Search ends in tragedy: Finnigan Danne found dead
For one fleeting moment Sunday afternoon, it sounded like the story of missing 12-year-old boy Finnigan Danne might have a happy ending.
“They found him!” someone called out, in woods behind Finnigan’s home.
There were no smiles or cheers — was it a rumour? Was he OK?
Moments later, a woman screamed, as though from the depths of her soul, and everything changed.
“Oh my God! Oh my God!”
Faces of neighbours turned to stone. Then looks of disbelief, and tears.
The scream had come from Finnigan’s mother, who was with police officers in her backyard.
The donated cases of bottled water, the pizza, doughnuts, the many dozens of searchers and a map spread on a table at the command centre: all of it now useless.
His body was discovered off Sullivans Lane, a street about 100 paces from Finnigan’s townhome.
Police would not confirm what was being reported by some neighbours and the media: that he had been found near a tiny creek, and either near a culvert or inside it.
But to those who searched it made no sense: they had already searched that area, at least twice, including right in the creek and culvert.
And, indeed, that afternoon Hamilton Police had sent searchers three kilometres afield, confident the immediate area had been combed-through — and even though Finnigan was unlikely to have gone far on his own power; he had a neuromuscular disorder, had limited mobility and walked with a limp.
That is likely why police issued an Amber Alert at about 3:30 p.m., which suggested they believed the thin, four-foot-two inch boy who weighed just 60 pounds had been abducted.
There was still hope, though, that the boy was just playing a game of some kind; police told searchers he enjoyed hiding, “and if you call his name he wouldn’t say ‘I’m here.'”
But soon after the Amber Alert was sounded, neighbours said a woman who found his body called out for help and everyone came running — including, a neighbour said, the boy’s father — and police cordoned off Sullivans Lane.
And still, for nearly three hours after that, as police officers did their work out of view near the end of Sullivans Lane, neighbours remained, watching police cruisers and EMS vehicles come and go, as though waiting on a miracle, or simply wanting to see the end of the story; the end of their search.
“People want closure,” said Moira Leggate, who searched Saturday and Sunday.
“I saw the mother on Saturday when she was out searching,” Leggate said. “She said to me: ‘I’m looking for my boy.’ And I told her, we all are. And then she hugged me.”
Neighbour Michele Pagliacci handed out Popsicles to children, trying, she said, to keep them distracted from what was happening.
“I haven’t slept,” she said, adding that the spirited community response was “totally Dundas.”
Police worked the scene where the body was found more than two hours before releasing a brief statement at 6:10 p.m. that they were “deeply saddened” to confirm the blue-eyed boy with dirty blond hair was dead.
Two police forensics vans arrived; a forensic officer took photos. A Hamilton Police Marine Unit vehicle was also on hand.
The coroner walked under the yellow police tape. The homicide unit arrived; detectives in dark suits. Police remained at the scene for more than two hours after their statement was released.
It’s unclear if homicide detectives were there because foul play is suspected, or simply because they respond to sudden death calls, or if the Amber Alert was a factor.
A detective said an autopsy would be conducted Monday morning.
Finnigan had gone missing from his home on Trudy Court at 10 a.m. Saturday. He was last seen barefoot and wearing a T-shirt with a Special Olympics logo.
The search involved scores of residents, and the police canine unit and police ATVs.
Nearly 10 years ago, Finnigan had a brush with death when his family’s home on Duke Street was destroyed by fire. The Spectator reported that the parents managed to get Finnigan, who was two, and his brother, three, out just in time as the building burned.