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One week later, Tori's mom questions why case isn't considered an abduction

WOODSTOCK, Ont. - One week after eight-year-old Victoria Stafford vanished in this small southwestern Ontario city, police still weren't calling the case an abduction and her mother's grief, frustration and exhaustion appeared to be bubbling over.

WOODSTOCK, Ont. - One week after eight-year-old Victoria Stafford vanished in this small southwestern Ontario city, police still weren't calling the case an abduction and her mother's grief, frustration and exhaustion appeared to be bubbling over.

The little girl can be seen in a surveillance video around the time she went missing from outside her school on April 8, walking with an unidentified woman. She has not been seen since.

Police say it appears as though the girl is willingly walking with the woman. Since they have no definitive evidence she was taken against her will or has been harmed, they will not go farther than calling it a missing persons case.

With an entire week having passed with no trace of the beautiful, bright and bubbly girl, her mother is incredulous at the stance of the Oxford Community Police.

"Well this is an abduction - this is a missing child," Tara McDonald said Wednesday.

"Somebody has abducted her, it's obvious. They took my child. So, I mean, I wish it would be treated as an abduction, because it is."

Const. Laurie-Anne Maitland, the force's spokeswoman, has said the 30 investigators on the case have been working around the clock to find the missing child.

The only tangible lead police have publicly discussed is the surveillance video showing a woman with long brown hair and a puffy white coat with Tori, as she is known to family and friends. Despite receiving more than 500 tips, no one has yet been able to name the mystery woman - but not for lack of trying.

Family members say they have been endlessly watching the video and racking their brains. Tori's father, Rodney Stafford, estimates he has watched the tape more than 400 times.

"From the first time that I watched that video there has always been something about that stride, but I just can't place it," he said. "I can't at all."

Stafford, his sisters and mother, McDonald, her boyfriend and his mother were among those who attended a car wash and barbecue fundraiser Wednesday. Organizers say the money raised will go into a trust for Tori and her 10-year-old brother Daryn, intended to pay for the counselling their family says they will both need when Tori returns.

Despite an outpouring of support from the community in the past seven days, the one-week mark weighed heavily on the minds of Tori's loved ones.

"This morning it took me about 20 minutes to roll off the couch," Rodney Stafford said. "I had my face buried in the couch because I couldn't stop sobbing."

The case of a 10-year-old Quebec girl, the alleged victim of a parental abduction, who was found in Vancouver two years after she went missing gives Stafford reason for cautious optimism.

"It does give me hope, but there's no way I'm waiting two years," he said. "My daughter's coming home soon and I don't care what it takes, we will find my daughter."

Stafford and McDonald have not been together for about six years and her boyfriend, James Goris, has been in the children's lives for several years.

Goris said he's confident it won't take two years for Tori to come home.

"I know she will come back," Goris said. "We know in our hearts that she will be home soon."

Each new day without Tori feels like "a bad dream," Goris added.

"Sometimes I wake up and think she's already home," he said. "It's really painful."

Goris appeared in court Tuesday on a charge of possession of stolen property for the alleged theft of a snowblower in January. News that Tori's parents were given lie detector tests and a lack of any new information from police are fuelling many rumours in the small community.

For Tori's family, it just compounds the trauma of the disappearance of their "girly girl."

"It bugs me, it really does bug me," Stafford said. "I know there's people out there saying stuff about myself, there's people out there saying stuff about Tara and James.

"I know there is, but there's always going to be those people no matter what the situation is."

Talk around town has been particularly hard on Daryn, said James' mother, Darlene Goris.

"The kids aren't nice to him," she said. "He sees some once in a while and they say what they think because they're hearing rumours and it hurts Daryn... He's just a little boy."

Police won't comment on rumours and Maitland said Wednesday that while police have received so many tips, none have aided the investigation.

"Some of them are very, very vague," she said. "We haven't had anything significant that we would certainly consider to be part of the investigation."

While Tori's picture is being offered to websites that publicize missing children, the search has not expanded, Maitland said.

"We've not conducted our search anywhere outside of the (Woodstock) area," she said.

McDonald, Goris, Tori and Daryn moved two weeks ago Friday - just five days before Tori vanished - from a co-op housing complex on one side of the children's school to a tiny house on the other side.

Kim Clarke, board president of the co-op, said she went into the now vacant unit a few days ago to get it ready for the next tenant when police arrived shortly after. They asked her to leave, a forensic team came, and they removed some evidence, she said.

The children in the co-op community regularly play together, she said, and they are all worried about Tori.

"It's been really hard for the kids in here," she said of the 40-unit co-op. "We're all really, really close."

A group of parents from the co-op are getting together to discuss suggestions for the school, including implementing a buddy system and a Block Parent program, Clarke said.

Tori's disappearance was also the top story on the website of the TV show "America's Most Wanted."

 
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