200 mourners remember Robert Barrington Leigh

20-year-old's body pulled from river early Tuesday

Robert's parents John and Iris Barrington Leigh at their son's vigil on Tuesday.
Robert's parents John and Iris Barrington Leigh at their son's vigil on Tuesday.
Photograph by : Shaughn Butts, The Journal

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The Edmonton Journal

Published: Wednesday, August 23, 2006

EDMONTON - More than 200 people -- friends, neighbours and strangers -- held hands and stood in silence at a candlelight vigil Tuesday evening, hours after the search for Robert Barrington Leigh ended when his body was found in the North Saskatchewan River.

Family of the 20-year-old held the vigil in Queen Elizabeth Park to thank people who banded together to help with the nine-day search.

"Robert's family wish to say a heartfelt thank you to all of you standing here tonight," Robert Wong, the young man's former junior high math teacher, said on behalf of the family.

Barrington Leigh's mother stood beside him holding a candle, resting a picture of her son against her legs.

"We're forever grateful to you, all of you," Wong said.

Family and friends organized a massive search for the University of Toronto student, who went missing Aug. 13. He told his family he planned to meet up with friends at the closing night of the Edmonton Folk Music Festival, but wasn't seen again.

Teams of searchers working from a base set up above a grocery store combed ravines and the river valley, and volunteers taped up or handed out hundreds of posters. The family offered a $5,000 reward for information.

Around 11 a.m. Tuesday, a body was spotted a short distance from the north bank of the river near 92nd Street and Cameron Avenue.

River Tours West owner Alan Flynn, who subcontracts to the city, was on the river with a city drainage worker when they spotted the body.

"I knew this person had been missing for quite some time and I thought, 'Well, I better go and take a look,' " Flynn said. "There was this body snagged on some deadfall under the water."

Flynn said he dialed 911 and told the operator he had found a body and needed the fire boat and police at the scene.

"We stayed with the body to make sure it didn't float away, and waited for them to come and take care of the area," said Flynn, who has helped with many body retrievals from the river over the years.

There were no marks on the body to indicate the person had been a victim of foul play, Flynn said.

"His wallet was still in his pocket. He wasn't beat up at all."

Identification found on the body confirmed it was Barrington Leigh. No foul play is suspected.

"We don't have a lot to say except that we really want to thank everybody who has given us such incredible support over the last nine days," the young man's brother, Christopher, said outside the family home earlier Tuesday.

© The Edmonton Journal 2006

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