LONDON, Ont. - It was possibly the most exhaustive missing-person search in Canadian history, but for months the remains of eight-year-old Victoria Stafford lay concealed in a farmer's field just out of the search area, court heard Wednesday.

Provincial police, who took over the investigation from police in Woodstock, Ont., a week after Tori disappeared on April 8, 2009, threw unprecedented resources into finding the Grade 3 student despite the low odds of a happy ending.

The search-and-rescue co-ordinator for Ontario Provincial Police told Michael Rafferty's trial that in abduction cases such as Tori's, only two per cent of victims are found alive.

Nonetheless, officers went to remarkable lengths to find Tori, logging more than 18,000 kilometres in their search for clues and the girl herself.

"Literally, we went 1 1/2 times around the moon," Sgt. John Stirling testified.

"To this date it's the largest search in the OPP's history and I would say probably our nation."

Officers searched in cruisers, on ATVs, on foot, with cadaver dogs, from the air and underwater. They sifted through 830 tonnes of garbage at a landfill outside Woodstock over 20 days.

They trudged through waist-deep swamps. Some scoured 11 waterways, some twice.

They talked to 13,899 people, Stirling said. The population of Woodstock is about 38,000.

They flew almost 1,000 kilometres in a helicopter in an effort to identify landmarks described by Rafferty's co-accused, Terri-Lynne McClintic, who later pleaded guilty to kidnapping and first-degree murder.

McClintic was in the air for much of the chopper search, but was unable to spot the secluded location where Tori was killed.

Officers even walked 51 kilometres along Highway 401, searching in vain for stained material McClintic said she had cut out of Rafferty's back seat and thrown from the car window at his urging on their way home to Woodstock.

But the highway search, the helicopter search, the landfill search failed to turn up the items of clothing, the murder weapon or any other clues they were looking for, Stirling said.

Tori's body was finally found thanks to a cellphone record, a sketch, and a veteran officer's hunch.

Police learned on July 17, 2009 that on the evening of Tori's abduction more than three months earlier, Rafferty's cellphone had pinged off a tower near Mount Forest, Ont., which was further north than they had been searching.

Det. Staff Sgt. Jim Smyth decided to drive around the area two days later to get a feel for the landscape, when he spotted a house matching a drawing and description McClintic had provided.

He drove the laneway across the road and found Tori's remains wrapped in garbage bags, under a pile of rocks beneath an evergreen tree in a secluded field.

He was just 6.8 kilometres away from the northernmost edge of the massive search grid.

Rafferty has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder, sexual assault causing bodily harm and kidnapping.

Court also heard Wednesday from the officers who arrested and processed Rafferty.

The "takedown" happened outside a fitness centre in Woodstock as Rafferty was climbed into the passenger side of a woman's car just after 7:30 p.m. on May 19.

Court also heard Rafferty's own car was "very messy" and not in good condition.

McClintic had told investigators that she and Rafferty had cleaned the vehicle at a car wash in Cambridge, Ont., throwing out items including the hammer used to kill Tori, and her clothes.

Police deemed it too large a task to sift through the garbage at the area landfill.