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Man denies he is the Island missing person his fingerprints identify him as

Brandon Cairney went missing five years ago, but he recently resurfaced in Burnaby with a new name

Latest News
News
Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Man denies he is the Island missing person his fingerprints identify him as

Brandon Cairney went missing five years ago, but he recently resurfaced in Burnaby with a new name

Photos of Brandon Cairney courtesy of Laura Palmer
Photos of Brandon Cairney courtesy of Laura Palmer
Latest News
News
Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Man denies he is the Island missing person his fingerprints identify him as

Brandon Cairney went missing five years ago, but he recently resurfaced in Burnaby with a new name

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Man denies he is the Island missing person his fingerprints identify him as
Photos of Brandon Cairney courtesy of Laura Palmer

Almost exactly five years after his disappearance at age 31, the Island’s Brandon Cairney seems to have been found in Burnaby after apparently being in the US. But the identified person insists that he is not Cairney—a Port Albernian who was a high school star athlete but changed dramatically after a brain injury. 

Laura Palmer, the host of the podcast Island Crime, was tipped off last week that one of the missing people she had profiled had reappeared. After speaking to some different families, she discovered it had been Cairney. She ended up talking to the family of Cairney and releasing a brief update in which the family provides what new information they have on him and his recent interactions with police and border services. They also discuss his conviction that he is not Cairney, and his refusal to have any contact with the family. 

“We’re all trying to let it sink in,” Brandon’s uncle Mark Cairney told Palmer. “It’s good to know and we’ll let him continue on. If he chooses to contact any of us, that will be great but that’s his choice.”

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Palmer has since been in contact with the Burnaby RCMP who confirmed that they had located a missing person, and though they would not say who it was, Brandon Cairney is no longer listed on BC’s missing persons list. Cairney’s mother, father, and uncle each confirmed to Palmer that the man found is indeed the missing man.

“My understanding is that he was located and because of his fingerprints, they were able to identify him, even though he was saying he was someone else,” Palmer told Capital Daily. “So it’s quite a peculiar situation, particularly because this is a man who now says he’s American and has a different name and has been living in the United States.”

Podcast brought increased attention to case

Brandon Cairney went missing in October 2017. It had been over 10 years at that point since he was in a car accident that nearly killed him and left him with a major brain injury. 

Before the accident, Cairney had been a star athlete, playing basketball, high-level soccer, and competing in track & field. He also loved art and music.

After the accident, his emotions were magnified, and his short-term memory was affected. Due to the brain injury, he wasn’t able to hold down a job, he suffered from constant headaches, and would go for long walks to help him cope. 

“His family was, I would say, somewhat divided between those who were certain that there was no way he would just walk away because…he didn’t have the ability to make it on his own,” Palmer said. “There were also those who thought maybe he could have, maybe he’s out there, maybe he’s alive.” 

When the second season of Island Crime came out, Palmer said she got lots of tips about each of the missing men, and lots of theories were floating around. The majority of the missing persons that Palmer has profiled are still missing, but now, for Cairney’s family, it’s a relief to know he’s alive. 

Last winter, Island Crime focused on the still-unsolved 1991 disappearance of Victoria child Michael Dunahee at a playground. The Capital Daily Podcast interviewed Palmer about that story and what sets her work apart from the ethically ambiguous true-crime format.

One of many BC missing persons cases

BC recorded 12,400 missing persons cases involving adults in 2020—more than 40% of the country’s total cases. The province consistently has a disproportionate number of missing persons, and the reasons why are not much clearer than the whereabouts of the people themselves. Last summer Capital Daily looked at this phenomenon and the people trying to understand it, to change it—and to find their loved ones.

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With paid membership, every penny goes directly to helping our newsroom continue its work and helps our team grow and expand our coverage

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