VANCOUVER — Bryan Braumberger left a friend’s house on an ordinary Thursday night in the spring of 2007, heading for his home in Burnaby, B.C., on his way to the warehouse where he worked.
The 18-year-old never made it home, and there has been no trace of Braumberger since his car was found abandoned with the lights on in a New Westminster parking the next day, June 1.
Braumberger was among the first in a string of young men to vanish from B.C.’s Lower Mainland over the past two years, and his father Ron, preparing to mark the anniversary of his son’s disappearance, says police and the public need to consider the possibility the disappearances are related.
“There was an awful lot of young people that went missing around that time,” says Ron Braumberger.
“I don’t know if it’s connected or what. Look how long it took them to connect the missing women down in (Vancouver’s Downtown) Eastside. So who knows.”
There have been more than a dozen cases of young men in their late teens, 20s or early 30s disappearing in the region since 2007.
Often, the police have had little information to go on, sending news releases out on important anniversaries to renew pleas for information.
Several of the cases have been handed over to the RCMP’s integrated homicide unit, which investigators say only means the disappearances are suspicious, not that they believe any of the men are dead.
There are some where police have speculated there could be nefarious reasons for the disappearances. For example, when 31-year-old Ronak Manji Wagad vanished from Vancouver in February of this year, police were quick to say he “may have been the victim of foul play,” although they didn’t elaborate.
Police have suggested others are more innocent, like the case of John Kahler of Surrey, who was missing for nearly a year before his body was found on the banks of a lake in Mission.
The 20-year-old disappeared in November 2007 while attending an off-road trucking event. When his body was found in October 2008, police said there was no evidence of foul play.
But most have left police and families without any explanation, leaving worried parents to publicly ask for help and offer rewards.
In one case, a man’s family travelled from India to make that pitch in person.
Sahil Sharma, 20, who was living in Surrey studying as an international student at Kwantlen University, left campus after classes had finished on Nov. 13, 2008, and vanished.
His parents travelled from India to meet with investigators and talk to reporters as they tried to get the word out.
He is still missing.
The police have shied away from suggesting any of the cases are connected, but an RCMP spokeswoman said investigators would likely be considering the possibility.
“One thing that we do automatically is look for any links with any kinds of files,” says Cpl. Jane Baptista of Burnaby RCMP, which had its own case last year. “If we notice something in common, we’ll definitely investigate those things.”
In Burnaby, 25-year-old Asim Chaudhry disappeared in July 2007 on his way to study at Simon Fraser University.
Braumberger says like many other cases, the investigation into his son’s death is stalled.
The police appear to have no clues, he says, which is why he is trying to keep his son’s story alive in the short attention span of the media and the public.