Friday, 30 April 2021

Ashley Simpson: Conversation with Derek Favell Revealed



 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. 


 

 

 

Tuesday, 27 April 2021

Ashley Simpson Day of Action






On the 5th anniversary of Ashley Simpson's disappearance, I stand with my cousins
Sindal Simpson
,
Cindy Mcgean Simpson
,
Amanda Langlois
,
Amy Simpson
,
Tara Simpson
, her grandmother
Elsa Halden
, her aunts and uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews.
On this Day of Action for Ashley we demand justice, more transparency from law enforcement, and better and more dedicated efforts to find her remains, and her killer(s).
The federal government should allocate more funds for search and rescue in rural and remote communities and to the RCMP who are overburdened with their case loads (particularly in B.C. and Alberta) to ensure a rapid and thorough responses to calls about missing women, men and children. SAR often goes home in a day or two leaving grieving and distraught loved ones to pay for their own searches.
It's not enough to assume that the person "took off" on their own when family members know better.
No parent should have to bury a child. And in the unfortunate circumstance where their child is murdered, every parent should be afforded the right to have the remains of their child to bury and mourn.
And no parent should have to lose their livelihood. The federal government should revisit its EI regulations that provide temporary assistance to parents of missing children. Those funds are taken away if the parent leaves their home province to travel to another province to find their child. This is cruel and shortsighted.
When possible, we should financially support volunteer organizations like Wings of Mercy who go in after the SAR crews go home with drones and ATVs to find the missing in rural and remote regions. They are often the only hope for grieving loved ones.
Finally, each one of us should do our part to support and protect vulnerable women and girls. Take them in. Make a call. Do something for the many women and girls who are victims of domestic abuse and who are often helpless to help themselves.
No more stolen sisters. Say something. Do something. Please share. Write to your Member of Parliament. Make a difference.

The life you save could be your own daughter's.

And visit us tonight at 8 p.m. on our Facebook site for a virtual vigil for Ashley. That is where the family will be gathered tonight to celebrate her life, and mourn her passing.

Monday, 26 April 2021

 


Five years ago, Deanna Wertz and Ashley Simpson lived a stone's throw from each other on Yankee Flats Road in the community of Salmon Arm in British Columbia. They disappeared within a week of each other, and neither has been found.

And they weren't the only ones who vanished from the picturesque logging and tourism community. Caitlin Potts and Nicole Bell also disappeared that year. Traci Genereaux, 18, was found dead during a police search along the Salmon Road River in 2017. This, in a community of 17,100 residents. 

British Columbia has a terrible track record when it comes to missing and murdered women, particularly Aboriginal women and girls. According to a fact sheet from the Native Women's Association, almost one third of all of the reported cases in their database involved women and girls in British Columbia. To date, the number of cases in BC is substantially higher than any other province or territory in Canada (Alberta follows with 16 percent of the cases).

British Columbia has the highest percentage of suspicious deaths in Canada -- cases that police have declared natural or accidental but the family or community members consider suspicious. Nine percent of cases in B.C. fall into that category compared to 4 percent nationally.

Most of the cases involve young women and girls under 30, (Ashley was 32). 

And almost half the cases remained unsolved.

This is a national disgrace, a smear on the province, a shadow on the country. 

We reflect on this situation as we mark April 27th, the day that Ashley Simpson disappeared five years ago, and as we celebrate her life and mourn her death. At 8 p.m. tomorrow night, Canadians across the country will join us in a virtual vigil to mark this sad occasion. Please join us, and share this post.

Ask yourself the question: what would you do if Ashley was your daughter or sister or friend? 




Here is the link to our vigil. Please visit this site, and share if you care about the women and girls who go missing every year, and for the families who continue to suffer unspeakable loss.






Thursday, 22 April 2021

A Prayer for Ashley Simpson





There is no shame in the way you left us 

Ashley

You made the world a better place

You healed hearts

Sang songs

And led the small children

Like a pied piper

And made tears turn from sadness to laughter.

You have earned your wings.

 

There is no shame in running home

Ashley

There is no more pain and sadness

Only cool lakes

Frosty drinks

And skies that go on forever.

 

For five years, we have cursed and cried

Ashley

Damned the injustice 

And sought reason 

While you consoled us 

With your lovely eyes

And magical smile

Shining back at us from all those selfies

On your Facebook page.

 

You are 32 forever

Ashley

Beautiful, strong and joyful

And we cannot wait

Until that wonderful day we meet you again.



In the meantime, we will keep your place warm

Right here at the bonfire

Eating mom and dad’s good cooking

And telling stories about you.

We'll play all of your greatest hits.

And hope you will hear us.

But know that despite the smiles

Our hearts are shattered. 

And can never be made whole. 


We go on in your name

Ashley. 

And fight for you

Because we made a promise

To your mom and dad.

Never Give Up.

And we never will.  

 

There is no shame on this rainbow day

Ashley.

Just birds that mark your passage

Dancing in the wind and light

At Margaret Falls

Where you have found a new beginning

A new and glorious musical dance

Accompanied by the wavering breath of a silver flute.

