Human remains discovered in a submerged vehicle have now been confirmed to be a woman missing since 1999.
According to the province's Rewards for Major Unsolved Crimes Program, Arlene McLean left her home in Eastern Passage at around 8:30 p.m. on September 8, 1999 with nothing but her purse and the clothes she was wearing.
"Arlene McLean was reported missing by her common-law husband, Clifford Hall," explained lead investigator Cpl. Troy Murray in a YouTube video. (see below)
"Hall indicated that the evening before they had an argument and Arlene had decided to go for a drive in their family vehicle. When she left the residence, she gave the impression she wouldn't be long."
Murray said her disappearance was suspicious, but there was no evidence of foul play.
She drove off in a 1993 four-door green Hyundai Elantra, with the Nova Scotia plate CMG-691. There would be no sign of McLean or her vehicle for more than two decades.
However, police had a break in the case in October, 2020.
During a search involving a different investigation, the RCMP Underwater Recovery Team discovered two submerged vehicles several hundred metres apart in tidal waters near Rainbow Haven Beach, both of which matched the description of McLean's.
Sgt. Mark Bishop with the Underwater Recovery Team said divers were able to locate the VIN on one of the vehicles, but it wasn't a match. Further dives had to be delayed until the spring.
"In April of 2021, we set out to identify the second of those two vehicles," Bishop said.
"When the first diver arrived at the vehicle underwater, he noticed there was a licence plate adjacent to the vehicle, which we quickly confirmed was in fact the licence plate of the vehicle we were looking for."
Bishop said both windows of the vehicle were down, and a lot of mud and silt had built up over the years.
"At that point we were essentially searching by feel." he stated. "We excavated the inside of that vehicle literally by hand as the divers scooped the mud out."
"During that process we uncovered some human remains as well as some other key pieces of evidence related to the investigation."
Cpl. Murray said the Medical Examiner's office confirmed those remains were Arlene McLean.
"Although the timeline of this investigation created some significant challenges in us determining exactly what led to her death, at this time we do believe that her disappearance was not criminal in nature and the matter is concluded," Murray said.