Gladys Radek holds a photo of her niece Tamara Chipman, who disappeared in 2005 along Highway 16 in northern B.C. The 700-kilometre stretch of highway between Prince George and Prince Rupert has been dubbed the Highway of Tears because of the number of women and
NEW BEDFORD — She’d tried writing about the killings.
The unsolved murders of 9 women and the disappearance of two others haunted her. One by one their bodies were discarded along the highways in Greater New Bedford. As a reporter for The Standard-Times in the 1980s, Maureen Boyle was there every step of the way.
She knew the cops, the prosecutors, the families.
She tried writing their stories in 2000-2001, but passages would not come together and she put it aside.
Then, long after she turned in her reporter’s notebooks for a teacher’s desk, Holly Cardoza sat in one of Boyle’s journalism classes at Stonehill College. Neither woman knew about the connection they shared.
Something that Boyle had said about the killings struck a nerve with Cardoza. Holly’s aunt, Marilyn Cardoza Roberts, was one of the victims who remained missing. Holly Cardoza, now a
Mary Teegee has spent over two decades wondering how things could have ended up differently for her cousin if she’d had access to safe transit.
In 1994, Ramona Wilson went missing while hitchhiking near the central B.C. town of Smithers. Ten months later, her body was found, adding her name to the list of 18 women since 1969 who have been killed or went missing along that same stretch of Highway 16 from Prince Rupert to Prince George — commonly referred to as the “Highway of Tears.”
To this day, Wilson’s family is far from solving her murder, but Teegee says they’re not the only ones left with a lack of closure.
“We’d definitely still like to find out what happened,” she says, “but we can’t forget the other families where they haven’t found the remains of their loved ones. There’s still a threat out there, and we can’t forget that.”
The Highway of Tears, which is the subject of this week’s Martinis Murder podcast, is a 450-mile stretch that cuts through dense forests in British Columbia, from Prince George to Prince Rupert. But it’s not the rugged terrain that has earned the highway its sad name. Since 1969, women and girls—most of them indigenous—have been murdered or have vanished. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police officially link 18 cases to the Highway of Tears, but The New York Times writes that relatives and activists say the total is closer to 50. And the vast majority of the cases remain unsolved.
There are many small towns along the Highway of Tears, and a combination of poverty with a lack of public transportation has made hitchhiking one of the only ways that some people can get around, which has contributed to the problem. Among the victims:
When Matilda Wilson’s daughter Ramona went missing in 1994, Wilson never imagined that 22 years later, she would still be searching for answers about what happened.
Ramona Wilson was 16 when she disappeared from Smithers, B.C., on her way to meet a friend in a nearby town. Like so many others from the small community in northern B.C., she had to travel along Highway 16, which has become known as the Highway of Tears. Her body was found nearly a year later, but her murder remains unsolved.
The RCMP have acknowledged that 18 girls and women have gone missing or been murdered along the stretch of highway between Prince George and Prince Rupert and nearby routes since 1969. Indigenous leaders say that number is closer to 50.
“Even now, I lose my breath just thinking about the mothers, that there is no trace of their daughters,”
A remote 450-mile stretch of road through western Canada where dozens of mostly indigenous women have been murdered or gone missing, could have regular bus service by the end of the year, as government officials move to address a longstanding demand by First Nations groups in the area.
Known as the Highway of Tears, the section of British Columbia’s AutoRoute 16 cuts through the northern part of the province, winding through First Nations reserves, thick forests and logging towns. Chronic poverty and a dearth of public transit options force many to resort to hitchhiking to move around the area.
Police say 18 women have gone missing or have been murdered along the road and its adjacent routes since the 1970s. Indigenous groups say the actual figure is probably closer to 50 women, the youngest of whom was 14 years old. Many of the cases remain unsolved.
Produced by Paul LaRosa, Clare Friedland and Alec Sirken
[This story previously aired on Dec. 21, 2013. It was updated on May 28, 2016.]
“The road’s called Highway 16. It’s part of the Trans-Canada Highway system. … There are places in this road where you will see more bears than you will see cars. The road can take on kind of a sinister aspect to it. It’s a place that can be a good friend to evil. The locals know it as the Highway of Tears. And it’s called that because there’s been a — a series of disappearances and murders of women and girls that date back four decades, and a large number of them are still unsolved,” said Bob Friel, an investigative journalist who has traveled this notorious road in British Columbia, Canada. “People know that their sisters and daughters are at risk if they go near this highway and
Paul LaRosa is a “48 Hours” producer. He investigated the cases of missing and murdered women along a Canadian highway for the episode, “Highway of Tears.” The episode airs Saturday on CBS as part of a double feature, starting at 9 p.m. ET/PT.
The “Highway of Tears” sounds like something out of a Stephen King thriller — a long stretch of road in an isolated, beautiful Canadian countryside where at least 18 and possibly many more girls and women have been murdered or gone missing since 1969.