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Murdered Indigenous woman's belongings destroyed by RCMP, brother tells inquiry

Paul Tuccaro is consoled by an elder while giving testimony during the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, in Edmonton Alta, on Tuesday November 7, 2017. Tuccaro's sister Amber Tuccaro went missing in 2010. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

The brother of a murdered Indigenous woman says Alberta RCMP destroyed his sister’s belongings even though nobody had been charged in her death.

“It was sitting there and got thrown out with the garbage,” said Paul Tuccaro, who testified Tuesday about the death of his sister Amber at the national inquiry into murdered and missing Indigenous women in Edmonton.

“How does that happen in this day and age?”

The inquiry is scheduled to sit for three days in the Alberta capital to hear from family members about their missing loved ones.

Amber Tuccaro lived in Fort McMurray, Alta., and flew to Edmonton with her 14-month-old son and a female friend on Aug. 17, 2010, police said. She booked into a hotel in Nisku near the airport and spent the day in the community.

The next day, police say she left her hotel room to catch a ride into Edmonton and got into an unknown man’s vehicle.

Sounding both baffled and hurt, Paul Tuccaro spent two hours telling the inquiry how RCMP seemed to downplay the family’s concerns about Amber’s disappearance and didn’t keep them in touch with the investigation after her body was found.

He said police wouldn’t list the 20-year-old mother as a missing person until she’d been gone 24 hours.

“They’re like, ‘Oh yeah, maybe she’s out partying or something. She’ll come back. That’s why we’ll give it 24 hours.'”

Police did open an investigation which took a chilling turn when they released a recording of a cellphone conversation between Amber Tuccaro and the man who gave her a ride.

Her body was found a few days later. Her killer remains at large.

Throughout, Paul Tuccaro described a dismissive investigation that rarely communicated with the family.

Amber Tuccaro’s name was wrongly removed from the missing persons list on the strength of someone’s fleeting glimpse. It was a month before she was put back on it. No apology was made, her brother said.

Paul Tuccaro said RCMP told them they’d had the cellphone tape for a year before they went public with it.

The family got passed around from officer to officer. Amber Tuccaro’s belongings sat in a hotel room for months before police took them and eventually threw them away.

Apart from their value as evidence, Paul Tuccaro said his mother would have liked to have had her daughter’s possessions back.

“We asked for a public apology. They said no.”

Paul Tuccaro described his sister as the baby of the family who loved music and could draw chuckles from a whole room with her knee-slapping laugh. She was devoted and protective of her son, Jason.

“She loved her son very much,” he said through tears. “(He) was her everything.”

All inquiry hearings, including Tuesday’s in Edmonton, are set up with brown paper bags labelled “Tears.” At the end of the day, the bags are gathered up. The bags, and the damp Kleenex they contain, are burned so the smoke can rise to the sky.

The Liberal government has earmarked $53.8 million and two years for the inquiry’s work. One year is left.