Police confirmed that they will search a portion of the Brady Landfill site for the remains of Tanya Jane Nepinak. It is believed that Shawn Lamb put her body in a trash container after he killed her, and that her remains were dumped at the landfill. Here, police Chief Keith McCaskill uses a diagram to help explain the area of the landfill police intend to search. Wednesday, August 8, 2012.
Credits: CHRIS PROCAYLO/QMI AGENCY
Chief Keith McCaskill said officers are preparing to undertake what he described as the "mammoth task" of trying to recover her remains from the Brady Road Landfill in what would be the largest search of its kind in Winnipeg's history.
"We believe she is there," McCaskill said Wednesday.
Police believe Nepinak was murdered by alleged serial killer Shawn Lamb, who is also accused of murdering two other Winnipeg women.
Nepinak, 31, disappeared Sept. 13, 2011. Police believe she was killed the same day and dumped in a garbage bin near Lamb's former west end home, according to Nepinak's family. Her remains ended up in the south Winnipeg garbage dump, police said.
While there is value to finding Nepinak's remains for investigators, McCaskill said that's secondary right now.
"In my view, the most important thing is to get some closure for the family, and that's why we have to do everything we possibly can to be able to look to recover remains," he said.
A portion of the landfill site has been secured and garbage isn't currently being dumped there. But finding remains -- or any evidence -- will be difficult.
Police have searched the dump before but have never conducted a search anywhere close to this size. They've sought advice from the FBI, RCMP and experts who searched through rubble at 9/11 site and Robert Pickton's Vancouver-area farm.
The actual search area is 100 metres long, 20 metres wide, and five metres deep. However, that's buried under about eight metres of fill that needs to be removed first in a much larger "excavation area" that would be scraped away by heavy equipment. It's estimated the initial dig job alone will take more than a month.
"It's a huge, huge task," McCaskill said. "It's a difficult task, but something we have to do."
The odds are stacked heavily against the police. Experts estimate there's less than a 5% chance police will find anything, McCaskill said.
"But we're pleased to be able to say there is at least an opportunity, a chance -- or at least a slight chance -- of recovering something, and we've got to take every step we possibly can," he said.
Nepinak's children, aged 11 and 16, are having trouble believing their mother is gone, said their father, Vernon Mann.
"The search, it'll help them accept it, and hopefully start healing," said Mann. "We really want her back so we can lay her to rest, finally."
A start date has yet to be set as police continue to plan for the excavation. Police declined to put a price tag on the operation.