The trees join in, singing softly

And whisper your name

Ashley

In celebration of all that is good

In celebration of all that is eternally you.

 

 

Saturday, 17 April 2021

Ashley Simpson: Calling All Angels

Ashley Simpson was looking forward to spending one of her final afternoons in Salmon Arm, B.C. at Margaret Falls, a picturesque and rocky tourist attraction not far from the town where she and her boyfriend called home. 

Ashley had messaged her friends and family that she was done with the place, and would soon be heading home to St. Catharines, Ontario, her hometown. She was dead broke, so broke she didn't have phone service, so she was waiting for an unemployment cheque to arrive that would get her back home to celebrate the baby shower of her sister, Tara. Ashley was tired of fighting with her boyfriend Derek Favell, and she was so troubled by his demeanour that she posted a chilling meme.




Ashley, Derek and their friend Mike loaded up on cigarettes and libations and headed for Margaret Falls later that afternoon. Little did she realize that her final afternoon in Salmon Arm would also be her final day on Earth. 


                                                                            Ashley and Mike at Margaret Falls 


Meanwhile, Cindy and John Simpson, and their big extended family, were busy as usual. Ashley's parents work the ships that lumber through the Welland Canal, and are often off on the Great Lakes cooking massive meals for hungry sailors. But they never missed a FaceTime from Ashley, or any of her silly posts and selfies that earned her the nickname "selfie queen". 


                                                                                    Ashley and Cindy 

So when Ashley didn't FaceTime on that day, or the next, they started to panic. 

"This is Amanda," her sister wrote on her Facebook page. "If anyone knows Ashley's whereabouts please contact either myself or my mother...ASAP!!!!!"

Their pleas were met with well meaning posts of concern from friends, but no information. 

A few days later, her sister Amanda decided to leave St. Catharines for Salmon Arm, with her dad and some friends. They came into town with fire in their hearts, and tears in their eyes. After some initials dustups with Derek and others, they joined local volunteers to scour every inch of the places where Ashley spent her final hours. But they came up with nothing.

The boys she had been with said she probably took off and hitched a ride. Locals didn't recall seeing her. 
The RCMP went over every inch of the trailer where she had lived with Derek, and the adjoining areas. 

Nothing. 

A particularly wet spring made it difficult for search parties. The terrain is treacherous in the best weather and her heartbroken father watched in agony as the rain washed away any potential evidence at the scene. Still, he kept going back every spring, scouring the fields, the bush and streams looking for any loose clothing or shoe that might have fallen out of her pink suitcase that her boyfriend said she had taken off with. 

John risked everything to look for his daughter, spent every dime he had, and for a time lost his livelihood. He organized fundraisers, and golf tournaments, made hats and signs, and sweatshirts. Anything to keep himself busy while he sat at home, hoping for news.





Often, he would have to stop driving, and pull over to the side of the road, his body shaking, and tears flowing down his face. 

His wife Cindy reached out to the media and cheerfully took every interview request, hoping that somebody would come forward with information. 

A relative posted a $10,000 reward.

Still nothing. 

Ashley was never seen again after that spring day.  

That was five years ago. 

Despite all efforts, from the family and volunteers, Ashley has never been found.

It's as if she vanished into thin air along with several other women from the Salmon Arm/Enderby area who disappeared in the same year. The grief her family and friends feel is unspeakable, and she is never far from their thoughts, or their hearts. Her parents cry everyday for her.

So I am asking anyone and everyone to take a moment at 8 p.m. on April 27th to think of Ashley Simpson, to pray for her if they believe, to light a candle, or sing a song, and join us on her Facebook page to post their remembrance. 

I'm calling all angels to remember her and cherish her memory.

Maybe somebody, God, a cop, a volunteer or even her killer will be listening and make this situation right for the family.




Friday, 12 March 2021

My Hair of Many Colours

 

Embed from Getty Images

I walked through the inside part of my neighbourhood mall the other day for the first time in nearly a year. It's one of those places that was built especially for seniors back in the day and was once populated with older couples lingering over coffee watching new moms negotiate with toddlers who want to ride the mall horse, or grab a toy from a machine with a claw that hauls in a fortune but never gives a kid a decent toy.

In recent years, the mall has lost its way. There are still small shops indoors, like a unisex hair place, a tailor, a dry cleaner, and a couple of medical professionals. But there's no place to sit anymore, and people have to go outdoors and cross the mall to get their coffee at Starbucks, so most oldsters say, "just never mind" and they either walk home or get in the car and go to Timmies.

I haven't been in the indoor part of the mall because of Covid. All the little shops were shuttered for months, and have only opened recently. So I decided to go in.

I landed at the beauty shop in my search for a post-pandemic hair cut. I'd never been to the barbershop/beauty salon/nail place before but I went in this time because it had the right ambience -- two bored hairdressers, no waiting.

I plunked myself down, and the stylist cut my hair without even asking if I wanted a wash or a set. She just took the scissors out and got to work tidying up the mess that my hair had become thanks to my penchant for cheapness and self-care.

I've become a bit of an expert on hair cutting over the years. As a single mom, I couldn't even afford the cost of First Choice so I cut my own. It isn't hard. Just pull the hair together on each side and give it a snip, then tidy up after a wash and self-style. 

