A Hitchhiker’s Trail of Mystery
On May 11, 1989, 20-year-old Charles Horvath faxed a letter from Roche Stationers in Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada, to his home in Yorkshire, England, saying he was looking forward to seeing his mother and stepfather on August 21, to celebrate both his and his mother’s birthdays. The day was to be a little extra special as it was a milestone birthday for both. Charles was turning 21; mum was turning 40.
Charles and his mother, Denise Horvath-Allan, planned to rendezvous in Hong Kong to celebrate their birthdays. Charles was to fly in from Canada, where he was visiting his biological father, while Denise would make the trek from her home in England. As the date drew closer, Charles wrote he would call his mum to finalize arrangements. The call, however, never came; it appears there may not be a mother and child reunion.
Charles Horvath was born in Canada. After his parents divorced, he and Denise remained in England while his father Max returned to Canada. For several years, Charles had returned to his native country to visit his father, often hitchhiking across the Great White North.
After receiving no further word from Charles throughout the summer of 1989, Denise contacted the Royal Canadian Mounted Police several times asking that they search for him. Charles had told several relatives he planned to hitchhike across Canada and the RCMP received hundreds of reported sightings of him doing so in eastern Canada after May of 1989 when he was last seen in western Canada. It was not until August that Charles was officially listed as missing.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police determined Charles had camped at the Tiny Town Campsite at the Royal Bank Orchard Park in Kelowna, a city of about 190,000 people in British Columbia, in May of 1989. The Tiny Town campground manager said that Charles had left abruptly in May of 1989, abandoning his tent and all of his possessions, most of which had been disposed of by the time the Mounties investigated. The few items that remained were given to Denise but provided no clues to Charles’ whereabouts.
The last confirmed sighting of Charles was on May 26, when a video recorder showed him cashing a cheque at a bank. However, a fellow camper believes he saw Charles shortly afterward at an all-night campground party.
After the missing person flyers of Charles were posted throughout Kelowna, Joanne Zebroff came forward, saying she had met Charles during his stay at the Tiny Town Campsite and that he had stayed for a time at her home.
Joanne said the last time she had any contact with Charles was when he came to her apartment unexpectedly. At the time, Joanne and her visiting brother were having dinner, and she refused Charles’ request to enter the apartment. She thought the event had occurred in May of 1989, the same month Denise had last heard from Charles. In the course of their investigation, however, the RCMP concluded Joanne was mistaken, saying the visit was in July of 1989, two months after Charles had last contacted his mother. The Mounties say during this time Charles contacted two relatives in eastern Canada telling them he intended to disappear.
Denise made yearly trips from England to Kelowna to search for Charles. On March 17, 1992, she found an unsigned letter at the door to her hotel room. It read, “Seen your ad in the paper looking for your son. I saw him on May 26. We were partying and two people knocked him out. But he died. His body is in the lake by the bridge.”
The lake the writer referred to was Lake Okanagan, just outside of Kelowna. Local divers searched for Charles’ body but found nothing. However, the letter writer was apparently watching them. Shortly after the search was called off, Denise received a second letter, claiming the divers were looking on the wrong side of the bridge. Equipped with a submersible camera, the divers searched on the other side of the bridge. One day later, they found a body, but it was identified as that of a 64-year-old man whose death was ruled a probable suicide. Police concluded the anonymous letters were hoaxes and the discovery of a body was only a coincidence.
The RCMP initially believed Charles disappeared of his own free will because they say he told several relatives of his intention to do so, and because of the hundreds of reported sightings of him hitchhiking in eastern Canada after May of 1989. The sightings continued until April of 1992 but could not be confirmed.
The Mounties have since changed their sentiments. In 2010, the Serious Crime Unit of the RCMP listed Charles as “presumably deceased.” His case remains open.
Charles Horvath would today be 50-years-old.
Denise Horvath-Allan continues searching for her son. She says she has information that Charles could have been murdered by members of a biker gang staying in Kelowna at the time he was camping there.
In 2017, Denise appeared on Britain’s Got Talent as a part of the “Missing People Choir”. I am so glad Denise is part of our group. “Murders, Missing People, and More Mysteries” echo her thoughts. We will do our part to keep Charles’ story active in the hopes that she will learn the fate of her son.
Link to the Missing Person’s Choir on “Britain’s Got Talent.”
More About Our Wonderful Guest Blogger:
Ian Granstra is a writer and a native Iowan now living in Arkansas.Growing up, he enjoyed watching real-life crime shows and further researching the stories featured. He wrote about many of them on his personal Facebook page, and several people suggested he should start a group featuring his writings. Ian founded the Facebook group “Murders, Missing People and More Mysteries” in August of 2018 he writes about many cold cases. The group also features many current criminal cases in the news. When Ian isn’t writing, he enjoys exercising, traveling and collecting sports cards. He’s also a big animal lover (his Facebook nickname is “beagle lover.”)
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