North Enmore, Prince Edward Island — Shirley was last seen on October 3, 1994. RCMP did a large search of the area, using 120 members of CFB Gagetown and students from the Atlantic Police Academy. The search was called off as winter moved in.
On May 6, 1995, Shirley's battered and partially decomposed body was discovered in a shallow grave in a wooded area of North Enmore. Her hands were tied behind her back and she had been strangled.
Douglas Leo Beamish, Shirley's estranged husband, was the primary suspect in Shirley's disappearance. Foul play was suspected from the start but without a body, it was difficult to investigate. RCMP found a plastic bag near the body containing a leather jacket with bloodstains and two strands of white hair.The blood proved to be Shirley's and the hair was from Snowball, a cat belonging to Beamish's parents. Douglas Beamish was staying with his parents at the time of Shirley's disappearance.
The introduction of Snowball's hair as evidence was the world's first use of non-human DNA in a criminal trial. Douglas Beamish was charged with first-degree murder and found guilty of second-degree. He was sentenced to life in prison with no possibility of parole for 18 years.
Beamish appealed his conviction in 1998 and 1999. Both appeals were rejected.
Shirley was the mother of five children (two from a relationship prior to Beamish). Shirley's daughter Shelley has grown up to become a passionate advocate of abused women, publicly sharing her experiences as a child witnessing violence and keeping her mother's memory alive.