It’s the story of four missing Muskoka seniors and it is being turned into a CBC Podcast.
Zander Sherman of Bracebridge is the person keeping the ongoing story of the four alive through a documentary he worked on with the Fifth Estate and national magazine The Walrus. The four went missing between 1998 and 1999.
Now he is working on an update of the mystery, producing a six-part audio podcast called Uncover being released in April 2019. The four missing people are Joan Lawrence, John Crofts, Ralph Grant, and John Semple.
Sherman says he was like most kids in Muskoka who thought nothing interesting happened where he lived. That perspective changed after he started working as a freelance investigative journalist.
“I started looking at some of the stories that I had been told of things that happened and things that might have happened here,” he says. “I started looking into it more and became fascinated with the other side of Muskoka.”
Sherman says the four had two things in common. One was they were all elderly and marginalized. The other was where they were living.
Sherman began investigating the missing person case of Lawrence, who was known locally as the Cat Lady in Huntsville. The case in the 1990s turned into a murder investigation that uncovered the fact that another three seniors were missing and all were under the care of seniors’ residences owned by the same family.
The family named in the Fifth Estate story are the Laans of Huntsville. They have never been charged in connection with the murder of Lawrence or the three other missing persons. The four Laans siblings that were co-owners in their retirement home business were charged with stealing money from residents. Three were convicted, a fourth had the charges dropped.
In his update, he will reveal what he has found with new tips and recently released files from the OPP surrounding search warrants that that had been executed at various times during the investigation.
“I’m using new tips and information generated after those stories came out,” Sherman explains. “And also newly unsealed police documents that have been held secret for the last 20 years.”
He says not having the time constraints of normal broadcast television or the limitations of a print magazine, there will be a lot more detail revealed in the series.
“It’s a very detailed way to tell a story,” says Sherman of the podcast format. “It’s going to be a play-by-play of the first few years of the investigation.”
He says anyone already familiar with the story will want to listen to Uncover.
“People who did see the documentary last year or read the magazine story are going to find that there is a lot more information,” he says.