On April 2, 2017, a family friend of Ashley Simpson opened her Facebook Messenger and got the surprise of her life.
Cathy MacLeod had been trying to correspond with Ashley's boyfriend, Derek Favell, who was the last person to see the St. Catharines native before she disappeared from her home in Salmon Arm, B.C. a year before. She wanted to know more about what happened to Ashley, and why Favell had refused to take a polygraph test when many others close to the missing woman agreed to do so.
"I wanted to poke the bear," she said, and sent several messages to Favell pleading with him to talk to her.
"Please help us," she wrote. "It's been 10 months of pure hell. A lie detector would help if you have nothing to hide. I beg of you, help us, take the test to clear your name if there’s nothing to hide."
Many, including members of the Simpson family, found Derek's behaviour, at least, curious. Ashley had disappeared on April 27, 2016. Yet it took Derek three days to report her missing to her cousin who immediately contacted her mother, who called the RCMP.
According to Favell, Ashley stormed off along Yankee Flats Road after the couple had had a fight. She took off, he said, with only the clothes on her back, and a pink suitcase. She had no money or cell phone.
Ashley Simpson was never seen again.
After her disappearance, many of his friends took to the media, bloggers, law enforcement, and podcasters to profess their innocence. Derek was the only one who refused all interviews.
It is for that reason that people in the community, and in the Simpsons' close circle of friends and family, continued to wonder why Derek refused to clear his name with a lie detector. They had so many questions, and many took to social media to wonder whether he had any involvement in the case.
(To date, no one has been charged in the death of Ashley Simpson, though the RCMP have told the media it remains an open investigation.)
A year later, when Cathy opened her computer, she found a message from Derek who wanted to talk. What follows are excerpts from that conversation. (Exclamation points, his.)
"Listen to this !!! Ashley, her friends, her family have wrecked my life," Derek wrote. "I tried to take a chance on a person and they hurt me past what has been said to you. Hate me all you want I loved Ash.
"She did things to me no one has done !!! and they’re not good !!! You and your people have hurt me. I will never forgive you. I'm going to hurt you all in court!!! You have hurt my person for no cause. Stop now or forever feel the wrath of the law."
Throughout the conversation, Derek Favell maintained his innocence.
"I have not been charged for anything and never will," he said. "Tell Ashley’s mom to regret the day she ever hurt me. I am a good man and you have broke my person and you will suffer Karma!!!! So keep it up. I'm strong and I'm willing to give what I am!!! put that in the fucking paper.!!"
Derek went on to say that he did not take the polygraph on the advice of his lawyer, a former judge. He also said the RCMP at first shrugged off the need for a polygraph only to pressure him later to take one.
"They never wanted it and when they did I was some fucked up; I had trouble even talking," he said. At that point, he said his lawyer convinced him not to take it.
The rambling exchange went on for more than an hour, during which time Derek bounced from feelings of guilt and remorse to self-pity. He complained that his children were taken away from him, and that there was no point to talking, since nobody believed him anyway.
Then he reiterated that the police had nothing.
"Notice I ain't I jail?" he said.
He then confirmed that he had asked Ashley to leave after a fight over money. He also brought up a fight over her refusal to take medication.
"Everyone has a breaking point," he explained. "I found out that most of the problems she had were not her fault; she had disabilities.
"I found out (about the medication) less then a month from when she took off!! I asked her to go in with me (to get help). She told me I was an asshole for bringing it up.
"But when she was happy she thought she didn’t need it, I get it. Now every day I wished I would have made her go. You have no idea what this has done to my person.
"That's on me Cathy. But I will not be made a murderer."
Throughout the exchange, Favell railed against everyone -- the police, his lawyer, the Simpson family, the community, and actually left the conversation for a time and blocked MacLeod on Facebook only to unblock her twenty minutes later and continue his verbal rampage.
And just as suddenly, the rage dissipated, and he began to cry.
"I miss her smile. I miss her kissing me telling me what she loved about me.
But that's between me and her."
And then Derek thanked Cathy for reaching out, and blocked her again.
She hasn't heard from him since.
That was four years ago.