Missing & Murdered: The Unsolved Cases of Indigenous Women and Girls
  return to profiles

CBC needs you

Do you have information on an unsolved case involving missing or murdered indigenous women or girls?

Contact us by email at
mmiw@cbc.ca
or contact us anonymously via
SecureDrop
secure drop logo

Mary Jane Hill’s death on March 26, 1978, was determined to be from bronchitis and bronchopneumonia, despite the fact she was found nude along northern British Columbia’s notorious Highway of Tears.

The 31-year old Nisga’a woman was a mother of three.

Vicki Hill, her daughter, has been searching for answers into her mother's death for decades.

Hill was only six months old when her mother was found dead. Since then, she said there has been little investigation into the now-cold case.

Hill said she believes someone had left her mother on the highway to die.

“They said they found her nude on the highway. Why was she left there and why wasn't anything done? Where was she going?” questioned Hill, now 39 years old.

“Why was she sick and left for dead? Why didn't anybody do anything?”

Hill was never told what evidence the police had from the scene where her mother died. She said she does not know, for example, if they ever found her clothes.

An inquest was called into Hill’s death and that report stated that she died about 34 kilometres from Prince Rupert, B.C. and the cause of death was bronchitis and bronchopneumonia.

The page-long summary of death also went on to state, “We further find that the death of Mary Jane Hill as a result of manslaughter.”

In an email to CBC News, the B.C. Coroners Service explained that the way the term "homicide" was used at the time of the 1978 inquest is different from current definitions.

The coroner's instructions to the jury looking into Hill's case stated, "Homicide is the killing of a person. Homicide is culpable or non-culpable. In other words, it can be wrongful or not. Non-culpable homicide requires no legal action be taken. It is, for example, homicide that resulted from [an] accident or from an act that was not wrongful under the circumstances.

"Culpable homicide is a murder or manslaughter. Murder is the killing of a person with malice aforethought. Culpable homicide that is not murder is manslaughter. A killing that arose from gross negligence, but without the intention to kill, is manslaughter."

No one has ever been charged in her case.

Hill said RCMP have never spoken to her directly about the case and have instead gone through victims’ services or outreach workers to communicate with the family. She said Hill’s case is not being actively investigated.

A British Columbia RCMP spokesperson confirmed in an email that Hill’s case was not included in Project E-PANA, a task force created to review and investigate the series of unsolved murders associated with the Highway of Tears.

“We aware of her case as it was looked at by E-PANA investigators in 2008. Her case was not included within Project E-PANA,” the spokesperson wrote.

“Police have spoken with family about her case, but appreciate that they may have additional questions. Over the years, our priority has been to review the file, in consultation with the B.C. Coroner, and ensure the most accurate information and steps taken by authorities are provided to the families first. Once we have spoken with family we might be in a position to share additional information or direct you to the appropriate authority.”

According to Hill, her mother was buried in an unmarked grave and she had to go back through old records just to find the graveyard. She said she doesn’t know the exact part of the graveyard where her mother now rests, but she is still searching.

“They should actually look into … a lot of these cases, and keep these cases open so the family can have some answers,” she said. “I find it frustrating even dealing with the RCMP.”

Shortly after CBC News contacted the RCMP,  Vicki Hill said an investigator told her he would be flying up to Prince Rupert from Vancouver to go over her mother's case with her.

Do you have more information on any of these cases?

CBC needs you

Contact us by email at mmiw@cbc.ca or anonymously via SecureDrop.

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.