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'Lots of people are worried about him': Missing man last seen hiking between Fairy Creek camps

Police and friends are continuing to look for Gerald Kearney, who has been missing in the Fairy Creek area near Port Renfrew for almost two weeks after visiting camps of protesters trying to stop old-growth logging in the area.
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Gerald Kearney. VIA RCMP

Police and friends are continuing to look for Gerald Kearney, who has been missing in the Fairy Creek area near Port Renfrew for almost two weeks after visiting camps of protesters trying to stop old-growth logging in the area.

Kearney, 61, was last seen on the morning of Oct. 13, when he left a camp known as Ridge to hike about 2.5 hours to what’s known as Heli Camp, where he had left his backpack, including his cellphone, said Naomi Hunter, who carpooled to the area with Kearney in someone else’s vehicle.

“There are lots of people who are worried about him and really hoping that someone will call in even with insignificant information,” said Hunter, who raised the alarm after realizing Kearney hadn’t returned to Victoria to feed his cat.

Many people saw Kearney leave Ridge Camp, but no one saw him arrive at Heli Camp, Hunter said. The camp is about 12 kilometres up a logging road in steep terrain and dense forest. The hike between the camps is through the forest and rough, with ropes to help hikers through the steepest sections, and it’s possible to miss a turn and accidentally hike down the mountain, she said. Someone travelling the same trail a few days later looked for Kearney, known at the camps as Smiley, but found no sign of him, she said.

Kearney told several protesters he has a heart condition, and he left his backpack at Heli Camp because he wasn’t feeling up to carrying it between the two camps, Hunter said. His backpack has since been removed by police, who raided the camp after his disappearance while enforcing a court injunction against protesters blocking roads. His backpack and phone were left at Fairy Creek headquarters along Pacific Marine Road, Hunter said.

Kearney previously lived in Toronto. He bought a sailboat this year, and arrived on the boat in Victoria, docking in the Inner Harbour, in early October, shortly before heading to Fairy Creek.

He left Victoria on Oct. 7 and caught a ride with others heading to the Fairy Creek protest camps. Hunter met Kearney shortly before sharing a carpool. When she left to head back to Victoria a couple of days later, Kearney wanted to stay longer and asked Hunter to check on his cat until he returned.

He didn’t have a vehicle in the area or a ride arranged, but he told Hunter he wasn’t worried about finding a lift back to Victoria because people travel frequently between the city and Fairy Creek.

Kearney was aware that Hunter, leader of the Saskatchewan Green Party, was leaving Victoria on Oct. 16 and she expected him to return by then. When he didn’t return, she started to worry, because he knew his cat would be alone, she said. Hunter arranged for friends in Victoria to look after the cat, and started contacting people at Fairy Creek. She tried to figure out how long he might think the cat would be OK on its own, but by Oct. 21, she “really started panicking,” and called police to report Kearney missing.

Search-and-rescue crews and officers in the area enforcing a court injunction have looked for Kearney without success, said Sgt. Kevin Shaw of Sooke RCMP. The RCMP has not been able to confirm any reported sightings, he said.

Kearney’s friend Erin Panjer has arrived from Toronto to look for him. “He’s always been a true friend who shows up,” Panjer said of Kearney.

Kearney is described as white, five foot four and about 201 pounds with shoulder-length grey hair.

regan-elliott@timescolonist.com