One thing that I’ve learned in covering unsolved cases is that time does not heal all wounds.
No matter how much time has passed the families of missing or murdered women still agonize over the loss of their loved one.
And never give up on finding justice.
I’m sure that is true for anyone grappling with such a horrific loss.
But for Indigenous families there’s another layer of injustice.
A society that for a long time has been indifferent.
It’s really only been in the last few years that these stories have been deemed newsworthy.
Now journalists and Canadians are paying attention.
It’s been the families of missing and murdered women and girls who have pushed their stories into the spotlight.
Myra Anderson: Every day I picture her walking out that door. Calling out to her "make sure you come back before your curfew”, she said ya and those were the last words I said to her and she left the house.
Myra Anderson lost her fifteen year old niece, Leah Anderson in 2013.
I first heard about Leah’s story after Myra posted a photo to Facebook.
It was a picture of Leah, in front of a christmas tree at their home in Gods Lake Narrows, Manitoba.
Right next to her face it read: “Hi my name is Leah, this picture was taken a few weeks before I was murdered. I loved everything about my life. Please help my family find my killer.”
Myra posted that photo because she was desperate to get some attention.
She hoped it would help pressure police to work harder to find Leah’s killer.
Myra Anderson: It’s on my mind everyday. Who could have done this? Do I see this person? Is he around here? Is there a suspect? I wonder if this is the day they'll make an arrest.
Tootsie Tuccaro also wonders when that day will come.
Her daughter Amber Tuccaro’s remains were found outside of Edmonton, Alberta in 2012.
Tootsie doesn’t know how her daughter ended up there.
The only insight she has comes from a recording of Amber’s last phone call.
Amber: Yo where are we going?
This audio was released by police two years after she disappeared.
They were hoping to identify the man Amber is with in the vehicle.
Amber: You better not be taking me anywhere I don’t want to go. I want to go into the city.
She thinks she is going into Edmonton.
But it becomes clear that is not where he seems to be taking her.
Amber: Yo we are not going in the city are we?
Man: We are.
Amber: No we are not.
Tootsie Tuccaro: I have nightmares about that. But you know what. As much as my heart's broken. As much as I want my girl back, it's not about me. It's about Amber. And to get justice for Amber.
Myra and Tootsie are not alone in their grief.
CBC News has a database of over 250 cases, all unsolved.
We’ve interviewed over 100 family members.
Our profiles try to show who these women and girls were and illustrate just how much they’re loved and missed.
And try to bring some attention to their stories.
Alberta’s story wasn’t really reported on when it happened.
There were a few pictures in the paper when she disappeared.
But no one interviewed her family or her friends at the time.
CBC has had a station in Prince Rupert for decades but there is nothing in their archives about Alberta.
The first mention I could find about Alberta in any of our archives is actually from 2010.
When her sister Karen took Alberta’s photo to a march in Vancouver to raise awareness about the highway of tears and missing and murdered Indigenous women.
Peter Mansbridge: Demonstrators demanded a public inquiry into a horrible reality. Hundreds of cases of missing and murdered...
Karen Williams: She was the kindest, politest person, she wouldn’t hurt a fly. My dad, I remember seeing him break down and cry and he said why are my daughters looking for where there sister is in a dumpsters, in the bushes?
Karen is holding a stack of posters at the march.
As she hands them out, you can see a picture of Alberta and in red letters it reads “Alberta Gail Williams”, Unsolved Murder”.
Karen is Alberta’s youngest sister.
The baby in the family.
I had reached out to her months ago but it wasn’t until after the first episode of this podcast was released that she wrote back to me and we spoke on the phone.
Karen still hopes that Alberta’s murder will be solved.
Karen Williams: Oh definitely, hope for it. I hope we find out eventually.
Connie Walker: You want to know the truth?
Karen Williams: Yup. I want to know what happened to her that night.
Alberta’s family has always believed that someone out there has information about her murder.
Over the years, they’ve heard rumours.
Stories whispered about at family gatherings.
One rumour in particular bubbled to the surface.
The day before we were due to head back to Toronto.
Alberta’s aunt Donna Marsden called us.
She said years earlier, at a family gathering a distant relative named Amanda said she saw something suspicious the weekend that Alberta disappeared.
