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article imageSymposium teaches how to use social media to find a missing child Special

By KJ Mullins     Jun 8, 2011 in Crime
Toronto - The Toronto Police's Fugitive Squad is hosting the International Fugitive Investigators Conference this week. Those attending are learning new tricks for their trade on how to capture fugitives.
On Wednesday morning Scott Mills, Toronto Police Constable and social media adviser for CrimeStoppers International and CrimeStoppers International President Michael Gordon-Gibson presented a symposium on how social media is being used to track fugitives.
The training exercise used the case of a very real and active case, parental abduction victim Pearl Gavaghan Da Massa. Pearl's last sighting was last summer in Toronto. The child is from Manchester, England.
Pearl's father Hollywood Henry Da Massa has been looking for his daughter ever since that day. His little girl and her mother were spotted in Toronto in July 2009 going by Belle Flaherty and Dana Flaherty. Pearl's father is staying in Toronto hoping to find his daughter. Since his arrival he has been working with the Toronto Police to get his story out. He's worked closely with both Constable Wendy Drummond and Constable Scott Mills on ways to get the word out on Pearl. One tool that the Constables have helped him with is by developing a Facebook page, Missing Pearl.
"It's free, it's universal, it's real time, it's faster than anything else," Da Mossa said of social media like Facebook and Twitter.
Helen had told Henry that she was taking Pearl on holiday to India. It was a lie.
It's believed that somewhere in Canada little Pearl Gavaghan Da Massa is living with her mother, Helen Gavaghan. On December 9, 2008 when Pearl was just 4 years old she traveled to Cancun, Mexico with her mother. It was the beginning of a life in hiding.
On Saturday evening I interviewed Mr. Da Massa about his daughter in downtown Toronto. Henry is devoted to the little girl that he's not seen for over three years and he's worried.
"We've been told that Pearl is having problems. She's not developing socially or educationally. We know that she is having to live a lie. It's not good for her."
At the time of the sighting Pearl was living in the Parkdale area being homeschooled by her mother. Helen was watching other children to pay her keep.
Pearl and her mother entered Toronto on January 15, 2009. They stayed at the Red Door Shelter with Helen using the name Meta International.
"While she was at the shelter workers tried to get Helen to gain some type of status," Henry said sadly, "Helen knew that would be impossible. She was a fugitive. Had she applied she would have been caught. So she disappeared from the shelter when the workers expressed concerns about Pearl."
From there Helen and Pearl went to Zacchaeus House in Parkdale. It's a community setting that some have called a cult founded in 1991. Some of the residents in the program are seeking refuge such as war resisters from the United States. This is where Helen exchanged child care services for her and Pearl's room and board.
Helen also went to St. Felix Centre for meals and clothing until September 2009. On September 28, 2009 healthcare professionals voiced concerns about Pearl's well being.
In October 2009 Pearl was seen in the Riverdale area.
Toronto Police went to Zacchaeus House in February 2010 but were told that the little girl and her mother were no longer living there. Just a month later they were seen at St. Felix Centre again.
Pearl and Helen were still being spotted in July 2010 in Toronto. She was spotted at a thrift store in Parkdale. Since July there have not been any confirmed sightings.
It's not known where Pearl is now. Some think she may be in Vancouver. What is known is that living on the run takes a toll on the children. The Toronto Fugitive Squad along with Interpol have been actively looking for the young girl. Her mother has to be aware of that, causing her to go even further undercover. It is unlikely that she has been able to leave Canada. Her passport would be flagged at any of the border crossings.
Henry is asking anyone who has seen Pearl to please give police or CrimeStoppers that information. You don't have to say who you are.
More about Henry Da Mossa, Pearl gavaghan massa, Fugitive, Social media
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