A man who has been missing from Port Alberni since 2017 has been found. But his reappearance after five years has left his family with even more questions.
Brandon Cairney, missing since October 2017, resurfaced in the Lower Mainland earlier this month. Only he claims he is not the missing man from Port Alberni.
Cairney was 31 when he went missing. He was described in 2017 as reclusive, someone who spent a lot of time walking around the Alberni Valley, often as far away from the city as Stamp River Provincial Park or Mt. Arrowsmith Regional Park, and even Nanaimo. Cairney had had a brain injury and dealt with daily challenges as a result. He had been out of touch with family for two weeks when he was declared missing.
Cairney was featured in journalist Laura Palmer’s podcast Island Crime in Season 2: Gone Boys. Palmer featured a number of men missing from Vancouver Island, and Cairney’s story was one of them. Palmer broke the news on Sept. 24, 2022 that Cairney had been found.
Palmer has for three seasons featured cold cases of people missing on Vancouver Island. This summer she started a brief series on a missing Port Alberni woman, Amber Manthorne, which is a current case. Manthorne is still missing. Palmer has occasionally posted updates to previous seasons. This is the first time she has posted that someone who was lost has been found.
Palmer said she received a message on Sept. 23 through social media saying “one of your Vancouver Island missing men turned up.” The source didn’t identify which person had shown up.
“I checked in with the families,” Palmer said in a Season 2 update: A Gone Boy No More: Brandon Cairney. “Without raising false hopes, I wanted to see if any of them had an update. And then a few hours later, I receive a note from a man named Mark Cairney.”
Mark Cairney is Brandon’s uncle, and was one of the people Palmer interviewed for her Gone Boys series. He explained that Brandon had been picked up by border services representatives in Burnaby, for reasons that haven’t been made clear. Brandon has apparently been living in the United States for the past five years under a different name.
“He insists he is not Brandon,” Mark Cairney wrote to Palmer. As of the podcast release date, Brandon Cairney had not contacted anyone back in Port Alberni. The family is struggling with the knowledge, according to Brandon’s uncle. His mother, Linda, told Palmer it was a shock to hear Brandon is alive, and difficult for her to comprehend why he is using a different name and not recognizing his Port Alberni family.
“We know he’s OK, but we still may never see him, and that brings up different emotions, of course,” she wrote to Palmer.
Port Alberni RCMP aren’t saying much about Cairney’s reappearance. “A person that was reported missing from Port Alberni in 2017 has been located safe in Burnaby,” said Const. Richard Johns. “The person that was located had a warrant for a DNA sample and that person’s identity was confirmed through fingerprints,” he added.