After nearly two and a half years, the search for Mariam Makhniashvili has come to an end.
On March 9, the skeletal human remains found in a wooded area on the south side of the eastbound off-ramp of the 401 near Yonge Street in late February, were positively identified as those of the missing teen.
The announcement followed an exhaustive search that began on Sept. 14, 2009, the day Mariam disappeared. Staff Inspector Greg McLane of the Toronto Police’s homicide unit said that the search included more than 5,000 residents being canvassed, every student in her school being questioned, hundreds of Crime Stoppers tips analyzed, computers seized, ground and air searches, as well as help from police forces from around the world.
Though much ground was covered during the search, the location where Mariam’s remains were found was just outside of the search area.
But in the end, despite theories of Mariam having been kidnapped or even killed, McLane said her case is not being considered a homicide, nor is it being considered a suspicious death.
“Post mortem indicated that the cause of death was consistent with a fall from a significant height and that the deceased was more than likely alive at the time of the fall,“ he said, adding that she was identified through DNA testing. “The location where she was found would be consistent with a fall from that overpass.”
Stopping short of classifying Mariam’s case as a suicide, McLane said it certainly was a possibility.
“I’m not suggesting that but what I will say is that the post mortem results could be consistent with that conclusion,” he said.
Lead investigator in the case, Det. Sgt. Dan Nealon, added to that, describing Mariam as an introvert and bookworm who kept to herself. He said in hindsight, it could be suggested that she may have been depressed, but during the investigation, there wasn’t any indication of it.
“The information we had from the beginning considering her character and her demeanour and the way she was feeling was not communicated to us that she was in any way depressed,” he said.
Nealon suggested it may never be known exactly what happened, leaving much speculation.
“Do I believe (her death) happened on the same day (she disappeared)? I have nothing to suggest (it occurred on) the day, the next day or after a couple of days,” he said. “(Her death) is consistent from the day she was last seen.”
Even in the case of Mariam’s knapsack, Nealon said police haven’t connected the dots of how it got there.
“There hasn’t been any reasonable way to explain it other than to speculate,” he said, suggesting it could have been a case of someone taking the bag from somewhere else and then leaving it where it was found.
Police said Mariam’s parents, Lela Tabidze and Vakhtang Makhniashvili have been notified by homicide investigators, and that Tabidze has requested privacy.
“She’s doing as expected,” McLane said. “Investigators went over and spoke with her this morning, explained the circumstances, and she responded as one would expect.”
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