More than a month after he went missing, Promise “Max” Chukwudum has been found dead in northwest Regina.
Police found a deceased man in a creek area behind the Shell gas station on the corner of Sherwood Drive and McIntosh Street. Officers were dispatched to the area at about 4:45 p.m. on Dec. 21, and police soon announced they were investigating the death and seeking to identify the body.
On Thursday evening, the Regina Police Service confirmed the deceased man had been identified as Chukwudum.
The 19-year-old University of Regina student and rugby player went missing in the early hours of Nov. 17. He was last seen around Marshall Crescent in Regina’s Normanview neighbourhood, a few blocks south of the area where his body was found on Friday afternoon.
Promise was originally from Lagos, Nigeria. He followed in the footsteps of his older sister, Chinaza Chukwudum, who had already come to Canada to study at the University of Saskatchewan.
He was in his second year of computer science and played on the University of Regina rugby team. He was preparing for a future in business and technology. His family said he was “carefree,” loved sports and was excited to be in Canada.
Soon after Promise went missing, Chinaza joined teams of volunteers during search efforts to find her brother. David Chukwudum, father to both Chinaza and Promise, travelled to Regina from Nigeria in later November to find out what had happened to his son.
Father and daughter combed through Wascana Park earlier this month. Chinaza said she didn’t believe Promise had run away.
The University of Regina provided support to both family members, and hosted a rally titled #BringMaxHome on Nov. 29. A candlelight vigil followed on Dec. 13 at City Hall.
A march was scheduled for the afternoon of Dec. 22, but was cancelled that morning — soon after police located the body.
In Thursday’s press release, police said there was no indication Chukwudum’s death was the result of a criminal act. The release said the Regina Police Service and the Saskatchewan Coroners Service are conducting a death investigation to more fully understand the circumstances of his death.
As of Dec. 10, police said they were still treating the disappearance as a missing person case, and had to consider the possibility that he may have sought shelter somewhere from the cold.
The night Promise disappeared, from Nov. 16 to 17, saw temperatures dip below -20 C.
His friends looked back at his social media posts to reconstruct some of his movements shortly before his disappearance. They said he was at O’Hanlon’s Irish Pub on the night of Nov. 16.
Nathan Sgrazzutti, one of Promise’s rugby teammates, said Promise appeared to be hanging out with people Sgrazzutti didn’t recognize. Promise’s next SnapChat update after he left the bar showed him in someone’s car. His last post was at 12:33 a.m.
Sgrazzutti spoke with the Leader-Post in the lead-up to the Christmas holidays. He said it was difficult heading into the festive season without knowing where his teammate is.
“It’s just a strange feeling knowing that we’re all going off to see our families, but Chinaza and Max’s father are still working so hard to bring theirs back together,” he said.
Police conducted searches of several neighbourhoods, even calling in aerial support. They searched Regina’s landfill in late November, and spoke with people who were in contact with Promise shortly before his disappearance. Police also called on homeowners to inspect their own properties for signs of Promise.
After finding Promise’s body on Dec. 21, officers called in the major crimes and forensic identification units, as well as the coroner, according to a Regina Police Service news release sent to media on Dec. 22.
Police Chief Evan Bray said as recently as this week that efforts to find Promise would continue in full force over the holidays. He met with David and Chinaza on Tuesday.
“My heart goes out to any family that is searching for a missing loved one,” said Bray at a Board of Police Commissioners meeting Wednesday. “We see the emotion and the desperate nature that comes with that.”