"
With CTV reporter Gord Kurbis in tow to tape the happy follow-up to his original story, Ramsey traveled to Port Hardy Friday morning to deliver the bag to Charlie's door.
"This has been quite enjoyable to be a part of, and a great example of how social media can come together in a real positive way to make something like this happen," said Ramsey. "It's a great Christmas story with a great ending."
And yet, one mystery remains. When Kurbis asked Charlie if he could get footage of her looking through the items for that night's news program, she held the bag securely closed.
"I don't want my kids to see what's in there," she said. "Sorry."