A British man is the prime suspect in the murder of a mother and her one-year-old daughter in Canada, police have confirmed.
Robert Leeming, 34, claimed he ‘did nothing wrong’ after being questioned over the disappearance of his tenant Jasmine Lovett, 25, and her daughter Aliyah Sanderson.
The pair were last seen by witnesses on April 16 – but were only reported missing when they did not show up for a family dinner a week later.
Police have combed a wooded area in Southern Alberta, in the west of the country, for the victims but have had to suspend their search because of a heavy snow storm.
Leeming is understood to come from a military background. Public records show he was born on a British Army base in Germany and later lived in Wiltshire.
Robert Leeming, 34, claimed he ‘did nothing wrong’ after being questioned over the disappearance of his tenant Jasmine Lovett, 25, and her daughter Aliyah Sanderson
After being questioned by police, he told reporters outside a bar while a forensics team searched his house: ‘They will find nothing because I did nothing wrong.’ He said he had previously been in an intimate relationship with Miss Lovett, who had lived with him for the past seven months, and that he had ‘no issue with them at all’.
Describing how he was ‘traumatised’ by the experience, he said he last saw Miss Lovett on April 18 but had no idea what happened to the pair afterwards.
He said he had been to a picnic area near Bragg Creek, a hamlet in Southern Alberta, with her and her daughter the day before they disappeared.
He said: ‘We went for beers and chilled out and came back. They were here on the next day. I went somewhere else and they weren’t here when I came back.’
Leeming said police had ‘almost bashed the door down’ when they arrested him at 11am on Thursday. He was questioned for 24 hours before being released.
Miss Lovett’s bank card has been used for an online delivery, but police said they did not know who made the purchase or where it was sent.
Jasmine Lovett and her daughter Aaliyah Sanderson were last seen alive on April 16, 2019
Leeming – who moved to Canada in 2013 and claimed to have permanent residence – pleaded guilty to three animal welfare charges last year, according to CBC news.
Police said they were looking to speak to anyone who had seen a white man in his mid-30s driving a grey Mercedes SUV between April 16 and 20.
Leeming confirmed he drives an identical car which has been towed away by police for examination. The child’s biological father, Robbie Sanderson, is not a suspect and is co-operating with police.
The baby’s aunt, Josie Sanderson, said Miss Lovett described Aliyah as happy and smart. She said: ‘I really just want them found – that’s it. I want some closure.’
She added: ‘Jasmine was a really good mother. She would never put her daughter in any danger willingly like that.’
Calgary Police said they believe Miss Lovett and her daughter are dead.
They appealed for anyone, particularly hikers and bikers, who may have seen the Mercedes car over a four day time frame to contact them urgently.
A spokesman said: ‘The man may have been alone or with either of the victims, and may have been carrying mulch in his vehicle.’
He added that anyone who has found a large pile of soil mulch dumped on their property in recent days should contact police.
‘The suspect that police arrested has been released and no charges have been laid, however, he remains the primary suspect in the case,’ he added.