Documentary filmmakers Mike Mildon and Jackson Rowe hit a wall in their attempt to solve an 86-year-old mystery.
The pair have spent months working on their film “For Heaven’s Sake,” about their attempt to uncover what happened to Mildon’s great, great-uncle Harold Heaven, who disappeared in Minden 86 years ago. Police reports at the time suggested suicide, but the filmmakers have explored alternative theories. But they said they have struggled to uncover concrete evidence.
After being unable to find Heaven’s body with a lake search and land dig Aug. 12, the two said they are unsure of how to progress.
“It’s hard to know what the direction is,” Rowe said. “We’re re-assessing everything, talking to people, figuring out where the best plan of attack is now.”
The pair have a suspect in mind who they believe may have killed Heaven based on the testimony they have received, but said they have no conclusive proof. They had hoped to find Heaven’s body in a dig on family property based on a ground-penetrating radar scan, but what looked like a skeleton in those results turned out to be an assortment of rocks.
“On that day, we were ready to find him,” Rowe said. “In my gut, it was always closer to 50-50.”
Without a body, trying to prove Heaven was murdered was more difficult. Although they said multiple sources have relayed rumours their suspect may have killed Heaven, nothing is certain.
They said they were fixated on their suspect, but after speaking with the suspect’s family, came to realize their investigation could hurt people. Mildon said they apologized to the family after their production finished and were no longer pursuing any suspects.
“When it comes to family of people named in the police reports, it wasn’t fun for them,” Mildon said. “Many of the family members shared our excitement for solving the mystery, helping out anyway they could, but I’m sure they never thought we we’re going to actually explore their relatives as suspects the same way the police did. We want them to know and feel assured that the intention and end result of this documentary is not that their family did it. And honestly, we don’t have enough evidence to ever truly say who did.”
They left Minden with their crew Aug. 14, without any further concrete lead. Mildon told The Highlander Sept. 23 that they had finished their investigation and were ending their production. They expect the film to release in early 2021.
“That’s something we’re starting to grapple with for sure, is the reality of time and money and people’s willingness to put up with us,” Rowe said, adding they do not want to “become the boy who cries wolf.” “We want people to watch it. Every time we say something is going to happen, (and) it doesn’t happen, no one wants to watch that.”
The duo, whose filmography was primarily comedic sketches before now, said they have learned how difficult it is putting true crime stories together. Mildon compared them to how campfire stories work.
“Trying so hard to make a campfire story a true crime documentary,” Mildon said. “Saying we’re searching for the truth – we were searching for the best story and it just goes back to campfire stories in general. You’re messing up the details a little bit, just because it fits the narrative better.”
Despite the difficulties, the pair said Minden was a wonderful place to film and the community was great to work with.
“It just felt like everybody was playing along as detectives,” Mildon said. “Everyone really wanted us to come to a conclusion and that answer.”
The two said in August they were still determined to find an answer to Heaven’s disappearance – and were not ready to say how the film would end.
“How do you end a mystery without an answer?” Mildon said.