Donna Marsden: Her mom told you need to go to the police and tell them. But she said I don’t want to do that because I don't want nothing to happen to your sister Rosie. She was afraid for my sister if she spoke out eh. Amanda is our relative. I was encouraging her too, to go to the police and I told her they would protect my sister. But I don’t know if she went.
Just a reminder, Donna and Rosie are sisters, and Rosie is married to Jack Little.
Donna said she didn’t have a number for Amanda but she would try to track one down for us.
My producer Marnie and I went back to our hotel and called Alberta’s sister Claudia.
We wanted to know If she had ever heard this rumour before.
Connie Walker: Did you happen to know anyone named Amanda that also lived in Prince Rupert at the time?
Claudia Williams: Amanda? I know Amanda.
Connie Walker: Did you have any contact with her at the time, or did you hear anything from her in the years following?
Claudia: No, except that there was a lot of talk that ALberta was seen in Terrace. This is coming from Yvonne and Amanda.They said that Alberta came to Terrace. She was in a truck with three guys and she was heavily intoxicated.
Connie Walker: Did they give descriptions or identify the three guys?
Claudia Williams: They said it was Jack.
Connie Walker: When did they tell you this?
Claudia Williams: Maybe a year, a year or two later and I said, well why didn't you guys go to the police?
If this rumour was true, Claudia wondered why Alberta would be in Terrace?
A town an hour and a half away from Prince Rupert.
And why wait nearly two years after Alberta’s death to mention this?
Connie Walker: So they said the night that she went missing they saw Alberta with three guys in a truck?
Claudia Williams: umm hmm.
Connie Walker: Who was with Jack and Alberta? Who were the other two guys?
Claudia Williams: They recognized Jack right away. And the other two, they didn't know right off the bat, they just knew that there was two other people in there. It's just really odd, you know. I just looked at Yvonne, I said, "Well why do you guys just sit around and wait? Why don't you guys say something?
After hearing Claudia’s skepticism, Marnie and I weren't sure what to make of this information.
We were intrigued but our trip to B.C was wrapping up.
If we were going to pursue this rumor, we needed to talk to Amanda or Yvonne.
Connie Walker:Please answer the phone. Umm, it’s ringing, wow.
Machine: The number you have reached is not in service. This is a recording.
After a lot of calling around we found a number for Amanda around 9 pm.
Connie Walker: Hi, Is this Amanda?
Connie Walker: HI Amanda. Are you the same Amanda who lives in Terrace and knows Claudia Williams?
Connie Walker: Okay, good. I’m glad it’s you. I was just talking to Claudia tonight. My name is Connie Walker, I’m a reporter for CBC News.
Amanda: Oh, yeah?
Connie Walker: Yeah. We’re looking into cases of missing and murdered indigenous women, and we’re doing a story about Alberta.
Connie Walker: We’ve been interviewing people down here in Vancouver and on the Island for the last week, about Alberta’s Case.
Amanda: Oh, yes?
Connie Walker: And a couple people said we should talk to you.
Amanda: Oh. That's a long story.
Connie Walker: Yeah. Hmm.
Amanda: Long story.
Connie Walker: Can you tell us what you remember about that night?
Amanda: I'm. I don't have time right now. I'm in tub.
Connie Walker: Pardon me?
Amanda: I don't have time to talk right now because I'm taking a shower.
Connie Walker: Because why?
Amanda: I'm taking a shower.
Connie Walker: Oh. So we’ve spoken to some, to some of Alberta’s family members about that night.
Amanda: Ohhh. Oh yeah?
Connie Walker: Yeah, and--
Amanda: Hmm. I. . . I'm going to get cold. Could you call me back tomorrow?
Connie Walker: Can we call you back in ten minutes?
Amanda: Um. I don't know what time I'll be out of the shower.
Connie Walker: We heard that you saw something that night.
Amanda: I can't talk right now. Can I take a shower? Can you phone me back tomorrow?
Connie Walker: Ya, we can phone you back, will you tell us what you know tomorrow?
Amanda: Yes, yes. Yeah, I will.
Connie Walker: Okay, bye Amanda.
I thought that was a bit odd.
A reporter calls you to talk about an unsolved murder, something you’ve said you might know something about but you can’t talk because you’re in the shower?
