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Islanders step up to find contents of Alberta woman’s stolen suitcase

'Best robber ever'

An Alberta woman had to do some detective work when her “bright lime-green” suitcase disappeared after being accidentally left in a hotel parking lot in Parksville.

The suitcase, which vanished Feb. 12, contained beloved family belongings, including a plaid coat that belonged to Challaine Emerson’s late grandmother; a personalized pin from when her father, who died two years ago, served in Vietnam; her dad’s grey sweater; a bracelet made by the two youngest of her four children; a black satin pillowcase from an older son; and credit cards.

Emerson and her husband, who live in Airdrie, north of Calgary, were on the Island for a business trip for their company, Custom Exteriors Canada. On their final day, they pulled out of their hotel’s parking lot and inadvertently left behind the large green suitcase. They only discovered it was missing after arriving in Vancouver, and learned that the hotel did not have it.

Emerson posted about her predicament on social media and was quickly offered help from a sympathetic band of Islanders.

A woman who was out for a walk spotted the empty green suitcase and got in touch with Emerson. Police were called and collected the suitcase.

Emerson was in the midst of cancelling her credit cards when she noticed charges showing up. “I’m on the phone cancelling and transactions are happening at the same time.”

One transaction at a Qualicum Beach service station was for soap and air freshener, and she posted online about the purchase.

The owner of the service station saw her post and passed on the image matching the transaction amount.

Emerson then posted the man’s photo online and someone else recognized him, sending her his name and number.

That prompted Emerson to send a text to the man, who she is not naming.

She said she told him: “I’m not going to press charges if you can just let me know where my stuff is. I know it is just junk to you but there are items in there that are completely irreplaceable.”

She listed off the most treasured items.

She got a reply, saying: “I’m sorry I honestly thought that it was abandoned. I feel really bad about taking it now. I’m so sorry. Please forgive me. If you wish to charge me it is what it is.”

He said he would gather everything together and return it the following day, asking: “How did you get my number?”

She did not reveal the source of the number.

The man failed to deliver the items at the hotel’s front desk as arranged, however, and subsequent efforts to pin him down were unsuccessful. He said at one point that he was in Port Alberni.

Emerson continued to text the man, without success, so she called police, who texted the man themselves. Garbage bags containing some of the belongings were dropped off in Parksville on Monday and picked up by a woman who Emerson had connected with online.

However, her black satin pillowcase was not there, nor her bracelet or a large black-and-white blanket and other clothes. Her toiletries were gone, too.

The bags did, however, contain clothes that were not hers, including pants, a coat, boxer shorts and more.

The man sent a text saying he figured she was involved with fraud because of the four credit cards in the suitcase, with no wallet. ‘That’s why I didn’t mind taking it at the time so I think it was a major misjudgment on my end for sure. Again, sorry for messing up your life and causing all this stress upon you. I feel so bad.”

Emerson added with a laugh: “He’s been, like, super-friendly this whole time — best robber ever.” She and her husband are returning to the Island shortly, and plan to collect the suitcase and personal items.

She is hopeful that the man will return her missing items.

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