The Mystery Behind The Highway Of Tears
It has been dubbed the Highway of Tears.
Mystery surrounds one of the remotest stretches of highway in Canada after nearly 50 women are believed to have gone missing there in the past 30 years.
Many believe that the disappearances along Highway 16, which runs between Prince George and Prince Rupert in British Columbia, are the work of a twisted serial killer who preys on young women.But police have never identified a suspect in the case, and some say the women were simply victims of Canada's harsh and remote wilderness.
Location: A section of Highway 16, which runs between Prince George and Prince Rupert in British Columbia, where many women have disappeared
Unexplained: Madison Scott, 20, vanished near the infamous road on May 28, 2011 after attending a party
Most recently, 20-year-old Madison Scott vanished near the infamous road on May 28, 2011 after attending a party. Police located her tent and truck, but the young woman remains missing.
A year later, Madison’s parents are still struggling to cope with her disappearance and are offering $100,000 for information leading to an arrest in the case.
'After a long and difficult year, and despite an ongoing and in depth RCMP [Royal Canadian Mounted Police] investigation, in addition to the ongoing searches, awareness campaigns and pleas from her family and friends for her safe return, there has been no real evidence of what happened to Maddy,' Sandra Kelly Klassen, Madison's aunt, wrote on a website dedicating to finding her.
'The family and their team of supporters continue to be hopeful that anyone with information will come forward - someone knows where she is but they have not come forward with the truth.'
Hannah White, a reporter with the Vanderhoof Omineca Express, told the Daily Beast last year that Madison's disappearance rocked the community. 'The whole town is still in complete shock and no one knows what to think,' she said.
‘She really had her head screwed on. We don’t think she just wandered off drunk and fell into the lake. It is completely off character. I don’t know if they will ever find her at this point.’
Although authorities say the number of women who have gone missing along the stretch of road stands at 18, aboriginal leaders say it is closer to 43.
Police have said that eight of the disappearances in particular appear to have been linked, and may be the work of one individual.
The sole breakthrough in the mysterious case came in April last year, when police released a sketch of an elderly man who attempted to kidnap a 20-year-old woman near Highway 16 - however, he has not been found.
Many of the women who have gone missing along the highway live in aboriginal communities and use hitchhiking as a mode of transport, which authorities said could have made them easy targets.
Local women have been urged to avoid hitchhiking, though many in poorer communities cannot afford an alternative method of travelling.
‘It could just be that some sick people up there realize that women hitchhiking alone are easy picking,’ said Chris Freimond, a spokesperson for the government-funded Missing Women Commission of Inquiry, which has been holding informal hearings about the disappearances and murders for the past eight months.
‘Towns are far apart and there are long stretches of road. Sometimes the radio fades out and there is no cell service.
'There are logging roads off every highway. If someone has bad intentions, you will find a victim. Someone can go off and drive for an hour and throw a body into a ravine and they would never be found.’
But many people have argued that the disappearances were not properly investigated until 25-year-old Nicole Hoar, a white tree-planter, went missing in 2002, prompting criticism from the families of aboriginal victims.
'Many of them were aboriginal and some of the talk out there was that people cared more about the non-aboriginal girls going missing,' Lorna Brown, the aunt of 22-year-old Tamara Chipman, who went missing in September 2005, told the Daily Beast.
'Those families felt like they weren’t taken seriously.'Because of the lack of answers that investigations have brought forward, some people have taking it upon themselves to try to solve the mystery.
Ray Michalko, Vancouver-based private investigator, began investigating the disappearances in 2006. He told the Daily Beast: ‘Police weren’t doing much and I get along well with the aboriginal people and I thought a non-cop could work.’
But his efforts have have gone unrewarded so far - even though he spends at least 40 hours a week chasing leads - and the disappearances remain a mystery.
The same goes for the case of Madison Scott. 'This investigation remains a priority for North District Major Crime,' Cst. Lesley Smith, North District Media Relations Officer, said on the anniversary of the young woman's disappearance.
'We believe that there is information out there and it is our hope that someone will come forward to help us determine what happened. The police need information and Maddy’s family need answers.'