Who answers their phone in the shower?
I wondered if Amanda just didn’t want to talk to us.
We tried calling her again the next morning.
Machine: Hi, we're not home right now, please leave a message and your phone number and your name and we’ll get back to you.
Connie Walker: Hi, my name is Connie Walker, we spoke last night. I’m calling from the CBC because we’re doing a story about Alberta Williams...
Our flight back to Toronto was that afternoon.
We only had a limited time to verify the rumour that Amanda may have seen Alberta
in Terrace after she disappeared.
Donna said Amanda’s sister Yvonne was also with her and that she might have information.
Connie Walker: Hi, is this Yvonne?
Connie Walker: Hi Yvonne. My name is Connie Walker. I’m a reporter with CBC News and I’m doing a story about Alberta Williams. Do you remember Alberta?
Connie Walker: Yeah. I was told by someone that I should contact you, that you might have some information about that night.
Yvonne: About that night.
Connie Walker: Yeah.
We found out that Yvonne and Amanda were Alberta’s cousins but Yvonne grew up on reserve so she says she didn’t know Alberta very well.
But she remembers when she went missing and the strange dream she had.
Yvonne: I dreamt again that I was walking, walking, walking, and my feet were getting really wet because of the soft ground I was walking, and I saw this big guy walking and he had Alberta in his hands. I followed, followed, followed but that’s a dream. Four days after I think they said they found her outside across the railway.
Connie Walker: When you say she left with two guys, was that in your dream?
Yvonne: No, no, no. The best person you could be talking to are the sisters of Alberta, because they knew who she left with.
Connie Walker: Yeah, we spoke to Claudia-
Yvonne: It wasn't Claudia.
Connie Walker: Who?
Yvonne: It was umm...
Connie Walker: Karen?
Yvonne: No. Kathy, I think they call her Kathy. She was in Rupert.
Connie Walker: Is Kathy related to Alberta?
Yvonne: That’s their sister.
Connie Walker: Oh.
Yvonne: Yes. How come those guys didn’t mention it?
Connie Walker: I don’t know.
Yvonne: I don't know why they're not telling you guys the story. I think somebody saw that she was taken in to with two guys.
Connie Walker: Was one of them Jack?
Yvonne: I, I don't wanna say anything, but I'm surprised that their wives don't wanna say anything. You have to talk to them. Really question them, what went down.
Connie Walker: Talk to Rosie?
Yvonne: Yes. And Kathy.
Connie Walker: What we heard was at the bar that night, in Prince Rupert at a place called Bogey’s or Popey’s -
Yvonne: Yes, that’s where they last seen her. And I don’t know why they are not telling what is going on. Because we weren’t there but she came by, by Amanda’s late that evening. It was raining when there was a knock on the door. It was late at night.
Connie Walker: Are you sure it was Alberta?
Yvonne: Yeah, that was Alberta.
Connie Walker: And she was with two guys in a black truck?
Connie Walker: And that was in Terrace or in Rupert?
Yvonne: In Terrace.
Connie Walker: In Terrace.
Yvonne: Yeah, but they were on their way to Rupert she said. She came by the door and she called Amanda and Amanda was talking to her out in the rain.
Connie Walker: And the guys that she was with did you see them?
Yvonne: No, my sister Amanda, she took her out of the truck because she needed the bathroom and she wanted to borrow money. She wanted to borrow twenty bucks.
Connie Walker: Did your sister Amanda tell you who it was?
Yvonne: No. I - she will tell you who they are.
Connie Walker: Was one of them Jack?
Yvonne: I, Amanda will fill you in because she knows more about that.
Connie Walker: I’m going to call Amanda but I’m really but just give us some indication who she saw in that truck.
Yvonne: Well, she said that Jack was there. And I think she said that white guy was in the - Kathy's husband.
Connie Walker: Kathy’s husband was the white guy?
Yvonne:I think so.
Connie: Walker: Do you know if Jack had access to a black truck?
Yvonne: I think Kathy’s husband did. They were saying he was a cab driver in Terrace before. But Amanda will fill you in because she knows more because she met that cab driver and she knows who that guy is because they know who he is, yup.
Connie Walker: If you talk to Amanda you can let her know we talked and we’ll be calling her again I guess.
