One of the five disembodied human feet found over the past year along the shorelines of British Columbia has been matched to a depressed man who disappeared a year ago.

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One of the five disembodied human feet found over the past year along the shorelines of British Columbia has been matched to a depressed man who went missing a year ago.

Canadian police used DNA testing to link the foot to the man after receiving a tip last week, Sgt. Pierre Lemaitre of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said Saturday. Police are not identifying the Vancouver-area man out of respect for his family, who want time to notify loved ones, Lemaitre said.

“It’s not happy news, but it could bring a sense of closure to some extent,” Lemaitre said.

Since last August, five feet have washed ashore within a few miles of each other on islands in the Strait of Georgia.

The tip about the missing man came from a family member who saw pictures of the recovered shoes police released earlier this month, Lemaitre said.

“A family member saw one of the shoes and thought, ‘Wait a second,’ ” Lemaitre said.

After relatives provided DNA from the missing man, police were able to match it to one of the feet.

Police do not suspect foul play, said Lemaitre, who confirmed the man had suffered from emotional distress.

Canadian police also were able to inform two families that their missing loved ones were not matches for the feet, Lemaitre said.

The first foot was found in August on Jedidiah Island. Within a week, a second foot surfaced on Gabriola Island. Officials said they were clearly from different people because both were right feet.

In February, a third foot was found on Valdez Island, followed by the fourth on Kirkland Island in May and the fifth on Westham Island in June.

The case even inspired a hoax; a sixth shoe was discovered June 18, stuffed with bones from an animal paw.

Investigators have confirmed that the third and fifth feet found belonged to the same man, and that the fourth foot belonged to a woman.

The mysterious feet have led investigators through more than 300 missing-person files, including one from San Juan County. In March 2007, a hiker on a remote stretch of Orcas Island found a human skeleton missing its right arm, left hand and both feet.

San Juan County coroner Randy Gaylord tried to identify the remains through dental records after discovering gold inlays in the upper molars, but the leads dried up. Last week, the B.C. coroner’s office called Gaylord in an attempt to match the detached feet to the footless skeleton.

“We wouldn’t be able to link the feet with the remains that we have without some kind of DNA testing,” Gaylord said Saturday.

The DNA testing could take several weeks, Gaylord said. His office did not perform DNA tests on the remains initially because the dental work was so distinctive and more likely to produce a match than DNA exams; only certain people’s DNA information is in a database.

Gaylord said his primary concern was to identify the remains and notify family. He encourages anyone with information, specifically dental records, about a missing person with gold-inlay teeth to contact the coroner’s office at 360-378-4151.

Officials are still investigating eight tips they received after displaying the shoe photographs July 10.

Lemaitre encouraged friends and relatives of missing persons to view photographs of the shoes online to see if they recognize them.

The police need DNA samples from missing people before they can compare it to DNA from the feet.

“Right now, we have DNA on all the discovered feet, but if we don’t have something to compare it to, we can’t make a match,” Lemaitre said. “We encourage them to take the time to look, and you just never know.”

Noelene Clark: 206-464-2321 or nclark@seattletimes.com