Solicitor General John Les says a police task force reviewing a number of murders and disappearances of women in northern B.C. has not yet found any evidence that a serial killer is at work.
Les says as many as three dozen RCMP officers are trying to solve a series of murders and disappearances along Highway 16 between Prince George and Prince Rupert.
The stretch of highway, where as many as nine women have died or vanished since 1990, is known as the "highway of tears".
Aielah Katherina Saric
The body of the latest victim, 14-year-old Aielah Saric, was found by the side of the highway near Prince George on Feb. 10 – a week after she went missing. Les says 22 investigators are working on the case and 15 more on the other deaths and disappearances.He says police are looking for evidence the cases are linked – but so far, they haven't found any.
"It does not appear from what I have been told so far, that there is a serial killer aspect to this," Les said. "There are a couple of possibilities between one or two of them, but it does not look, according to police, as if there's a serial killer at work here."
First Nations in the northern B.C. have been critical of police for not looking earlier for possible links. However, the solicitor general rejects the idea the cases were treated as a lower priority because most of the missing or dead were young aboriginal women.
Relatives of the women say they're relieved to hear police are conducting the review.
Matilda Wilson says she won't stop pressuring police until her daughter's killer is found. 16-year-old Ramona Wilson disappeared while hitchhiking along Highway 16 near Smithers in 1994. Her body was found almost a year later.
Wilson says she's hopeful an RCMP review will be able to find out who is responsible for her daughter's death.
"I pray that this all will end, it's such a nightmare," she said.
One of the most high-profile cases involved 25-year-old tree planter Nicole Hoar, who vanished while hitchhiking west from Prince George in 2002. Her disappearance triggered a massive search and the offer of a $25,000 reward. But no sign of her was ever found.
Her father, Jack Hoar, says he's pleased the RCMP are taking a closer look. But he says people also need to deal with the larger issue of violence against women.
"Really, what it boils down to is total abuse against women," Hoar said. "And if they can get down to the root causes and try to correct them, it's to everybody's benefit."
The Lheidli T'enneh First Nation is planning to hold a women's safety forum in Prince George next month.