Yvonne: Yeah, okay thank you.
Connie Walker: Thank you very much.
Connie Walker: Wow.
We got off the phone with Yvonne more confused than ever.
Alberta was seen with two guys in a black truck?
She has a sister named Kathy that we didn’t know about?
Why would she have been in Terrace?
Who was this cab driver?
Had they ever investigated another possible suspect?
And if it was true, how would it fit in with their suspicions about Jack?
Claudia said Amanda saw Alberta with three guys in a black truck but Yvonne only saw two.
Which was it?
We really needed to talk to Amanda.
We tried calling but again there was no answer.
We called claudia back to ask her if she had a sister named Kathy.
Claudia Williams: Hello.
Connie Walker: Hi Claudia, it’s Connie and Marnie.
Claudia Williams: Hey, how are you?
Marnie Luke: Good. Do you have a minute to talk?
Claudia Williams: Yes.
Marnie Luke: Okay great. Do you have a sister Kathy?
Claudia Williams: I do. Kathy is in Prince Rupert. She lived with Jack at one time, long time ago. She's the one that was saying, oh, the police are doing their job and all that, you know, she's not much of a person to, you know, try and get answers. So, that's Kathy.
Connie Walker: Was she there that night?
Claudia Williams: For some reason I don't think she was there. I think she was having a lot of problems, she had a boyfriend at the time, Tim.
Marnie Luke: Oh Ken?
Claudia Williams: Ken Collinson.
Marnie Luke: Collinson?
Claudia Williams: Yeah. And Ken was the one that had a little black truck at the time.
Connie Walker: And was he White?
Claudia Williams: Yup.
Connie Walker: He was her boyfriend, but you don’t remember them at the bar?
Claudia Williams: No. No. I don't remember them at the bar. But I know that Ken and Kathy were having a lot of problems, you see were together at the time, I'm not too sure but I know that there was a lot of talk about the black truck and that's what came to mind was that little black truck. They had a little black truck.
We wondered why Claudia never mentioned Kathy before or why she never pointed out that
Kathys boyfriend was a white guy with a black truck.
Remember that there was always a mysterious white guy in a pickup truck that Jack told police he saw Alberta with that night.
But police never believed his story.
Connie Walker: So Ken could have been at the bar the night you are just not sure if he was there or not?
Claudia Williams: He could have been at the bar that night. Prince Rupert is a very small town. Everybody knows what everybody's doing.
Connie Walker: And you think he was a friend of Jack's?
Claudia Williams: He was a friend of Jack’s.
Connie Walker: How do you know?
Claudia Williams: Because i’ve seen them you know, in Prince Rupert. There’s not a lot of people to be friends with in Prince Rupert. Only your circle of friends which were there that summer. I didn’t see Ken at that table so when everyone was talking about a black truck, the only black truck that I can think of was that. But at the same time, I thought, you know, he was just pointing fingers, a black truck and a white guy.
Claudia has always wanted to find out the truth about Alberta’s murder.
She’s heard a lot of speculation in the years following but she wasn’t always sure just what to believe.
Claudia Williams: People reached out, and they say, Oh, you know, I sent, you know, I'm so sorry about your sister, and all of that, and I said, yeah, well, you know what, I said, the pain is there, it's never gonna go away. It makes me angry that people don't talk. She meant something to me, she was somebody. And Yvonne was the one who, Yvonne and Amanda were saying something about, Oh, yeah, she was in a black truck, when she showed up in Terrace and I said, Well you need to go to the police with that,then I seen them again, I said, so what happened, did you talk to the police and they go, no, we're scared. I know they were talking about a black truck and there was some guys in there with Alberta.
Connie Walker: And where Alberta’s body was found, it’s between Terrace and Prince Rupert, right?
Claudia Williams: Yes.
Connie Walker: Do you think Kathy will talk to us?
Claudia Williams: Of course she will. Kathy will talk, but again, approach Kathy, it's kind of weird because, you know, she's like, well the police are doing their best, so that's her way of dealing with it I guess, she'd rather not be, you know, thinking about it every day maybe?
Connie Walker: All right, thanks very much Claudia. We’re going to try to get in touch with her right away. Thanks Claudia.
Marnie Luke: Thanks Claudia.
