After 30 years a missing man came home: The peculiar case of Edgar Latulip

A man stands by Niagara falls
Latulip's family believed he had travelled to Niagara Falls, a popular suicide spot, to end his own life. Image: Niagara Falls by Cameron Venti | Unsplash Images

In any given year, it’s estimated that around 70,000 to 80,000 people are reported missing in Canada. The majority of these people are found within seven days but some are never seen again. The disappearance of Edgar Latulip was one of the longest missing person cases that Waterloo Regional Police Service had ever investigated. He vanished in 1986 under very suspicious circumstances that led to his loved ones fearing the absolute worst. When it comes to missing person cases, time truly is of the essence and as more time passes, the likelihood of a happy ending becomes more and more unlikely.

However, thirty years later a man would come forward with the belief that he was Edgar Latulip.

On the 2nd of September, 1986, 21-year-old Edgar Latulip of Kitchener, Ontario, Canada, purchased a ticket to Niagara Falls from the bus terminal at Kitchener and seemingly vanished into thin air. At the time of his disappearance, Latulip had been taking medication for psychological problems and he had developmental delays. His mother, Silvia Wilson, said that while he was an adult, he functioned at the level of a child and had spent much of his life bouncing between psychiatric hospitals and group homes.

At the time of his disappearance, he had been living in a local group home where he rented a room and was provided with a meal; he survived off a disability pension. The last time that Wilson had seen her son in January of 1986, he was in hospital recovering from a suicide attempt. She said that he had lost an extremely unhealthy amount of weight and she was concerned for his well-being. Niagara Falls is a very popular suicide site and the immediate fear among Latulip’s loved ones as well as among Waterloo Regional Police Service, who were investigating his disappearance, was that Latulip had travelled there to end his own life: ‘We’re concerned for his well-being because of his state of mind,’ said Sgt. Randy Close. ‘When people just disappear like this fellow for that long, then we figure the worst.’

In a bid to track down leads on Latulip as well as other missing persons, in 1991, Victims of Violence, a non-profit organization, revealed that they were using new technology at major airports as well as other public places to flash photographs of missing people in the hopes that somebody passing through would identify them (Waterloo Region Record, 3 August, 1991 – ‘Photos of Missing Persons May Be Displayed at Airports’). While they were unsuccessful in garnering any leads regarding Latulip, Waterloo Regional Police Service did not give up in their search for him. In 1993, they followed a reported sighting to Hamilton but the tip only led to a dead end. As more time progressed, the chances of a positive outcome became slimmer and slimmer (Waterloo Region Record, 11 February, 2016 – ‘Missing Man Found After 30 Years’).

In late 2008, Waterloo Regional Police Service began to reinvestigate several cases and would result in Sgt. Richard Dorling bringing all 20 active missing person cases in the area under the authority of the homicide branch. As Sgt. Dorling said, he wanted to one day be able to bring closure to the families that had been left behind: ‘I’ve met a lot of these families,’ he said to Waterloo Region Record. ‘We’re on a first-name basis and I’d love nothing more than to bring closure to all of them. All of these cases deserve attention.’

There was no movement in the case for several years and there were no reported sightings of Latulip. At one point, Wilson suggested the possibility that somebody had taken advantage of her son because of his psychological problems and developmental delays. She said that the fear that her son was murdered was always at the back of her mind. However, with no leads or tips to go on, she was left with nothing other than a missing son. Over time, she eventually gave up hope that one day she would see her son again. ‘When Edgar disappeared, I became quite sick. I had to take a leave of absence from work. I was near a nervous breakdown,” she said (Waterloo Region Record, 21 February, 2014 – ‘Where Did They Go?’).

Over three decades would pass until there was a massive breakthrough in the case. On the 10th of February, 2016, it was announced that Latulip had been found alive and well in St. Catharines. Waterloo Regional Police Service would reveal that in 1986, Latulip had left the Waterloo Region and headed in the direction of St. Catharines. He had stopped at the Niagara Region and shortly after arriving there, he had sustained a head injury which had drastically affected his memory (The Hamilton Spectator, 10 February, 2016 – ‘Found after 30 Years’). After the head injury, Latulip couldn’t recall who he was or where he had come from. Robbed of his memory, he simply created a new identity and a new life, completely unaware his family back in Waterloo had been desperately searching for him.

Over the years that Latulip had lived in St. Catharines, he had remained very low-profile and hadn’t been a social media user. For a while, he had struggled with homelessness and had to rely on social services for assistance. Then in January of 2016, the mystery of Edgar Latulip finally began to unravel.

Latulip had contacted his social worker in St. Catharines and informed her that some of his memory appeared to be returning. He shared his belief that his real name was Edgar Latulip. The social worker decided to research the name on the internet and found that a man named Edgar Latulip had vanished in Waterloo thirty years prior. Police in St. Catharines would interview Latulip and he was able to provide other pieces of memory which had been slowly coming back to him. He provided a DNA sample that would be compared with a DNA sample of Wilson, who had coincidentally given her DNA sample to Waterloo Regional Police Service just the previous fall. Astonishingly, the DNA was a match: the man in St. Catharines was Edgar Latulip (The Toronto Star, 11 February, 2016 – ‘Kitchener Man Lost and Found Nearly 30 Years Later’).

When the DNA test came back as a match, Wilson was informed of the amazing revelation. In an interview with The Waterloo Region Record, she said: ‘I don’t know what to think. I was just kind of blown away.’ Tragically, Latulip’s father had passed away in 2000 and his mother was the only person in his family who wanted to be reunited with him (Waterloo Region Record, 11 February, 2016 – ‘Discovery of Missing Son Leaves Mother Shocked’). As Wilson said: ‘I just want to talk to him and help him out in any way I can. I just want to see him.’

When the mother and son were finally reunited after thirty long years, Latulip first of all apologised. He informed his mother that he had made friends in St. Catharines and had been living a good life with his own apartment and a government disability pension. The last time that Wilson had seen her son, he was an extremely troubled 21-year-old. Now, he was a settled 50-year-old man who appeared to be in a much better state mentally as well as physically (Waterloo Region Record, 13 February, 2016 – ‘After 30 Years, Missing Man Calls Home’).

The peculiar case of Edgar Latulip is the longest known period of somebody going missing before finally being discovered; it’s also the only known instance of a person solving their own cold case. As Niagara Regional Police Const. Philip Gavin stated: ‘I’ve been a police officer for 18 years, and this is something I’ve seen on TV but never been a part of. Absolutely, this is quite a rare one.’