Unsolved Mysteries of the World
What Happened to Charles Horvath?
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Welcome to Unsolved Mysteries of the World Season Six Episode Six - What Happened to Charles Horvath?
Charles KJ Horvath was an adventurous young man who was visiting Canada, making his way from Ontario, where he met with his father and godfather and then travelling solo by hitchhiking highway One all the way across the prairies, into Alberta and finally into British Columbia.
He was in Swift Current, Sask. in March 1989 and cashed a check at the Royal Bank.
In April he had moved on to Banff, Alberta working at The Rimrock Hotel.
He arrived on May 3rd 1989 in Kelowna and set up camp in a campground across from a prospective employer – the small tourist theme park then known as Bedrock City – a 70s era tourist trap.
Charles registered for work at several student employment agencies to help him along on his backpacking and hitchhiking adventure.
On May 26th of 1989, Charles cashed a small check at a Royal Bank. He was to make arrangements with his mother to meet up in Hong Kong via Vancouver to celebrate his 21st and her 40th birthday. But he would never make it to Hong Kong and the grainy security footage at the bank was all that remained of Charles Horvath. He simply vanished into thin air.
Denise Horvath-Allan, Charles' mother, telephoned the Kelowna Detachment of the RCMP asking for their help in locating her son as she was anxious as she had not received an expected call from him in May 1989. The RCMP were reluctant to file a missing persons case as Charles was an adult and at the time did not suspect foul play.
Denise phoned the RCMP several more time, getting anxious with each proceeding call.
It wasn't until August 10th 1989 that an official missing persons report was taken, over two months later.
A year later, in July of 1990 the RCMP launched a search of the area inside the campsite where Charles had been staying. It appears that after Charles had gone missing several other residents took advantage of his property and stole valuables and used his equipment and gear.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police launched a search of the area inside the campsite in July 1990, after Denise advised them that she learned Charles had been camping at the campground. The RCMP retrieved some of Charles' clothing and a shaving bag from a 1989 Tiny Town resident.
During her many, many visits to Canada in search of her son, Denise met up with the campground caretaker and was given items belonging to Charles – a a rosary, a tiny red paper Bible and a leather strap from Charles' boot which had been kept in the shed for more than a year.
The manager said that Charles' tent, other belongings, personal photographs and his ID had been thrown away in the Spring of 1990.
Constable Kris Clark then said "There's obviously concern after so many years of not being in contact with somebody, whether it's a recovery at this point or not."
But upon retrieving the clothing and shaving bag they are said to have told Denise they believe Charles is deceased and most likely from foul play. No further details were provided. However, in an official RCMP statement they indicated that the statement was unfortunate and that the sediments were most likely simply a personal opinion and not one that the RCMP held at the time.
On a trip to Canada in March 1992, Denise received two anonymous letters delivered by taxi whilst staying at The Pandosy Inn Motel, detailing how her son had been partying at Tiny Tent Town with locals and had gotten into a fight where he was subsequently killed. His body was then dumped into Lake Okanagan.
This led local volunteer divers to go into Lake Okanagan and search for three days. Vancouver based 'International Sea Search' (ISS) aided with a submersible camera and its volunteer team to search beneath the old Floating Bridge for a further three days.
The RCMP joined the search on day five of the six day search.
On Friday 3 April 1992 while the RCMP Divers were not present, ISS located a male body and the police were called. The RCMP attended the scene later and their divers went into the lake, recovered the body and brought it to the surface. It was believed to be that of an elderly gentleman who had committed suicide at the lake seven years earlier and not Charles.
Police have dismissed the notes as some sort of practical joke, according to the CBC.
Denise believes her son died in May of 1989. "How and by what means I don't know but something terrible happened to him that prevented him from calling home," she said. "I want to know where his remains are. I want him to be laid to rest with his beloved Nana in Cambridge, England.”
In September of 1995, the police found a decomposed body in the logging country around Kelowna. Horvath-Allan's family waited for six weeks to be told that the body found was not of their son. At that time, the police hadn't contacted Mrs. Allan or any family member about the find of the dead body; the family were informed via friends and relatives who had seen reports in the local press.
Denise has made frequent trips to Kelowna to search for her son Charles, meet with police, hand out posters, talk with employers and residents in the city and across Canada. She sold her hair and beauty salon to finance the ongoing search and air fares to Canada and in 2010, she rented billboard space with posters appealing for information. Since Charles' disappearance, his father, godfathers and grandparents have died and each year, Denise feels time slipping away.
Denise was doing her own investigating as she felt there was no movement with the police on the file.
In 2013 Denise met with police and pleaded with them to assign the case to a cold case unit. They did not provide an official answer and Denise created a petition as she believes it is the only way the case will be resolved.
In 2015, the RCMP officially claimed that Charles was deceased. But they were no closer to finding where his remains are, what had happened to him, or who did what to him.
In 2018, Denise, along side RCMP presented a press conference in reference to Charles's disappearance.
“It was a struggle to get back here for me but things have changed and I’ll be back. A few people have given me the courage and adrenaline to not stop coming back so I will until the day I die,” Denise told reporters.
Seven years ago police told her that there were six areas in which they would be looking for Charles, but she learned that police had not fulfilled their promise. They had not even investigated one of the six. But during her trip in 2018 a new case worker told Denise that these would be followed up on and it is unclear if they have. Police asked Denise to stop her own investigating and to let them handle it from here on out.
A reminder: it is going on past 30 years...
Because this is an open investigation, there is very little details the police have provided besides what was presented here. We do know that Charles attended a late night party that evening at the campground and eye-witnesses place him there. They also state that in the morning, they found he was no longer at the campground, but left all his belongings including his personal items and valuables.
The campground has been known to attract a criminal element and the dregs of society with drug addiction very prevalent. It is speculated that Charles may have gotten into a fight with someone or he was misled by someone that ended his life.
The mysterious note that was provided anonymously, which the police dismiss, is interesting, however. How did this scribe know that Charles was at this campground, that there was perhaps a fight and he was knocked out. Did the assailants mention they were going to toss his body in the lake, but then changed their mind and buried him in the forested area?
Without a body, we will never know.
If you know anything about what happened to Charles Horvath, call Sgt. Paul Gosling of the Kelowna Serious Crime Unit at (250) 762-3300.
If you want to remain anonymous, you can call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477, or leave an online tip at www.crimestoppers.net
You can also visit our Facebook Page for photos and information. Denise also runs a Facebook page specifically for finding Charles and we will provide that link in the show notes.
If you know anything at all, send in an anonymous tip and let's end the nightmare for this mom.