British Columbia is known for its beautiful mountains and picturesque landscapes, but something sinister has been lurking beneath the pristine scenery of a remote, sparsely populated section of the Canadian province for decades. Authorities believe a serial killer – or serial killers – has been at work in a isolated part of British Columbia since 1969. Since then, dozens of women have disappeared or been murdered by unknown killers stalking victims along the highway.
A 450 mile stretch of road between Prince George and Prince Rupert along Highway 16 is known as the “Highway of Tears” because of the high number of women who have disappeared or been murdered along the road. The highway cuts through rural logging towns and impoverished Indian reservations with vast swaths of wilderness in between. Many of the missing and murdered women along the Highway of Tears are indigenous.
The Royal Mounted Canadian Police has a special unit dedicated to the area, and it has linked 18 cases along the highway from 1969 to 2006. But local indigenous leaders estimate that up to 50 girls and women have been murdered or have gone missing along the Highway of Tears.
The indigenous people living around the Highway of Tears believe the killings never received the attention they deserved because of the low socioeconomic and social standing of native peoples within Canadian society.
Indeed, indigenous communities in Canada have higher than average levels of poverty, alcoholism, and substance abuse compared to the rest of Canadian towns and cities. Carolyn Bennett, the minister of indigenous and northern affairs, says that the families of the murdered and missing women believe that the police treat their loved ones’ deaths “as inevitable, as if their lives mattered less.”
British Columbia’s government plans to improve safety along Highway 16 by installing safety cameras and giving indigenous communities funding for vehicles. Right now the remote communities along Highway 16 have very little lighting on the road, and the only public transportation available is infrequent Greyhound buses.
In October, CBC Radio One’s The Current released a virtual reality documentary called Highway of Tears. The documentary focuses on the case of Ramona Wilson, a 16-year-old girl from Smithers, British Columbia, who disappeared on her way to a nearby town in 1994. Wilson’s body was found the following year, but, like many others along Highway 16, her murder remains unsolved.
To this day, police are confounded at their lack of progress in catching the serial killer – or killers – who has left this path of destruction along Highway 16. A staff sergeant in the Royal Mounted Canadian Police recently told the CBC that many of the killings may never be solved: “That’s the reality, and that’s what I tell the families.”
Police have keyed in on several suspects, including a deceased American rapist and murderer named Bobby Jack Fowler, and they have actually charged serial killer Cody Legebokoff with one of the murders, but the overwhelming majority of the killings along Highway 16 remain a mystery.
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