Thu, August 17, 2006
By AJAY BHARDWAJ, Staff Writer
Regional Search and Rescue volunteer, Sithara Sernando (left) holds a
photo of 20-year-old Robert Barrington Leigh as she and other
volunteers prepare near Mill Creek Pool Thursday afternoon to search
for Leigh who has been missing since Sunday. (RYAN JACKSON, Special to
a small army of police, search-and-rescue and civilian searchers scour
the river valley and surrounding neighbourhoods in search of his
missing son, John Barrington Leigh remains remarkably calm.
As the search enters its fifth — and possibly final — day, the
retired physicist is at the centre of the storm of activity, answering
phone call after phone call, question after question. He doesn’t lose
“I’ve been through this before,” says Barrington Leigh.
In 1989 a family member, travelling in Athens, Greece, was attacked by three men armed with stones.
suffered a brain injury and Barrington Leigh was forced to track down
information about her and put together a plan to fetch her home. She
“You go into a different mode,” said Barrington Leigh, who didn’t want to go into much detail about the 17-year-old incident.
“The best position is to be the point person. I was the least
hit by that (incident). I was on point duty, so you’re busy with it.”
This time Barrington Leigh is forced to deal with the baffling disappearance of Robert.
The University of Toronto math scholar, who was home for a
summer visit, hopped on his Raleigh mountain bike Sunday night around
10:30 p.m. to meet friends at the Folk Festival. He hasn’t been seen
since and the only communication with him was a text message he sent to
his girlfriend in Italy.
His credit card and bank account haven’t been touched and there’s been no activity from his cell phone, police said.
From the beginning, Barrington Leigh has maintained his son met
with foul play, saying the young man lived life on the straight and
“It’s completely and utterly weird,” he said.
But as police took over and intensified the search for Robert
Thursday, another possibility occurred to him - that his son may never
“I’m beginning to get anxious there might not be a resolution,” he said. “I’m becoming more of that as a possibility.”
Police set up a command post in the Mill Creek area, blocks from
the Barrington Leigh home. The police helicopter and jetboat were
brought out to help the search.
Four dogs and their handlers from the Search and Rescue Dog
Association also joined in. And city cops began going door-to-door with
flyers about Robert.
“The public has been anxious to help,” said police spokesman
Lisa Lammi. She added cops deal with 7,000 missing persons cases a
Police will continue the search Friday but if they find nothing, they’ll call it off.
However, it will remain an active investigation, Lammi said.
Persistent volunteer searchers -- friends, family and others
just interested in helping -- are starting to get frustrated by the
lack of progress, Barrington Leigh admitted.
“Tempers are getting shorter and it may even include me,” he said.