Finding Amber: New podcast looks at case of missing Port Alberni woman

By Laura Palmer

There is a cheery red front door on Amber Manthorne’s lakeside home. The bright colour a contrast to the quiet sadness surrounding the place she loved the most. Despite a warm summer filled with blue skies and sunshine, Amber’s disappearance casts a pall over the town of Port Alberni.

Forty-year-old Amber vanished one month ago. She was reported missing to the Port Alberni RCMP on July 8, 2022, after she failed to turn up for work that Friday morning.

The Vancouver Island Integrated Major Crime Unit (VIIMCU) has been called to assist.

The town is papered in posters of the blonde-haired, blue-eyed petite woman. Amber’s hot pink poster is nailed to trees along the roadside, in shop windows, and on community bulletin boards. Amber is simultaneously everywhere, and nowhere.

A missing person poster with the word MISSING in large at the top features three photos of a woman

Missing person posters for Amber Manthorne have been plastered around the Port Alberni community. (Submitted)

A loyal friend, a devoted daughter, a really ‘cool chick’, bubbly, always cheerful, Amber Manthorne is a cherished member of the Port Alberni community.

Dané McMeekin is a close friend of Amber’s. The pair are known as ‘the chips’. They sometimes wear matching outfits.

A woman with blonde, shoulder-length hair sits on a chair

Dané McMeekin, a close friend of Amber Manthorne, talks about the Port Alberni woman’s disappearance. (Submitted)

“It’s really hard not having her around right now. Our friendship goes on for our whole entire life,” explained McMeekin.

“Amber is the happiest person you’ve ever met. Cute as a button. Always smiling, laughing, cheerful. She was always dancing around. She was just like a little ball of energy, a ray of sunshine, literally. Definitely a heart of gold. “

A silhouette of a woman holding up her arms behind a campfire with a lake and darkening sky in the background

Vancouver Island woman Amber Manthorne dances by a campfire. She was reported missing a month ago. (Submitted)

Tseshaht Elected Chief Councillor Waamiiš (Ken Watts) went to school with Amber and remained her friend throughout the years. When he learned Amber was missing, he and his community offered to help out however they could.

“We have a responsibility to look after the territory. The land, the air, the water, the animals, and the people too. We feel an obligation, even though they may not be citizens of our community, when things happen, we feel like it’s our job to step up. “

The Tseshaht provided a gathering space for friends and searchers to meet outside their market. They offered cultural support; prayers or a brushing of the area for those devastated by Amber’s disappearance.

A man stands in front of a railing by the water's edge. He has his hands clasped in front of him

Elected Chief Councillor Waamiiš says the Tseshaht has been offering support in the search for missing Port Alberni woman Amber Manthorne. (Submitted)

Amber loved the lakeside cottage she had called home for the past decade. Her social media posts are filled with Great Central Lake sunsets. The lake itself has been the focus of some of the searches for Amber.

Mike Schingnitz is a commercial diver and Amber’s long-time friend. Normally he works on big fish boats, scraping off barnacles or removing nets from props.

“I’ve known Amber for at least 20 years. She is just a really cool chick, a super friendly girl. Like never any judgment, not stuck up or self-centered, just really a nice genuine girl. It’s hard to fathom that she’s missing — I don’t want to say gone. ”

Soon after he learned his friend was missing, Mike offered to put his skillset to use in searching for Amber. Great Central Lake is 45 k long and the second deepest lake on Vancouver Island. Divers, including Mike, plunged into the waters about 50 yards from Amber’s deck.

A home by the water is pictured with trees in the background. There are some boats visible to the left in the distance.

Amber Manthorne’s Port Alberni home by the water. (Submitted)

“Once you go down 15 feet, then it gets really cold because it comes in off the glaciers and from the snowpack. You can see lots of big rocks. There’s a lot of shale kind of edges and cliffs and there’s big tree stumps down there. It’s not hard to see because it’s all fresh water.”

Mike has searched for things in the past while diving but this time was different.

“I’m always looking for something, but when I was diving at the time, I’m just like, oh-my-God, I’m looking for one of my friends, not just looking for someone’s tools they dropped or a boat they sunk. It was hard.”

A man sits on a bench near a small harbour where there are boats

Mike Schingnitz, a long-time friend of Amber Manthorne, has been helping in the search for the missing Port Alberni woman. (Submitted)

As difficult as it would be, Mike wishes he could have found Amber and brought closure to her family and friends.

One month on, Amber’s family and friends aren’t giving up. Family spokesperson Kristie St. Claire remains committed to finding Amber.

“We’re all here to just keep moving forward. And we’re all here to spell each other off when somebody needs to pass a baton and take a break. There’s still life going on. There’s still little kids that are counting on going camping and swimming and boating like they were supposed to do all along. Amber, she wouldn’t want anyone to not live their life because of this. She would want help, she would want to be found and for her mom to be supported.”

A woman sits on a chair outside a home on the porch. There's a red door to her right and a white trim behind her

Kristie St. Claire, who speaks on behalf of missing woman Amber Manthorne’s family, says her loved ones are committed to finding her. (Submitted)

RCMP Corporal Alex Bérubé is the Island District’s Media Relations Officer. At the time of writing, he confirmed there are no updates on the investigation at this time.

While Amber’s disappearance is out of character, it may not be a crime. Police haven’t ruled out criminality.

Anyone with information who has not already spoken with police is asked to contact the Port Alberni RCMP at 250-723-2424.

If you want to help support Amber’s friends-you can join them on Facebook through the group Finding Amber Manthorne.

You can listen to ‘Finding Amber‘ wherever you listen to your podcasts.

Rogers is the parent company of the Frequency Podcast Network and CityNews. 

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