|Matt Bushby with fiance, Claudette Osborne-Tyo in an undated photo|
“Claudette was very much a pawn of the system,” he says, as he fiddles with his extra large coffee cup.
With a far off look in his eyes, as though he is reliving a time gone by, Bushby begins to tell me about Claudette. In what is only our second face-to-face meeting, the conversation flows easily; Bushby is candid and speaks freely about the sorted details of his spouse.
Almost instantly he acknowledges the so-called ‘white elephant’ in the room -- Claudette's widely reported crack addiction and her involvement in the sex trade.
"What she did to support her habit was not part of our relationship," he explains. "I accepted Claudette and her addiction with the understanding that we couldn't be together if, and when, she was using (crack). But, I never judged her for it. -- I never called her names, or called her down...She had enough of that in her life."
Bushby says that the media portrayal of Claudette is inaccurate. He admits that she had an addiction problem, but says that the media's emphasis of that part of her life failed to show that she was also a kind and caring wife and mother.
“Dirty laundry sells,” he says. “For the media to label her in that way, it’s really disheartening. It’s almost like their legitimizing the events that occurred.”
Bushby describes Claudette as a private person and a homebody, who kept up to date on current events and who had a "well formed opinion on everything from the Gulf War to local issues."
"She was like a sponge for knowlege," he says. "She wanted so badly to be educated."
He still gets emotional when he speaks of his “soul mate.” He carries her photo and a handwritten love note in his wallet, and says that he has some pictures of Claudette that he will not be posting on the Internet or in the media, so that no matter what, their children will have a piece of their mother that nobody else has.
Sitting at the corner table in the now empty Tim Hortons restaurant, over three hours had passed since we started talking. The conversation has been emotionally exhausting for both of us, yet we both agree that Claudette's story needs to be told properly.
Bushby confesses that he's wanted to write this story for a long time, since the 21-year old disappeared, but he says he doesn't have the writing ability.
“She was so beautiful, she deserved the role of wife and mother,” he says, as he gets lost in his memories. "She was so much more than they portrayed her."