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Our Highway of Tears
by Debi Smith

A young girl stands beside Highway 16 with her arm and thumb raised high. A car or truck pulls over, she hops in for a ride, never to be seen alive again. For more than a decade, young women have disappeared or have been found slain along Highway 16 in northern BC.

Posters bearing their pictures can still be found on hydro poles and laundromat post-it boards. "Missing," they shout in large letters under a photo of a smiling, unpretentious-looking young woman or teenager.

It's tragic. It's horrific. And it's happening along the quiet 720 kilometers between Prince George and Prince Rupert, a stretch now gruesomely dubbed the Highway of Tears.

Delphine Nikal disappeared in 1995

A disturbing pattern of disappearances was first noticed between 1988 and 1995. Young girls mostly aboriginal in origin and aged 15 to their early twenties vanished after being seen hitchhiking along the highway.

Some consider the murder of Monica Ignas, 15, to be the first. She disappeared just east of Terrace on December 13, 1974 and was later found lying dead and discarded in a gravel pit. In 1988, Alberta Williams, age 24, was also found murdered a month after disappearing. But it wasn't until 1994 that things really began speeding up at an alarming pace.

The Highway of Tears

The first of the latest series of incidents was Ramona Wilson, 15, who was hitchhiking to a friend's place on June 11, 1994. Her remains were found near the Smithers airport a year later.

Five months after that, Roxanne Thiara, also 15, went missing from Prince George only to be found dead - her body "dumped" near Burns Lake. The slaughter rose to three in a row when the remains of Alishia Germaine, again 15, were discovered December 9, 1994

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