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Crime News Cold Cases

What Happened to Madison Scott, Whose Remains Were Found 12 Years After Her Disappearance?

Madison Scott was reported missing on May 29, 2011 when she never came home from a party at a lake in British Columbia, Canada. 

By Elisabeth Ford
A police handout of Madison Scott

It's been 12 years since Madison “Maddy” Scott vanished from a Canadian campsite not far from her hometown of Vanderhoof, British Columbia, and though her remains have since been found, questions abound about how she lost her life.

For more than a decade, the town had been plastered with posters and billboards with Scott’s face, describing the 20-year-old as five feet four inches and having shoulder-length ginger hair, a bird silhouette tattoo on the inside of her left wrist and a nose piercing through her left nostril.

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Monetary rewards of up to $100,000 were issued in a desperate plea from Scott’s family to bring her home.

“We are a private family, and we never thought we would be put into such a public position,” Scott’s mother, Dawn Scott, told the Prince George Citizen in 2011. “It is extremely hard for us all and we will do whatever it takes to find Maddy.”

The Scott family has said that their focus since 2011 was to find their daughter. While the search for Scott ended in May 2023, her loved ones still have many questions left unanswered

A police handout of Madison Scott

When did Madison Scott disappear?

Scott disappeared in the early morning of May 28, 2011, according to the website MadisonScott.ca, a hub for information about Scott’s disappearance that was created by her family. The night before, May 27, Scott attended a birthday party with some friends at Hogsback Lake, roughly 15 miles from her hometown of Vanderhoof. She was last seen at 3 a.m. PT before being left alone to sleep in a tent overnight on the lake’s campgrounds, where the party was being held, according to a timeline on the website.

With no word from Scott all weekend, her parents went to Hogsback Lake on May 29, a Sunday, in search of her, knowing she had camped out there two nights before. They reported her missing to police when they discovered Scott’s tent flattened on the ground and her 1990 Ford F150 pick-up truck with her purse inside, but she was nowhere to be found, according to CBC News.

Official search and rescue efforts began that afternoon. Authorities believed it was out of character for Scott not to be in touch with her friends and family for that long, ruling her disappearance as suspicious, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said in a statement.

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"We believe that something criminal may have occurred between 4 and 8:30 a.m. on May 28, that led to her disappearance, we do not believe she simply walked away,” Sgt. Matt MacLeod with the RCMP North District Major Crime Unit said in a 2020 release, according to the Prince George Citizen“We know someone out there has information that can help us find Maddy or identify the person(s) responsible."

For more than a decade, the RCMP and community volunteers worked tirelessly to try to find the young woman to no avail.

Posters were hung and billboards were mounted. CBS News' 48 Hours covered her story in their investigation into Highway 16, a road in B.C. dubbed "The Highway of Tears" after numerous disappearances and murders occurred there.

The district municipality of Vanderhoof, where Scott was from, hosted an annual “On the Trail to Find Maddy Poker Ride,” an event meant to raise awareness about Scott’s disappearance, the Vanderhoof Omineca Express reported.

Scott’s mother, Dawn, told the Express that people in the area started asking that the missing persons signs be taken down within the first five years of her daughter's disappearance.

“They would question why we were still looking. If you were in our shoes, would you stop looking?,” Dawn asked.

Was Madison Scott ever found?

The search for Scott ended on May 29, 2023 when authorities confirmed that the B.C. Coroner's Service ruled that remains discovered belonged to Scott. Authorities added that they were executing a search warrant on a rural property located on the east side of Vanderhoof. "We can confirm that the property is associated to the discovery of Maddy," Royal Canadian Mounted Police stated. "The Scott family has been advised and they have asked for privacy at this time."

“This has been a priority investigation for the RCMP over the past 12 years,” British Columbia RCMP Cpl. Madonna Saunderson said in statement. “The discovery of Maddy is a significant development, however this investigation remains an active and ongoing missing person's investigation where foul play has not been ruled out.”

Royal Canadian Mounted Police added that no charges had been filed at the time, and asked that anyone with any information in the case call a tip line at (778) 290-5291 or (877) 543-4822.

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Scott would have been 32 this year. In a 2022 statement, the RCMP called her “a vibrant, free-spirited, loyal and kind individual. When not hard at work at her parents’ family business, Madison immersed herself in family/friends, hockey, softball and photography.

Vanderhoof Mayor Kevin Moutray told CBC News that Scott's disappearance shocked the community.

"Everybody knew Madison [as] a sister, a daughter, a friend ... somebody knew her in some way, and you have all that connection," he said.

Moutray added that he hoped that the discovery of her remains would bring solace to the Scott family, but also that it leads to answers as to how she died.

The Scott family credited support from friends, family and the community as the reason their daughter’s remains were found.

“As a family, we now have the opportunity to allow Maddy to rest,” the Scotts said in a May statement issued by the RCMP. “We trust that with patience, persistence and belief that we will receive answers, and remain motivated to achieve closure.