Events to Date

The following outlines some of the key events and efforts to locate Nicole since the time she disappeared.

- 2
March 29th Nicole sends her last email home.
- 1
March 30 Nicole attempts to log in to her email from the Internet Cafe in Hama.  It is assumed the connection was bad so she gave up before sending anything.
March 31 Nicole disappears after leaving the hotel in the morning.
Week of April 8 Nicole’s mother begins to worry when she hasn't received an email or call in response to her Easter greeting.
April 13 Nicole’s mother notifies the rest of the family that Nicole hasn’t been in touch for two weeks. The agreement was that Nicole would call or email at least every two weeks. Worried, but hoping for the best, and not wanting to cause unnecessary panic, the family decides to give Nicole a few extra days in case she couldn't access email or call since they believed she possibly had plans to travel to some remote areas of Syria or Turkey.
April 19 Nicole’s mother makes the contact with the Canadian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and requests that an immediate alert be put out for Nicole, and to find out from both Syria and Turkey whether Nicole had left or entered their respective countries.
April 23 Nicole’s partner Gary makes the official report that Nicole is missing to the Vancouver RCMP detachment, as that was her point of departure from Canada. (The RCMP, or Royal Canadian Mounted Police, are the national police force in Canada)
April 29 A missing person report for Nicole has been submitted by the RCMP to Interpol.
  Attempts begin to gain access to her Hotmail email account.
  The RCMP report that there has been no access to her bank accounts or credit cards, and her traveler’s cheques were all cashed earlier in March.
  It is reported she isn’t in a Syrian prison, but it later turns that this wasn’t known for certain, but just assumed because the Syrians hadn't notified them.
April 30 Gary emails friends that Nicole is missing. A childhood friend of Matthew’s who had become friends with Nicole in Vancouver posts a story on The story starts a surge of interest from around the world as thousands of people read about Nicole and begin to spread the word.
May 1 The RCMP interview Nicole’s mother and Matthew in Toronto. Matthew and his mother bring along a list of Syrian hotels from the Lonely Planet that Nicole likely stayed at for the RCMP to begin the search. The RCMP informs them that they aren’t able do this as they cannot conduct an investigation in another sovereign state. The interview questions do not seem relevant to anything that would lead to finding Nicole.
  Increasingly frustrated with the difficulties getting action, Matthew begins his campaign to do whatever he can on his own to find Nicole. That night he posts a request in his blog for any Arabic speakers who are willing to call the list of hotels and ask if Nicole stayed there.
  (Matthew does not return to work for over a month from this point).
May 2 The search begins to bear fruit almost immediately. An Internet contact suggests using an IP locator to determine where Nicole’s last emails were sent from. This immediately identifies an Internet server on the border of Lebanon and Syria. This mistakenly suggests she must have emailed from the town of Al Masna, but in subsequent weeks it is realized that she emailed from Hama as all the email in Syria is routed through this one server.
  Foreign Affairs confirm that Nicole did not enter Turkey. The Foreign Affairs contact person is now changed to another different person who has responsibility for Syria.
  In a huge break, a reader emails from Syria saying that Nicole stayed at the Cairo Hotel in Hama in late March. It is also learned that she never stayed in Lattakia. A likely path of her travels through Syria begins to take shape.
  The Canadian press begins to request interviews.
May 3 Matthew decides to call the Cairo Hotel himself as he’s been told they speak English. He is stunned when the hotel manager casually mentions that Nicole’s gear is still in the hotel. In only two days since he started his own search, the location where she disappeared has been discovered.
  Unfortunately, due to the language and distance, there is much confusion as to the exact details of her disappearance. It would take a few missteps before it is determined that she disappeared on March 31st and was heading to the Beehive Houses (or potentially the Dead Cities) and that she had visited Apamea the day before.
  Matthew begins giving interviews to the press.
May 4 Now that there is solid evidence that something has happened and where, there is increased interest from the Syrians and Foreign Affairs.
  Missing posters in both English and French and eventually Arabic (with the assistance of people online) are created and people are asked to post them around the world. One traveler gets so many questions when he's putting them up in Hama that he prints out one hundred more to hand out.
  The Canadian Embassy in Syria is fully alerted to the situation.
May 6 A Canadian traveler in the area goes to the Cairo hotel and does a quick check of the inventory of her clothes so it could be determined what she was wearing when she disappeared.
May 7 At the request of the family, Foreign Affairs in Syria retrieves Nicole’s items from the Cairo hotel in Hama. They inventory the contents and reads through her journals and guidebooks for clues.
  A woman who was traveling with Nicole earlier in her trip emails us with some much-treasured photos from Mali and is eventually interviewed on TV here in Canada. Later additional photos of Nicole are provided from the camera memory chips left in her gear.
May 8 The Syrian police tell us (through Foreign Affairs) that they’ve interviewed all the bus drivers along Nicole's expected route have been interviewed. The various sites that are mentioned in Nicole’s itinerary and the hospitals have been visited. Morgues are contained within the hospitals, and assurance is given that any private hospital would seek out the police if an unidentified person was there in order to get proper payment. Shepherds and villagers along the routes are interviewed.
  The police are starting to question whether Nicole even made it to the bus stop in Hama that morning.
May 9 Matthew and his step-father fly to Ottawa and meet with the Syrian Ambassador to Canada. The Syrian Embassy arranges expedited visas for Matthew and Gary. The Syrian Ambassador provides assurances that this is a very strange situation indeed and that the Syrians are doing everything that can. He promises to reach some contacts in Syria and see if he can get more details for us.
