Missing & Murdered: The Unsolved Cases of Indigenous Women and Girls
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'My sister Alberta's murder changed my life completely,' MMIWG inquiry hears

PODCAST: Who killed Alberta Williams?

'I just want it to be there forever': a cross in memory of Alberta Williams

Almost thirty years ago, Claudia Williams buried her younger sister, Alberta Williams.

She would have been double that age now, and family are still no closer to finding out what happened to Alberta.

“She would've had her own family now, she would've been living her life," Claudia said of her sister.

"But her life was taken so suddenly like that. I believe that everybody has a time to go, but not when it's like that.”

Alberta Williams was from the Gitanyow Band in British Columbia. She and her sister were so close, they decided to move from Vancouver, away from their parents, for the summer of 1989.

“We weren't planning to stay in Prince Rupert. Only went there to work,” Claudia said.

Claudia said the summer flew by quickly.

It was Aug. 25, 1989, their last weekend there, when they decided to celebrate. They went to a pub with a group of people who had been working at the same seasonal cannery that summer. At closing time, the two had a brief conversation.

“The last thing she said to me was, 'Claudia, Claudia, come with me. We're going to a house party.' I said, 'Where?' And I turned around, talked to somebody for a second; she disappeared. So did the whole crowd of people that were sitting at the table.”

Then on Sept. 25, 1989, Alberta’s body was found 37 kilometres east of Prince Rupert near the Tyee Overpass. Investigators at the time said she was sexually assaulted and strangled.

Claudia holds a lot of guilt because she feels her sister was targeted because of her. She said she knows who did it.

There was a guy who bothered Claudia all summer long. She said at one point, he stopped his car beside her and asked, “Oh, are you still going out with so-and-so,” referring to her boyfriend at the time.

"I said, 'No, I'm not.' I said, 'You know what? You wanna find him? Just go downtown.… That's where he spends all his time if you're so interested in him.' And then he just kinda looked at me and drove off,” she recalled.

“Next time I see him, he says, 'Get in the car!' I said, 'No.... Leave me alone!' And I went walking towards a strange house and then he drove off. I told the police all of this.”

Claudia said the man was at the same pub as Alberta and her that night. He tried to bother her but she ignored him, only to discover sometime later, he and Alberta were talking.

She remembers his name and has even seen him over the years, but she remains tight-lipped as investigators from Project E-Pana -- the task force that looks into missing and murdered along the Highway of Tears -- have asked her to do so.

“I can't divulge his name. I'm not gonna. It's hard. I mean, I may be overstepping my boundaries here by doing that, where it's gonna jeopardize the case," she said.

"I can't really say anything about names. I can just say how far the police have gone, how little they've done.”

Claudia said at one time, investigators told her the man was a suspect. For her, all these years later, she believes the investigation was a joke from the beginning.

“To them, it doesn't even matter,” she said, referring to the fact that the police have yet to find Alberta’s killer or killers.

“As long as you're First Nations, it doesn't matter. I see that happen so many times in Vancouver, where I live," Claudia said.

"One person [who is] not First Nations goes missing, that's broadcast all over Canada.”

She believes a federal inquiry into missing and murdered women and girls could help shed light on discrepancies in investigations such as Alberta’s.

Even though Alberta didn’t face the same circumstances many other young indigenous women who have gone missing did, she still met the same fate.

“I kept an eye on her, this and that, but there was no indication that she was going to go missing,” Claudia said, trailing off.

They grew up in a home where both parents worked. They never attended residential school or had any involvement with child welfare growing up. They never experimented with drugs and only drank alcohol on special occasions. They both finished high school, were working, and were sharing an apartment in downtown Vancouver.

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CBC News continues to investigate missing and murdered indigenous women and girls in Canada, looking at the unsolved cases and telling the stories of the families and communities.