VIDEO: VicPD name missing caretaker as suspect in Plaza Hotel arson

VIDEO: VicPD name missing caretaker as suspect in Plaza Hotel arson

Police believe Michael Draeger died in the blaze May 6, 2019

The Plaza Hotel’s live-in caretaker is the prime suspect in the 2019 arson fire according to the Victoria Police Department.

Police named Michael Draeger, who has been missing since the fire, a suspect during a virtual press conference on April 30.

“We believe that everything points to Mr. Draeger as the suspect,” said VicPD Detective Const. Andre Almeida, the department’s primary arson investigator. “We do not believe, at any time, that the public was at risk, and that there was somebody else out there.”

Draeger has been missing since the fire and police believe he likely died in the blaze.

“None of our leads in the missing file have come up with any other place that he could be,” Almeida said. “So what we’re saying, until then, is he did perish in the fire.”

VicPD released a statement earlier that day saying the Major Crimes Unit had “exhausted” all investigative avenues in the Plaza Hotel fire, with no new leads to pursue.

According to that statement, the file remains open.

In the early morning of May 6, 2019, smoke, ash and flames filled the sky as the five-storey hotel at 603 Pandora Ave. was engulfed in fire. More than 30 firefighters began battling the blaze shortly after 4:30 a.m. and by 11:30 a.m. the fire was under control. Crews remained on scene throughout the day and overnight to monitor the site and douse hotspots.

RELATED: Trailer occupied by missing Plaza Hotel caretaker, not evidence says VicPD

The building was demolished later on by the Victoria Fire Department (VFD) to prevent it from collapsing.

On May 13, VicPD’s Major Crime Unit took control of the scene, after VFD told police the fire was suspicious. A search warrant execution took about 10 days to complete and required excavators working in a grid pattern to search for evidence. Detectives determined the fire was arson.

RELATED: VIDEO: Six months later, downtown Victoria business still feels the burn of Pandora fire

Police say the images released were taken prior to the fire and accurately depict what Mike Draeger looks like. (Victoria Police)

The hotel was unoccupied except for one person – the live-in caretaker, Draeger. Despite an “exhaustive” search, Draeger has never been found.

“We went through a systematic search of that building looking for remains,” Almeida said. “We searched through everything. You can imagine the extent of it.”

Almeida said police partnered with experts on human remains recovery and learned that, between the heat and length of time the fire burned, it was possible remains would not be recovered.

Police believe whoever started the blaze would likely have had “intimate knowledge of the building.”

Draeger’s missing person file will remain an open and active investigation, says VicPD. Investigators spoke to family and went through bank activity, emails and social media.

“Unfortunately we came up with nothing,” Almeida said. “We’ve gone through all those avenues and basically nothing has come up that’s pointed us anywhere else.”

Anyone with information about the fire, or the disappearance or whereabouts of Draeger, is asked to call VicPD’s non-emergency line at 250-995-7654 or to remain anonymous call Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.



kendra.crighton@blackpress.ca

Follow us on Instagram
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

ArsonVictoria Police Department

Just Posted

Environment Canada has issued a special weather statement for Greater Victoria with unusually high temperatures expected Monday and this coming weekend. (Black Press Media file photo)
Greater Victoria’s first week of summer will be a scorcher

Special weather statement issued Monday by Environment Canada

A rendering shows what the Doral Forest Park development would look like from the southwest. (Rendering via D’AMBROSIO Architecture & Urbanism)
Beaver Lake area project passes next hurdle in Saanich

Council approval for 242-unit parks edge development hinges on meeting of conditions

A health-care worker takes part in HeArt Therapy session conducted by Shirley artist Sheila Thomas. (Contributed - Lorrie Beauchamp)
A creative ‘thanks’ to Vancouver Island’s essential workers

Artist Sheila Thomas creates therapy art session for workers on pandemic’s frontlines

FILE – Perry Bellegarde, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, takes part in an event on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, July 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Indigenous Peoples Day must be a ‘call to action’, says Assembly of First Nations chief

Discovery of children at Kamloops residential school site must lead to change, Perry Bellegarde says

The Pat Bay Highway was closed for several hours Monday morning after a drug-impaired driver crashed into two hydro poles. (Black Press Media file photo)
UPDATE: Pat Bay closure caused by drug-impaired driver

Man struck two hydro poles, closing a section of the Pat Bay Monday morning

Jesse Roper tackles weeds in his garden to kick off the 2021 season of What’s In My Garden Man? (YouTube/Whats In My Garden)
VIDEO: Metchosin singer-songwriter Jesse Roper invites gardeners into his plot

What’s In My Garden, Man? kicks off with the poop on compost

The Crofton trailer park home where the bodies of two people were found. (Photo by Don Bodger)
Mom still waiting for answers after daughter and her fiance found dead in Crofton

Pair discovered dead in their Crofton home in May identified as Rachel Gardner and Paul Jenkins

The Sacred Hearts church on PIB land burned Monday morning. (Theresa May Jack/Facebook)
Two churches on First Nation land in South Okanagan burn to the ground

Sacred Hearts church on Penticton Indian Band land was reduced to rubble

Tl’etinqox-lead ceremony at the site of the former St. Joseph’s Mission in Williams Lake, B.C., June 18, 2021. (Angie Mindus photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
‘We are all one people’: Honouring residential school victims and survivors

Love, support and curiousity: Canadians urged to learn about residential schools and their impact

Indigenous rights and climate activists gathered outside Liberty Mutual’s office in Vancouver to pressure the insurance giant to stop covering Trans Mountain. (Photo by Andrew Larigakis)
Activists work to ensure Trans Mountain won’t get insurance

Global campaign urging insurance providers to stay away from Canadian pipeline project

In the first election with public money replacing corporate or union donations, B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson, B.C. Greens leader Sonia Furstenau and B.C. NDP leader John Horgan take part in election debate at the University of B.C., Oct. 13, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS)
B.C. MLAs ponder 2022 ‘sunset’ of subsidy for political parties

NDP, B.C. Fed call for increase, B.C. Liberals have no comment

Investigators use a bucket to help recover human remains at a home burned in the Camp fire, Thursday, Nov. 15, 2018, in Magalia, Calif. Many of the missing in the deadly Northern California wildfire are elderly residents in Magalia, a forested town of about 11,000 north of the destroyed town of Paradise. (AP Photo/John Locher)
‘Forever War’ with fire has California battling forests instead

Five of the state’s largest-ever blazes seared California last year, as authorities tackle prevention

Tokyo 2020 President Seiko Hashimoto and IOC President Thomas Bach, on a screen, speak during a five=party online meeting at Harumi Island Triton Square Tower Y in Tokyo Monday, June 21, 2021. The Tokyo Olympics will allow some local fans to attend when the games open in just over a month, Tokyo organizing committee officials and the IOC said on Monday. (Rodrigo Reyes Marin/Pool Photo via AP)
Tokyo Olympics to allow Japanese fans only, with strict limits

Organizers set a limit of 50% capacity — up to a maximum of 10,000 fans

Most Read