Missing student found in river

The 20-year-old Edmonton man, missing for a week, was considered one of North America's top mathematicians


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CanWest News Service

Published: Wednesday, August 23, 2006

EDMONTON -- After a desperate week-long search, family and friends were devastated to learn Tuesday the body of a 20-year-old Edmonton man -- considered one of North America's top mathematical minds -- was found floating in a river.

The death of Robert Barrington Leigh marked the end of a promising career. He was about to enter his fourth year at the University of Toronto and was expected to continue his studies at one of the world's top universities, according to one of his professors.

A website set up to co-ordinate the search efforts reported Tuesday that Barrington Leigh's body was found in the North Saskatchewan River.

"Dear friends," the website said. "Robert was found dead in the N Saskatchewan River at 11:00 a.m. this morning and identified by police around midday.

"We are holding a vigil for volunteers and community . . . in order to give our appreciation for the amazing outpouring of support this week. Thank you."

Edmonton police said the body of a man was found on the north side of the North Saskatchewan river by a city of Edmonton water and sanitation jet boat.

Foul play is not suspected, police said.

The mood at the volunteers' search headquarters was sombre Tuesday as news spread that a body had been found.

The body was found just across the river from Gallagher Park, where Barrington Leigh was riding to on his mountain bike on Aug. 13, the night he went missing. He told his parents he was off to the Edmonton Folk Music Festival where he expected to hook up with some friends, around 10:30 p.m.

When he did not return home, his family reported him missing the following day.

His family launched a massive effort to find him and posted a $5,000 reward for information leading to his discovery.

They also set up a website detailing the search for him at www.findrobert.ca. It included photos, a timeline leading up to his disappearance as well as updates.

Volunteers -- many of whom did not know the student -- scoured thick brush near the river and local police conducted a ground, air and water search until last Friday night. At that point they called it off as there was no sign of Barrington Leigh.

However his family organized daily search parties on their own and continued to hunt for any sign of the student, described as brilliant but very shy.

Four years ago Barrington Leigh was the focus of an Edmonton Journal article for his appearance at the International Mathematical Olympiad in Glasgow. The 16-year-old was one of six high school students from across Canada selected for the national team, beating out more than 200,000 others.

"I've liked math ever since I was little," he said at the time.

"Math is beautiful. It has complexity that is unimaginable. It's amazing because we're looking at the same things that they could have been looking at 1,000 years ago and in the future . . . the same incredible structure."

His training began as a small child, learning about the world of numbers from his father. By the time he reached Grade 6, he was involved in competitions through a math club at the University of Alberta.

Missing student found in river The 20-year-old Edmonton man, missing for a week, was considered one of North America's top mathematicians Article Tools * Printer friendly * E-mail Font: * * * * * * * * CanWest News Service Published: Wednesday, August 23, 2006 Barrington Leigh's body was taken to the medical examiner's office for examination. An autopsy has been scheduled for today. Identification found in a backpack on the body was that of Robert Barrington Leigh, police said. It is hoped that dental records will provide a positive identification. "The body was just located in the river, but it was caught in some debris," said emergency response department spokeswoman Nikki Booth. She said it took a crew of four less than an hour to remove the body from the river and transfer it to the rescue boat. Edmonton police homicide detectives were on-scene to assist. Pending autopsy results, police would not say anything about the body.

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