The hardest moment of Dave MacNeil’s two-decade police career came early Wednesday morning when he arrived at the family home of one of his patrol officers with devastating news that their missing daughter was dead.
The chief of police in Truro, N.S., said he drove with his deputy and arrived at the home of Dwight and Susan Campbell in Stellarton at about 2 a.m. after the body of Const. Catherine Campbell had been found near the base of a bridge that crosses Halifax harbour. Her death is being investigated as a homicide.
“In my 22 years as a police officer this is the most difficult day I’ve had to put in,” MacNeil told reporters outside the department’s headquarters on Wednesday afternoon.
Several members of the force who watched MacNeil speak struggled to control their emotions. MacNeil hugged each of them after he spoke. A steady flow of people left gifts and flowers nearby at an impromptu memorial.
Investigators in Halifax said they were interviewing a 27-year-old man who was taken into custody in connection with Campbell’s homicide.
Supt. Jim Perrin of Halifax Regional Police said they don’t believe Campbell’s death is related to her work.
Police say her body was found in a wooded area of Halifax near an overpass that leads to the Macdonald Bridge at about 12:10 a.m. on Wednesday.
Just over an hour later at 1:20 a.m., they say they took a Halifax man into custody for questioning. No charges had been laid by Wednesday evening.
Earlier this week, Campbell’s parents issued a public appeal for information after she didn’t show up for work at the Truro Police Service on Monday.
Perrin said Campbell was last seen at a bar in downtown Halifax early on Friday morning.
Officers arrested the man they were questioning in a car, which has been seized, and were also searching two homes in Halifax, said Perrin.
He said there is nothing in Campbell’s work history that is a factor in their investigation.
“Catherine Campbell did nothing to cause what happened to her. Our focus is what did happen,” Perrin told a news conference.
“I have no details to suggest that her being a police officer had anything to do with what ultimately happened to her.”
Perrin said police believe Campbell knew the man they have in custody.
“What we don’t know is how long they have known each other for, that’s all part of the investigation,” he added.
Campbell’s mother said her daughter loved being a police officer.
“Catherine was a loving person, a dedicated police officer. … She was conscientious,” Susan Campbell said in a telephone interview.
The young woman was also a volunteer member of the fire department in her hometown of Stellarton for a decade, and her mother said she’d held a variety of jobs in the community before deciding to train as a police officer, finding a job in Truro as soon as she graduated.
Campbell’s brother-in-law, Calvin Garneau, described her as “an exceptional person.”
“She was very friendly, very outgoing and very outspoken,” he said from his home. “She’d give anything that she had to help anybody else.”
Garneau, who is married to Campbell’s older sister, said she had been with the force since 2009. She was not married and did not have children, he said.
In Truro, one person who left a memento said she is seeking answers.
“Any loss, but especially someone who has devoted their life to serving the public, it’s devastating,” said Tara MacIsaac, who added that she and her husband work in law enforcement.
“As a community, we all look forward to knowing what happened to her.”
Michael Tutton and Alison Auld, The Canadian Press