Claudia Williams: Okay, if I remember anything else I'll definitely text you, you call me.
Connie Walker: Sounds good, thanks.
Claudia Williams: Okay, thanks.
Connie Walker: Bye.
We tried calling Kathy immediately but we weren’t able to reach her.
Now, we had a tough decision to make.
We were supposed to fly back to Toronto in a few hours.
But now had more questions than answers.
We had enough to do a short news story.
We could head back and keep trying to reach people from Toronto.
But we’d come all this way and it felt like we were starting to get some momentum.
People were starting to talk, we didn’t want to give up now.
Marnie Luke: But we do have a to, flight wise if we’re getting that flight we actually have to leave at 2.
Connie Walker: Yeah, We’d better call Heather. I think we have to go to Prince Rupert and Terrace and talk to Amanda and Kathy.
We called our senior producer Heather Evans in Toronto .
Heather Evans: CBC News.
Connie Walker: Hi Heather….
And decided to change our plans.
Instead of going back to Toronto we would to fly north to Prince Rupert to track down Amanda.
And find out if there was really something behind this story of Alberta and two or three men in a black truck.
On our way to the airport we checked back in with Garry to see if he’d ever heard of this rumour or talked to Alberta’s sister Kathy or her boyfriend Ken.
Garry Kerr: Hello?
Marnie Luke: Hey Garry, it’s Marnie and Connie calling.
Garry Kerr: Hey, how you doing?
Marnie Luke: Good, you?
Garry Kerr: Good, good thanks. Are you still in Vancouver?
Marnie Luke: Yeah, we are. We just wanted to ask you, did you ever throughout the course of your investigation come across Kathy Williams, Alberta's sister?
Garry Kerr: Yeah, actually I think. I know she had more sisters than just Claudia.
Marnie Luke: So she has a sister Kathy...
Connie Walker: Who might have been there that night as well.
Garry Kerr: Hmm. Well what I can do is like I'll definitely go back through my notes again.
I can see whether I've got that name in there or not.
Connie Walker: The other name that came up today is that Kathy was dating on and off, a guy by the name of Ken Collinson.
Garry Kerr: Ken Collinson? Okay, well I'll write that name down. So Kathy and Ken Collinson.
Connie Walker: And Ken was a taxi driver in Terrace, I think? Or in Prince Rupert.
Marnie Luke: From Terrace, but drove taxis in Prince Rupert, apparently.
Garry Kerr: Okay.
Connie Walker: And then the to her things is he may have driven a pickup truck to Terrace that night, and Alberta may have been there.
Garry Kerr: Yeah, like I said that doesn't ring any bells at all. But like I said I'll
certainly check out those names for you though. So you are heading back tonight then?
Connie Walker: Well, we’re actually going to head to Prince Rupert.
Garry Kerr: Oh wow. Oh my god, good for you guys! Well like I said , I'll certainly go through those names and I'm sure I'll be able to do that for you if not this evening then first thing in the morning. But as soon as I go through my notebook I will give you a call to see if any of those names are in there.
Marnie Luke: Yeah, thanks. That would be great. Thank you.
Garry Kerr: Awesome, let me know how you make out. Enjoy Prince Rupert.
Marnie and Connie: Yeah.
Garry Kerr: It's a beautiful place if the sun is shining, and hopefully it is up there. Okay, we'll be in touch. Bye.
Marnie and Connie: Thank you very much Garry. Bye.
The plane that flies from Vancouver to Prince Rupert is a dash 8.
Not a tiny plane but not big either.
I don’t like flying in general and I definitely don’t like flying in smaller planes.
I was a bit apprehensive about heading up to Prince Rupert.
It’s hard to explain why.
I grew up on a reserve in southern Saskatchewan and I have really only travelled to a few northern communities for work.
I went to Gods Lake Narrows, a small fly-in community in northern Manitoba to do Leah Anderson’s story.
And then to Fort Chipewyan, Alberta to talk to Amber Tuccaro’s family.
Both of those trips were really difficult.
Diving deep into a community to talk about an unsolved murder would be stressful anywhere.
But there is something about northern communities surrounded by wilderness that adds to the tension.
When you fly to Prince Rupert, you actually land on an Island where there is a tiny airport.