May 10 The Syria News, an independent online newspaper, posts the first Arabic article regarding Nicole’s disappearance. This leads to two articles regarding unidentified females killed in car accidents in the region. It is quickly confirmed that one of them is not Nicole, but it takes weeks to confirm the other is not for certain.
  A story on the Internet about a Swedish girl who went missing in Syria and then reappeared five weeks later is investigated. Follow up with various governments determines that it is not a similar situation.
May 12 Matthew does an interview with Al-Jazeera, the Arabic television network, and also with CBC Radio International (Arabic).
  Gary and Matthew fly to Syria to search for Nicole in person. They arrive in Damascus in the early morning of May 14th.
May 14 Gary and Matthew meet with the Canadian Ambassador to Syria in Damascus, Mark Bailey. Prior to their arrival, the Ambassador has met with the Syrian Minister of the Interior (responsible for the police) and has traveled to the Cairo Hotel.
  RCMP assigns case to Constable Ian MacLellan of Major Crime Section of Criminal Investigation unit.
May 15 Gary and Matthew meet with the Governor of Hama and the chief/general of police. They visit the Cairo Hotel, Beehive Houses and Qasr Ibn Wardan. No one reports having seen her.
  The manager at the Cairo Hotel mentions that two nights before she disappeared, Nicole chatted with some Americans (or so he believes). This is confirmed in her journal. Efforts begin to try and find these Americans but they have still not been found.
May 16 Gary and Matthew meet with the chief/general of police for the towns near the Dead Cities. They visit the Dead Cities and determine that it's very unlikely Nicole went this way without being noticed.
May 17 Gary and Matthew walk the route that Nicole would have taken to the bus station and interview people and pass out posters, but without results.
May 18 The Syrian police visit Apamea and confirm Nicole’s visit and activities. This is a bit disheartening because it means the local Syrians can clearly remember seeing her six weeks earlier but for no one remembers seeing her after she left the hotel that morning.
May 19 Gary and Matthew re-create Nicole’s trip in hopes of finding new clues. They also investigate the nearby town of Sa’an in case Nicole didn't use the traditional route to the beehive houses. They speak with some soldiers from the military and radar bases along the route. Nothing new turns up.
May 21 Gary and Matthew begin investigating the use of search dogs. After speaking with experts it is determined that by the time appropriate people and animals get to the site, too much time will have passed to do much more than maybe determine whether she visited. Given the cost and likelihood of a negative or unreadable result, it is decided not to pursue.
May 26 The arrival of new information and ideas slows to a trickle. Before departing Hama, Gary and Matthew leave the Syrian police actively following up on leads. When Gary returns a week later there has been no progress to report. Syrian election is underway.
May 27 Gary is busy making contacts and arrangements in Syria, but is hampered by the Internet connections going down in the public cafes. As a result, he’s unable to receive any of emails or leads to follow up on that are being sent to him for the remainder of this trip.
May 28 Meeting held with Foreign Affairs and the RCMP Middle East liaison officer with the Syrian Minister of the Interior in Damascus. The Minister of the Interior pledges the support of the Syrians to locate Nicole.
May 29 The RCMP confirms that the Syrian authorities did not invite them to assist, and they could not help in Syria unless they were invited.
May 30 The Syrian election finally winds down. The Syrian police who are directly involved in the investigation are able to return to the search for Nicole in earnest.
May 31 website is put online.
  The “Find Nicole Vienneau” trust fund is established.
June 3 Reports of a French-Canadian woman who is traveling Syria who is getting approached to see if she is Nicole. This means the word is getting out and helps explain some of the sightings that have been reported but that didn’t match with previous information.
June 5 A reward of up to 1,000,000 Syrian Pounds is offered for information leading to Nicole.
    Access to Nicole’s hotmail email account is given to the RCMP.
June 13 Final approval is given from the Syrian authorities to have the missing poster published in the Syrian newspapers.
June 17 Gary returns to Syria.
    Ongoing follow-up on leads provided to tip-line. No success to date.
  July 5 Nicole's mother and step-father travel to Syria.
  July 8 Meeting with local newspaper in Hama to have story about Nicole published.
  July 9 Meeting with the Governor of Hama province to request permission to have story published in local paper, have posters placed on city buses and in cabs, and to obtain assistance for Gary in searching the area (local youth group, translator, transportation).
  July 9 Meeting with Syria News (state television) to discuss nature of a story and appeal for information to be broadcast across the country.
  July 10 Meeting with the Syrian Minister of the Interior and other senior officials. Several requests for their support and permission including a country wide mobile text message about Nicole's disappearance.
  July 11 More interviews with journalists.
  July 12 Meeting with the Grand Mufti to request his support to spread the word about Nicole at Friday prayers in mosques beginning in the Hama region and spreading throughout the country.
  July 14 Nicole's mother and step-father leave Syria.
    Gary remains in Syria to continue the search around Hama for some sign of Nicole.
  July 18 Matthew receives first email from parties in Spain who advise that they have knowledge of Nicole's whereabouts and want to negotiate to obtain her release
  July 24 to 31 Nicole's mother's previously recorded appeal is broadcast on Syrian television.
  July 31 Gary leaves Syria after 6 weeks.
  August 13 / 14 Two parties in Spain are apprehended. One is arrested and charged with extortion.
  August 16 / 17 Press release by Spanish authorities results in signifcant media attention in Canada to the extortion attempt.