Nova Scotia RCMP believe human remains discovered in a wooded area on Nov. 16 may be those of Katherine McNeil, which means the suspense may finally be over for her friends and family.

McNeil, who spent 16 years in British Columbia, including several in the Merritt area, before returning to Nova Scotia in 2008, has been missing since Oct. 4, 2010 after leaving the Cumberland Regional Health Care Centre in Amherst, Nova Scotia.

Besides being sighted purchasing shoes at a nearby store, McNeil disappeared without a trace.

On the one-year anniversary of her disappearance, Amherst RCMP issued a press release seeking assistance from the public in their ongoing search.

“Over the past year, the RCMP have followed up on close to a dozen potential sightings of McNeil in various locations,” said Cst. Dal Hutchinson in the release. “Unfortunately, none have been proven to be positive.”

However, RCMP have reason to believe the search may finally be over. When the human remains were discovered on the outskirts of Amherst, two-weeks ago, an RCMP investigation identified her possessions and identification with the remains. Now police are waiting for the results of a forensic analysis before they can positively identify the remains and the cause of death.

McNeil’s friends in Merritt, who already suspected the worst, are relieved to be so close to the truth.

“Deep down, I believed she had been victimized and I hoped she would be found sooner rather than later or never,” said Carmen Fairley.

Fairley first became acquainted with her when McNeil was hitchhiking from Merritt to Lower Nicola. After picking McNeil up a second time and driving McNeil to her campsite on the banks of Spius Creek, the two struck up a friendship and remained in close contact after McNeil returned to Nova Scotia.

When McNeil’s phone calls and emails ceased in late Sept. 2010, Fairley made the chilling discovery that she was missing.

“She was a good friend, and I cared about her a lot,” said Fairley. “We exchanged such great letters and phone calls.”

“My sadness is tinged with the relief of knowing what become of Katherine.”

Kathi Dahlquist-Gray, another friend of McNeil’s also expressed relief at her possible discovery.

“I’m glad they found her so we know where she is and that we can put her to rest,” said Dahlquist-Gray who had been having dreams that McNeil was dead. “Canada has lost a real pioneer in children’s rights.”