Unfortunately, my skills had become rusty over the past few years after I was finally able to afford colour, highlights and a cut at a prestige salon. I didn't balk at spending a couple of hundred dollars being pampered. I deserved it, I thought, as I handed the stylist my card and paid the equivalent of a car payment for a couple hours of her time. 

The hair cuts were so-so, but the colour was fabulous, a nice dark blonde kissed by highlights in a variety of silvers and gold. 

Alas, those days are gone. The big paycheques are finished, so I am left with only a few sheckles at the end of the month, just enough to pay for dog meds and eye drops. 

Not much left for self-care, and sadly, it shows. 

I haven't told you the best part. Not only was my hair cut by me at odd angles, it had also become a mass of unruly silver strands mixed with about three other colours, most of them varying shades of blonde. That's because I made the decision early in the pando to grow out the bottled colour and for the first time in two decades let the drapes match the rug (or what's left of it).

Honestly, my mane has become a coat of many colours that would have horrified Dolly Parton. 

I tried not to look at it which was easy for me because my eyes are failing so badly that I'm now unable to put on my eyebrows without taking a selfie to make sure one is not lighter than the other. It's why I now wear big glasses that hide eyebrows that were never great in the first place. Without some kind of shading, they literally disappear except for a few strands that stand at attention and wave to my adoring public.

Maybe it was the empty salon, maybe it was fate. 

But there was something about a nice spring day, with news that the pandemic would soon be in our rear view, that made me take a chance and walk into the salon, and watch in amazement at how deft my hairdresser was at cutting hair on a client with a mask on.

As she combed my hair, I told her my tale of woe, about my hair of many colours.

"It's nice," she said about my top growth. "You have highlights."

Wow. I never thought of it that way. 

Sometimes it takes a complete stranger to slap you on the side of your head, and realign the marbles.

Get over yourself, Rose. 

Your hair was never that nice to begin with. 




Friday, 12 February 2021

Ashley Simpson: The New Normal

 



In December 2020, John and Cindy Simpson's German Shepherd, Gypsy, gave them an early Christmas gift -- five glorious little puppies. She sadly lost three -- not an unexpected event in a litter. 

Five were still enough, and their busy Niagara-on-the-Lake house was filled that Christmas with joy mixed with the scent of mama's milk and puppy poo.

The pups were a welcome addition during a pandemic where it was difficult, if not impossible, for the Simpsons to gather their large extended family which now included another great-grandchild. John settled with being a surrogate mum to the little pups who snuggled with him in bed after they filled their tummies with mother's milk. 

Like most grandparents, John and Cindy missed the constant chatter of toddlers and rowdy adults who arrived on cue every Sunday for a feast of mashed potatoes, veg, and roast beast. 

But quiet was probably why they needed. 

Both John and Cindy were recovering from emergency surgery. In August, John had to be taken off a ship where he worked as a cook, and he underwent surgery for a perforated colon. A month earlier, Cindy had to be triaged from her own ship to have an emergency appendectomy. (She had exploratory surgery in the fall as well.)

John and Cindy are tough seafarers, but they realized it was time to smell the coffee, show down, and enjoy semi-retirement. The addition of the lovely little pups made their homes a little frenetic, but it was just what they needed. A distraction.

The past five years have been unkind to the Simpsons, my cousins, who lost their beloved daughter Ashley in April, 2016. Her body has never been found. Meanwhile, her killers, presumably, still walk among the decent folk of Salmon Arm and the police have said they have no suspects, publicly at least. Most people, including the Simpsons, have their theories who killed her, but without a body there's no proof, legally-speaking, and proof is the only thing that will put them away. I'm told there is evidence stashed somewhere on an RCMP site near where I live in Ottawa -- a long way from British Columbia, where the crime took place. It's in a truck that Ashley and her boyfriend Derek Favell lifted from Derek's employer in Pink Mountain. But the cops remain mum on their "continuing investigation".

It's also pretty much a certainty that Ashley's disappearance and homicide is connected to some other criminal activity that involves the drug trade which is the unofficial off-the-books creator of major wealth in that area of British Columbia. Ashley ran with some pretty bad dudes back. The existence of a large stash of drugs undoubtedly made it more complicated for her killers to hide her body. Clean up can be a bitch. Ask Walter White. 

None of this matters in the scheme of things. Her parents don't care about drugs, or the image of the cops who are gaining a reputation of being more like the Keystone Cops than Dudley Do Right. 

Ashley's gone and she isn't coming home. They will never hear her crank up the stereo and wail country tunes. They will never watch her jump into a lake polar bear style. 

They still have the rest of their family, and hope to gather around the bonfire in April to remember Ashley, pandemic permitting. They will be joined by Gypsy, who took on Ashley's nickname, and a new pup, Luna who stayed after the other puppies were re-homed.

Since Ashley disappeared, the Simpsons have learned that there's nothing you can count on in life. It's hard to sleep with memories of their beloved daughter interrupting their dreams. But they know the only way to survive the past is to cling to the joys of The New Normal: grandkids, puppies, and the wind whipping through the peach trees that line their country property.