March 24, 1991 was an ordinary Sunday morning in the Dunahee household.
Bruce and Crystal packed up their children, baby Caitlin and four-year-old Michael, and headed toward Blanshard elementary school where Crystal was set to play a round of touch football.
When they arrived, Michael wanted to play on his own within sight at a nearby playground – something his parents hadn’t let him do before.
“He disappeared from sight in a split second and within the time that Bruce looked down to put Caitlin in the buggy, to when he looked up again, Michael had gone,” said Valerie Green, author of the first authorized book written about Michael’s disappearance.
“It’s the story of what happened when Michael Dunahee was presumably abducted and how his family has survived almost 22 years without knowing.”
Michael’s abduction was the first child-stranger abduction in Victoria. Drawn from interviews with family, friends and the Victoria police, Vanished: The Michael Dunahee Story deals with the family’s struggles since Michael went missing, the media challenges and the impact on Caitlin, who grew up in the wake of the abduction.
“We sat with Valerie before beginning and we felt she would represent the family in an understanding, compassionate way,” said Crystal Dunahee, who has rejected previous offers to tell her family’s story as a movie.
“You know when it’s the right time and from what I’ve read so far, it’s very well put together.”
Dunahee also hopes the book will lay to rest some of the misinformation published about her family over the years.
“Even after all this time, it still catches me,” said Dunahee, who lives in Esquimalt. “It’s still fresh no matter how many years go by. It’s still an open wound.”
Since 1991, child services agencies have become more interconnected, noted Dunahee, a recipient of the Order of British Columbia for her work as president of Child Find B.C. and Child Find Canada.
“If your child does go missing, you don’t have to reach out to every single agency that assists with missing children,” she said. “That was the most heart wrenching thing I had to do.”
The book, Green said, is written in the spirit of hope.
“It’s a cold case, but it’s still active. That seems incredible after almost 22 years,” said the Saanich-based writer. “I was surprised that even the police are hopeful, without evidence to the contrary. There’s never been a body found. There’s no actual crime scene.”
“You never know,” Dunahee said. “(Michael) just might pick up the book himself and realize this is the story of his life that’s missing.”
Vanished will be available from local bookstores this month for $18.95, with half of the proceeds to support Child Find B.C.
“Hopefully it’s a lot safer world, but at the same time, I think it’s taken away a lot of the freedom for children to be able to go out and play, which is a shame,” Green said.
Child Find B.C. benefit
Keep the hope alive for Michael Dunahee, his family and all missing children during a gala fundraiser for Child Find B.C., Nov. 30 from 7 to 10 p.m. at the CFB Esquimalt Wardroom, 1586 Esquimalt Rd. Tickets are available by pre-purchase only, for $40, by calling 250-382-7311.