In the coming days, the brother of a man who disappeared under suspicious circumstances near Spences Bridge in October 2017 will arrive in B.C. with two billboards and a renewed sense of purpose.

It has been over a year since Luke Neville was reported missing by his two roommates on Oct. 10, 2017. A day later, his burned out white 2003 Ford E-250 van was recovered on a forest service road 20 kilometres from where Luke lived, but his body was never found.

That’s one year too long for Luke’s brother Mark, who plans to travel from Ottawa to erect two billboards on either end of Spences Bridge next week, imploring the rural community to come forward with information he believes is being withheld.

Mark Neville plans to erect two billboards in Spences Bridge, imploring the community to come forward with information about his brother’s disappearance. (Photo courtesy of Mark Neville).

“I am definitely confident people in town know [things about Luke’s disappearance]. I know people know and police know people know and they are not coming forth because they are afraid, and I cannot blame them,” he said. “They are afraid to come forth with information that would help the police move the case forward and locate Luke’s body and bring those responsible for his death to justice. I would like to plead to those people with the billboard.”

Mark believes keeping his brother at the forefront of people’s minds will get them talking, hopefully to the police or Crime Stoppers.

“I just spend every minute of the day trying to think ‘What else can we do to move this along and not just let it become a cold case file?’” Mark said. “We really have to find him, we have to bring him back home — that is all there is to it.”

Luke and his brothers Mark, Peter and Paul grew up in the Montreal area, and moved to Ottawa when they were in their late teens and early 20s. Before Luke moved to B.C. in 2005, all four brothers worked together as firefighters in Ottawa.

Brothers Mark, Peter Paul and Luke Neville stand together as professional firefighters in 2000. (Photo courtesy of Mark Neville).

“It just speaks to the way our dad brought us up — always to take care of your brother, and everything is about family. Family, family — he drilled that into our heads,” Mark said. “Your friends will come and go but your brothers will always be there for you.”

Luke was 48 years old when he disappeared. He had been living in B.C. for approximately 13 years.

“His move was hard on us, especially his mother, because we all lived near each other in Ottawa, but we understood he needed to start up his own career and live in a warmer, milder climate,” he said, noting Luke started a home renovation business in B.C. “He often visited us or we visited him in Spences Bridge.”

In fact, Luke’s family had seen him only weeks before his mysterious disappearance, as he had flown back to Ottawa for his nephew’s wedding in September of 2017. Luke would go missing in October.

“It was just a really weird circumstance that we happened to all have a chance to see him and spend a good time with him, and then he left and nobody knew it was going to be the last time,” Mark said. “So this year has been — I wouldn’t say a roller-coaster, it has all been downhill – there is no upside. There is no reason for optimism to think he is going to be found alive, that is for sure. So we know it is just a matter of finding his remains.”

As the months have passed, Mark’s frustration with the RCMP’s investigation has grown.

“It is not the individual’s fault who is leading it, just more or less the way their hands are tied, what kind of investigation they can do with the resources they have,” he said. “I had no idea how long things take, so I am very discouraged by that aspect of it.”

The RCMP still consider Luke missing with the suspicion of foul play being involved, confirmed Cpl. Dan Moskaluk of the Southeast District Major Crime unit. He added Luke’s disappearance is one of their “high priority files.”

The Neville brothers. (Photo courtesy of Mark Neville).

“We try and do best by the people affected and the victims themselves,” he said. “We certainly understand that at times families can feel frustrated and I think it is a natural reaction we would all feel. We would all be demanding of the agencies responsible for advancing and finding answers.”

While the passing of time can be frustrating, Moskaluk added it can provide the necessary space for people’s circumstances to change, sometimes encouraging them to come forward with information.

“And that is what we always hope for because that is the lynch pins for these investigations,” Moskaluk said. “Usually with some piece of information it unfolds and then we make great strides.”

At the end of the day, the Neville family is seeking closure.

“And that was always just a word to me, I never even really knew what it meant. I have been a firefighter for over 30 years now and I always heard about closure, but I know what it means now and I know what it means when you don’t have it,” Mark said. “Every day is just like there is no end. It is hard to describe, but there has got to be an end and there is no end and there is no hope of an end — that is the worst part.”

Learning the other details about what happened to Luke is of lesser importance to Mark, who said his only wish is to find his brother’s remains.

“I suppose at some point I’ll change my tune, maybe when we find him and I get on to the next stage, but right now I’m not even there, I could care less,” he said.

This past spring, an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) operator based out of Kamloops joined the search for Luke.

Ryan Hillaby conducted a search mission during the fall with drones in Nicomen Falls — an area inaccessible to helicopters, other aircraft and to people on the ground.

“Areas of interest were searched by law enforcement and search and rescue using canines and conventional aerial methods. Neither method came up with positive results,” reads Hillaby’s website. “While we did not find any objects of interest, we were relieved to eliminate one potential location where Luke might be found.”

In an effort to recruit other UAV operators for the mission, Hillaby plans to start a crowd-funded campaign in the spring of 2019 for a second search he is planning. He added the area on the Thompson Plateau where Luke’s van was found will be the jumping off point for their next mission.

In the meantime, Luke’s brother is far from giving up.

“I know if my dad were here he would say ‘I don’t care how hopeless it seems, do something.’ So that is what we are going to do.”