Mystery of English man's disappearance from Kelowna gets renewed attention | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Mystery of English man's disappearance from Kelowna gets renewed attention

Charles Horvath was 20-years-old at the time of his disappearance.
December 15, 2020 - 6:00 AM

A renewed effort to crack a Kelowna cold case got underway this week with the release of a podcast titled The Missing.

Charles Horvath, the 20-year-old backpacker who disappeared from Kelowna in 1989, is the first missing person profiled on the UK-based series hosted by Pandora Sykes.

Working in collaboration with Missing People and Locate International — an organization made up of ex-detectives — Sykes aims to re-engage public interest in cold cases and encourage people with information to come forward.

“For more than 30 years I’ve been trying to find out what happened to my son Charles,” Denise Horvath Allen, Charles’s mother says about the podcast, in a press release.

“As the parent of a missing person I’ve learned to deal with setbacks and false hopes; the feeling of not knowing what happened to him is overwhelming. I’m pleased that this podcast series has chosen to include Charles’ case – as one way to find out what happened to him is to keep the conversation going.”

While the podcast helps with the public face of the investigation, six criminology students from Leeds University are chasing down the leads that will hopefully follow. Already they’ve gone back to when the story started and are building a timeline and investigating places Charles may have been.

“In a case like Charles’s, even 30 years after the case there may be someone out there with the information that can make difference,” retired investigator Dave Grimstead said in the podcast.

Featured heavily is Horvath Allen, whose heartbreaking quest for answers is a yearly addition to the Kelowna news cycle. Last year she filed for her son’s death certificate but how the journey for answers started is the focus of this program.

She talks about calling the Kelowna RCMP in 1989 after not hearing from her son for an unusual period of time and being brushed off. It didn't stop her from calling back, though the reception didn't get warmer in the month that followed so she decided her only recourse was to travel to Kelowna. She and her mother booked into the Pandosy Inn, the hotel across the street from The Tiny Town campground where her son was living, though she didn’t know it when she booked her stay.

Once she did, however, she crossed the street and spoke to the campsite manager who said he remembered Charles. He went to a shed where he retrieved three small items, including a rosary, a tiny red bible and a tiny strap from her son’s boot.

“Is this all that’s left of my son?” she remembered saying.

That’s when she learned his other belongings had been thrown away.

As the trip came to an end, Horvath Allen eventually heard from RCMP, who told her that the “belief of this detachment is your son is dead. We will never find his body or what happened to him.”

It was shocking, she said.

She went home and returned two years later.

That time, while in her hotel, she received anonymous letters delivered by a yellow cab.

One confirmed her worst fears and said there was a party at the campsite, Charles had been knocked out and then died. His body was thrown in the lake.

Kelowna RCMP decided to act on the tip and scoured the lake unsuccessfully.

These unsuccessful efforts have been repeated over and over again for three decades.

“I know there are people in Kelowna who know the fate of my young son but unfortunately they’re too afraid to come forward,” she said.

Today the RCMP says it is committed to following new leads.

If you were in Kelowna in 1989 or stayed at that campsite, get in touch.

To hear the whole program go to

To contact a reporter for this story, email Kathy Michaels or call 250-718-0428 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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