The parents of an eight-year-old Ontario girl missing since April 8, say they are relieved provincial police have joined the investigation into the disappearance of their daughter, an investigation authorities now deem an abduction.
"It's more comforting, knowing that there are going to be more (police) out there searching for my daughter," said Rodney Stafford of the combined scouring efforts to find Victoria (Tori) Stafford.
Responding to a police announcement Friday morning that investigators are no longer classifying Tori as missing person, the girl's father said it didn't matter whether investigators describe his daughter's case as a missing person or an abduction.
"To me, it is just a word," he said. "Missing and abducted -- it's the same thing to me because she is gone.
"I just want my baby back," he said.
The girl's mother, Tara McDonald, said earlier in the day she believes police are gaining ground in their investigation to find Tori.
"I feel that they are closer. I feel that a change has taken place between yesterday and today," said McDonald, whose daughter was last seen on a blurred surveillance video walking without a struggle with an unidentified woman just before she went missing after students were let out of class a week and a half ago.
Speaking to a throng of media in front of her home in Woodstock, about 145 kilometres southwest of Toronto, and appearing well-composed behind dark sunglasses, McDonald said something inside her tells her her daughter is still alive.
"I'm her mother, I know her better than anyone else on the planet," she said, adding she thinks Tori was taken by someone she didn't know.
"I'd like to think it was a stranger because I would not like to think that any friend or acquaintance or anybody that I know would do something like this," she said.
Tori's father said he has seen the video footage of his daughter countless times and thinks his daughter knew the woman she walked away with.
"My daughter looks very comfortable with whoever she is with," he said.
"She's always been told about strangers and she knows about strangers. She wouldn't be walking with somebody she doesn't know."
Earlier Friday, Ron Fraser, the city's police chief, announced Ontario Provincial Police would be taking a major role in the investigation into the child's disappearance. He said cases involving missing children require more resources than community police forces, such as those in Woodstock, a city with a population of approximately 35,000.
The U.S. crime website America's Most Wanted made Tori's disappearance its top story on Wednesday.