After you collect your luggage, you get on a school bus.
It travels on a gravel road for about ten minutes then the bus drives onto a ferry and heads to the mainland.
We got off the bus during the short ferry ride.
The sun had come back out just in time for the sunset.
It was gorgeous.
An orange light reflected off the water to the west and we saw misty mountains covered in trees to the east.
When the ferry docked, the bus headed toward downtown.
I looked out the window as we drove past houses and apartment buildings.
Many of them were run down.
It was clear this is no longer a boom town.
The bus dropped us off at a small terminal.
Our camera guy Harold went to get the rental van.
Marnie and I waited for our luggage.
While we were waiting, Marnie decided to head outside to check things out.
She noticed a taxi stand just outside the terminal and a cab parked in front.
She went up to the driver and started making small talk.
Marnie Luke: I just walked up to him and said hey we don’t know Prince Rupert, we just got here do you know where Bogey’s or Popey’s is? He pointed up the street and said yes right by that red building but….
He mentioned that he had been driving a cab in Prince Rupert for over thirty years.
Marnie Luke: And I said oh do you remember a taxi driver named Ken who would have worked here around thirty years ago. He said yeah, I know Ken. Ken still works as taxi driver here. And he’s in taxi number nine and he works the eleven to eleven shift. He is working right now. I couldn’t believe it. I mean, we had no idea if he was still in town and to find out, not only is he there, he’s driving a taxi still. We know the taxi number and his shift. So yeah, I was shocked.
Our first instinct was to try to talk to Ken right away and ask him about the rumour.
Did he have a black truck in 1989?
Could he be the white guy that Jack said Alberta was with the night she disappeared?
Did Ken know anything about Alberta`s disappearance?
But we quickly realized we couldn’t do that.
We’d only heard rumours.
Before we approached Ken we needed to confirm what Amanda saw that night.
And we needed to talk to Alberta’s sister Kathy.
We checked into our hotel and tried calling Kathy and Amanda again.
There was no answer on Kathy’s phone but a man answered when we called Amanda’s house.
He said that Amanda couldn’t come to the phone, she wasn’t feeling well.
But we could try her again in the morning.
It was getting late.
But now that we were in Prince Rupert we wanted to see the places we’d been hearing about for so long.
We headed to 140 Crestview Avenue, Jack Little’s old house.
We pulled up to a small bungalow with a carport attached on one side.
It was a Friday night.
But the street was very dark and quiet.
It looked like someone was home.
The lights were on and the blinds were open a little bit.
But we didn't see anyone.
We did some filming outside of the house.
And then decided to head out to the highway.
Harold wanted to film driving along the highway at night, so I drove.
There is really only one road in and out of Prince Rupert, Highway 16.
Also known as the Highway of Tears.
When I pulled onto the highway, it was pitch black.
But there was just enough light to sense the darkness of the mountains all around us.
We headed east.
I drove slowly partly so Harold could get a better shot but also because I didn’t know the road and its twists and turns.
Driving along it was impossible not to think of some of the women who have disappeared along this highway.
Some of them were hitch hikers travelling along this highway might have been their only option.
The darkness and the isolation made it a tense drive.
I couldn’t imagine what it would feel like to have to walk this highway at night.
We drove for about half an hour.
I knew that somewhere along that road was the turn off where Alberta’s body was found.
Garry told us what to look for but in the darkness, it would have been impossible for us to find.
Eventually, I found a turnoff and we headed back into town.
It was a relief to see the city lights.
We still had not been able to reach Alberta’s sister, Kathy.
We made a plan instead of calling Amanda in the morning, we would head straight to her house, just outside of Terrace.
We said good night to one another, tired from our journey.
We didn’t know what was in store for us the next day.
On the next Missing Murdered: Who Killed Alberta Williams?
Man: Oh, okay. So that was the mysterious pick-up truck then, was it? I think it was described as an older Ford 4x4 or something. It was a vague description of the guy was supposedly driving this truck, eh? But now obviously somebody has narrowed that down.
Connie Walker: He just doesn’t want to do an interview. He said, I’m done with that.
Woman: They were standing in the back of the truck in the dark. I don't know why, why they did that.
Connie Walker: Why wouldn’t you want to give them your DNA?